The First Actress

The First ActressThe First Actress by C.W. Gortner

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sarah Bernhardt – an actress, theater star, courtesan, humanitarian, single mother, sister, friend. She is one of a kind. A person who played so many different roles on and off the stage.

Sarah has lived a very full life. A daughter of a famous courtesan and wealthy french nobleman, Jewish by birth, Christian by choice. Her adamant and bold attitude lured me into the pages of her life story. From a very early age, young Sarah showed her strong willpower and determination, she set goals and achieved it, and stood up to her oppressors. Sarah was never afraid to take on serious responsibilities, help friends and family in need.

Sarah Bernard built her name using her talent and ambition. Sarah’s story is fascinating. A bastard who not only became a famous actress but was able to portray both male and female roles, started in theater proceeded into the film world, and became the highest paying actress of her time. I am very happy that I came across this wonderful novel, thank you NetGalley and Ballentine Books Publisher for a free and advanced copy of the novel and an author for a wonderful life story of Sarah Bernard.

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The Jane Austen Society

The Jane Austen SocietyThe Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading!
~Jane Austen

1943 England

A small village Chawton has been home to well known Jane Austen. Decades later, at the end of the Second World War, a group of Chawton residents bonded by the love of England’s most talented and beloved novelist has gathered together for a very important mission – to preserve and restore Jane Austen’s home and continue her legacy.

The task, so simple at the beginning, demanded a lot of attention, resources, and conquest over numerous obstacles. But with the help of Jane Austen’s dedicated fans, the mission did not only become accomplished but also created new long-lasting friendships and a few happy endings.

The plot of the novel was great, yet very predictable. I found myself very distracted while reading the story. Nevertheless, I believe this book is a great dedication to a wonderful novelist. Thank you NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for a free and advanced copy of the novel.

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Becoming Beauvoir

Becoming Beauvoir: A LifeBecoming Beauvoir: A Life by Kate Kirkpatrick

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

My very first book about Simone de Beauvoir and I loved every detail about her life.

The biography was well written and kept me very interested and entertained, mainly because Beauvoir was a fascinating woman. Such an extraordinary philosopher and novelist! I was blown away by her life story, so many interesting qualities in one tiny person. What caught my big attention was the years during Nazi occupancy, she didn’t join the resistance, and continued to write and publish her works. Although her devotion and relationship with Sartre were confusing to me. I was also amused by an unusual “family” they have created.

Great story about remarkable woman and feminist. I think the book was a bit too long, nevertheless, it was worth the time I spend reading it.

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The Paris Hours

The Paris HoursThe Paris Hours by Alex George

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Twenty four hours, four strangers, one great city.

Alex George introduces the reader to four doleful stories. Maid Camille, who carries a distressing secret. A puppeteer Souren who tells the kids untraditional tails. An American journalist Jean-Paul who mourns the tragic death of his wife and struggling romantic painter Guillaume.

During one day, all four strangers chaise their past in a city of lights, and conclude their day in Le Chat Blanc, where they hope to get their closure.

A terrific novel, with the appearance of Josephine Baker, Ernest Hemingway, Sylvia Beach, Marcel Proust, and Gertrude Stein. The author did an amazing job portraying four heart-rending stories, I found myself cheering for each character and hoped for them to get their well deserved happy ending.

Thank you Flatiron Books for an advanced and free copy of the novel.

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The Queen of Paris

The Queen of Paris: A Novel of Coco ChanelThe Queen of Paris: A Novel of Coco Chanel by Pamela Binnings Ewen

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ve been a big fan of Coco Chanel for many years. The more I read about the fashion icon – the more I fall in love with her personality, strength, stubbornness, and big loving heart. Coco’s intelligence and willingness to survive fascinates me and can’t get enough of her life story.

“The Queen of Paris” is a wonderful novel that shades more lights on Coco’s years during the great war, especially her collaboration with Nazi. The author did a great job explaining the action Coco had to take in order to save herself, her loved ones, and her business during the difficult years of the war.

As I read many books about the enchanting mademoiselle Coco, a lot of facts are already known to me, however, the part about the association with Nazi was extremely fascinating and informative. Thank you NetGalley and Blackstone Publishing for an advanced copy of the novel and Pamela Binnings Ewen for a wonderful story of The Queen of Paris.

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A Hundred Suns

A Hundred Suns: A NovelA Hundred Suns: A Novel by Karin Tanabe

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I must admit I was quite surprised by the plot – both the storyline and history. It took me a while to understand who was a villain and who was a victim.

The novel has two narrators, American Jessie Lesage and French Marcelle de Fabry. Both women come from different backgrounds and social statuses. They have built themselves up and created a better future with successful marriages. There is one more thing Jessie and Marcelle have in common – Michelin family.

I’ve enjoyed the novel more than I ever expected it. The stories of both Jessie and Marcelle tell us about poverty, child abuse, drug abuse, infidelity, political wars, and revenge. I’ve learned so much about French Indochine during the 1930s. An author painted a sad, gruesome but real picture of the colonies and its natives’ lives before the fall of France during WWII.

“A Hundred Suns” is a wonderful historical fiction read. I enjoyed both Jessie and Marcelle’s storylines, admired their ambition, dedication, and strong will. Thank you, NetGalley and St Martin’s Press for a free and advanced copy of the novel.

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The German Heiress

The German HeiressThe German Heiress by Anika Scott

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“The German Heiress” is a story of justice, loyalty, forgiveness, and trust.

After the end of the Great War, Germany’s “the Iron Fräulein” is hunted by English officers. All Clara wants is to locate her best friend and her son. As people say, be careful of what you wish for, you might get that. And what is waiting for Clara at the end of her search is a big shocking secret that has been kept from her by her closest family and friends.

While on the run and searching for her missing friend, Clara meets many people who are loyal to her family and help Clara on her mission. Clara’s path crosses with a war veteran Jakob, who becomes her ally during the hard times.

In a time of war, it took a strong person to break the rules, go against the political power to perform an act of human kindness, protect the innocent. During the great war, while the men were at the front lines protecting their countries – women were left behind to shield the people in need. Anika Scott gave as a perfect example of this effort in her new novel “The German Heiress”. Thank you NetGalley and William Morrow Paperbacks publisher for a free and advanced copy of the novel.

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Stolen Beauty

Stolen BeautyStolen Beauty by Laurie Lico Albanese

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The novel is based on a worldwide famous painting “The Woman In Gold” by Austrian symbolist painter Gustav Klimt.

A young and impressionable Adele meets an older man, with whom she falls in love and their marriage bonds two wealthy and powerful families into one magnificent dynasty that rules Vienna. Adele’s love produces and lifetime friendship with Austrian famous painted Gustav Klimt, who had created a masterpiece, now known as “The Woman In Gold”.

Forty years later, Adele’s niece Maria is following her aunt’s footsteps, however, Hitler’s hatred of Jewish people not only ruins her family life but outcasts and sets them on a run from their home, country, religion, and past.

A lifetime apart, the two women fight for their husbands, family welfare and their dignity in the world. They are beautiful, determined, strong, and Jewish – a full package of an unstoppable female.

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As Bright As Heaven

As Bright as HeavenAs Bright as Heaven by Susan Meissner

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Coincidentally the reading of this novel collided with the outbreak of the coronavirus in 2020.

Now, let’s travel back to 1918. The Bright family who is greaving the loss of the family member receives a chance to get a fresh start in a big city of Philadelphia. Upon their arrival, they meet and make lifelong friends. But no matter how far they try to run from their misfortune – it found the way to catch up with them.

As years passed, Brights kept standing strong and moving on with their lives, nonetheless keeping their individual secrets. I love each character and the way their life stories developed. It was great to be able to stay with the family for a long period of years and learn their final faith at the end of the book.

While reading “As Bright As Heaven” I’ve enjoyed the fiction story and the facts it presented based on the true event during the Spanish Flu outbreak. Wonderful plot, with multiple narrators, made the novel an enthralling read.

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Chanel’s Riviera: Glamour, Decadence, and Survival in Peace and War, 1930-1944

Chanel's Riviera: Glamour, Decadence, and Survival in Peace and War, 1930-1944Chanel’s Riviera: Glamour, Decadence, and Survival in Peace and War, 1930-1944 by Anne de Courcy

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Chanel’s Riviera is entertaining and easy to read with many captivating facts about Côte d’Azur and Paris during the 1930s through late 1944.

The novel is divided into two parts, the first half describes Coco’s life and rise to power, her powerful friends, affairs. In this part of the book, the reader is introduced to multiple high society figures that at one point or another were a big part of Chanel’s life. Not knowing much about Coco’s life in general, this book has shed lite on her business and love lives. It’s short, well detailed. I’ve learned many interesting facts about the days of the Chanel empire and the designer herself.

The second part of the novel discusses the life of Coco and her circle of friends during the war, their fall of power, and struggles. The novel covers many lives of famous and non-famous people, as a comparison between the social classes and roles it played in their survival.

The novel was well written, with many interesting facts. I found myself enjoying the life of Riviera prior to WWII as it had more new info for me rather than the years of the war. Thank you NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press publisher for a free and advanced copy of the book.

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The Words I Never Wrote

The Words I Never WroteThe Words I Never Wrote by Jane Thynne

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ve read so many books that took place during WWII, it was a pleasure to read “The Words I Never Wrote” by Jane Thynne as the novel takes place and tells the reader a story of the years prior to the great war.

During a hot summer day, Juno Lambert, a photographer, and the occasional writer find herself in an antique shop where she comes across an old 1931 Underwood typewriter that once belonged to a journalist Cordelia Capel. To her amusement, the old typewriter came with a bonus, a manuscript/biography hidden in its case. The script has lured Juno into its pages with an appealing story of two sisters who fought the same great war, from the opposite sides.

Regrettably, the sisters’ relationship is torn apart by the horrific war. Newly married Irene joined her German husband in the heart of Germany – Berlin, at the same time as her younger sister Cordelia, a journalist in training was sent to France. During the years prior to WWII sisters often exchange letters that contain their political views and social life in pre-war Berlin and Paris. As the warning of the upcoming war becomes real, young Cordelia learns that Irene’s husband is a Nazi sympathizer and urged her sister to leave her husband’s side and return home before it’s too late. With no explanation, Irene chooses not to follow Cordelia’s pleas, and in result sisters’ communications stops, and their lives go into different directions.

The biography is cut short, leaving Juno yearning for more. After throw research, she finds very little on Irene and Cordelia’s lives during and after the war. Why Cordelia has not set her foot in Europe after 1945? Has Irene survived the war? Has Cordelia ever forgiven her sister for betraying their beliefs and home county? Juno packs her bags and boards the plane to the place that might hold answers to all her questions – Berlin.

I was immersed in the story of the triumph of the human spirit, and courage, as well as the strength and perseverance of strong women. Thank you NetGalley and Ballantine Books publishers for a free and advanced copy of this wonderful novel.

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House on Endless Waters

House on Endless WatersHouse on Endless Waters by Emuna Elon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Flipping back and forth between the years of WWII and the present, this novel follows the lives of the Blum family and their hidden family secret.

Yoel Blum’s fame as an author brings him back to Amsterdam, his birthplace, despite the promise that he has made to his late mother – to never return to the place that caused his family a lot of sorrow. While in the city, Yoel and his wife decide to visit a Jewish Museum. During the tour, in one of the photos, Yoel recognizes his mother’s face. And the more he examines the photo – the more questions filled his mind.

In the spur of the moment, one photograph flipped Yoel’s life upside down. And just like that, piece by piece, with his sister’s and mother’s remaining friends’ memories and a little help of his own research, like a puzzle, Yoel builds a true picture of his past.

You have a mother, and you have a sister, and you have yourself. That’s it, nothing else matters.

The past and present timelines wove together so beautifully. The tragedy of Blum’s family left me devastated, however, their ability to forgive gives me hope in humanity. Thank you NetGalley and Atria Books publishers for a free and advanced copy of the novel.

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