Poppy Redfern and the Fatal Flyers

Poppy Redfern and the Fatal Flyers is the second  book  in  the  “A  Woman  of  World  War  II”  mystery series by Tessa Arlen. Although it is the second in a series, it can be read as a standalone. It is 1942 and Poppy, employed by the London Crown Film Unit as  a scriptwriter during the war, is sent to work on location at an airfield.   The film she is working on is about       the  Air   Transport Auxiliary   pilots,   or   “Attagirls.”   This   amazing   group   of   female   pilots    flew  many   different types   of   planes   and   transported   them    to    airfields    all over Britain during    World War II. Sometimes  these  transports  occurred  during  severe  weather  conditions.  Poppy begins to work on the film and starts to get to know this intriguing group of talented and professional female pilots. When two “Attagirls”  are  killed  in  accidents  during  seemingly  routine  flights,  Poppy  and  her boyfriend Griff begin to investigate.

This was such an interesting read, especially since I had never heard of the “Attagirls.” The history of these brave  women  is  fascinating, and the author provides more facts about them in a historical note at the  end of the book.  The  murder  mystery  is  well  done,  with  many  twists,  turns,  and  red herrings.  The  villain is not easy to figure out, so the reader is surprised at the end. The characters are compelling and well developed. Our heroine, Poppy, proves to be a witty and clever sleuth. Her relationship with her boyfriend Griff is complicated at times, but that just makes it more interesting. This is a great combination of World War II historical fiction and cozy mystery. I would recommend this book to fans of both genres.

The first book in the series is Poppy Redfern and the Midnight Murders.

I received a free copy of this book from Berkley Publishing via Netgalley for Historical Novels Review. My review is voluntary.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tessa Arlen is the author of the critically acclaimed Lady Montfort mystery series—Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman was a finalist for the 2016 Agatha Award Best First Novel. She is also the author of Poppy Redfern: A Woman of World War II mystery series. And the author of the historical fiction: In Royal Service to the Queen.

Tessa lives in the Southwest with her family and two corgis where she gardens in summer and writes in winter.

Comes The War

Comes The War by Ed Ruggero is Book 2 in the Eddie Harkins series. It is April 1944, and the allies are preparing to invade France. Lieutenant Eddie Harkins is in England  and  is  on  orders  to  join  the  Office  of  Strategic Services  (OSS)   when   an American   civilian   employee   is   murdered.   Eddie   finds   himself    in  charge  of  the investigation,   but   his superiors   settle on   a   suspect   very   quickly.  Ordered  to  close  the  case,  but doubting the guilt of the  accused,  Eddie  continues  his  investigation.  He  is  aided  by  his  driver,  Private Pamela Lowell, a smart and resourceful ally.

This was a fascinating look at the Allied forces in WWII England in 1944 prior to D-Day.  It combines a   fictional murder investigation with actual World  War  II  history  in  a  compelling  way.  The  political  fights  between    the    commanding   generals    and   the    “air”     vs.”ground”     war     philosophy are    intriguing. It contradicts  some  of   the   history books    on    the effectiveness  of  the  air  campaign  during  the  war.    It  speaks of Major  General  James  Doolittle, whose  bombing raids  may  have  caused thousands of unnecessary deaths with  no real strategic wins. I also learned that General Dwight D. Eisenhower was so upset by the  pushback  from  the Army Air Force and Royal Air Force generals against his plans that  he  threatened  to  quit  his  command and return  to the United States just a few months before D-Day. I have read many books set in World War II, but this one really made me want to read more about the strategic military history of the day.

The characters are well developed, and the  murder  mystery  and  investigation  are  interesting  and  engaging, with  many  twists  and  turns.  I  would recommend  this  book  both  to  fans  of  World  War  II  history  and fans of crime/thriller fiction.

I received a free copy of this book from MacMillan/Tor-Forge via Netgalley for Historical Novels Review Magazine. My review is voluntary.

Comes The War was released February 9th, 2021. The link to buy is below.

ED RUGGERO’S WEBSITE

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LINK TO MY REVIEW ON AMAZON (HELPFUL VOTES APPRECIATED IF YOU ARE SO INCLINED)

LINK TO MY REVIEW ON GOODREADS. (LIKES AND FOLLOWS APPRECIATED)

A Class Forsaken

This is Book 3 in the “A Matter of Class” series, set in 1800s Ireland. It would be beneficial to read the first two books in the series before reading Book 3, as there will be major spoilers for the first two books. This was also a book I reviewed for Historical Novels Review Magazine. They chose this book as another “Editor’s Choice.”

Escaping authorities in England, Bridget and Cormac flee home to Carlow, Ireland , with their daughter Emily. They return to Cormac’s former cottage, but his mother and siblings are gone, forced out years ago by Bridget’s embittered mother, who is lady of the manor. Many changes have occurred at Oakleigh manor and Bridget must face off with her mother in an attempt to save the tenants from her harsh management. At the same time, Cormac is determined to find his family. The saga follows Bridget, Cormac, and Emily to Dublin, where they encounter evil people of all classes as they attempt to find Cormac’s mother and sisters.

I found this to be a well-written and entertaining love story. While it is a love story, it is also a scathing look back at the treatment of the so-called lower classes by the rich and entitled of the era. At the same time, the author brings forth a thread of hope in the form of Bridget. Although Bridget was born in privilege, she can see the humanity of every person and has already cast her title aside for love. The characters are all well developed and the desperation of the time is well conveyed. The novel is fast paced and full of obstacles and adventure.

Highly recommended for fans of historical romance and Irish history.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Susie Murphy

Susie Murphy is an Irish historical fiction author. She loves historical fiction so much that she often wishes she had been born two hundred years ago. Still, she remains grateful for many aspects of the modern age, including women’s suffrage, electric showers and pizza. Susie’s published novels, A Class Apart, A Class Entwined and A Class Forsaken, are the first three instalments in her seven-part series A Matter of Class, a sweeping saga which begins in Ireland in 1828.

To find out more, visit http://www.susiemurphywrites.com, where you can join Susie’s Readers’ Club and receive a collection of five free short stories which are prequels to the whole series.

I received a free copy of this book via Historical Novels Review Magazine. My opinions are my own.

BUY ALL THREE BOOKS IN THE “A MATTER OF CLASS” SERIES ON AMAZON. Kindle Unlimited members may also borrow them all for free.

The Children’s Blizzard

The Children’s Blizzard is the story of the devastating blizzard of 1888, which swept across the Great Plains with no warning and killed hundreds of people, many of them children on their way home from school. This is a fictionalized account of that devastating storm, but is based upon actual events and oral histories of the survivors.

This book is exquisitely written. Melanie Benjamin does an incredible job of connecting the reader with the characters. She shares the backstories and inner thoughts and feelings of pretty much every character in the book. Even the animals have something to say. And her stories delve deeply into the characters’ lives.

The main characters are two sisters who are both schoolteachers. Although they have so much in common, they experience very different outcomes during the storm simply based on last minute decisions. There is also an immigrant family led by a stressed out mother and a dallying, irresponsible father, and a young girl who has been sold to them by her mother for next to nothing. We meet an African American bar owner, who gives us the perspective of how people of color were treated in the late 1880’s. After the storm, a great newspaperman arrives. He comes to the area in search of the next big story, but instead experiences a life-changing connection with one of the victims.

Benjamin’s account of the harrowing experiences of the young people struggling though hazardous conditions, blinding snow, and freezing weather to try and find their way home, sometimes in vain, leaves us on the edge of our seat, feeling as if we are traveling with them.

Benjamin has written a book based on true events that cannot be missed, and I recommend everyone read this story, which is both heartbreaking and inspiring.

I received a free copy of this book from the publishers via Netgalley, and originally reviewed it for Historical Novels Review Magazine. My opinions are my own.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Melanie Benjamin is the author of the New York Times and USA Today bestselling historical novels The Swans of Fifth Avenue, about Truman Capote and his society swans, and The Aviator’s Wife, a novel about Anne Morrow Lindbergh. Her novel, Mistress of the Ritz, is a taut tale of suspense wrapped up in a love story for the ages, the inspiring story of a woman and a man who discover the best in each other amid the turbulence of war.Melanie Benjamin
Photo by Deborah Feingold

Previous historical novels include the national bestseller Alice I Have Been, about Alice Liddell, the inspiration for Alice in Wonderland; The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb, the story of 32-inch-tall Lavinia Warren Stratton, a star during the Gilded Age; and The Girls in the Picture, about the friendship and creative partnership between two of Hollywood’s earliest female legends—screenwriter Frances Marion and superstar Mary Pickford.

Her novels have been translated in over fifteen languages, featured in national magazines such as Good HousekeepingPeople, and Entertainment Weekly, and optioned for film. 

Melanie is a native of the Midwest, having grown up in Indianapolis, Indiana, where she pursued her first love, theater. After raising her two sons, Melanie, a life-long reader (including being the proud winner, two years in a row, of her hometown library’s summer reading program!), decided to pursue a writing career. After writing her own parenting column for a local magazine, and winning a short story contest, Melanie published two contemporary novels under her real name, Melanie Hauser, before turning to historical fiction. 

Melanie lives in Virginia with her husband. In addition to writing, she puts her theatrical training to good use by being a member of the Authors Unbound speakers bureau. When she isn’t writing or speaking, she’s reading. And always looking for new stories to tell.

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Things We Didn’t Say

Diamond Level Read

This was #2 on my list of My Top 7 Books of 2020. Again, Historical Novels Review must have agreed with me because this book was another of their Editor’s Choices. It is the writing debut of the talented Amy Lynn Green, who managed to create a compelling story and vivid characters in a 100% epistolary novel. It is a work of art.

REVIEW

It is 1944, and Johanna Berglund has been accused of treason. She submits in her defense a collection of letters that will prove her innocence. The letters begin with Johanna as a linguistics student at the University of Minnesota. Fluent in German and several other languages, she is recommended to work as a translator at an Army POW camp near her home. She flatly refuses because she has other plans and dreams of going to Oxford. Pressure from the government and her parents eventually forces her to go. She begins her work as a translator and starts to enjoy it, despite criticism from some of the local populace about “aiding the enemy.” She is given more responsibility and asked to teach an English class, and she starts to feel compassion for the prisoners. When a nefarious plot causes untrue accusations against Johanna, she learns to truly lean on God.

This is an epistolary novel, comprised completely of letters, articles, and other written communication. We watch Johanna’s character develop from a rather vain and secluded student to to a woman of faith, although it takes some hard times to get her there. We meet her friends, family, and community, and we watch her grow as a person. And we learn that there were, in fact, German POW camps in the United States during World War II. I was captivated by this book, which was so well written that the personalities of the characters shone, and their individual nuances were conveyed expertly through their letters. I don’t think many writers can share such an amazing story and well developed characters in epistolary style, so I was surprised that this is Amy Lynn Green’s debut novel. I cannot wait to see what she writes next.

I received a free copy of this book from Bethany House via Netgalley for Historical Novels Review Magazine. My review is voluntary.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Amy Lynn Green

Amy Lynn Green is a lifelong lover of books, history, and library cards. She worked in publishing for six years before writing her first historical fiction novel, based on the WWII home front of Minnesota, the state where she lives, works, and survives long winters. Because of her day job in publicity, she has taught classes on marketing at writer’s conferences and regularly encourages established and aspiring authors in their publication journeys. In her novels (and her daily life), she loves exploring the intersection of faith and fiction and searches for answers to present-day questions by looking to the past.

If she had lived in the 1940s, you would have found her writing long letters to friends and family, listening to jazz music, daydreaming about creating an original radio drama, and drinking copious amounts of non-rationed tea. (Actually, these things are fairly accurate for her modern life as well.)

Be sure to interact with her on Facebook and Instagram, and sign up for her newsletter to stay up-to-date on her latest releases.

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The Wonder Boy of Whistle Stop

The Sequel to Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe

Since I reviewed this book for Historical Novels Review, I could not post the review until now. It was actually published last year. This is a treat for Fannie Flagg fans who always wondered what happened to the characters from Whistle Stop!

REVIEW

The Wonder Boy of Whistle Stop is the sequel to Fannie Flagg’s novel Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe. It is a delightful novel that jumps back and forth in different time periods between the 1930s and present day, and tells us the further adventures of Buddy Threadgoode Jr. and others. This book is not a standalone. Readers will greatly benefit from reading the first book, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe.

This was a joy to read. It takes us back to the 1930s when Ruth Jamison and Idgie Threadgoode were running their cafe in Whistle Stop, Alabama. It shows the present day where Bud Threadgoode is an old man, and his daughter Ruthie has grown children. And it tells us tales of a younger Bud in different periods of his life. All the popular characters from the first book make an appearance. I especially enjoyed the role of Evelyn Couch in this story. As in the first book, news reports from Dot Weems pop up in between chapters, from all different time periods. It is a story of family, friends, love, and loss, and the weaving together of the time periods shows how friends and family never really leave us.

I truly feel that Fannie Flagg wrote this book for her fans, those of us who have read all of her books, as a way of tying everything together. She catches us up on all the popular characters from Fried Green Tomatoes, and I may have shrieked in delight when a character from Flagg’s other best selling series, the Elmwood Springs books, shows up in Whistle Stop!

Every little nugget and every piece of news about a beloved character felt like a gift from Fannie Flagg to her readers.

I received a free copy of this book from Random House via Historical Novels Review Magazine. My opinions are my own.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Fannie Flagg

Fannie Flagg’s career started in the fifth grade when she wrote, directed, and starred in her first play, titled The Whoopee Girls, and she has not stopped since. At age nineteen she began writing and producing television specials, and later wrote for and appeared on Candid Camera. She then went on to distinguish herself as an actress and a writer in television, films, and the theater. She is the bestselling author of Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man; Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe; Welcome to the World, Baby Girl!; Standing in the Rainbow; A Redbird Christmas; Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven; I Still Dream About You; The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion; and The Whole Town’s Talking. Flagg’s script for the movie Fried Green Tomatoes was nominated for an Academy Award and the Writers Guild of America Award and won the highly regarded Scripter Award for best screenplay of the year. Fannie Flagg is the winner of the Harper Lee Prize. She lives happily in California and Alabama.

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No Ordinary Thing

Diamond Level Read

No Ordinary Thing was #1 on my list of my Top 7 Books of 2020. At the time I made that post, I couldn’t post the review because I was required to wait for it to be published on the Historical Novel Society website. The time has finally come when I can post my review, which is below. The Historical Novel Society must have agreed with me on this one, because they made this book one of their Editor’s Choices. For this blog, I gave it my extra “diamond” rating because I think it’s over and above 5 stars. It’s historical fiction with a time travel twist, which is my absolutely favorite thing to read.

REVIEW

No Ordinary Thing by G.Z Schmidt is a delightful middle grade time travel fantasy. It is 1999 and Adam lives at his uncle’s bakery, the Biscuit Basket, in New York City. Adam is missing his parents, who passed away years earlier in a plane crash. Then a mysterious stranger visits, holding a snow globe. He tells Adam that adventures await him, and that he should go up to the attic. When he does, Adam finds the snow globe, which immediately takes him back in time to Times Square in 1935 and then later a candle factory in 1967. Adam soon realizes the people and places he is visiting are all connected, more magical objects exist, and a dark presence wants to control it all.

I adored this wonderful, enchanting time travel adventure. The characters are so well developed and the plot is very engaging. The author’s ability to connect characters from different backgrounds and time periods will leave you spellbound. Every time travel story has to have a means of or explanation for the time travel, and this one does it so well. The snow globe is sometimes curiously blank, but then the traveler’s destination will appear without warning and the holder will be whisked away to another time. This book is everything that fans of fantasy and time travel could wish for. It is a magical journey that will appeal to people of all ages. It is one of those books that I will read over and over again, and I will remember fondly the first time I read it. I can’t wait to share it with others and I sincerely hope I see this world and these characters again.

I received a free hardcover copy of this book from Holiday House via Historical Novels Review Magazine. My opinions are my own.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

G.Z. Schmidt

Gail Zhuang Schmidt was born in China and immigrated to the U.S. when she was six. She grew up in the Midwest and the South, where she chased fireflies at night and listened occasionally for tornado/hurricane warnings. She received her BA in Economics from Wellesley College in New England. After working for four years as an analyst, she began her new chapter in life by moving to Europe. She currently lives in Switzerland with her husband and their tuxedo cat.

She fell in love with reading after discovering the Arthur books by Marc Brown. Her first stories were written in a spiral-bound notebook in third grade.

When she’s not writing, she enjoys going to museums, playing the violin, biking, and eating pizza.

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Link to My Goodreads Review

Historical Novel Society

I have been doing reviews for Historical Novels Review, the quarterly magazine of the Historial Novel Society, for about 6 months now. They have just published the February reviews online, which means I can now put all or some of the 20 reviews I did for them last quarter on my blog. I’ll be posting one or two every day, starting with the ones they chose as “Editor’s Choice” this time.

If you are interested in the Historical Novel Society as a writer or as a reader, you can find them at the link below. They take submissions from authors and publishers of historical novels who would like their books reviewed in the magazine. They accept historical novels with many sub-genres, such as Historical Romance, Historical Fantasy, Historical Time Travel, etc. For readers, their magazine provides hundreds of reviews of historical novels published in the past year so you can choose which books you might want to read. You can ask about doing member reviews, as I did. The reviews are published on their website as well as in the magazine. Their membership includes a year of the quarterly magazine. I highly recommend you check it out.

The first link below will take you to all of the reviews I have done for historical novel society. The second link is to the website’s main page. The most recent reviews I have done for them indicate they have been published in issue 95 (Feb 2021).

LINK TO MY REVIEWS FOR HISTORICAL NOVEL SOCIETY

LINK TO THE HISTORICAL NOVEL SOCIETY PAGE

Sunday Reflections

BOOKS READ THIS WEEK FOR THE HISTORICAL NOVEL SOCIETY

I am currently reviewing several books for Historical Novels Review Magazine. This is the magazine of the Historical Novel Society. I am including the cover and the book description from Amazon. My reviews will not be posted until after the magazine comes out in February 2021. The books I have read/am reading for them this week are:

Twelve-year-old Adam is whisked away from his imperfect but quiet life with the arrival of a stranger and a magical promise in this time travel mystery.

Amazon Description: It’s 1999 and Adam doesn’t mind living at his uncle’s bakery, the Biscuit Basket, on the Lower East Side in New York City. The warm, delicious smells of freshly baked breads and chocolate croissants make every day feel cozy, even if Adam doesn’t have many friends and misses his long dead parents very much.

When a mysterious but cheerful customer shows Adam a snow globe and says that adventures await him, it’s too strange to be true. But days later, an unbelievable, incredible thing happens. Adam finds a similar looking snow globe and immediately travels back in time, first to Times Square in 1935, then a candle factory fire in 1967. 

But how are these moments related? What do they have to do with his parents’ death? And why is a tall man with long eyebrows and a thin mustache following Adam’s every move?

Book 9 in the Carpenter & Quincannon mystery series. It is the late 1800’s, and Sabina Carpenter and John Quincannon are partners, both as detectives and in life.

Amazon Description: Quincannon’s pursuit of two con men who have absconded to Hawaii with a considerable sum of his employer’s assets dovetails nicely with Sabina’s vision of a second honeymoon.

But neither is wont to stay out of trouble, and Sabina inadvertently becomes involved in a locked room/dying message murder in Honolulu.

Amazon Description: April 1944, the fifty-fifth month of the war in Europe. The entire island of Britain fairly buzzes with the coiled energy of a million men poised to leap the Channel to France, the first, riskiest step in the Allies’ long slog to the heart of Germany and the end of the war.

Lieutenant Eddie Harkins is tasked to investigate the murder of Helen Batcheller, an OSS analyst. Harkins is assigned a British driver, Private Pamela Lowell, to aid in his investigation. Lowell is smart, brave and resourceful; like Harkins, she is prone to speak her mind even when it doesn’t help her.

Soon a suspect is arrested and Harkins is ordered to stop digging. Suspicious, he continues his investigation only to find himself trapped in a web of Soviet secrets. As bombs fall, Harkins must solve the murder and reveal the spies before it is too late.

Amazon Description: Headstrong Johanna Berglund, a linguistics student at the University of Minnesota, has very definite plans for her future . . . plans that do not include returning to her hometown and the secrets and heartaches she left behind there. But the US Army wants her to work as a translator at a nearby camp for German POWs.

Johanna arrives to find the once-sleepy town exploding with hostility. Most patriotic citizens want nothing to do with German soldiers laboring in their fields, and they’re not afraid to criticize those who work at the camp as well. When Johanna describes the trouble to her friend Peter Ito, a language instructor at a school for military intelligence officers, he encourages her to give the town that rejected her a second chance.

The Historical Novel Society provides a quarterly magazine, Historical Novels Review, with reviews of many different genres of historical fiction. The reviews are both online and in the hard copy magazine. They also provide interesting online articles and hold conferences and other events. My reviews for them which appeared in the November 2020 issue can be found here

Mountain Laurel

It is 1793, and Ian Cameron has returned to Mountain Laurel, his uncle’s plantation in North Carolina, where he spent time as a boy. Now a grown man, he is being groomed as his uncle’s heir. When Ian sees Seona for the first time, he is immediately captivated by her green eyes and does not realize she is enslaved to his kin. When he learns of Seona’s hidden talent as an artist, he encourages it and finds ways for her to hide it from his cruel step-aunt, Lucinda. Lucinda does not believe slaves should read, write, or do anything to take time away from their chores. The story is told from the alternating viewpoints of Ian and Seona, who has hidden her art all her life. “Every slave has a secret. This one is mine.” As time progresses, Ian finds himself conflicted between his growing feelings for Seona, his loyalty to his family, and his responsibility to all those enslaved on the plantation.

This heart-rending book from Benton shows us all the horrors of slavery. In addition to the beatings, rapes, terror, and torture, it shows the true effects of taking away someone’s will and refusing to let them have any dreams or desires. It shows how some people of that time watched slaves being paraded down the road in chains, did nothing, and then went to church on Sunday. Lori Benton writes about this as if she were there, laying bare the pain of someone else owning your body and your soul. However, faith and the desire for redemption are also present, especially in the quiet faith of the slave Lily and the redemption Ian desperately seeks.

This is the first book in the Kindred series, and I cannot wait to see these characters return.

I received a free copy of this book from the publishers via Historical Novels Review Magazine. My opinions are my own.

Link to Mountain Laurel on Amazon

Link to Lori Benton’s Amazon Page

Link to my review on Goodreads