Monday, March 28, 2022

Literary Locale: Hot Springs, VA and Marjorie Merriwether Post


It's been a hot second since I've been able to do a Literary Locale and this one happened quite by accident. A couple weeks ago, my husband and I escaped to Hot Springs, VA to the Omni Homestead. It's a grand historic hotel surrounded by nature and one of the biggest draws are the natural hot springs that are both on and around the property. We had a lovely time! 

Flash forward about a week and I'm reading Alison Pataki's latest book, The Magnificent Lives of Marjorie Post. For one of her honeymoons, she travels by train from Washington, D.C. to Hot Springs, VA. There is no longer passenger train service to Hot Springs but you can travel there by car and it's a relatively easy three hours from D.C.

The book pictured with some of the jewelry I bought at the hotel. I feel like Marjorie would approve.

The train service was said to be luxurious and a perfect way to start your travels to this restful place. The train station would have been just in front of this row of buildings:

The hotel would have been and still is the biggest structure around these parts. It is breathtaking even now:

The original hotel was built in 1766 but had to be rebuilt when it caught fire. When it was rebuilt, it went from a log frame hotel to a much grander place featuring the brick work that you can still see on it today. Hot Springs became a place for the well-to-do to escape from the heat (both actual and metaphorical) of Washington, D.C. 

The hotel has a fab library with pictures of many famous people who stayed at the hotel and it was amazing to see even just the highlights of that list. I would love to go back and it's easy to see why Ms. Post would have picked the Homestead for a romantic getaway!

Come back on Wednesday when I'll have a review of the book up!

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

On Vacation

I love to travel and as much as I love airplanes and trains, there is something beautiful about the classic road trip. It’s slower but I love being able to watch the world go by. I also love that it allows me to bring A LOT of books. 

I’ll be back with more reviews next week!

Monday, March 14, 2022

Quick Pick Review: A Train to Moscow by Elena Gorokhova

 Title: A Train to Moscow

Author: Elena Gorokhova

Format: Paperback

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing

Publish Date: March 1, 2022

Source: Borrowed

What's the Story?:

From "In post–World War II Russia, a girl must reconcile a tragic past with her hope for the future in this powerful and poignant novel about family secrets, passion and loss, perseverance and ambition.

In a small, provincial town behind the Iron Curtain, Sasha lives in a house full of secrets, one of which is her own dream of becoming an actress. When she leaves for Moscow to audition for drama school, she defies her mother and grandparents and abandons her first love, Andrei.

Before she leaves, Sasha discovers the hidden war journal of her uncle Kolya, an artist still missing in action years after the war has ended. His pages expose the official lies and the forbidden truth of Stalin’s brutality. Kolya’s revelations and his tragic love story guide Sasha through drama school and cement her determination to live a thousand lives onstage. After graduation, she begins acting in Leningrad, where Andrei, now a Communist Party apparatchik, becomes a censor of her work. As a past secret comes to light, Sasha’s ambitions converge with Andrei’s duties, and Sasha must decide if her dreams are truly worth the necessary sacrifice and if, as her grandmother likes to say, all will indeed be well.

My Two Cents:

With everything going on in the world right now, "A Train to Moscow" feels particularly timely. In post World War II Soviet Union, Sasha dreams about becoming an actress even though the road may be difficult and it may put her in an undesirable spotlight. Her family is also worried for her and not fully supportive. In addition to her career aspirations, she also knows that her family is hiding a deep secret about her mysterious uncle.

I feel like I really haven't read a lot of historical fiction set in the time period in the book and I loved getting to know more about what it would have been like to live during that time. The world building in this book was really interesting and I loved all of the great detail that the author fit into this book. You can imagine exactly what Sasha is going through and all of the detail makes for a truly engaging read.

Friday, March 11, 2022

Review: The Next Ship Home by Heather Webb

Title: The Next Ship Home

Author: Heather Webb

Format: Paperback

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Publish Date: February 8, 2022

Source: Owned

What's the Story?:

From "Ellis Island, 1902. Francesca arrives on the shores of America, her sights set on a better life than the one she left in Italy. That same day, aspiring linguist Alma reports to her first day of work at the immigrant processing center. Ellis, though, is not the refuge it first appears thanks to President Roosevelt's attempts to deter crime. Francesca and Alma will have to rely on each other to escape its corruption and claim the American dreams they were promised.

A thoughtful historical inspired by true events, this novel probes America's history of prejudice and exclusion—when entry at Ellis Island promised a better life but often delivered something drastically different, immigrants needed strength, resilience, and friendship to fight for their futures."

What's the Story?:

Heather Webb is on my auto-read list and has been for a long time. Every time she comes out with a new book, I know that I am in for a wonderful, fully engaging story. This book is no different! "The Next Ship Home" is a richly detailed story about two women, Francesca and Alma, in early 1900s  New York City. These two women from very different places will cross paths in very surprising ways during a tumultuous time period in American history.

The character building in the book is really fantastic and I loved how real Webb was able to make both women feel. Francesca is running from a terrible past in her native Italy. She is willing to brave the unknown just to try to free herself and her sister from what would certainly be a terrible future. But is the unknown always better than a terrible known? 

Alma is a young woman trying to break free of being so tightly reliant on her family so she takes a job at Ellis Island. The work is hard and often emotionally draining as she sees people from across the world coming to America to find a better life. Will Alma ever truly have a life of her own design? Alma and Francesca end up being pulled together and linked throughout the story in ways that neither of them expect. The secondary characters are really amazing as well and I am totally pulling for a follow on story about Francesca and what happens after this book ends (no spoilers!!!).

The setting is almost its own character in the book. Ellis Island is a fascinating place and I love New York (who doesn't?). I believe this is one of the first histfic books that I have read about Ellis Island and I loved how Webb was able to capture the tumult of what it would have been like to go through Ellis Island during its heyday. 

Overall, this was a great story that had me captivated! This is one of the best books that I have read so far this year and I cannot wait to see what else Heather Webb comes out with in the future!

Monday, March 7, 2022

Blog Tour: Sisters of Night and Fog by Erika Robuck

 Title: Sisters of Night and Fog

Author: Erika Robuck

Format: Paperback

Publisher: Berkley Books

Publish Date: March 1, 2022

Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "1940. In a world newly burning with war, and in spite of her American family’s wishes, Virginia decides to stay in occupied France with her French husband. She’s sure that if they keep their heads down they’ll make it through. But as the call to resist the enemy grows around her, Virginia must decide if she's willing to risk everything to help those in need.

Nineteen-year-old Violette is a crack shot with an unquenchable spirit of adventure, and she's desperate to fight the Nazis however she can. When her mother sends her to find an exiled soldier, Violette meets the man who will change her life. Then tragedy strikes, and Britain’s clandestine war organization—the Special Operations Executive—learns of Violette’s dual citizenship and adept firearm handling and starts to recruit her. But Violette is no stranger to loss and must decide whether the cost of defiance is too great a price to pay.

Set across the European theater of WWII, Sisters of Night and Fog tells the story of two women whose clandestine deeds come to a staggering halt when they are brought together at Ravensbrück concentration camp."

My Two Cents:

I am so pleased to be on the blog tour for this fabulous book!

In "Sisters of Night and Fog," we meet Virginia, an American married to a French man, and Violette, a woman of both French and English heritage, who are drawn to protect the free world in whatever way they can from the terrible destruction of the Nazis. Based on real people, the author creates a fascinating story of two very brave women who will willingly put themselves in harms way if it means that they and their beloved families can be free from tyranny. 

Virginia and Violette are larger than life characters and it was hard for me to believe that they were real people with all of the recounting of their brave deeds (the author's note gave me goosebumps). The author does a really fantastic job of bringing them to life with a lot of rich detail and descriptions of their fantastic deeds. 

Some of my favorite parts of the book had to do with both of the women being trained in the ways of clandestine service. The detail here was great and it was clear that it was meticulously done.  I loved reading about all of the things that both Virginia and Violette encounter. They are terribly brave but the things they face are almost unimaginable and you are definitely cheering them on the entire way! 

One thing I wanted to draw special attention to was the fantastic section at the back of the book entitled "Notes on History and Character Choices." This is like an author's note on steroids and as a history lover, I loved getting this peek at how Robuck pulled all of her research together and what choices she made in order to pull together a tight but still richly detailed narrative. 

Erika Robuck is already on my automatic must read list but this book has even further solidified her place on it. This was a very exciting story surrounding two thoroughly engaging main characters. I really enjoyed this book and can't wait to see what Robuck writes next!

Wednesday, March 2, 2022

On the Radar: March 2022


It's still chilly here but you can feel that the sun is starting to feel warmer! Spring is just around the corner and there are some lovely books coming out this month. 

Sisters of Night and Fog
March 1, 2022

Kamila Knows Best by Farah Heron
March 8, 2022

The Diamond Eye by Kate Quinn
March 29, 2022

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