Friday, October 22, 2021

Spine Poem






All were great reads, and all are reviewed on my blog.


Thursday, October 21, 2021

Spotlight of Sophie Valroux's Paris Stars by Samantha Verant


In 2020, author Samantha Vérant dazzled readers and critics with her debut women’s fiction novel, The Secret French Recipes of Sophie Valroux, the story of a young female chef who journeys to France with aspirations of earning a coveted spot in an elite kitchen and earning her Michelin stars―even though only 1% of chefs who are bestowed the honor are women. 
Now, Vérant whisks readers off to Paris in her delightful sequel, SOPHIE VALROUX’S PARIS STARS.
(Berkley Trade Paperback; on sale October 19, 2021)
In Vérant’s second novel, readers are transported back to the French countryside to be reunited with Chef Sophie and a vibrant cast of supporting characters – and then, off to Paris for an unforgettable adventure! Readers will adore a trip through the pages to the City of Lights as Sophie takes on new culinary challenges. Vérant’s stories offer a perfect escape, with all the tastes of French cuisine to make the reader feel as though they are basking in the sunshine at a French chateau, or lounging along the Seine.




Vérant shines at bringing to life all the delightful sights and sounds of the French countryside, while also shedding light on the sexism that women face in professional kitchens. 


As empowering as it is whimsical and charming, SOPHIE VALROUX’S PARIS STARS is perfect for fans of Amy Reichert, Roselle Lim, and Juliet Blackwell.



Sophie Valroux thought her life was falling apart when she moved to France, jobless, to take care of her ailing grandmother. After being fired from a prestigious New York restaurant, Sophie was convinced her professional career was over. But the opposite has turned out to be true―Sophie is now thriving as head chef at Château de Champvert, the beautiful estate that she inherited from her grandmother, who recently passed away. Surrounded by loyal friends, dedicated staff, and a dreamy French fiancé, Sophie seems to have it all―except for those coveted Michelin stars she’s been vying for.

When Sophie is invited to cook at an exclusive event in Paris, she thinks this could be the thing to help her reach for those stars. But fate seems to have other plans… just before Sophie arrives in Paris, she suffers a fall and loses her senses of taste and smell. How can she serve as a professional chef if she can’t savor the food she will serve?! And, to top it all off, this new career opportunity seems to be creating tension in Sophie’s perfect relationship. Sophie must learn to “fake it until she makes it” in the kitchen while remaining strong and true to herself and her principles in every area of her life―not an easy task in the glow of stardom that she’s suddenly found for herself.




Samantha Vérant is a travel addict, a self-professed oenophile, and a determined, if occasionally unconventional, at home French chef. 

She lives in southwestern France, where she's married to a French rocket scientist she met in 1989, a stepmom to two incredible kids, and the adoptive mother to a ridiculously adorable French cat. 

When she's not trekking from Provence to the Pyrénées or embracing her inner Julia Child, Sam is making her best effort to relearn those dreaded conjugations.


Wednesday, October 20, 2021

The Last Checkmate by Gabriella Saab

Maria was caught during one of her resistance jobs, and her entire family was punished and sent to Auschwitz.

Her family was murdered when they arrived, but Maria was sent to the camp simply because she had slowed up to look at something.  She wishes she would have been murdered too.

The camp officer, Fritzsch, was the most evil person she had ever known.  He enjoyed hurting people both physically and mentally.  This officer also found out Maria played chess, and he made her play chess against other prisoners and himself. 

Playing chess helped her stay alive even though she wishes she were dead.

THE LAST CHECKMATE describes the horrors the prisoners went through and how Maria kept on fighting as her friend Father Kolbe told her to do.

Maria tries to get Fritzsch in trouble so they will transfer him.  She goes through more horrors when this happens. 

She knows he is the one who had her family killed and vows to make sure he is punished after the war when she finds out he survived.

She met him and challenged him to a game of chess in the same place where he had treated her like an animal.

How will the game turn out?  Will Fritzsch win as he always did even without his wartime power or will Maria triumph?

THE LAST CHECKMATE is very well written, very well researched, has a very clever use of a chess game within the story line, but very difficult to read as any WWII book.  

An amazing, heart wrenching debut. 5/5

This book was given to me by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

The Hidden Child by Louise Fein

Secrets….Edward Hamilton has one and now he and his wife have one.

The secret they share together is that their daughter has epilepsy.  He has to hide it because he is in charge of a study of eugenics and is on the committee for Great Britain’s educational system.

It was sad hearing they were ashamed their daughter had epilepsy and kept her hidden from everyone. The treatment back then was awful, and my heart was broken for Mable.

My heart broke for Eleanor too, and I didn’t like Edward or trust him.  All he cared about was his image and his job.

We follow the family as they move through their days worrying about Mabel and as a new baby arrives.

The chapters where epilepsy speaks was unique and very interesting to have that in the book.

I enjoyed the chapters about Eleanor more than the ones that featured Edward and The International Congress of Eugenics.  The information about this Congress was very distressing and I never knew about it.

THE HIDDEN CHILD hit home about the epilepsy because my brother has epilepsy, and I remember how frightening it was when he had a seizure.

The book is well written and well researched with many ethical issues being addressed as well.

Historical fiction fans as well as women’s fiction fans will enjoy this book. 4/5

This book was given to me by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, October 18, 2021

Spotlight of The Ballad of Laurel Springs by Janet Beard




By Janet Beard

Gallery Books ❖ October 5, 2021  


A provocative new work about the long, winding tale of the women in one East Tennessee family. 


The book finds a new way to explore the depth of its characters and their actions over the course of several generations. Beard illustrates how each generation’s present trauma was predicted by past events, as well as how the stories and songs shared about those events affect the generations to come. The narratives are not always straightforward, in the conflicting ways that victimhood, gender, and poverty combine to shape the awful outcomes.


Janet Beard’s stirring novel, informed by her love of these haunting ballads, vividly imagines each woman, defined by the secrets they keep, the surprises they uncover, and the lurking sense of menace that follows them throughout their lives. 


From the author of the international bestseller The Atomic City Girls, Janet Beard’s THE BALLAD OF LAUREL SPRINGS is a provocative new novel about multiple generations of women in one East Tennessee family haunted by violence and redeemed by their rich inheritance of folk music—out from Gallery Books this fall.


A gifted storyteller, Beard brings her native East Tennessee to life with grace and empathy. 


This book is a stunner." 



"Lyrical, atmospheric and deeply moving, Janet Beard's new novel, The Ballad of Laurel Springs, explores the legacies--of passion and violence, music and faith--that haunt one family across the generations.Jillian Medoff, author of This Could Hurt


"The Ballad of Laurel Springs sets the resonant violence of family secrets to the music of the mountains. With tenderness and grit, Janet Beard celebrates the harmonies of survival that run generations deep. Never has it felt more necessary--or more electric--for a story to be heard through song."Amy Jo Burns, author of Cinderland and Shiner


"An intriguing multi-generational saga of a family steeped in the old-time songs and stories of southern Appalachia...tinged with regret and loss, informed by the timeless lyricism of the songs, and culminating with a poignant revelation about Grace's immediate family. This inspired story of Appalachian folklore will move readers."—Publishers Weekly   


"Janet Beard’s powerful novel unfolds with the intricate weaving of generations of unforgettable women’s vivid voices. An illuminating glimpse into the eerie murder ballads of history, The Ballad of Laurel Springs is compelling historical fiction at its best.”

—Patti Callahan, author of Surviving Savannah and Becoming Mrs. Lewis

"Wonderfully unique and equally heartbreaking..."—Off the Shelf
“The Atomic City Girls is a fascinating and compelling novel about a little known piece of WWII history.”—Maggie Leffler, international bestselling author of The Secrets of Flight“
Beard has taken a project of momentous impact and injected a human element into it. [...] This is approachable, intelligent, and highly satisfying historical fiction.”—Booklist (starred review)
“Fans of historical fiction will devour this complex and human look at the people involved in the creation of the atomic bomb. A fascinating look at an under explored chapter of American history.”—Kirkus Reviews“
[...] focuses on the little-known realities behind the Manhattan Project [...] Readers who enjoyed Martha Hall Kelly’s Lilac Girls will appreciate this glimpse into the beliefs and attitudes that shaped America during World War II.”—Library Journal“
The Atomic City Girls explores love, war and patriotism, forcing the reader to consider the devastating effects of Hiroshima. Once readers learn that Beard’s own aunt was one of the workers, the intimate knowledge and specific details of Oak Ridge come to life even more.”—San Francisco Chronicle
“Suspenseful and intriguing...explores an aspect of the Manhattan Project long shrouded in secrecy, bringing to light an important chapter of World War II history.”–Jennifer Chiaverini, New York Times bestselling author of Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker
“Both page-turning and illuminating, The Atomic City Girls brings to life an eerie piece of world history.”—Madeline Miller, author of The Song of Achilles 


Ten-year-old Grace is in search of a subject for her fifth-grade history project when she learns that her four times-great grandfather once stabbed his lover to death. 

His grisly act was memorialized in a murder ballad, her aunt tells her, so it must be true.

But the lessons of that revelation—to be careful of men and desire—are not just Grace’s to learn. Her family’s tangled past is part of a dark legacy in which the lives of generations of women are affected by the violence immortalized in folk songs like “Knoxville Girl” and “Pretty Polly” reminding them to always know their place—or risk the wages of sin.

Inspired by a shocking pair of murders involving classmates from her school days in Tennessee, Beard began to look for links  between contemporary violence and traditional Appalachian folk music, particularly murder ballads, which usually focus of the killing of young women.

She wondered why these stories resonate generation after generation in this particular region of the country? Does the grim history of Appalachia connect to the modern day crimes of her former classmates?

THE BALLAD OF LAUREL SPRINGS considers:-violence against women examined over the course of several generations.-the link between this violence and the folk songs made popular by Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson, Nick Cave, and others.-disrespect against women is built into the culture as evident in our songs.

Janet Beard’s stirring novel, informed by her love of these haunting ballads, vividly imagines these women, defined by the secrets they keep, the surprises they uncover, and the lurking sense of menace that follows them throughout their lives. 

With the same rich sense of place as BLOODROOT or SERENA, SPRINGS is an unforgettable portrait of women fighting to create a safe place in the world for themselves and the people they love.




Born and raised in East Tennessee, Janet Beard studied screenwriting at NYU and went on to earn an MFA in creative writing from The New School. She is the bestselling author of The Atomic City Girls and The Ballad of Laurel Springs. She currently lives in Columbus, Ohio.

•  Immersive Setting Of East Tennessee: Having grown up in the Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee, Beard seamlessly adapts her setting as a key figure, spanning the generations of her storytelling. In some cases, Beard was inspired by tragic events that took place in her rural hometown. She takes us through the industrialization of Tates Valley, a small town in the Smoky Mountains, and its transformation from an isolated farming community to a bustling tourist hub, in the 120-year span of the novel.


•  Appalachian Folklore and Folk Music: Beard links the violence of Appalachian culture with the regional folk songs, particularly the murder ballads, which usually focus on the killing of young women. She wondered why these stories resonate generationally in this area, in tunes made popular by Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson, Nick Cave, and others. The novel illuminates how the community’s mistreatment of women is reflected in its folklore and music. 

Connect with Janet!


Website // Facebook // Instagram