The Wedding Dress

April 28, 2020

The Wedding Dress
By: Danielle Steel
304 Pages
Release Date: April 28, 2020

From the glamorous San Francisco social scene of the 1920s, through war and the social changes of the ’60s, to the rise of Silicon Valley today, this extraordinary novel takes us on a family odyssey that is both heartbreaking and inspiring, as each generation faces the challenges of their day.
The Parisian design houses in 1928, the crash of 1929, the losses of war, the drug culture of the 1960s—history holds many surprises, and lives are changed forever. For richer or for poorer, in cramped apartments and grand mansions, the treasured wedding dress made in Paris in 1928 follows each generation into their new lives, and represents different hopes for each of them, as they marry very different men.
From inherited fortunes at the outset to self-made men and women, the wedding dress remains a cherished constant for the women who wear it in each generation and forge a destiny of their own. It is a symbol of their remaining traditions and the bond of family they share in an ever-changing world.

While it's not one of Danielle's best books, it's not one of her worst either. The storyline did captivate me, though the actual dress the book is named for has a very small role. The book is centered around Eleanor Deveraux- the bride the dress was made for- and her descendents. As you meet her, she is from a highly wealthy banking family. She marries a man of similiar wealth. I enjoyed their love story. It was reminiscent of earlier Danielle Steel books where the husband is always older than the bride. You watch a genuine love unfold and a bond that builds a life on. However, it all comes crashing down while on their honeymoon as the stockmarket crashes.

I enjoyed seeing how the main characters adjust to their new lives. I felt their storylines played out in a realistic way. You see strength rise from sources you wouldn't expect and you see the lasting scars created as lives are never the same again. 

Seeing Eleanor's life play out was intriguing. It wasn't all roses, nor was there an immediate happy ending. She conitues to endure heartbreaks through miscarriages and having her daughter, Camille, rebel. Heartbreak knocks on Eleanore's door again, but also leaves a ray of light to embrace- her granddaughter, Ruby. I do have to say that this book doesn't come with the typical happy ending you expect. Her characters learn to accept their reality and flourish within it. 

Overall, I wouldn't buy this book. I'm glad I read it, but I'm also glad I didn't pay the just under $30.00 price tag. Fans of Danielle Steel will enjoy the story, but I don't see me reading this particular book of hers again. It's definitely one to get from the library. 

The Lions of Fifth Avenue

April 6, 2020

The Lions of Fifth Avenue
By: Fiona Davis
368 pages
Release Date: July 21, 2020

It's 1913, and on the surface, Laura Lyons couldn't ask for more out of life—her husband is the superintendent of the New York Public Library, allowing their family to live in an apartment within the grand building, and they are blessed with two children. But headstrong, passionate Laura wants more, and when she takes a leap of faith and applies to the Columbia Journalism School, her world is cracked wide open. As her studies take her all over the city, she finds herself drawn to Greenwich Village's new bohemia, where she discovers the Heterodoxy Club—a radical, all-female group in which women are encouraged to loudly share their opinions on suffrage, birth control, and women's rights. Soon, Laura finds herself questioning her traditional role as wife and mother. But when valuable books are stolen back at the library, threatening the home and institution she loves, she's forced to confront her shifting priorities head on . . . and may just lose everything in the process.

Eighty years later, in 1993, Sadie Donovan struggles with the legacy of her grandmother, the famous essayist Laura Lyons, especially after she's wrangled her dream job as a curator at the New York Public Library. But the job quickly becomes a nightmare when rare manuscripts, notes, and books for the exhibit Sadie's running begin disappearing from the library's famous Berg Collection. Determined to save both the exhibit and her career, the typically risk-adverse Sadie teams up with a private security expert to uncover the culprit. However, things unexpectedly become personal when the investigation leads Sadie to some unwelcome truths about her own family heritage—truths that shed new light on the biggest tragedy in the library's history.

I'm a recent discoverer of the immensely talented Fiona Davis. I've been incredibly blessed to review most of her books. I have loved them all and while this one wasn't my favorite, it was a dleight to read. I've always loved how Miss Davis takes historical fictin out of it's preconcieved box. Rather than sticking with the traditional wars, she takes a thing from the past and wraps it up for us readers in an engrossing package. 

This particular story revolves around Laura Lyons- herself, immediate family and decendents. You start out with her happily married to her husband and living in the esteemed New York Cigty Public Library with their two children. Dreams she had of being a journalist had been placed on the backburner for women weren't typically with careers at the time. An opportunity presents itself with her being able to pursue her dream and the life she knew slowly unravels. Journalism schools allows her to see a world beyond what she currentlty knew. She meets people a woman who she knew from school, but now will open doors- and viewpoints- that she never purseud before. Over time the friendship changes her life in ways the heavily sheltered Laura couldn't have predicted. All this happens as her husband's job is under intense scruiteny as someone is discovered to be stealing books from the library. Within a short period of time, the life Laura started out with looks nothing like the life she ended up with. 

Decades later, Sadie is the granddaughter of the elusive Laura Lyons. By now she has been gone for many years, but more questions than answers appeared to be her legacy. When history repeats itself with new books thefts within the same library, that Sadie is now employed with, she's forced to dig deeper for explanations and those elusive answers. 

I was engrossed in most of the story. As with any reader, some aspects of the story were more intriguing than others. I was fascinated with life within the library. I never knew anyone actually lived within it's walls. I was equally intrigued with the whole journalism school aspect. Fiona Davis makes you feel you were there with each student, in Laura's case embarking on a rare adventure. 

Fans of Fiona Davis will not be disappointed. Once again, she takes an obscure thing in history and make you unable to put it down while she unravels a story within it. Some characters were more relatable than others. Readers will find their favorite to root. You will feel like you're among the characters while everything is happening.

I Was Anastasia

March 20, 2018

I Was Anastasia
By: Ariel Lawhon
Release Date: March 20, 2018

Russia, July 17, 1918: Under direct orders from Vladimir Lenin, Bolshevik secret police force Anastasia Romanov, along with the entire imperial family, into a damp basement in Siberia where they face a merciless firing squad. None survive. At least that is what the executioners have always claimed. 

Germany, February 17, 1920
: A young woman bearing an uncanny resemblance to Anastasia Romanov is pulled shivering and senseless from a canal. Refusing to explain her presence in the freezing water, she is taken to the hospital where an examination reveals that her body is riddled with countless, horrific scars. When she finally does speak, this frightened, mysterious woman claims to be the Russian Grand Duchess Anastasia. 
     Her detractors, convinced that the young woman is only after the immense Romanov fortune, insist on calling her by a different name: Anna Anderson. 
     As rumors begin to circulate through European society that the youngest Romanov daughter has survived the massacre, old enemies and new threats are awakened. With a brilliantly crafted dual narrative structure, Lawhon wades into the most psychologically complex and emotionally compelling territory: the nature of identity itself.
     The question of who Anna Anderson is and what actually happened to Anastasia Romanov creates a saga that spans fifty years and touches three continents. This thrilling story is every bit as moving and momentous as it is harrowing and twisted.

I've been drawn to the whole Tzar Nicholas II massacre for almost 20 years. I came into this book with a fairly strong basis of the whole Anastasia/Anna Anderson debate. I knew the facts. I knew the timelines. I knew a lot of the details behind everything. While I didn't read this book with a blank slate for the author to fill, I still was putty in the author's hands. It didn't take me long to be swept up in the dueling stories. Just as I knew so much. I also learned so much.

Ariel Lawhon had the difficult job of telling a complex story that was once a well known debate. A debate that, for some, still lives on. She handled this task with great respect and creativity. She made a real life story from many, many years ago feel relevant and current. She doesn't give much away as she tells the story from Anna's point of view. She writes her whole side of the story with a compassion and dignity that few ever thought to have. 

She rotates the reader between Anna's story and Anastasia's. Event by event, you relive the family's imprisonments, treatment, and ultimate deaths. I found myself, once again, hoping and praying what I knew would happen wouldn't. You become a fly on the wall for disgusting acts of hatred and violence. By the time the family meets their end, you are sick with anger and disgust. But you will also never forget Anastasia, or her family.

Readers will be sucked into these two lives and the events within them from the first page. You will ride every roller coaster along with the characters. I have no doubt this book is destined for the bestseller lists. You will be a tangled mess of emotions by the time you read the author's note. As Ariel Lawhon tells you what was fact verses fiction, that ball of emotion will only increase. Several things you desperately want to be fiction are not. I Was Anastasia is a book that will stay with you long after you have closed the book.

The English Wife

January 9, 2018

The English Wife
By: Lauren Willig
384 Pages

Annabelle and Bayard Van Duyvil live a charmed life in New York: he’s the scion of an old Knickerbocker family, she grew up in a Tudor house in England, they had a fairytale romance in London, they have three-year-old twins on whom they dote, and he’s recreated her family home on the banks of the Hudson and named it Illyria. Yes, there are rumors that she’s having an affair with the architect, but rumors are rumors and people will gossip. But then Bayard is found dead with a knife in his chest on the night of their Twelfth Night Ball, Annabelle goes missing, presumed drowned, and the papers go mad. Bay’s sister, Janie, forms an unlikely alliance with a reporter to try to uncover the truth, convinced that Bay would never have killed his wife, that it must be a third party, but the more she learns about her brother and his wife, the more everything she thought she knew about them starts to unravel. Who were her brother and his wife, really? And why did her brother die with the name George on his lips?

I've been a fan of Lauren Willig since the days of her Pink Carnation series. She has always weaved together fascinating stories that pull you in and keep hold of you until the very last word. The English Wife is no exception. Once again, she has written a story that captivates the reader while sending them on a journey. 

Every chapter of this book offered up another piece to the puzzle being put together. So many questions seeking answers that you get to search for, along with the characters. You step into the world that Bayard and Annabelle created. You're there for their first meeting. You watch as they fall in love and form a life. In fact, you're cheering them on as they do. And you are baffled when one is found dead and the other is missing. You have as many questions as the characters do. 

You bond with Janie as she decides to boldly seek the truth of what happened to her brother and his wife- no matter what the truth turns out to be. You are baffled with every clue that is uncovered, and you try to make the many pieces fit. 

The English Wife will set you on a course to uncover the truth you never knew was hidden. And, like me, you will be gripped with every clue you find as you try to put the puzzle together. 

The Lake House

January 19, 2016

The Lake House
By: Kate Morton
512 Pages

Sadie  Sparrow is a talented detective. However, when she makes a costly mistake while solving that puts her entire career in jeopardy. Taking time off to let things cool down lands her smack in the middle of another case. This one a long, unsolved disappearance. A wealthy family, a vast estate. and a toddler who vanishes without a trace all come together as Sadie seeks to put the pieces of the forgotten puzzle into place. But that's not the only mystery that gets solved.

Kate Morton is such a talented storyteller. She weaves intricate plots and fascinating characters together seamlessly. She has quickly become one of my favorite authors- and I've only read 2 of her books, so far! One thing that has been common on both books, is that once I start the first page, I'll be gripped by the story until I finish the very last page. 

As I read The Lake House, I fell did what every reader does: I tried to solve the story. I thought I would guess the ending. Make no mistake! Kate Morton gives you many opportunities to think you have it figured out as the story she tells unfolds. But also know this: every time you think you have it figured out, she throws you a plot twist that changes everything. You may figure out a few things here and there, but, overall, she leaves you guessing along with her characters.

The Lake House centers around two unsolved cases. Sadie's story line involves the disappearance of a mother who left her child. All the evidence points in one direction, but Sadie is unsure that direction is pointing to the answer. A bad judgment call made out of desperation lands her in hot water. She's told to take time off to figure things out. So, she heads to Cornwall to spend time with her beloved Uncle. The last thing she expected to do was stumble upon an empty country estate. ut stumble she does. A peek in the house shows everything left behind. As if the inhabitants just left one day, and never returned. The seed has been planted to delve into the long forgotten- but still unsolved- Edevane disappearance.

In the 1930s, the wealthy Edevane family hosted their annual Midsummer Party. At some time during the festivities, 11 month old Theo is taken. When a search results in no clues, body, or ransom note, the case grows cold. Eventually, the family leaves the house. As Sadie digs into the story, Miss Morton takes you through it all. You meet the family. You learn the secrets. You become the fly on the wall that sees all. 

Once again, Kate Morton has written a spellbinding story, While I wasn't as gripped with this one as i was with The Secret Keeper, I still looked forward to finding out what each page revealed. The book is long, but worth the time spent.

Crazy Little Thing Called Love by Beth K. Vogt

October 19, 2015

Three words that I can describe this book with: LOVE LOVE LOVE!! It is such an easy, cute, and romantic book that I just fell in love with! I found myself reading chapter after chapter wanting to see how the plot unfolded.

The past:

Vanessa was a military family and traveled all over. Finally she ended up in Destin, Florida, where she began another year in high school. There she met Logan, one dreamy hunk of a man (well at least how I envisioned him). Before she began college, she and Logan eloped so she could stay with him instead of moving to Colorado with her family. Sadly, the marriage didn't last and they got a divorce.

The present:

Vanessa is engaged to Ted, a doctor, and is planning a wedding, in Destin, Florida. They chose that location since Vanessa wanted a destination wedding, and Ted has a medical conference in that location and at that time. How romantic right?! *note sarcasm* Since Ted was working, it was decided that Vanessa would go to Florida to start planning the wedding. While walking the beach, Vanessa saw someone in need of help and at that point, she ran into Logan. Dismissing him real quick, she didn't think she would run into him again. However, fate had other plans. A powerful hurricane brings them together again. Logan discovers his love for Vanessa and doesn't want to lose her. But how does he go about showing her since she is already married?! Vanessa on the other hand, is trying to keep her head straight. She starts to remember feelings/memories she had with Logan, but she also knows how much of a whirlwind he could be. She has stability with Ted, but is that what she really wants?

This story is very well written. It flows so easy and the transitions from past to present are fluid. This is my first book I have read by Beth and it certainly won't be my last. For anyone looking for a cute little love story, this is it!

If You're Not The One by Jemma Forte

September 14, 2015

What if you could do it all over again?

Jennifer Wright is pretty sure her husband doesn't love her anymore. She and Max used to be the perfect couple, but the pressures of work and kids have pulled them in opposite directions. Now , Jen is full of "what if" questions about whether her bland, suburban existence is all she was ever destined for.

When a terrible accident sends Jen into a coma, she is able to see what her life could have been if she had run off to Australia with the handsome, dangerous man she met on vacation, or if she had stayed with her workaholic college boyfriend. Would she ever have loved another child as much as she loves her daughters? Could she have become rich? More than anything, Jen wants to do the right thing for her family. But what she discovers may leave her with even more questions about the choices she made, and no easy answers about what to do next.

Just reading that synopsis I was hooked, I could relate to this book in so many ways! I'm always imagining what my life could have been if I chose one path vs another.

With her marriage on the rocks, Jennifer is hurt that her husband, Max, doesn't treat her as he first did at the beginning of their relationship/marriage. She senses that Max is growing close and paying more attention to one of his coworkers. One night after a fight, Jennifer runs off and sadly gets in a car accident which sends her into a coma.

In this coma, she finds 3 different tunnels: each to boys that could have been. These individual relationships were ended on account of reasons, but in the coma she uncovers the outcome of the relationship had she stayed.  The first gentleman, Aidan, being a handsome guy that she finds wildly attractive who she met on vacation. The second, Tim, was a guy in college who ended up inventing this program which led her to live a very wealthy life. Finally, there was Steve who she met when she was having appliance issues at her apartment. Each of these different tunnels led her to experience different things: children, wealth, loneliness, poverty, love, tears, happiness, and everything in between.

This book had me on edge at times, I kept finding myself reading more and more every night just to see where the tunnels would lead her. I thought this was a well written book in which the story flowed nicely. It transitioned from the tunnels to present day life very well and the stories about each guy was very easy to follow. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone looking for a fun read!

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