The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

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Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

This was our pick for March at our Book Club!  I really enjoyed this book!  It is based on a true story of The Alice Network, a real-life group of female spies in France during World War I.

The Alice Network tells the story of Charlie St. Claire in present day and then bounces into the story of another woman Eve Gardiner’s past.  Charlie is pregnant and is on her way with her mother to ‘take care of her little problem” when she decides now is the time she is going to break free.  She is hoping to find her cousin Rose who disappeared in Nazi-occupied France during the war and now is perfect opportunity.  Charlie heads to London, determined to find out what happened to the cousin she loves like a sister.

In Eve’s story, she is itching to join the fight against the Germans and unexpectedly gets her chance when she’s recruited to work as a spy. Sent into enemy-occupied France, she’s trained by the mesmerizing Lili, the “Queen of Spies”, who manages a vast network of secret agents right under the enemy’s nose.  Thirty years later, haunted by the betrayal that tore apart the Alice Network, Eve spends her days drunk in her crumbling London house. Until a young American barges in uttering a name Eve hasn’t heard in decades, and launches them both on a mission to find the truth…no matter where it leads.

I usually have trouble when a story flips between two people’s stories, but I had no trouble with this one!  I’m glad this author decided this story needed to be brought to light again.  It’s fascinating to discover it’s based on a real woman, Louise de Bettignies or Alice Dubois and her story heroism and courage.  I highly recommend this book!!!!

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Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

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Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥

This was our February Book Club pick!  The group discussion was interesting and mildly deep.  Everyone seemed to have liked the book!

I didn’t dislike the book, although I found it to be a lot going on.  I came to a point where I was asking myself ‘what’s the point of this story’, then referenced back to the title.  The title fits it well after reading all the stories and the character’s little fires everywhere in their lives.  I love that in Book Club, I venture out to read things that I normally would pass by without a second look.

I would suggest this book to others as it does set up for a great book club discussion.  The points touched upon in the story eerily pertained to current events in the world and a case in a town not far from where we live.

Via Goodreads:

In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is meticulously planned – from the layout of the winding roads, to the colours of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.

Enter Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother – who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenage daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than just tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the alluring mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past, and a disregard for the rules that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.

When the Richardsons’ friends attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town and puts Mia and Mrs. Richardson on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Mrs. Richardson becomes determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs to her own family – and Mia’s.

Little Fires Everywhere explores the weight of long-held secrets and the ferocious pull of motherhood-and the danger of believing that planning and following the rules can avert disaster, or heartbreak.

King Rat (Asian Saga: Chronological Order #4) by James Clavell

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Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥

This was our book club pick for January!  It was a good story, although in some spots it seemed to drag on a bit and it took me awhile to get through it.

The story is set in a Japanese POW camp near Singapore in early 1945.  British, Australian and American prisoners are sick, starving and in a dire situation in hopes of being rescued.  All except one American prisoner whom they call “The King”, who somehow manages to eat, live and dress like nothing out of the ordinary while all the others suffer from starvation, skin and bones.

The story revolves around this character, “The King” and his secrets to living as one.  Nearly, everyone depends on the King, though, to make a life-saving trade – a watch for a bowl of rice, $20 for an orange, etc. The King decides to take the unaffected Marlowe under his wing as a sort of junior partner.

The King lets Marlowe in on his adventures and his secrets, something the whole camp would like to know, too.  Soon, the King comes up with a plan to both make money and get revenge on the camp enemies.

I would recommend this book to readers, it’s an interesting story of the length humans will go to survive.

House by Frank E. Peretti, Ted Dekker

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Rating: ♥

Enter House — where you’ll find yourself thrown into a killer’s deadly game in which the only way to win is to lose… and the only way out is in.

The stakes of the game become clear when a tin can is tossed into the house with rules scrawled on it. Rules that only a madman—or worse—could have written. Rules that make no sense yet must be followed.

This was our book club pick for December!  Unfortunately I did not like this book.  I did give it one heart rating for the fast pace story it did hold!

The story to me was very cliche.  A wanna-be scary story that I felt took bits and pieces from other familiar tales I’ve read.  I’ve read one other book by Ted Dekker that I also didn’t really get into.  I gave this one a chance because that’s why I joined book club, to read outside my  normal zones!

After discussing the book at book club, we had a couple members who pointed out the possible significance references to the Bible.  Which, I could see after they described how they portrayed the story.  Where as I just read it as a cheesy wanna-be horror tale.  It did make me realize that in other books I have read, I don’t actually take the time to reflect on the possible second meanings of the stories being told.  I read them how they are, don’t think much about them and move on.  So that will be my ‘take away lesson’ from this one!

 

The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America by Erik Larson

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Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

This was our Book Club Selection for August!

The Devil in the White City had a super slow start for me, although we were warned at Book Club that this is somewhat how Erik Larson’s books all are…but then about a third of the way through, it got interesting.

The story is several stories in one, it is a book about the White City — the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, and a book about a devil — a psychopathic serial killer.  I enjoyed both stories here, but wasn’t interested with the author’s decision to try to integrate them into one book.  I think the historical pieces about the Chicago’s World’s Fair were great to have in the story to set the place and time, but having all the detail about how the World’s Fair came to be among the murdering madness of H.H. Holmes – it was a bit much.

The White City half certainly dealt with a fascinating cast of characters, architecture was skyrocketing in importance, and Chicago was a hotbed of architectural innovation. And since architects invariably deal with wealth, all the contradictions and surprises of the Gilded Age are brought to the fore.  And perhaps the devil half contained enough meat to reach the topmost tier of true-crime nonfiction.  The social changes seen by the poor — the gilded age’s dark lining, as it were — were just as important as the boardroom side of the story.

The Devil the the White City tells the story of the men and women who shed sweat and tears into making the Chicago Worlds Fair into the most spectacular event of the time period.  It also tells of the women whose blood was shed behind the curtains during the Chicago Worlds Fair – by the hands of the madman Henry H. Holmes, a young doctor who, in a malign parody of the White City, built his “World’s Fair Hotel” just west of the fairgrounds—a torture palace complete with dissection table, gas chamber, and 3,000-degree crematorium.

 

 

 

 

 

The Hamilton Affair by Elizabeth Cobbs

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Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥

We read this book for last months book club pick!  I didn’t necessarily dislike the story, although I did learn insight into who Alexander Hamilton was and became.  Although I think I was more drawn to his wife, Elizabeth and her story.  The title of the book puts it as plainly as anyone could of guessed, Hamilton has an affair which causes turmoil and ultimately ending in his death.  Hamilton came to America to pursue his education and along the way became a hero of sorts and one of the most controversial leaders of the American Revolution.

Then we get to learn more about his wife Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton, daughter of one of New York’s most exalted families—feisty, adventurous, and loyal to a fault.  When she met Alexander, she fell head over heels. She pursued him despite his illegitimacy, and loved him despite his infidelity.  In 1816 (two centuries ago), she shamed Congress into supporting his seven orphaned children.  Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton started New York’s first orphanage. The only “founding mother” to truly embrace public service, she raised 160 children in addition to her own.

The Hamilton Affair tells the tumultuous true love story of Alexander Hamilton and Elizabeth Schuyler, from tremulous beginning to bittersweet ending—his at a dueling ground on the shores of the Hudson River, hers more than half a century later after a brave, successful life.

 

The Book of Polly by Kathy Hepinstall

 

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Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

This book was the best book I read in 2017 by far!  It is going to be my pick for book club in June!

Willow Havens, a 10 year old girl is a little obsessive over the fear that her mother will die.  Given the fact that her mother does happen to be the same age as most of our grandparents…Polly is anything but old and boring.

Polly, is a cantankerous, take-no-prisoners Southern woman who lives to shoot varmints, drink margaritas, and antagonize the neighbors and she sticks out like a sore thumb among the young modern mothers of their small conventional Texas town. She was in her late fifties when Willow was born, so Willow knows she’s here by accident, a late-life afterthought. Willow’s father died before she was born, her much older brother and sister are long grown and gone and failing elsewhere. It’s just her and bigger-than-life Polly.

Willow has no inkling to Polly’s past life before she came into the world.  It’s her goal to find out the clues before…you know…her mother dies! Willow wants to know – why did Polly leave her hometown of Bethel, Louisiana, fifty years ago and vow never to return? Who is Garland Jones, her long-ago suitor who possibly killed a man? And will Polly be able to outrun the Bear, the illness that finally puts her on a collision course with her past?

This is a very highly recommend read! I loved every second of it!