A Fire Sparkling by Julianne MacLean

Rating: 5 out of 5.

What I Thought:

What I Loved: The then and now story line in this book was amazing….I’m always a sucker for it!  Initially, I wasn’t sure I was going to like the “then” part of the story, but I got sucked in really fast!
How I Felt: I was all over the place with this book! A huge twist came early in the book, and I thought “Well the rest of this story is going to be boring now because they just gave everything away.” And then something else would happen that was equally amazing. That happened over and over. I loved it.
To Read Or Not To Read: This book is a must read! It’s a book that just kept giving and was such a great story! If you enjoy historical fiction around WWII, this one is for you!


What’s This Book About Anyway?

The book starts with Gillian catching her boyfriend in the act of cheating. She heads to her grandmother’s home to get away for a while. As she is on her way, her dad calls her to tell her he’s found something at grandma’s and she needs to come see it.


What they have found are photographs of Gillian’s grandmother very clearly in a romantic relationship with a German Nazi. 😯 The photographs are hidden in this travel chest inside a secret drawer, underneath a secret bottom. All very mysterious!


After asking about the photograph, Grandma starts to tell her story. As she tells the story, we travel back to 1939 with her. Every time we think we have an answer for that photo, another twist comes up making us have more questions. I don’t want to give any more information on the storyline, because that’s half the fun of this book. I will say that it leads us to super-secret spy storylines, romance, some pretty rough interrogation scenes, and a plane crash!
This book was amazing and I recommend it to everyone!


Footnotes:

#afiresparkling #juliannemaclean #historicalfiction

Spring House by Mary Ellen Taylor

Rating: 4 out of 5.

What I Thought of this Book:

What I Loved: I loved that this was a sequel that extended the story of the Winter Cottage book by Mary Ellen Taylor . The story featured Megan Buchanan’s story, but still had some of the lovable characters from Winter Cottage.

One other thing that I really loved was a section of the book that featured breastfeeding and the difficulties. I thought that it was an odd thing to focus on, but I LOVED seeing the struggles and the real-life feel of that section. Thank you to Mary Ellen Taylor for doing that.


How I Felt: I wasn’t quite as intrigued as with Winter Cottage, but I am by no way saying that this book wasn’t just as good. I just REALLY liked Winter Cottage.


To Read or Not To Read: If you read Winter Cottage, you should definitely pick up this book. If you haven’t read Winter Cottage, I believe this book could stand alone, but is so much more intriguing after learning the history from Winter Cottage.


What’s This Book About Anyway?

Spring House is again a story that follows the lives of the people living at Winter Cottage, but also jumps back in time to help unravel secrets from 70+ years earlier. This book focused on Megan, very pregnant and working hard to renovate and restore Spring House. She, Lucy, and Natasha begin to find historical letters and pieces in the house that unlock secrets to Megan’s great-great-grandfather, Claire Buchanan, and her lost-to-history sister, Diane. This story continued the great history that was started in Winter Cottage and it’s well-worth the read.


Footnotes:

#springhouse #mayellentaylor #shejustlovesbooks

Winter Cottage by Mary Ellen Taylor

Rating: 4 out of 5.

My Thoughts:

What I Loved:  The mysteries surrounding the story were amazing!  I wanted to know all the answers.  I love when a book jumps back and forth in time to tell the story and this one did it so well.

How I Felt: I was surprised as I uncovered answers to secrets.  There were a few things I was able to guess, but some that definitely caught me unaware. I connected with some characters more than others, but really loved a few.
To Read or Not To Read: This is a good story with some family secrets to unravel.  It’s worth the read and there’s a sequel if you love it!


What’s this book about, anyway?

Lucy, after the death of her mother, travels from Nashville to Cape Hudson with her dog, and her car.  She knows her mother was born and raised in Cape Hudson, but that’s it.  She’s hoping to find out who her father is (her mom never told her) and who her mother was when she lived here.
What she gets – a house from a will of a woman she has never heard of and an executor that would prefer to take the house off her hands.  This house is really more of an estate with acres of land, a light house, and an additional smaller home on the property. With no real home or family to go back to, she chooses to stay and try it out.


Some of my favorite parts surround a young girl repeatedly sneaking into the house for a safe place to stay. The interaction between the two is adorable and fun. The big mysteries start to have answers when Lucy discovers some old videos tucked away in the house featuring her mother interviewing an old woman. She begins to unravel her past and the secrets of her new home, Winter Cottage.


Footnotes:

#wintercottage #maryellentaylor #shejustlovesbooks #book series

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

Rating: 5 out of 5.

What I Loved:

I am a sucker for a now and then story line. I liked the reflection of a love story through Jacob’s memories. He speaks with such feeling about his life that he moves you.

My Synopsis:

Present Day: Jacob, an older man in a nursing home, watches as a circus starts to set up across the street. He begins to tell us the story of meeting his love and his adventures in joining a circus. . .

The Past: Jacob accepts a job as the elephant caretaker to escape his current situation. He meets Rosie, an elephant, and his soon-to-be star attraction, as well as Marlena, a beautiful performer and wife to the director of horses. Through his memories, we watch as they travel and perform. We meet new characters and situations, showing the best and worst of people.

How I Felt:

I think I had all the feelings through this book. Giggles, tears, shock, and sadness. Sara Gruen writes in a way that pulls you right into the story and you are there blow for blow, feeling everything.

I really enjoyed how much I learned about working for a circus during this time in history. There were so many references that I would go and research to see if that really happened, and I was fascinated by it!

I loved the romance of this story. Told from the perspective of Jacob as an old man, then time jumping to his past was a wonderful way to hear about his story.

Overall, I just loved this book from start to finish. It’s one of those books that I would love to be able to read for the first time again!

To Read or Not To Read:

I absolutely loved this book. I think that readers that enjoy a historical fiction romance with a time jump from the present to the past will enjoy this as well!

Winner of the 2007 BookBrowse Award for Most Popular Book.

An atmospheric, gritty, and compelling novel of star-crossed lovers, set in the circus world circa 1932, by the bestselling author of Riding Lessons.

When Jacob Jankowski, recently orphaned and suddenly adrift, jumps onto a passing train, he enters a world of freaks, drifters, and misfits, a second-rate circus struggling to survive during the Great Depression, making one-night stands in town after endless town. A veterinary student who almost earned his degree, Jacob is put in charge of caring for the circus menagerie. It is there that he meets Marlena, the beautiful young star of the equestrian act, who is married to August, the charismatic but twisted animal trainer. He also meets Rosie, an elephant who seems untrainable until he discovers a way to reach her.

Beautifully written, Water for Elephants is illuminated by a wonderful sense of time and place. It tells a story of a love between two people that overcomes incredible odds in a world in which even love is a luxury that few can afford. 

#waterforelephants #saragruen #shejustlovesbooks

What the Wind Knows by Amy Harmon

Rating: 4 out of 5.

What I Loved:

The telling of the story with connections back to clues early in the book was amazing. I loved that What the Wind Knows had such a wonderful full-circle feeling. All the pieces came together at the end, and it just left be in awe.


How I felt:

I really enjoyed this book, but I did disengage a bit when the writing focused on the Irish wars. I felt like it pulled me out of the story a bit. Outside of those portions, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was beautifully written with wonderful characters that I connected to. I loved the mystical element mixed with the real-life making this book part fantasy and part historical fiction.

I tried to explain this book to my husband and didn’t do it very well. I hope to do better for you!
Anne Gallagher’s grandfather raised her on his childhood stories of Ireland in the 1920’s. On his deathbed he makes her promise to go to Ireland to spread his ashes. While there she travels back in time to 1921 and finds herself mistaken for her great-grandmother, previously believed to have died. She has been shot and is found by Dr. Thomas Smith, her grandfather’s guardian.

Anne adopts her great-grandmother’s identity while she tries to adapt to what has happened to her.
I loved the time travel and interwoven lives of her ancestors and her. I wasn’t as interested in the parts about the struggles of the Ireland fights happening during the story. They helped moved the story along, but her life and the events she encounters were so much more intriguing. This was definitely worth reading though!

To Read or Not To Read:

This is definitely a book I would recommend for historical fiction fans. Although I didn’t like the Ireland fighting portions, I know that there are a lot of readers that would like that. If you are a fan of historical fiction and magical elements AND time travel, What the Wind Knows is one you should check out!

Where To Find This Book:

What the Wind Knows by Amy Harmon is available at these sites.

Amazon Kindle | Amazon | Audible | Goodreads

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A woman’s impossible journey through the ages could change everything…

Anne Gallagher grew up enchanted by her grandfather’s stories of Ireland. Heartbroken at his death, she travels to his childhood home to spread his ashes. There, overcome with memories of the man she adored and consumed by a history she never knew, she is pulled into another time.

The Ireland of 1921, teetering on the edge of war, is a dangerous place in which to awaken. But there Anne finds herself, hurt, disoriented, and under the care of Dr. Thomas Smith, guardian to a young boy who is oddly familiar. Mistaken for the boy’s long-missing mother, Anne adopts her identity, convinced the woman’s disappearance is connected to her own.

As tensions rise, Thomas joins the struggle for Ireland’s independence and Anne is drawn into the conflict beside him. Caught between history and her heart, she must decide whether she’s willing to let go of the life she knew for a love she never thought she’d find. But in the end, is the choice actually hers to make?

If you haven’t yet read any books by Amy Harmon yet, here are the list of books by her that I have already read and recommend!
The First Girl Child by Amy Harmon
From Sand and Ash by Amy Harmon
What the Wind Knows by Amy Harmon