The Librarian of Saint-Malo by Mario Escobar

Libraries are being ransacked. France is torn apart by war. A French librarian is determined to resist. Told through smuggled letters to an author, an ordinary librarian describes the brutal Nazi occupation of her small coastal village and the extraordinary measures she takes to fight back.” Goodreads

Mario Escobar Golderos has a degree in History, with an advanced studies diploma in Modern History. He has written numerous books and articles about the Inquisition, the Protestant Reformation, and religious sects. Of many previous titles: Auschwitz Lullaby and Children of the Stars

The Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

“The Librarian of Saint-Malo tells the story of Jocelyn and Antoine Ferrec, a life full of love and literature.” Author, Mario Escobar, sweeps readers from Jocelyn and Antoine’s glorious wedding at the Cathedral of Saint-Vincent to the German invasion of Poland – both on September1, 1939. The enthralling accounts of survival and passive resistance are told through Jocelyn’s letters to author, Marcel Zola, who she is hoping will someday tell the story of how the citizens of Saint-Malo fought to defend and protect their beloved city and treasured books in the library. The German colonel in charge, Andreas von Aulock, ordered the “purge of the city’s bookstores and libraries to get rid of subversive writings as outlined in the famous Liste Otto.” As the librarian, Jocelyn also encounters Lt. Baumann and Hermann Von Choltiz, specialist in Medieval French literature.  Hermann has been sent to protect France’s cultural heritage by classifying the books in the Saint-Malo library.  Readers, be wary of the relationships that Jocelyn develops with these Germans. Mario Escobar weaves alarming comments and stunning descriptions of actual, true events with enough subtle hope to create suspense as to the German officers’ intentions.  Jocelyn’s quest also leads her to Yvonne Oddon and the Musée de l’Homme in Paris. Fans of Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrow’s The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society will delight in the Bouquinistes, booksellers along the Seine, and the book club Jocelyn creates with the 7 requisite members, including a Count! Anthony Doer’s All the Light We Cannot See is another perfect pairing as this setting is before the bombing of Saint-Malo.

From the invasion of Saint-Malo by Germans in 1939 to the Allied forces’ arrival in 1944, Mario Escobar creates captivating descriptions of not only the beauty but also the magnitude of destruction to the “Little Jewel” on the coast of French Brittany. He deftly takes readers from doom and despair at the burned heaps of rubble and complete ruins to hope at the heart stopping, satisfying climax.

“The city had been collecting books for centuries. We were the soul and memory of Saint-Malo. I had to protect the library’s holdings…”  Readers everywhere are ever grateful for librarians such as Jocelyn and for Mario Escobar’s The Librarian of Saint-Malo.

Saint-Malo Cathedral Inside the Walled City-Site of Jocelyn’s Wedding

The Saint-Malo Cathedral or more precisely St Vincent of Saragosse Cathedral  (Cathédrale Saint-Vincent-de-Saragosse de Saint-Malo ) was at one time a Benedictine Abbey. Built in Romanesque style at the turn of the 12th century, the church’s choir then underwent changes in the 13th century making it gothic style. Transformations from Romanesque to Gothic to High Gothic and even Renaissance styles can be found here. In 1944 during a battle for the city, the cathedral was bombed and the choir section collapsed. It took over 20 years to make the repairs.

The Musee de l’Homme in Paris. Jocelyn visited Yvonne Oddon, one of France’s leading librarians, connected to the Resistance.

The Musée de l’Homme librarian and a pioneer of the French Resistance, Yvonne Oddon and her colleagues Boris Vildé and Anatole Lewitsky launched the French Resistance group that would come to be known as the Musée de l’Homme resistance network, and helped choose the name of the underground newspaper Resistance. https://www.museedelhomme.fr/en/yvonne-oddon-1902-1982-3923


Book Club Cookbook Selection: Sobremesa: a memoir of food and love in thirteen courses by Josephine Caminos Oria

Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

This memoir was a different genre for our book club, but it’s always good to expand ‘reading boundaries.” Sobremesa is the the story of Josephine Caminos Orio’s life long journey in search of love while staying true to herself and her family’s values. The book is laced with 13 wonderful recipes to add to the Argentine experience. Josephine’s search takes her from Pittsburg, Pennsylvania to the family estancia in Argentina; and eventually beyond. We were surprised at the energy and time invested in cooking for Josephine’s family as children, then later at the estancia in Argentina, by Dorita-the grandmother and Poupee-Josephine’s mother-both were amazing in the kitchen! The recipes and memories shared in the book are proof. The transcontinental travel involved was also costly emotionally and financially.

Family traditions sparked a lively discussion on childhood memories; especially events where parents and kids were participants. The Gentleman Caller led to lots of sharing involving ghosts, angels, and signs in different times of our lives. Our overall feeling was one of nostalgia-for holiday or vacation traditions spent with family and the memories those evoke. The ingredients of multiple generations and memorable food; seasoned by bonds of love, make Sobremesa an inspiring culinary and reading experience.


The Forest of Vanishing Stars by Kristin Harmel

The New York Times bestselling author of the “heart-stopping tale of survival and heroism” (PeopleThe Book of Lost Names returns with an evocative coming-of-age World War II story about a young woman who uses her knowledge of the wilderness to help Jewish refugees escape the Nazis—until a secret from her past threatens everything.” Publishing July6, 2021

Photograph by Phil Art Studio, Reims, France Kristin Harmel

Kristin Harmel is the New York Times bestselling author of a dozen novels including The Book of Lost NamesThe Winemaker’s WifeThe Room on Rue Amélie, and The Sweetness of Forgetting. She is also the cofounder and cohost of the popular web series, Friends and Fiction. She lives in Orlando, Florida.

The Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

The Forest of Vanishing Stars shines a blinding light on a baby with a birthmark on her wrist in the shape of a dove and an old woman whose mother told her that knowing impossible things was a gift of God passed down through the blood of only the most fortunate Jewish women. Twenty years later 1942, Poland is being bombed and books are being burned in Berlin, so the old woman, Jerusza, leads baby “Yona”, now 22, deep into the forest of Nalibocka. Words of warning are to never venture outside the forest. A compelling struggle for survival takes the reader farther and farther into the forest, to underground zemliankas, through murky swamps and even onto an island with Resistance groups living day to day on survival skills learned in the cruelest situations. Through Yona’s frightening and eye-opening encounters, feelings of confusion, realization, and hope lead to a turning point in her struggle for survival. “After a lifetime of being told what to do, how to feel; of a stolen childhood, of a life of loneliness she hadn’t asked for,” Yona finally has a choice. Readers will empathize with Yona as she learns expressions of human love: the comfort of another’s touch and experiencing the joy of others. As Yona “comes of age” in this dangerous, strange world she must decide if one has to let go of the old life to have a new one? Words of wisdom to Yona and the reader: “In the times of greatest darkness, the light always shines through, because there are people who stand up to do brave, decent things…it doesn’t matter what you were born to be. It matters what you choose to become.” Choose to read The Forest of Vanishing Stars and like Yona, be changed.


The Lily Garden by Barbara Josselsohn

Barbara Josselsohn grew up on Long Island and lived for several years in her beloved New York City before moving to the northern suburbs. She began her career as a business journalist and then turned her attention to her first love, fiction. Her novels include THE LILAC HOUSE, THE LAST DREAMER, and THE BLUEBELL GIRLS, and has two more novels slated for release in 2021.

The Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

“Cross that bridge when you get to it.” Seems like good advice, but not in the case of Caroline. She’s waited thirty years to return to her hometown of Lake Summers and she might be too late to save the Lily Garden. Caroline, a Chicago businesswoman and her college bound daughter, Lee, had scheduled a college tour when Caroline got word that due to a library expansion the garden her mother had created behind the library was to be razed. Caroline’s parents had met, fallen in love, and lived in Lake Summers. The beautiful, wildflower garden behind the library was where Caroline spent many idyllic hours watching and helping her mom.  

In The Lily Garden, Barbara Josselsohn weaves Caroline’s fondest and most fearful memories with her present-day turmoil. Caroline has lived with her Aunt Risa since she was twelve and has never really felt a part of the family or the business. Now Caroline is facing feelings of resentment and anger towards her aunt and herself for not returning to Lake Summers sooner. The detailed descriptions of the Lily Garden, the trails, the sunsets and twinkling star studded evenings in Lake Summers along with nostalgic Main Street and the local business readers know from The Lilac House and The Bluebell Girls are calming and reassuring. Aaron, a new resident and history professor at the nearby college, is escaping from his own heartache and searching for solace when he winds up in Lake Summers. He falls in love with the ‘rolling sheep meadows and lush green dairy farms,” on the western edge of the Adirondack Mountains.  Aaron’s attempt to connect romance and water for his thesis adds the perfect link to the past that Caroline needs as she revisits the crumbling footbridge and the overgrown lily garden.

Barbara Josselsohn brings readers feelings from the depths of despair back to high hope as her foreshadowing of new opportunities and possibilities unfolds. Will Caroline uncover her true feelings and find her voice in time to save the lily garden and her relationships? Join Caroline and Lee as they cross the drawbridge into Lake Summers for that warm, fuzzy hometown feeling, and remember, “The garden is about history and tradition and family.”  

Now head to your local “Smoothie Dudes” for your favorite drink and settle in for a “heartwarming, summer romance.”


Yours Cheerfully by AJ Pearce

A.J. Pearce grew up in Hampshire, England. She studied at the University of Sussex and Northwestern University. A chance discovery of a 1939 women’s magazine became the inspiration for her international bestseller, Dear Mrs. Bird, the first novel in The Emmeline Lake Chronicles series. She lives in the south of England.

The Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

Emmy Lake’s position at the London magazine, Woman’s Friend, has grown from typist for advice columnist Henrietta Bird-a force to be reckoned with in 1940 to Careers Editor for the new and always late, Mr. Collins in 1941. After attending a Ministry of Information meeting, (“specifically for British women’s press and the unfortunate “trouble in the lavatory”) Emmy is emboldened by a new mission to inspire readers of all ages to answer the direct call from the government to work in munitions factories. Emmy has always wanted to be a war correspondent and now her dream may come true!

Author AJ Pearce has penned Yours Cheerfully, with the same wit and compelling characterizations readers came to love in Dear Mrs. Bird. Readers will find humorous, at times hilarious dialogue on one page, contrasting with endearing heartfelt emotional scenes on the next. The British expressions in the brainstorming sessions, the uncontrollable giggles of junior staffer, Hester combined with the compassion and understanding shown by Mr. Collins, will contribute insights into the personalities of the Woman’s Friend staff along with Emmy’s relationships with “best chum” Bunty and love interest, Charles.

Emmy’s job of answering readers’ letters is catapulted by events at Pearl Harbor and she is inspired to find out how women in the factories are faring after the chance meeting of Anne, a young mother and munition factory worker. Anne and her fellow women workers give Emmy the courage to stand up and do her part to call journalistic attention to nurseries for children with the same hours of shift workers, equal pay, and even for part-time positions to be considered.   

Between Woman’s Friend, parades for women’s rights, and Emmy’s personal life those who read Yours Cheerfully will learn, “there are women who stick up for each other, and women who don’t.”   


You Belong Here Now by Dianna Rostad


Inspiring and highly complimentary words for this stunning debut novel.

Dianna Rostad was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest. Her parents and extended family come from the ranches of Montana and the farms of Arkansas. Dianna raised three kind, human beings, and when they began to test their wings, she took to writing with a passion, completing Southern Methodist University Writer’s Path program in 2009. A favorite task of her creative endeavors is the discovery and research of people and places where her novels are set. She has traveled extensively to pursue the last artifacts of our shared history and breathe life, truth, and hope into her novels. Now living in Florida, Dianna continues to write big-hearted novels for wide audiences everywhere.

The Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

Saddle up for this tale of orphans from New York City, Charles, Patrick, and Opal who have escaped an Orphan Train and their providential arrival on the Stewart Ranch in Montana. Mama, Papa, and spinster daughter Nara are working ‘round the clock to keep the ranch going now that Jim, lead ranch hand, has been fired. Mama heard that an ‘orphan train’ was due in town and suggested that choosing a child might be an option to help with the workload.

Debut novelist, Dianna Rostad, introduces readers to the Big Sky state with stunning descriptions of the ranch, along with the daily rituals and rhythms of wild Mustangs. Background history of the Cheyenne and the Battle of Little Big Horn, helps readers understand the struggles between lead ranch hand, Jim, Mr. Stewart, and Nara.  Nara, not keen on kitchen duties and preparing to take over the ranch one day, reads and studies ideas to improve the ranch. Rostad reveals Nara’s vulnerability when she readily admits to not being motherly, but readers will cheer her on in emboldened confrontations with the sheriff. Learning and growing with Nara is heartwarming and her flashback feelings when dealing with long-time friend and foe, Ella add fiery tension and angst over guilt and forgiveness.

Readers’ emotional bonds grow quickly and deeply for each of the orphans: Charles, overcoming anger and fear from events back in New York’s “Hell’s Kitchen,” Patrick, dealing with Irish hatred, and youngest Opal, abused and so confused she rarely speaks. Strong character development is revealed through Charles’ protective escapades dealing with Patrick and Opal at school, adding a layer of love to cover his past. Patrick exhibits great independent thinking and shows readers “stay true to yourself,” while Opal is like a rose blooming in slow motion photography-one petal at a time her true nature shines when love and trustworthy adults enter her life. (Feelings so real that waking in the night with worry might happen!)

Nara’s observation of Opal “skipping with joy” is so satisfying but then her view that “things come in threes” flips readers over to anxious suspense with events involving the orphans. Feelings of resentment, remorse, and regret come to the surface, but in the end, family is apologies and forgiveness, “standing shoulder to shoulder with a warm hand on your back.”  

Five brilliant stars shine on You Belong Here Now.   


The Ride of Her Life by Elizabeth Letts

The triumphant true story of a woman who rode her horse across America in the 1950s, fulfilling her dying wish to see the Pacific Ocean, from the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Perfect Horse and The Eighty-Dollar Champion

A few minutes with Elizabeth Letts and how this book came to be! https://youtu.be/dR3emAqYaUY

Elizabeth Letts is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Eighty-Dollar Champion and The Perfect Horse, which won the PEN Center USA Literary Award for research nonfiction, as well as the novel Finding Dorothy. She lives in Southern California and Northern Michigan.

The Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

“A woman who liked to wear pants and speak her mind, she wasn’t well regarded by local folks at the time. Some breathed a sigh of relief when she left. But Wilkins – also known as Mesannie or Jackass Annie  because she rode a donkey to her Job at a Lewiston shoe shop – would become famous for her journey.” Lindsay Tice, staff writer of the Lewiston Sun Journal, November 10th 2013.


Annie Wilkins has lost the family farm and the doctor says she has two years to live. This was Annie’s depressing view of the world in 1954. Elizabeth Letts’ “true story of a woman, her horse and their last chance to journey across America” reads like a heartwarming travelogue sprinkled with history, geography, and the pop culture of life in the mid-twentieth century. As brand-new T.V.’s blared “see the USA in a Chevrolet,” Annie had neither running water or electricity, much less a car or a TV on her farm in Minot, Maine. With nothing else to lose, Annie decided to aim herself toward the Pacific Ocean. This delightful memoir of how Annie and her animals are fed and cared for by so many generous, kind citizens and business owners will rebuild hope in humanity for those readers so discouraged by news in today’s world. The author includes compelling, detailed descriptions of burgeoning American industries such as Goodyear, Milton Bradley, and the Gulf Oil Corporation. The Ride of Her Life is a “feel good” trip down memory lane of the 1950’s & ‘60’s. T.V. personalities Art Linkletter, Groucho Marx, Walt Disney, and Andy Griffith are woven through Annie’s story, so readers get a real feel for how the lure of television got its toehold in small towns across America. The bonds of love and loyalty between Annie, her horses and her beloved dog, Depeche Toi, earn a special place in the hearts of readers. From the “Mile-a-Minute Highway” in Maine on the East Coast, through the Lincoln Heritage Trail in the Mid-West, all the way through Cheyenne’s Frontier Days, readers will be as anxious as Annie and the Pioneers on the Oregon Trail. But Annie follows her father’s advice and so should readers: “Have faith and keep going.”  


The Summer of Lost and Found by Mary Alice Monroe

MARY ALICE MONROE: “Based in Charleston, South Carolina, is the New York Times best-selling author of twenty-seven books–and counting. Richly layered and rooted to place, her Lowcountry-set novels defy literary labels. More than feel-good escapism or traditional beach reads, her engrossing stories deftly explore the intersections and parallels between Mother Nature and human nature, hooking readers emotionally and introducing them to characters and causes that live in their hearts and minds. Her robust library of work–from the popular Beach House series to her newer middle grade book–engages readers across generational lines, inspiring them to take a harder look at the environment–and our impact on it. To ask the important questions. To seek answers. To create connections–both with nature and in our personal lives.”

Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

The Summer of Lost and Found is the story of family dynamics during a pandemic. Mary Alice Monroe continues her beloved Beach House series and the saga of the Rutledge family as the 2020 pandemic causes the world to shut down. The setting off the coast of South Carolina, Sullivan’s Island, and the Isle of Palms, is where MAM weaves low-country charm and the magic of a beach house with family relationships during quarantine, job lay-offs, travel restrictions, and handling commitments.  The beauty of the island beaches, wildlife, and even “Frogmore Stew” combined with old and new relationships makes for an endearing, satisfying saga. What’s important is “family weathering a storm with compassion, camaraderie, ingenuity, commitment, friendship, fun, and most of all love.”  Take a walk on the beach, soak up tidbits on king tides, loggerhead turtle habitats, sea oats, dunes and fiddler crabs-all while gleaning wisdom from several generations of Southern women; “If it’s not one thing, it’s another!”

Publication Day-May 11, 2021

In a Book Club Far Away by Tif Marcelo

From the author of Once Upon a Sunset and The Key to Happily Ever After comes a heartwarming and moving novel following three Army wives—estranged friends—who must overcome their differences when one of them is desperate for help.

Tif Marcelo is a veteran army nurse and holds a BS in Nursing and a Master’s in public administration. She believes and writes about the strength of families, the endurance of friendship, heartfelt romances, and is inspired daily by her own military hero husband and four children. She hosts Stories to Love Podcast, and she is also the author of Once Upon a Sunset, The Key to Happily Ever After, and the Journey to the Heart series.

Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

Military spouses have a special bond. In a Book Club Far Away this bond is formed in a gathering each month to discuss and share thoughts about the books read and adventures planned for each month’s meeting. This novel examines how military wives and spouses find relationships beyond the anxious waiting for next assignments, deployment, and returns. “The Fight” that broke the bond between three friends occurred in 2011. The three friends just walked away. Now in 2021 Adelaide has sent an SOS to Regina and Sophie to come to her rescue when she requires surgery and help with her daughter. In alternating chapters, Tif Marcelo shares the years leading up to The Fight as Sophie and Regina recall the memories and unpack buried feelings. Will the broken bonds be mended? Can a book club really save a relationship? This is a tale of the struggle for understanding and reconciliation that will speak to the hearts of readers young and old.
Book clubs continuing to meet virtually have certainly been a “saving grace” for many during the 2020 Pandemic. In a Book Club Far Away by Tif Marcelo is the perfect addition to book club reading calendars.


Wartime with the Cornish Girls by Betty Walker

Betty Walker lives in Cornwall with her large family, where she enjoys gardening and coastal walks. She loves discovering curious historical facts, and devotes much time to investigating her family tree.

She also writes under other names! She writes thrillers as Jane Holland, romance as Beth Good, and YA fantasy as Victoria Lamb.

Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

A remote spot on the Cornish coast of England is relied upon as a vital weapon in World War ll. Porthcurno is the setting for this eye-opening tale of three young women and their contributions to the war effort-how they come to “do their bit.”

Violet Hopkins lives in the seedy East End of London. In charge of her nieces and on the side of caution, Violet takes Lily and Alice to her Aunt Margaret’s farm in Cornwall to escape the nightly London bombings. The idea of trading farm & house chores for safety, room and board keeps readers’ hopes for Violet’s safety alive. Betty Walker’s endearing account of Violet’s family struggles and the determination and grit of Violet, Lily and Alice sets readers off on this intriguing journey to Cornwall.  

Walker’s Cornish Girl #2 is Eva Ryder, London socialite and lonely daughter of a widowed military officer. Eva falls in love with RAF officer, Lt. Max Carmichael, but an evening date ends with a fatal bombing. The scare leaves Colonel Ryder no choice but to bring Eva to safety in Cornwall where he is part of a communications task force. The mystery of whether Max survives the bombing keeps readers hesitantly optimistic and turning pages.

Cornish Girl #3 is local, Hazel, who works at Eastern House on the base in Porthcurno. Betty Walker layers Hazel’s life of abuse and struggle with great empathy to evoke feelings of anxiousness as Hazel is desperate to protect her son, Charlie. The unlikely trio uncovers secrets, finds friendship and discovers self-confidence. As this wartime adventure unfolds on the Cornwall coast “information” is key. This is Book #1 in the series, which is great news for fans of Betty Walker and the Cornish Girls!


The Paris Apartment by Kelly Bowen

The Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

Is this an apartment or a museum? This was the question Aurelia asked in the summer of 2017, as she entered the recently inherited property that her grandmother had occupied in Paris over seventy years ago- completely unbeknownst to her. A secret of such magnitude! After wandering through extravagantly furnished rooms filled with paintings by world renowned artists, discovering a closet packed with shoes, gowns and furs plus a wardrobe that protected exquisitely embroidered silks and satin couture dresses, Lia was astounded to stumble upon photos from German officer, Hermann Goring! “Lia” comes to the nauseating conclusion that her grandmother was a Nazi collaborator.

Just as artists layer paintings with texture and color, Kelly Bowen deftly builds an artistic dual timeline. Underneath the canvas of 2017, lie layers of a1940’s war landscape painted over with battle-weary soldiers and newly widowed Sophie Kowalski in the foreground. Bowen’s scene is blended with scared, hungry Jews, Rachel and three-year-old, Aviva, aside gorgeous Parisian socialite, Estelle Allard, huddling on the horizon. To complete the picture Bowen slaps a jarring slash of red and black as the Germans flaunt the Nazi flag over the Ritz Hotel. The mystery of Lia’s newly acquired apartment filled with a magnificent art collection, couture gowns, and secret identities unfolds in hidden images blurred by Bletchley Park codes and the Millbrook Hall ancestral estate, but is finally illuminated by Gabriel, an art appraiser and restoration expert.

Readers and lovers of art will lament with Estelle, “How much history will a family or a country lose when they lose the things that unite them? That tell the stories of their pasts?” Kelly Bowen’s The Paris Apartment is “captivating and moving-” a dazzling chandelier for the eyes while piercing the heart.


Courage, My Love by Kristin Beck

Publishing April 13, 2021

Kristin Beck first learned about World War II from her grandmother, who served as a Canadian army nurse, fell in love with an American soldier in Belgium, and married him shortly after VE Day. Kristin thus grew up hearing stories about the war, and has been captivated by the often unsung roles of women in history ever since. A former teacher, she holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Washington and a Master’s in Teaching from Western Washington University. Kristin lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and children.

Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

Lucia and Francesca join the unsung women of history as their story of deep personal conviction and courage born out of fear and love, comes to the forefront in Kristin Beck’s stunning debut novel, Courage, My Love.

Readers will be swept along the banks of the Tiber River, across the piazzas and darting into the alleyways of Rome, as the spine-tingling story of Nazi invasion, Partisan missions, and espionage unfolds beginning in July,1943. Lucia Colombo, the single mother of Matteo, is the only daughter in a family of strong Fascists supporters, who has already lost one son in the war. Her family ties to the government are a constant worry and eventually Lucia must face and overcome the political dangers involved with protecting her son. Francesca Gallo, a polio survivor, and very unlikely “messenger,” is the eventual counterpart in Partisan activities with her fiancé, Giacomo, and Lucia.

Just as Lucia and Francesca sense the Germans around every corner, readers will feel equally anxious for the survival of the Partisans and Jewish families being hidden in convents and hospitals with “Syndrome K”.  Each page is turned in suspense to find out if the Allies are indeed, arriving to force the Germans out of Rome. Kristin Beck’s characters are developed with equal amounts of childhood background, family strife, and political alignments. The secondary characters, Partisans, Nazi sympathizers and German officers are written with such depth and personal detail, that readers will find much to admire or even appropriately despise.

Lucia and Francesca find themselves many times “in bocca al lupo”, a wolf at the heels. But despite their fears and uncertainty, they keep on going. Readers will also feel “in bocca al lupo” but keep reading! Courage is rewarded!


Off the Wild Coast of Brittany by Juliet Blackwell

An unforgettable story of resilience and resistance set during WWII and present-day France on a secluded island off the coast of Brittany.

Juliet Blackwell is the New York Times bestselling author of several novels based in France, including The Vineyards of ChampagneThe Lost Carousel of ProvenceLetters from Paris and The Paris Key. She also writes the Witchcraft Mystery series and the Haunted Home Renovation series. As Hailey Lind, Blackwell wrote the Agatha-nominated Art Lover’s Mystery series. A former anthropologist, social worker, and professional artist, Juliet is a California native who has spent time in Mexico, Spain, Cuba, Italy, the Philippines, and France.

The Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

A ferry crossing the choppy Atlantic from France’s Wild Coast of Brittany, Côte Sauvage, shuttles tourists onto the docks along the rocky shore of the island known as Île de Feme. Juliet Blackwell artfully guides readers from the dock on the present-day island filled with touristy souvenir shops and pubs with Wi-Fi to the seaweed covered steps of the lighthouse guarded by Nazi soldiers in July 1940.  

Only a few steps from the dock sits the ancient three-story stone house Natalie Morgen is supposed to be renovating into a quaint guesthouse & restaurant with her famous boyfriend-chef, Francois-Xavier. The “pie in the sky” plans of Natalie, best-selling memoir author and social media sensation, have gone awry. The sudden & mysterious arrival of older sister, Alex, not seen for 10 years, adds to her financial stress and lack of writing “oomph.” The sisters, raised in a survivalist compound in California, have certainly survived but with their own set of emotional and physical issues to face. Juliet Blackwell expertly weaves current issues facing Nat, Alex and women today with the women on the Île de Feme in 1940.  Based on Général de Gaul’s exhortation, all the men of fighting age sailed to England to join the Free French Forces fighting the Nazi invasion of France, while 300 Germans occupied the island. Violette, a young islander, introduces readers to the legend of the Gallizenae, the herbs and cures of the village healer, the German invasion of the island and how the women survived. Juliet Blackwell’s Off the Wild Coast of Brittany, presented in dual timeline with three narrators, examines the themes of allegiance to one’s country and family values, life altering physical conditions, isolation, independence and self-worth. An “island” view of World War II.


Surviving Savannah by Patti Callahan

Patti Callahan is a New York Times bestselling author and is the recipient of the Harper Lee Award for Distinguished Writer of the Year. She is a frequent speaker at luncheons, book clubs, and women’s groups. https://www.patticallahanhenry.com/

The Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

“The secrets are lost to the waves. Only the sea knows, my child, and she keeps her secrets well.” Everly’s grandfather, Papa.

Surviving Savannah is the haunting tale of the steamship, Pulaski, that sailed on June 13, 1838, with Savannah’s elite aboard. The wealthy were escaping the heat, humidity, and mosquitos with trunks of clothing, silver & gold, and china, preparing to spend the summer in the cooler climate of Saratoga Springs, New York. Billed as “only one night at sea” to lure passengers, the disaster later became known as the Southern Titanic when an explosion in the boiler room sunk the Pulaski in only 45 minutes.

This tale and the “secrets lost to the waves” is told through the voice of Papa’s granddaughter, Everly, a present-day history professor, in mourning over the loss of her best friend Mora. After 180 years the shipwreck is discovered and Everly becomes the curator for a museum exhibit taking readers down “rabbit holes” and to the bottom of the ocean as she finds new life in search for the truth.  In alternating chapters and timelines, through blistered lips and parched throats, passengers Augusta Longstreet and her niece, Lilly Forsyth, share the grievous, gut wrenching saga of who survives and how.

The determination and hope of the passengers floating toward shore will keep readers hoping and praying for their survival. Even though this IS a tale of disaster Patti Callahan regales the reader with vignettes of love and heart-warming, thought-provoking conclusions; even some stories of passengers’ survival. The question that floats to the surface is “How will they survive the surviving?”


The Newcomer by Mary Kay Andrews

Mary Kay and her family divide their time between Atlanta and Tybee Island, GA, where they cook up new recipes in two restored beach homes, The Breeze Inn and Ebbtide—both named after fictional places in Mary Kay’s novels, and both available to rent through Tybee Vacation Rentals. In between cooking, spoiling her grandkids, and plotting her next novel, Mary Kay is an intrepid treasure hunter whose favorite pastime is junking and fixing up old houses. https://marykayandrews.com/

The New York Times bestselling author and Queen of the Beach Reads delivers her next page-turner for the summer.

The Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

Add The Newcomer to a book bag, head to your favorite reading spot and be whisked from a fashionable townhouse in New York City to the Murmuring Surf Motel in Treasure Island, Florida. Secrets within secrets- that was the story of Letty’s sister, Tanya, who has been found dead in her apartment with her 4- year-old daughter wailing upstairs.  Letty and Tanya have had an “on again, off again” relationship over the years, and now Letty is on the run, having promised her sister that if anything happened, Letty would take Maya far away from NYC and Tanya’s evil Ex- Evan Wingfield.

Letty and Maya find the Murmuring Surf, a “mom & pop” motel, and are easily accepted by owner Ava and her family. The retirees and snowbirds that land like clockwork are not so ready to accept “the newcomer’ to their summer paradise. These “characters” add their own Southern wit & charm to the Surf. The fact that Ava’s handsome son Joe, is a detective for the local police force adds plenty of romantic tension, along with suspense as the mystery and detective work unfolds in the bars, bungalows, and beaches of Treasure Island. Mary Kay Andrews builds just enough trust between Letty and Ava, and enough doubt and suspicion between The Surf residents regarding “the newcomer,’ that readers will refresh drinks, ignoring a possible sunburn, to find out if Tanya’s secrets are uncovered and how Letty and Maya will spend their future with no sister and mom in the picture. What will the family photo look like?  

The Murmuring Surf will conjure images of roadside motels & beach trips in the 1950’s and ‘60’s- back before online reviews & reservations kept motels in business-where cars pulled off the highway when a VACANCY sign came into view.  Hang your own flashing “no vacancy” sign on the door and treat yourself to the first beach read of the summer.


The Social Graces by Renée Rosen

“A peek behind the curtain at one of the most remarkable feuds in history: Mrs. Vanderbilt and Mrs. Astor’s notorious battle for control of New York society during the Gilded Age.”

Renee Rosen is the bestselling author of historical fiction. Her novels include Park Avenue Summer, Windy City Blues, White Collar Girl, What the Lady Wants and Dollface as well as the young adult novel, Every Crooked Pot. Her new novel, The Social Graces, a story about Mrs. Astor and Mrs. Vanderbilt vying for control of New York society during the Gilded Age, will be out April 20, 2021 from Penguin Random House/Berkley).

Renee is a native of Akron, Ohio and a graduate of The American University in Washington DC.  She now lives in Chicago where she is at work on a new novel.

The Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

Nouveau riche vs. Knickerbockers

The Social Graces is a season ticket to an unfolding drama of gilded proportions! Alva Smith from Mobile, Alabama, married railroad millionaire, William K. Vanderbilt, joining the nouveaux riche, new money. Alva Vanderbilt, a new bride in 1875, naively believed her entrance into New York City society was guaranteed.

Caroline Webster Schermerhorn wed William Backhouse Astor, Jr., in 1854. His family wealth from early fur trade and more recently real estate investments, combined with Caroline’s inherited wealth made them Knickerbockers, “old money.”  Caroline was now Reigning Queen of Society in 1876.

These two ladies share the lead in this enthralling saga played out in ballrooms, opera houses, and even on the streets of New York City and Newport, Rhode Island.  Renee Rosen weaves beautiful gold threads through vividly painted tableaus of dining rooms to seat one hundred, balls attended by society’s “adored” in lavish costumes costing thousands, and homes designed and built with a competitive spirit filled with marble, gilding, and priceless antiques; but mostly pride and boasting.

Between weddings, funerals (followed by two years of mourning) and divorces readers are treated to the ‘social graces’ explained by “Society’s” voice in alternating chapters. This is especially helpful insight into the minds of women and the accepted or expected behaviors of New York’s high society and the Seasons.

As the Gilded Age is coming to a close, Vanderbilt vs. Astor newspaper headlines have moved from the “battle of the ballrooms” to women’s rights; not just those in high society, but for ALL women.  The shiny glow cast by the chandeliers, gilded mirrors and Paris gowns dripping with jewels will peak readers’ curiosity and interest in visiting New York’s Fifth Avenue and the “cottages” of Newport. Don those white gloves, set out the fine china and indulge in The Social Graces by Renee Rosen.


Under the Southern Sky by Kristy Woodson Harvey

Release date: April 20, 2021

Kristy is a proud member of the Tall Poppy Writers, serves on the board of Beaufort Historical Association, and is a member of the University of North Carolina’s Women’s Leadership Council. She is a frequent speaker at fundraisers, book conferences and private events. She lives in North Carolina with her husband and seven-year-old son where she is working on her next novel.

The Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

Childhood friendships, family traditions, and small-town Southern ways will capture readers’ hearts as Kristy Woodson Harvey’s lovable characters stroll onto the docks and porches of Cape Carolina. Kristy Woodson Harvey has a way of creating characters for readers to connect with through heartbreaking grief, career ending sadness, dissolving marriage embarrassment and the fear of revealing long kept family secrets. Going back to the start is the only way to ‘begin again.’

Finding joy is a quest for everyone. This is true for Amelia Paxton and Parker Thaysden, who grew up living next door to each other. Their mothers had dreamed and schemed that one day these two would marry, no matter the age difference. Readers will wonder about Greer, Parker’s first wife. She’s a business success, an author, beautiful and perfect in every way, so rather hard to like. Greer’s imperfect self comes to the surface in her daily journals along with her own secret request.  Amelia and Parker’s parents are accurately portrayed as gracious Southern ladies and gentlemen, along with their life-long feelings for neighbors and friends, “friends like family.”

The summery charm of Cape Carolina soars like a kite on the beach in the small-town elections, fishing tournaments and fish fries, along with the friendly head-to-head gossip at the elite social parties. Y’all, these festive Southern gatherings are captured “spot on” by KWH, as only a true Southern gal could do.

Secrets of each generation are kept close to the heart as this family saga snuggles readers into a “big ol’” Southern hug. Revelations and rewards come to those who wait, especially if quietly sitting on a dock Under the Southern Sky.


The Women of Chateau Lafayette by Stephanie Dray

An epic saga from New York Times bestselling author Stephanie Dray based on the true story of an extraordinary castle in the heart of France and the remarkable women bound by its legacy.

STEPHANIE DRAY is a New York Times, Wall Street Journal & USA Today bestselling author of historical women’s fiction. Her award-winning work has been translated into eight languages and tops lists for the most anticipated reads of the year. She lives with her husband, cats, and history books.

The Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

Château de Chavaniac http://www.chateau-lafayette.com/The-manor-of-both-worlds.html

Three bold women from three epic times in history lived behind the walls of Château de Chavaniac deep in the heart of France.

Stephanie Dray opens the shutters of the Marquis de Lafayette’s birthplace early in 1774, to reveal the devoted Adrienne, Lafayette’s wife and her “side by side” support of Lafayette in the American War for Independence and the resulting French Revolution. From ballrooms to the guillotine and prison cells, readers will be impressed by Adrienne’s political and economic savvy along with her enduring steadfast love for her husband and children. Stephanie Dray’s prior research and depiction of the blue-blooded Sophie de Grouchy in Ribbons of Scarlet shines through with a splendid light on the French Revolution.

The legacy of Chateau de Chavaniac lives on in 1914, as the New York socialite, Beatrice Chanler, searches for attention and love from her husband while struggling to lend her own kind of support to the coming war. William Astor Chanler-millionaire, soldier, adventurer, falls in love with Beatrice, who starting from nothing had made a life for herself on the stage. Now she’s playing her greatest role; that of an Astor. Within her social circles Beatrice wisely appeals to the emotions of love, hate and patriotism to create The Lafayette Fund. Thus begins her fund-raising efforts and path to becoming much more than a New York socialite. Stephanie Dray is an excellent travel guide as Beatrice crosses oceans and political lines in her life-long endeavors; finally making a connection with Lafayette’s birthplace.

Marthe Simone is the third thread in the women of Château de Chavaniac. She has her own mysterious background to unravel as she grows up & matures into a teacher and artist behind the stone walls of the chateau. Marthe struggles with her identity as a single woman, her ambition to see beyond the walls and how to play her part from behind the walls of Chavaniac in 1940 as World War II is enveloping France.

In The Women of Chateau Lafayette Stephanie Dray weaves three major wars with three women and their contributions along with their personal beliefs and aspirations, devotion to families and the generations that came before. The Women of Chateau Lafayette is a truly inspiring saga. Through Adrienne, the American War for Independence and its prominent patriots are woven right into the French Revolution and the aftermath. This is a prime example of historical fiction at its finest, as the lives of Beatrice and Marthe unfold through the ballrooms and battle fields of World War I and World War II. A heart wrenching story of three women whose courage and devotion is displayed in vibrant detail through accomplishments and bravery.


On July 4, 1917, General Pershing and his staff visited Lafayette’s tomb at Picpus Cemetery in Paris.


Publication Day! Sunflower Sisters by Martha Hall Kelly

Martha Hall Kelly’s million-copy bestseller Lilac Girls introduced readers to Caroline Ferriday. Now, in Sunflower Sisters, Kelly tells the story of Ferriday’s ancestor Georgeanna Woolsey, a Union nurse during the Civil War.” Google Books

Martha grew up in Massachusetts and now splits her time between Connecticut and New York City. She worked as an advertising copywriter for many years and raised three splendid children, while researching and writing Lilac Girls, her first novel. She has loved writing the other two books about Caroline’s family, Lost Roses, which features Caroline’s mother during WWI and Sunflower Sisters, a Civil War novel due out March 30, 2021. You’ll find more info about the incredible, true stories behind both books at her website: http://www.marthahallkelly.com and backstory about all three novels on her ever-changing Pinterest page. 

Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

Sunflower Sisters is the long-awaited conclusion to the Woolsey family saga featured in Martha Hall Kelly’s Lilac Girls and Lost Roses.  The Civil War and the issue of slavery in the North and South becomes the backdrop for this final and epic drama.

Sunflower Sisters unfolds from three points of view. Representing the Woolsey family is Georgy, Caroline Ferriday’s great-aunt; a patriotic Union nurse, determined to “rid the country of the scourge of slavery.” Georgy’s father, part of the Underground Railroad, died leaving 7 children for Mother Woolsey to raise.  Georgy’s chapters are woven with details of the lives of each of the six girls and son Charley. Martha Hall Kelly’s impeccable research using family letters gives realistic insight into daily activities and feelings of family members. A Woolsey family tree helps readers keep the siblings in order as the descriptions are read with “eyes peeking through fingers” of battles raging between armies, surgeries and diseases fought in hospitals.

Juxta positioned to the Woolsey family is Jemma, an enslaved girl on the tobacco growing Peeler Plantation, in the border state of Maryland. Jemma’s twin sister, Patience, works at neighboring Ambrosia, an indigo plantation. Readers will be breathless reading of the sisters’ escape plans and routes through the swamps, involving the monster overseer, LeBaron.  Jemma’s skills came from her owner, brave Aunt Tandy Rose, who taught her manners, and how to read and write.  Housemaid Sally Smith, the “root doctor,” shared her wealth of knowledge regarding herbs, healing plants, vegetables, and especially making jelly! The trials and tribulations of Jemma are difficult to read, but her tenacity and courage, along with her creativity and wit help her survive the brutalities and family traumas. Readers are blessed to know Jemma learns to love and be loved.

The third voice is that of Anne-May Wilson Watson, age 25, the Peeler Plantation mistress. Anne-May is a snuff addicted, self-centered, “mean as a witch” woman that readers will immediately move to the “character to hate” pile! MHK gives a vicious, spiteful, nature to this woman who deserves all she gets. Enough said about this awful woman. One more word: greedy.

From the opening scene of a slave auction in 1859, Charleston, South Carolina through battles at Richmond, Antietam, Chancellorsville, Vicksburg, Chickamauga and Gettysburg-readers will experience the emotional toll of the Civil War. Between 1859-1864 there will be balls and weddings, hangings and battles, fairs and funerals. But in the end, there are reunions to soothe the soul and mend broken hearts. The Sunflower symbolism is a hidden secret for readers of Sunflower Sisters. 5 stars. GR

The Woolsey Family Tree


The Kew Gardens Girls by Posy Lovell

A heart-warming novel inspired by real life events, about the brave women during WWI who worked in the historic grounds of London’s Kew Gardens.

Posy Lovell is a pseudonym for British author and journalist Kerry Barrett. Born in Edinburgh, she moved to London as a child with her family. She has a passion for uncovering the role of women in the past. She lives in London with her family and is the author of The Kew Gardens Girls.

Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

“The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just on the body, but the soul.” Alfred Austin

The Kew Gardens Girls combines the “glory of gardening” with the glory of love, friendship and forgiveness. Posy Lovell’s three main characters who answer the ad for gardeners at London’s Kew Gardens in June,1915, are each hiding from loss and heartache. Louisa, at 35, escaping an abusive husband in Kent, flees to London in order to establish anonymity. Ivy, sixteen, compensating for her shameful conduct as a rebellious teenager, wants to be near Jim, assistant to the supervisor at Kew.  First to be hired by supervisor Mac is sweet natured, gentle Bernie who is suffering personal humiliation from a past relationship and his pacifist beliefs. He knows nothing about gardening, but he IS a man. Mac must overcome reservations about women working at Kew Gardens, along with personal disappointment.

Readers will learn about World War I, the Conscription Act, Suffragettes, and the effects these each had on the early workings of London’s Kew Gardens. Posy Lovell’s characters are developed through reflection and slowly learn to share thoughts and feelings with each other, finally revealing personal truths and growing bonds of friendship. Examples of forgiveness, mentoring, trust, handling of grief through generosity and genuine care for others are character traits lovingly cultivated in The Kew Garden Girls. A bonus for poets and gardeners is the language of flowers Ivy weaves through the tasks of weeding and planting the ‘miles” of herbaceous flower beds.  A bouquet of daisies, roses, and fern fronds from the Grateful Reader. (Language of flowers code in link below.)

1911 Map of Kew Gardens

What does each flower symbolize? Which flowers represent love, hope, healing, loss, and good luck? See the Almanac’s complete list of Flower Meanings and Plant Symbolism. Whether you are picking out a flower bouquet for a wedding, choosing a single flower for a loved one, or planting a garden, discover the secret language of flowers! This site has a fabulous chart! https://www.almanac.com/flower-meanings-language-flowers


Under the Light of the Italian Moon by Jennifer Anton

Jennifer Anton is an American/Italian dual citizen born in Joliet, Illinois and now lives between London and Lake Como, Italy. A proud advocate for women’s rights and equality, she hopes to rescue women’s stories from history, starting with her Italian family.

A promise keeps them apart until WW2 threatens to destroy their love forever

A beautiful trailer for the book: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Vjee6D7b8Y

The Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

Under the Light of the Italian Moon is inspired by the true story of the strong women in Jennifer Anton’s Italian family. Listening first to the videos of Jennifer telling the background story of how this novel came to be, the amazing women that inspired it, and the valuable research and coincidences in Italy; will add a tremendous level of understanding as the saga unfolds. https://www.instagram.com/boldwomanwriting/channel/?hl=en

Adelasia Argenta is the heartbeat of her family in Fonzaso, Italy, where Mount Avena and Dolomiti “split Italy from Austria.” Adelasia, known as The Captain, feared for her sternness, is the only trained midwife and has delivered all of the children known to her ten-year-old daughter, Nina. It’s 1914 and Nina’s perspective on young men leaving for America is capped not only by her snowy view of the Alps, but by the wonderment of what lies beyond her small village. As older schoolmate, Pietro Pante, descends into the darkness of the mines in Pennsylvania, Nina is traveling the dark backroads at all hours of the day and night to assist her mother in birthing the babies of Fonzaso. Nina and her mother are dutifully and busily welcoming babies into the world, rejoicing or comforting and consoling families and each other, as Fascism is on the rise and world war is looming.

Nina’s mettle is tested from the early years of 1922 when Mussolini becomes the ruler of Italy, through 1939’s “Gold for the Fatherland” in Fonzaso, until WWll ends in liberation and celebration on the square. Under the Light of the Italian Moon is a story of love, endurance and unknown strength-all needed for survival. Jennifer Anton was inspired to honor the strength within all women by the true story of her great-grandmother and grandmother. Nina’s loyalty and patience are beyond admirable; it’s almost unbelievable-except it’s true. Five glittering stars for Jennifer Anton’s Under the Light of the Italian Moon. *****Gr

The strength of the world is in the women. The power of the world is within its women. Yet it is the women we erase. Some women are unwilling to be forgotten or to forget.  Particularly if they are Italian.” Jennifer Anton

Views of Fonzaso, Italy


Band of Sisters by Lauren Willig

A group of young women from Smith College risk their lives in France at the height of World War I in this sweeping novel based on a true story—a skillful blend of Call the Midwife and The Alice Network—from New York Times bestselling author Lauren Willig.

Watch a brief video of author Lauren Willig: Showing the ruined chateau at Grécourt, France, the historic gates of Smith College, pictures of the Smith College Relief Unit:


Lauren Willig is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of historical fiction. Her works include The Other Daughter, The English Wife, The Forgotten Room (co-written with Karen White and Beatriz Williams), and the RITA Award winning Pink Carnation series. An alumna of Yale University, she has a graduate degree in history from Harvard and a J.D. from Harvard Law School.

Check out this FABULOUS READER’S GUIDE! It includes discussion questions, maps and diagrams drawn by the young women, recipes, and reading resources.


The Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

Overcoming personal fears and differences to bring “hope to the hopeless” – This is the goal of eighteen young American women from Smith College; the “Band of Sisters,” who are crossing the Atlantic in August of 1917. The Smith graduates are heading to Grécourt, France; a village that has been left in ruins by German bombings.  Lauren Willig opens each chapter with excerpts from the girls’ letters home to husbands, parents or friends. These are based on actual correspondence from her impeccable, extensive research which is evident on every page.

The Smith graduates are making the crossing carrying immature grudges built while in college along with idealistic expectations that their charitable settlement work would prepare them for war. The eighteen characters that begin the crossing are whittled to much fewer so that readers may focus on background and personal struggles; gathering emotions of angst to adoration as personalities and skill sets emerge.

When they finally arrive in Grécourt, September of 1917, the young women and their director find themselves ministering to approximately 2000 villagers -mothers, children and the elderly; scattered for many miles around Grécourt.  Three of the young women are closely tied by bonds of friendship and family. Emmie Van Alden- “plain as shoe leather,” always trying to please her mother, has wonderful people skills with children and adults, but has committed “sins of omission” involving best friend Kate. Kate Moran- has always felt inadequate and not “one of the girls,” due to her background, is also an extremely bored teacher at a girl’s school who can drive and speak French! Dr. Julia Pruyn-Emmie’s cousin, a classic beauty, harboring her own secrets, is one of the two medical “wonders” in the unwieldy group. Which one of these three will discover the secret to winning over the villagers?

The girls’ skills include carpentry, sewing, mechanics, cooking, medicine, teaching children to “play again;” along with hosting American engineers and Canadian foresters who joined in at Grécourt dinners, movies and dances. Do not be fooled by these activities! Between the love interests, Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations prepared from rations, these courageous women were performing acts of daring and bravery on a daily basis-no matter how close to the front lines, bombings and fighting or how much rain or snow, heat or mud.

The young women arrived in France as a disjointed gang: some haughty or humble, some beauties or bumbling, some sarcastic or skillful. Readers will not forget these charming young women who Lauren Willig has skillfully molded into a “Band of Sisters.” Five “Croix de guerre!”


The Kitchen Front by Jennifer Ryan

Available February 23, 2021

Jennifer grew up in the British countryside with a penchant for climbing trees and a wonderful grandmother who told her hilarious stories about the Second World War.

As an adult, she became a nonfiction book editor, first editing politics and economics at The Economist Books, and then moving on to the BBC, DK, and other publishers, editing books on health, cooking, wine, and history.

All this time, though, she harbored a longing to share her grandmother’s stories about the war, and so she embarked on an MA in fiction at Johns Hopkins University. The novel that she wrote while there–The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir–became a National Bestseller.

Jennifer’s second novel, The Spies of Shilling Lane, is based on the story of a twinkly-eyed old lady she interviewed about the war. The lady had worked for the British spy agency, MI5, defying her mother who instructed her to find a wealthy husband.

Please visit Jennifer’s website for more information and free giveaways.

The Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

“The BBC radio program The Kitchen Front was a daily show established in 1940 to share wartime recipes and cooking tips with housewives and cooks.” Jennifer Ryan’s The Kitchen Front serves up a delicious helping of comfort food between the covers of her latest novel. A peek into the kitchens of villagers in Fenley Village, England, as the cooks and housewives manage to feed their families on weekly rations is a welcome relief from the “battle front”.  

When the “chaps in charge” at the BBC decide The Kitchen Front radio show needs a woman’s voice or a co-presenter, a local contest is devised to find a voice to connect with the listeners and raise ratings. Jennifer Ryan lovingly brings readers into the lives of the four unlikely contestants: #1-Mrs. Audrey Landon-recent widower, mother to her three sons, and fabulous cook according to her late artist husband; #2 Lady Gwendoline Strickland-married to a “pompous toad,” lives at Fenley Village Hall with her own kitchen staff; deals with her husband and childhood baggage. #3-Mrs. Quince, aging famous cook & baker throughout the county and her shy, stuttering assistant Miss Nell Brown-staff in Fenley Hall kitchen! #4-Zelda Dupont- trained at the Cordon-Bleu, recently relocated to Fenley Village after a stint at London’s prestigious Dartington Hotel, now involuntarily, the head chef at the Fenley Pie Factory canteen. An impressive line-up.

Between the “bully beef,” Spam, and hints on sugar replacements readers become sous chefs in each contestant’s kitchen as the monthly contest rounds begin. Ryan’s division of the novel into Starters, Main Course, & Desserts keeps the “contest audience” apprised of exciting or bewildering behind the scenes events as life in Fenley Village unfolds. The contestants’ presentations with Ambrose Hart’s tasting comments, judging and scoring adds a delectable spice to the novel. Taking advantage of opportunities and making the best of the pitfalls in everyday life with rationing in 1942 are crucial ingredients in “today’s special” wartime treat. Cooking Tip:  a “dash” of sibling rivalry, abuse & childhood neglect is laced into The Kitchen Front.  

Chef’s Note: From an extensive “reading menu”: This order comes with sides of vegetable gardening, bee keeping & berry picking; topped off with an after-dinner guide to grieving, forgiving and new beginnings!

 The Kitchen Front scores a 10/10 in the “Must Read” Category.

WWII Food Rationing Begins

After the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States instituted rationing. Sugar was the first food item to be rationed (starting in May 1942), but coffee, processed and canned foods, meat, cheese, and butter, oils, and fats were also rationed at various times between 1942 and 1945.

To buy rationed food items, families needed to present their grocer with the correct stamps from their government-issued rationing books—in addition to paying the cost of the product. But having enough rationing stamps didn’t guarantee they would be able to purchase an item, since local and national shortages limited availability of certain foods. More information here: https://blog.newspapers.com/recipes-and-rationing/

Food rationing was such a part of American life during World War II that it’s easy to find wartime recipes and tips in newspapers from that period.

This roll recipe from 1942, for example, calls attention to their reduced amount of sugar.

Sun, May 31, 1942 – Page 14 · The Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio) · Newspapers.com


The Invisible Woman by Erika Robuck

Forthcoming novel: 
February 9, 2021

“An alpha female heroine, along with an engaging plot loaded with realism, makes for a captivating historical thriller. Even better, it’s all drawn from the life of a real American hero.” 
~Steve Berry, NY Times and #1 International Bestselling Author


The Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

The Invisible Woman is based on the unforgettable, true story of famous World War ll spy Virginia Hall; also known as The Limping Lady, Diane, and Artemis. Virginia was an American, educated in Europe and had always dreamed of becoming a diplomat. After several rejections due to her disability, Virginia was noticed by Vera Atkins, a high-ranking intelligence officer with the British Special Operations Executive, or SOE. The SOE formed in 1940, aided Resistance groups, participated in espionage and sabotaged freight lines; anything to slow down the advance of the Nazis. The SOE joined forces with the American Office of Strategic Services, or OSS, established later in 1942. Their mission, reportedly issued by Winston Churchill, was to “set Europe ablaze.”

Erika Robuck’s prologue reveals Virginia’s American debutante upbringing and background, before fast forwarding, plunging readers into her return mission to France late in March 1944. Virginia, in her grey wig and old lady disguise and a price on her head, is only projected to survive for six weeks on this return mission. Each account of a “drop” or wireless transmission is filled with nervousness and anticipation of success or doom, exhilaration or death.  The many villagers that participate in the Resistance, offering protection by way of a barn or shed in the woods, become a part of the family; another member to worry and pray and fret over! Readers are guaranteed a ticket and papers to “travel” the secret underground and listen for key messages in radio broadcasts, as Virginia and her teams navigate France in the attempt to defeat the Nazis.  

Erika Robuck’s The Invisible Woman shines a well-earned glaring light on Virginia Hall and the brave, resourceful men and women involved in the Resistance. The Author’s Note is equally enthralling and compelling as the timelines and fates of characters are revealed.

Five “Very Visible, Very Important Stars!”

Readers will benefit from viewing the 2019 movie, A Call to Spy, which covers Virginia’s story up to the opening pages of The Invisible Woman. The character portrayals and scenery will bring the novel to life. A link to the trailer is added below. The nonfiction bestseller, A Woman of No Importance, by Sonia Purnell is also highly recommended.

A never-before-told story of Virginia Hall, the American spy who changed the course of World War II, from the author of Clementine.

In 1942, the Gestapo sent out an urgent transmission: “She is the most dangerous of all Allied spies. We must find and destroy her.”

The target in their sights was Virginia Hall, a Baltimore socialite who talked her way into Special Operations Executive, the spy organization dubbed Winston Churchill’s “Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare.” She became the first Allied woman deployed behind enemy lines and–despite her prosthetic leg–helped to light the flame of the French Resistance, revolutionizing secret warfare as we know it.

Virginia established vast spy networks throughout France, called weapons and explosives down from the skies, and became a linchpin for the Resistance. Even as her face covered wanted posters and a bounty was placed on her head, Virginia refused order after order to evacuate. She finally escaped through a death-defying hike over the Pyrenees into Spain, her cover blown. But she plunged back in, adamant that she had more lives to save, and led a victorious guerilla campaign, liberating swathes of France from the Nazis after D-Day.

Based on new and extensive research, Sonia Purnell has for the first time uncovered the full secret life of Virginia Hall–an astounding and inspiring story of heroism, spycraft, resistance, and personal triumph over shocking adversity. A Woman of No Importance is the breathtaking story of how one woman’s fierce persistence helped win the war.


The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles

Named a Most Anticipated Book of the Year by Library Journal and Goodreads

Janet Skeslien Charles is the award-winning author of Moonlight in Odessa and The Paris Library. Her shorter work has appeared in revues such as Slice and Montana Noir. She learned about the history of the American Library in Paris while working there as the programs manager. She divides her time between Montana and Paris.

The Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

Paris, books and a library – C’est très magnifique! Readers will fall into the lives of the mysterious, foreigner Odile Gustafson and her inquisitive next-door neighbor, twelve-year old Lily.

Author Janet Skeslien Charles weaves Odile’s experiences at the American Library in Paris during World War ll, with Lily’s uncommon and insatiable desire to know about all things French. Lily has requested her class book report on Ivanhoe be changed to a report on France-so she has an excuse to interview Odile and find out how in the world she landed in Froid, Montana from Paris! When her insistent knock goes unanswered, Lily boldly steps right into Odile’s living room, snooping around the record collection and the extensive library. Odile oddly appears from the bedroom and surprisingly agrees to the interview! Thus, Odile enters Lily’s life, and they are both changed forever.  

Odile had been obsessed with books and libraries since her Aunt Caro introduced her to the Dewey Decimal System and the card catalog at the age of nine: “Inside you’ll find the secrets of the universe.” She begins the interview by telling Lily the completely absorbing tale of her time at the American Library in Paris and how the brave, dedicated staff determined, against ALL odds, that the library would remain open during the German occupation of France. Readers will come to respect the directress, Miss Reeder; adore Boris, the Russian head librarian famous for his bibliotherapy; and wonder about trustee and real-life writer, Countess Clara de Chambrun. The author’s strong character development of endearing staff involved with the daily operations, many subscribers, “habituès”, and volunteers such as Margaret, add several more chilling chapters to Odile’s accounting of her years in war torn Paris. The relationship between Odile’s parents, her twin, Remy, and their involvement in war activities adds complexity to her unlikely arrival in the United States.  How DID Odile get to Froid, Montana? That is a “story within a story!”

When asked by a reporter, “Why were books being sent to soldiers to improve morale? Why not wine? Odile answered, “because no other thing possesses that mystical faculty to make people see with other people’s eyes. The Library is a bridge of books between cultures.”

When asked by Lily, “The best thing about Paris? Odile answered, “It’s a city of readers.” Join Odile and Lily in this “view of Paris” through the heart and lens of a librarian in The Paris Library.

The following is an excerpt from the history of the library. The highlighted names are characters in the novel:

“With the coming of World War II, the occupation of France by the Nazi regime, and the deepening threats to French Jews, Library director Dorothy Reeder and her staff and volunteers provided heroic service by operating an underground, and potentially dangerous, book-lending service to Jewish members barred from libraries. One staff member, Boris Netchaeff, was shot by the Gestapo when he failed to raise his hands quickly enough during a surprise inspection.

When Reeder was sent home for her safety at the end of 1941, Countess de Chambrun rose to the occasion to lead the Library. In a classic Occupation paradox, the happenstance of her son’s marriage to the daughter of the Vichy prime minister, Pierre Laval, and her family’s other social and business connections ensured the Library a friend in high places. That, along with the pre-war esteem of German “Library Protector” Dr. Hermann Fuchs for Dorothy Reeder and the Library, granted the institution a near-exclusive right to keep its doors open and its collections largely uncensored throughout the war. A French diplomat later said the Library had been to occupied Paris “an open window on the free world.”


The Last Tiara by M. J. Rose

Publishes February 2, 2021

“Rose is an unusually skillful storyteller. Her polished prose and intricate plot will grip even the most skeptical reader. ” —The Washington Post https://www.mjrose.com/content/

Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

From 1915 at the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg to 1940’s New York City, this is a compelling mystery that unfolds in the alternating voices of two young girls. First is Sofiya Petrovitch who spends most days at the palace with her mom, the tutor to the Romanov children. Sofiya is the best friend of Olga Romanov, and they later serve the wounded soldiers together in the makeshift hospital set up within the Winter Palace. The second young woman is Isobelle Moon, an architect in 1948 NYC, who discovers there are secrets in her mother’s past when she uncovers the “last tiara.” This is a riveting mystery involving the Midas Society as Isobelle delves into the provenance of an historic Romanov tiara. The Last Tiara, by M. J. Rose, is jewel of a novel based on an actual Romanov tiara that is still missing today. The blue sapphires might have disappeared, but that is no reason to miss this stunning novel of love and intrigue. Five Blue Sapphires!


The Nature of Fragile Things by Susan Meissner

The Nature of Fragile Things
A novel about the bonds of friendship and mother love, and the power of female solidarity…

“Susan Meissner is a USA Today bestselling author of historical fiction with more than half a million books in print in fifteen languages. She is an author, speaker and writing workshop leader with a background in community journalism. A California native, she attended Point Loma Nazarene University and is also a writing workshop volunteer for Words Alive, a San Diego non-profit dedicated to helping at-risk youth foster a love for reading and writing.” For more on her previous novels visit : https://susanlmeissner.com/books/

The Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

An Irish immigrant by way of Manhattan, a mail order bride, and an earthquake? What calamity will happen next? In this gripping “look back” on the epic San Francisco earthquake of 1906, Sophie Hocking recounts “for the record,” the story of how she and five-year-old Kat survived when 3,000 others did not-and the shocking discovery about her handsome, new husband, Martin Hocking. Like peeling the layers of an onion, Sophie slowly uncovers the mysterious lives of “Martin,” the man to whom she thought she was married.

Readers will experience the frightening moments of an earthquake, the fury of women scorned, and the love created between strangers; induced by fear and trauma. The blossoming love of a mother and daughter also adds immensely to the ‘unromantic” relationship that Sophie endures in order to restore lives destroyed-not only by earthquakes, but by human shortcomings. For lovers of historical/mystery The Nature of Fragile Things is five stars on the “Reading Richter Scale!”  

The Great San Francisco Earthquake topples buildings, killing thousands

On April 18, 1906, at 5:13 a.m., an earthquake estimated at close to 8.0 on the Richter scale strikes San FranciscoCalifornia, killing an estimated 3,000 people as it topples numerous buildings. The quake was caused by a slip of the San Andreas Fault over a segment about 275 miles long, and shock waves could be felt from southern Oregon down to Los Angeles.



The Last Garden in England by Julia Kelly

“Discover a garden lost to time and the story of five women whose lives are tied together by one very special place…”

Julia Kelly is the award-winning author of books about ordinary women and their extraordinary stories. In addition to writing, she’s been an Emmy-nominated producer, journalist, marketing professional, and (for one summer) a tea waitress. Julia called Los Angeles, Iowa, and New York City home before settling in London. Readers can visit JuliaKellyWrites.com to learn more about all of her books and sign up for her newsletter.

The Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.” Marcus Tullius Cicero

The Last Garden in England reconstructs an abandoned historic garden, uncovers a mysterious locked gate, and reveals the lives of determined women, separated by generations and war but who grow connected by one famous garden designer.

Julia Kelly presents The Last Garden in England in triple timeline and the voice of five women, including the diary entries of the Edwardian garden designer, Venetia Smith.  Readers are introduced to original garden designs through the intricate details drawn and planted by Venetia in 1907, sketched by “land girl,” Beth in 1944, and recreated by Emma and the company crew of Turning Back Thyme in 2021.

Highbury House and its labyrinth of garden “rooms” in Warwickshire, England, becomes the “living” landscape for the nouveau riche Mr. & Mrs. Melcourt in the early 1900’s, Dr. and Mrs. Murry Symonds in 1944 war torn England, and Sydney and Andrew Wilcox in 2021. Each family is grafted into the history of this once breathtaking garden.

 Readers’ love for Venetia and her gift of visionary gardens will thrive as Julia Kelly’s tendrils of love and loss are intertwined amongst the thorn encrusted, vine covered locked gates and the seeds of new beginnings.  

Return to an early Victorian era and wander the rose petaled pathways in The Last Garden in England.

Julia Kelly has based Venetia Smith on the British horticulturist, Gertrude Jekyll. The information and links below will hopefully add to the readers’ enjoyment of English gardening.

Gertrude Jekyll -British Horticulturist

Gertrude Jekyll VMH was a British horticulturist, garden designer, craftswoman, photographer, writer and artist. She created over 400 gardens in the United Kingdom, Europe and the United States, and wrote over 1,000 articles for magazines such as Country Life and William Robinson’s The Garden.  November 29, 1843- December 8, 1932 

This book explores the life and work of Gertrude Jekyll, probably the most influential garden designer of the early twentieth century. First published in the UK by Sutton Publishing in 1996 (and by Timber Press in the US), this Pimpernel Classic edition has been redesigned and includes new photography. In this book Judith Tankard and Martin Wood explore her life and work at the home she created for herself at Munstead Wood in Surrey, England. Taking as a basis her own photograph albums, scrapbooks and notebooks, and the recollections of contemporaries from Edith Wharton and Vita Sackville-West to William Robinson and Henry Francis du Pont, they describe not only the building and development of the house and garden but also her skills both in the arts and as a businesswoman and her collaborations with architects – pre-eminently Edwin Lutyens, but also Oliver Hill and M.H. Baillie Scott.https://www.amazon.com/Gertrude-Jekyll-Munstead-Pimpernel-Classic/dp/1910258059

The restored Gertrude Jekyll garden at Manor House in Upton Grey, Hampshire
After a visit to this garden Julia Kelly decided to focus Venetia’s vision for Highbury House around a series of garden rooms. Take a virtual tour of Hidcote: https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/hidcote

Halfway to Harmony by Barbara O’Connor

Coming January 2021 for Middle Grades

“I now live in Asheville, North Carolina, with my husband and two dogs. I have one grown son. I love being a writer. I get to sit at my desk and pour my memories of my Southern childhood into my stories. Sometimes my characters eat boiled peanuts. Sometimes they go to the Smoky Mountains. Maybe they see kudzu vines covering up barns or listen to church music on the radio inside their trailers. They might catch crawfish in an icy cold stream or eat pickled okra from a jar. My stories have pieces of me in them – all mixed in with the made-up parts. That’s what writers do – mix in the real stuff with the made-up stuff. And they can wear their pajamas all day long if they want to. What could be better than that?”

Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

A boy, a dream, and a truck.

Walter and his parents are grieving the loss of Tank, who joined the army and never returned to Harmony, Georgia. Tank’s younger brother, Walter, is drifting along the Chatahoochee River floating on his own despair while nightly tangled in a recurring dream. A new neighbor from Tennessee, Posey, moves in next door and just might be the kindred spirit Walter needs.

Posey is a gutsy girl with a three -legged dog named Porkchop and a near photographic memory. That phenomenal memory is an integral piece to the puzzling relationship that develops between Walter and Posey. Readers are treated to or maybe bombarded with trivia from Posey’s favorite books, Nuggets of Knowledge and Caesar Romanoff’s Rules for Making Friends. Walter and Posey become involved in the rescue and recovery of a man “that fell from the sky,” AKA “Banjo!” As the “not so subtle” Posey shares “rules for making friends” the lines of Walter’s anger and grief are slowly erased.

Readers’ hearts will ache at the quest for “normal” love and acceptance, motherly hugs and real smiles, that Walter is praying will return to his family since Tank “left.” Walter’s hopes and dreams for the future soar amidst a hot air balloon race and back to school nervousness. Meanwhile, Banjo’s eternally positive approach to life and quirky expressions along with Posey’s font of knowledge, helpful friendship hints, and determination will have young readers rushing online for a copy of Nuggets of Knowledge and practicing rules #1-7 for making friends.

“Good grief and grits” grab a copy of Halfway to Harmony for a chance to hear Tank saying, “Blow out them candles, little man, and I’ll show you my world.”

Your new friends will thank you for reading Halfway to Harmony. Five friendly stars-***** GR


Gone To The Woods by Gary Paulsen

Publication Day is JANUARY 12! Register here:

The Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

“PLEEEEASE, DON’T STOP!”  This is the plea heard by the Grateful Reader from a class full of students when reading a Gary Paulsen novel aloud. Novels such as Hatchet, DogSong, The Winter Room, are all beloved; burned in the memory of students as all-time favorites. Gary Paulsen’s tales of survival in the wilderness, gloriously vivid descriptions and gut-wrenching situations are so understandable after reading this memoir.  Revealing his own struggles during childhood -from being dropped off at a train station as a 5- year-old, all the way to his revelation that the Army would be his destiny, keeps the reader in suspense, hanging on every word; even knowing that the storyteller survives to tell his story!

Time and time again, “the boys” grit, smarts, and determination to survive the unthinkable circumstances keep him alive. With neglectful parents who never cared or worried about him- he was fishing or “gone to the woods”- Gary feels deeply that he is “supposed to be here.” Readers will feel the same as they are transported to the edge of a stream to see a whitetail doe for the very first time. Spellbinding and magical.  New readers and those that have fond memories of listening to or reading Gary Paulsen’s books, will be blessed by the calling to share his action- packed life; his victory over “jobs of work,” sharks, Manilla, and living as a street rat. Gary’s “brain-pictures” and the smiling librarian that introduced him to reading the “whole book” as a thirteen- year-old, helped him see that “he didn’t want to live in his past, but to see ahead, see what was over the next hill…”

Some heartfelt passages will be read over and over; others so brazenly hard to read that skipping over is an option. But EVERY word, paragraph, and page, is one step closer to SURVIVING Gary Paulsen’s childhood. Be brave. “The boy” is victorious and readers will feel the same.                                                           Five star “Survival Badge” from the Grateful Reader.  


Blood and Silver by Vali Benson

Visit Vali’s website: http://valibenson.com/

Vali grew up in the Midwest. She now lives in Tucson with her husband, two sons and grandchildren.

After graduating from the University of Illinois, Vali started and sold two successful businesses before she decided to pursue her real passion of writing. She published several articles in a variety of periodicals, including History Magazine before she decided to try her hand at fiction.

In April of 2020, Vali published her first novel, “Blood and Silver”. That same month, she was also made a member of the Western Writers of America.

Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

Welcome to Tombstone, Arizona, “where silver is lying in the streets for anyone to pick up!”

Vali Benson’s novel will lure readers right into the saloons and brothels cobbled like shoes in a closet, after silver has been discovered in 1877. The “boomtown” of Tombstone was born in 1880, and quickly grew in population from 250 to 15,000 by 1885. Blood and Silver opens as Miss Lucille and her ‘best girls’ have arrived in Tombstone, along with 12 -year-old Carissa and her sickly mother, Lisette Beaumont.

Lisette’s eye- opening journey leading to Tombstone began as a young Creole on a plantation south of New Orleans. Lisette is married at 16, and in a few years begins the perilous journey West, in a wagon train bound for California, with her husband and two children. After a cholera outbreak, Lisette eventually arrives in San Francisco; a widow desperately trying to support her daughter, Carissa. Singing in a stage show on the rough side of town known as Barbary Coast leads Lisette into more than just entertaining men with her beautiful voice. But this is not the life Lisette has dreamed of for herself and her daughter. Who will be the key to their survival?

Readers will be enthralled with the beauty of Arizona through Vali Benson’s historical background and descriptions. The character development of China Mary, who runs Tombstone and the Chinese population, is an authentic depiction based on the charismatic, historical figure who lived in Tombstone from 1879 until she died in 1903. China Mary’s niece, Mai-Lin, a fictional character but a true treasure, is paired with Carissa in a new job at the Grand Hotel. Readers will be delighted with Mai-Lin’s giggly, adventurous personality and new-found friendship with “White-White”, as China Mary lovingly names Carissa. Readers are taken up and down new trails running into questionable townsfolk, as the two friends become involved in some “mining” of their own.

As Lisette and Carissa get involved with the seedy characters of Tombstone, trust is built and faith in the idea that good will prevail is restored.

“Make new friends but keep the old. One is SILVER and the other gold.”  Readers will strike it rich and make many new friends in Blood and Silver by Vali Benson.

Five SILVER stars -GR


The Rembrandt Conspiracy by Deron Hicks

Published December 1, 2020-
Find out more about Deron Hicks and his other books! http://deronhicks.com/

The Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

The Rembrandt Conspiracy is Deron Hicks’ newest addition to the Lost Art Mystery series. The inclusion of QR codes enhances the National Portrait Gallery experience by bringing readers face to face with works of art by Rembrandt, Degas, Vermeer and others. This is a great techie hook for readers of all ages!

Art, the son of Dr. Hamilton, protector of the artworks, and new school friend, Camille, are excited to be invited to the Gala celebrating the opening of the Millennium Exhibit, the most important the National Portrait Gallery has ever hosted. On the anniversary of an unsolved theft from thirty years ago, Art has reason to believe a heist worth billions of dollars will occur on the night of the gala. Now to prove his suspicions!

Young readers will be introduced to scientific equipment that protects delicate art, techniques of restoration, and even a lesson on how to curtsy in case one is introduced to the Queen of England! Hone those prediction skills, follow Art’s observations and clues from the back of a scooter, and prepare for an exhilarating, rollicking tour of Washington D.C and the National Portrait Gallery. A Highly recommended “tour”!


Under a Gilded Moon by Joy Jordan-Lake

“A meticulously researched, well-crafted mystery; this is historical fiction at its best.” Publishing December 1, 2020 To Pre-Order: https://www.amazon.com/Under-Gilded-Moon-Joy-Jordan-Lake/dp/1713518384

Joy Jordan-Lake is the bestselling author of eight books, including the #1 Amazon Bestseller A Tangled Mercy and Blue Hole Back Home, which won the Christy Award in 2009 for Best First Novel. Her upcoming novel Under a Gilded Moon to be released on 12.01.20. 

​She holds a PhD in English Literature, founded a food pantry in New England for women and families experiencing homelessness, and has taught literature and writing at several universities.


The Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

The Approach Road leading to Biltmore is a three-mile drive lined with trees purposefully planted to shield the view of the towering spires and laced with twists and turns until the magnificent residence comes into focus. In Under a Gilded Moon Joy Jordan-Lake takes readers on a similarly breathtaking journey through the Blue Ridge Mountains right up to the grand entrance of the estate as it nears completion. Welcome to Biltmore!

 Christmas Eve, December 1895, is a few days away and the manor is crawling with stonemasons, bricklayers, carpenters, and painters from around the world. George Washington Vanderbilt II, youngest child of eight, an artist and a scholar, is preparing to entertain and house his guests in America’s largest, fabulously ornate mansion. As guests are arriving a “bad thing at the station” occurs and just like the twists and turns of the Approach Road, the mystery of how and why slowly unwinds.

Just on the border of the estate, in the shadow of “fairy tale turrets and the glint of copper on gables and towers,” is the run-down cabin of Kerry McGregor. Determined to retain this generational land, she has returned from Barnard College, her chance to escape her mountain life and Dearg Tate, in order to defend her cause and care for her dying father and twin siblings. George Vanderbilt, John Cabot, Madison Grant-all are well- aware of Kerry, the raven-haired daughter of John McGregor, and one of the last holdouts of the mountain folk refusing to sell.

New Orleans elite, Lilli Barthelemy and her mother, due to unrest and protests, have been induced to depart the muggy Delta for the sidewalks and streetcars of New York City. Now Lilli travels to Biltmore with more on her mind than trunks brimming with a wardrobe from posh department stores. Will her past follow her to the hollows of North Carolina and Biltmore?

 Entanglements with Sicilian immigrant, Sal, and his brother, Nico, who have connections to George all the way from Florence; keep the reader traipsing the estate from the stables to the kitchens, and from the library to the dining room-breathless-as guests, detectives and George Vanderbilt bolt into the night in search of a murderer. There are many twists and turns on the Approach Road to Under a Gilded Moon. Clasp your diamond necklace and step into a stunning designer gown in anticipation of this exquisite Christmas Eve gift. It is definitely worth the wait. ***** GR

Biltmore Estate is a historic house museum and tourist attraction in Asheville, North Carolina. Biltmore House, the main residence, is a Châteauesque-style mansion built for George Washington Vanderbilt II between 1889 and 1895 and is the largest privately owned house in the United States, at 178,926 square feet (16,622.8 m2) of floor space (135,280 square feet of living area).[2] Still owned by George Vanderbilt’s descendants, it remains one of the most prominent examples of Gilded Age mansions.

Visit this site for a beautiful tour- https://www.biltmore.com/visit/biltmore-estate/biltmore-house/

The Children’s Blizzard by Melanie Benjamin


The School Children’s Blizzard narrated by U. S. Senator from Nebraska -Ben Sasse https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3C0dKNgJ8z0

Coming January 12, 2021 https://www.amazon.com/dp/B088F2ZFDL/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

The Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

Immigrants to the Great Plains of America survived twisters, grasshoppers, fires and hailstorms; but the Children’s Blizzard of January 12, 1888 was different.

The Dakota Territory, Nebraska, and Minnesota were populated by Norwegians, Swedes, and Germans-most were lured to leave their European homes, based on vastly exaggerated promises of fertile farmland that would remain in families for generations to come.  Melanie Benjamin’s account of the Children’s Blizzard, as it came to be known, honors the teachers and students whose lives changed forever on this unusually warm, breezy day in January 1888. Parents sent children off to school in light sweaters, capes, and little girls even in dresses, which gave mothers a chance to “air out” woolens, heavy coats, and pants. With temperatures plummeting and the blizzard rapidly approaching, extremely young and inexperienced teachers, Gerda and Raina Olsen, were called upon to make instant decisions: send the students out with instructions to hurry straight home or keep them and pray they survive the blizzard with the food and fuel on hand in the schoolhouse.

Melanie Benjamin tracks the footsteps through the snow as these two young sisters make different choices for their students and chilled readers learn how those decisions impacted students and families forever. Bundled into the wintery aftermath is a servant girl, Anette-abandoned by her family, who becomes the lifeline to redemption for newspaper journalist, Gavin Woodson. (Gavin was so gifted at convincing the European families that the journey across the ocean would be worth risking their lives.) Readers will relish his change in outlook as the warmth and love for another human alters the lives of so many.

Readers will be wrapped in a two-sided blanket; one a coarse scratchy side of dread and fear, guilt and regret; that flips to a soft, cuddly, cozy side of forgiveness and redeeming love. *****

Melanie Benjamin’s historical fiction account of The School Children’s Blizzard of 1888, is supplemented in her Author’s Note with facts regarding meteorology and the National Weather Service, the Homestead Act of 1862 and its impact on the Native Americans, and the post-Civil War Indian Wars and the railroads.

Resources to continue reading:

The Children’s Blizzard, David Laskin, 2004-Nonfiction

In All Its Fury, a History of the Blizzard of January 12, 1888; 1947 -a collection of memories of survivors and witnesses


The Family Ship by Sonja Yoerg

Sonja Yoerg grew up in Stowe, Vermont, where she financed her college education by waitressing at the Trapp Family Lodge. She earned her Ph.D. in Biological Psychology from the University of California at Berkeley, and studied learning in blue jays, kangaroo rats and spotted hyenas, among other species. Her non-fiction book about animal intelligence, Clever as a Fox (Bloomsbury USA) was published in 2001.
While her two daughters were young, Sonja taught fine arts, computer skills and science in their California schools, and became a novelist after they fledged. She is the author of four novels: House Broken (Jan 2015), Middle of Somewhere (Sep 2015), All the Best People (May 2017) and True Places (Jan 2019).
Sonja lives with her husband in a house overlooking the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. Together they run, garden, climb mountains, travel the world, drink wine, then run some more. https://www.sonjayoerg.com/about

“An enlightening read on SO many levels.” Dorothy Schwab, Grateful Reader

Coming February 23, 2021 For Praise & Pre-Order: https://www.sonjayoerg.com/the-family-ship

Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

This is the amazing family saga of Arthur and Maeve, whose love for each other carries them through the storms of life-from the birth of 9 children; Jude all the way to baby Nellie. There really is a “ship” in the backyard- not sea-worthy- but an excellent setting for the family game of Navy; created by Father and Verity, to teach discipline and responsibility. This is a great metaphor for life and reveals many lessons to the “mates” on board and to the readers. The story unfolds chapter by chapter-from both the parents’ and each child’s point of view, which is a wonderful way for readers to gain perspective on family events and personalities. So many human emotions are revealed: overwhelming joy and grief, pangs of sibling jealousy, love frozen in time by guilt, unjust hatred, the unearned love of little ones for older siblings, and on and on! Readers will remember the Vergennes family for many years to come. Follow orders: Be a good “mate” and read The Family Ship. *****


Come Tomorrow by Tess Thompson

Come Tomorrow (Castaway Christmas Book 1) Expected December 1, 2020 One chance meeting. A single act of kindness. Can young soulmates find each other in adulthood, or will hidden truths tear them apart?

Tess Thompson Romance…hometowns and heartstrings.
USA Today Bestselling author Tess Thompson writes small-town romances and historical romance.

She started her writing career in fourth grade when she wrote a story about an orphan who opened a pizza restaurant. Oddly enough, her first novel, “Riversong” is about an adult orphan who opens a restaurant. Clearly, she’s been obsessed with food and words for a long time now.
With a degree from the University of Southern California in theatre, she’s spent her adult life studying story, word craft, and character. Since 2011, she’s published 20 novels and 3 novellas. Most days she spends at her desk chasing her daily word count or rewriting a terrible first draft.
She currently lives in a suburb of Seattle, Washington with her husband, the hero of her own love story, and their Brady Bunch clan of two sons, two daughters and five cats. Yes, that’s four kids and five cats. 

Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

Sometimes, when I was feeling sorry for myself, I would think that if I only had a book to read, a story to fall into and escape my problems and worries, then I could bear all this.” Luci Quick

Readers everywhere can relate to Luci’s sentiment during these anxious days of the pandemic and political stress. Come Tomorrow is a “rags to riches” story of a young girl, Luci, left with her new born sister and drunken father, living in poverty at the edge of the forest surrounding the grounds of the enormous manor of the Ford family. Fourteen-year-old Wesley Ford, and his faithful yellow lab, Atlas, are the answer to Luci’s prayers when Luci and Wesley’s paths cross one fateful Christmas Eve. When Wesley is confronted with the desperate, stark living conditions Luci and her baby sister must survive; he makes a promise to Come Tomorrow– with a basket of food. Readers will come to love Molly, the housekeeper, and her husband, Dax, the groundskeeper, as the couple becomes an integral link in the survival of Luci and Wesley. Will Luci learn to fend for herself and baby Sadie and what will happen to Wesley and his sister, Lily, as they are whisked away to boarding schools? Secrets and lies are slowly uncovered as this story of new- found love, soul mates, best friends, and the true meaning of giving unfolds over the years.

The “perfect cottage setting” in the snow globe on the cover will draw readers into Wesley’s world; one that looks so perfect from the outside and is his solace and hope for the future. Readers will want their own snow globe to shake, swirl and stare into-dreaming of a peace-filled, quiet life. The genuine love and devotion of Wesley’s lab, Atlas, is an additional warm hearted, loving gift for readers.

Add Tess Thompson’s Come Tomorrow to your reading stocking on December 1st. Five “stocking stuffer stars!”


Popularity Pact-Book Two SCHOOL SQUAD by Eileen Moskowitz-Palma

“Eileen Moskowitz-Palma divides her time between novel writing and teaching First Draft from Start to Finish and Writing for Children and Young Adults at The Writing Institute at Sarah Lawrence College.

Eileen’s debut Middle Grade novel, Camp Clique, the first book in The Popularity Pact series, was published in April 2020 at the height of the COVID pandemic.  As a result, all of her in-person events with schools, libraries and bookstores were cancelled. Rather than being discouraged, she created a solution by forming a free virtual writing camp and book club program to serve the kids affected by school closures. The response was overwhelmingly positive and the camps in high demand. She connected with kids from all across the country and caught the attention of institutions like the Providence Children’s Museum, Sarah Lawrence College, the Rhode Island Department of Education, Thalia Kids Book Club Camp based out of Manhattan’s Symphony Space, and the upcoming Orange County Children’s Book Festival. She will continue to serve kids during the 2020-2021 academic year with a variety of virtual writing and book club program options for schools, libraries, and parents. Email her at eileenmpalma@gmail.com for more information.

 Eileen lives in Westchester, NY, with her college sweetheart husband Douglas, their daughter Molly, and their Wire Fox Terrier Oscar, who is one snaggle-tooth away from being a doggy model. ”

The Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

School Squad picks up right where Camp Clique left off. Maisy and Bea have endured the agonizing summer before seventh grade at Camp Amelia- together in the Sunflower Bunk. The camp has a huge competition at the end of the six-week session; the Sunflowers are the perennial winners. Bea and Maisy devise a plan where Bea will help Maisy not be a “loser” at camp, if Maisy will help Bea become a member of the coveted popular girls’ group, the “M&M’s.”

Maisy comes home from camp as the school year is about to start and finds out her mom, who’s been away in treatment, is coming home soon. Maisy’s family seems ready for the transition; especially Abby, her gymnast-Olympic driven sister. Mom might make it home for her next gymnastics meet! Maisy is having trouble coping with her mom’s return amidst fears of losing her mother-again. How will she ever be able to trust her mom and be sure she’s telling the truth?

Bea, on the other hand, comes home from camp to find that her recently divorced mom is dating her math teacher and her dad has proposed to his girlfriend, Monica, on Instagram! Her two darling daughters helped, of course. How will Bea find the “end” of this maze? How many roadblocks to happiness can one middle school girl handle?

Eileen Moskowitz-Palmer handles all the Snapchat, Instagram, texting, apps, and any other technology involved in being a seventh grader or parent of one, with all the aplomb of a seasoned middle schooler! She also hits all the emotional highs of receiving a snap from the “Glow up of the Year, or the M&M’s oohing and aahing over Bea’s new hair after the keratin treatment to the lows of Maisy finding out her grandmother has moved in! She will now share a room with her gymnastics obsessed sister; sweaty leotards included. It all feels so real and raw; the anxiety of being accepted, the fear of rejection, the grip of grief over losing a parent, or the heartwarming glow of finding a trustworthy friend.

“I had never felt lonelier than when I sat surrounded by all those fake friends.” Doesn’t that sentiment sum up the “middle school mindset” just perfectly? The Popularity Pact series holds treasures and lessons for all of us-child or parent-those life lessons we learn over-and over again.

Make a “Popularity Pact” – find a young or old reader who would appreciate joining the M&M’s, but also “feeling safe and seen.” 5,000 “likes,” 200 “shares” and 50-star emoji’s! GR


The Light After the War by Anita Abriel

Based on a true, untold story The Light After the War paints a wonderful portrait of two young women, both Holocaust survivors, trying to find love and meaning in the aftermath of WWII.”

Mark Sullivan, bestselling author of Beneath a Scarlet Sky

Anita Abriel was born in Sydney, Australia. She received a BA in English Literature with a minor in Creative Writing from Bard College. She lives in California with her family and is the author of The Light After the War which was inspired by her mother’s story of survival during WWII.

Photo credit: David Perry

The Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

“We’ll tell the story to our children, and they’ll tell their children, and no one will ever forget.”

Vera and her best friend, Edith, both from the ghetto in Budapest, survived jumping from a train headed to Auschwitz, and a year hiding/working on a farm in Germany. This is a link to the Author’s Note found on Anita Abriel’s website- Explaining the stories told by her grandmother: http://www.anitaabriel.com/authors-note/

Vera was fluent in five languages, including English, and Edith, a trained seamstress had dreams of becoming a famous fashion designer. The girls managed to travel to Naples, found jobs -Vera at the American Embassy, Edith as a seamstress- and a place to live. Forging ahead into the future – World War II has been over almost a year; readers will travel across oceans and continents with Vera and Edith. As survivors of the Holocaust, a photo of Vera and Edith caught the attention of Samuel Rothschild, New York millionaire & philanthropist. He was quite taken with the young girls’ story and sponsored their trans-Atlantic voyage to America to begin a new life. Very surprising events lead Vera and Edith to Venezuela- to yet another continent, with new friends and different opportunities. Anita Abriel’s descriptions of Naples from a Vespa, the captain’s table on the Queen Elizabeth, and the nerve-wracking wait at Ellis Island, draw the reader into the story; discovering the fear, guilt and heartbreak of being survivors of the Holocaust.

Themes of emerging roles for women, family relationships, and developing empathy play an important part in Anita Abriel’s novel. Samuel Rothschild’s reminder that our “country was built by refugees with big dreams,” opens a wide lens and has great historical relevance for present day readers. The Light After the War is quite a journey; treacherous, true and rewarding. Readers will be inspired and satisfied after the long trip, just like Vera and Edith, who found new lives and a beautiful “light after the war.” GR


The Bluebell Girls by Barbara Josselsohn

The second novel of the Lake Summers Series, The Bluebell Girls, is officially available for Pre-sale on Amazon, https://www.amazon.com/Bluebell-Girls-absolutely-gorgeous-uplifting-ebook/dp/B089SXJYJL/ref=sr_1_2?dchild=1&keywords=the+bluebell+girls&qid=1591726117&sr=8-2

Publication Day is September 25!

Barbara Solomon Josselsohn is the author of The Lilac House and The Last Dreamer. She is also a journalist and magazine writer, whose work appears in the New York Times, Consumers Digest, Parents, American Baby, and Westchester Magazine, and on numerous websites. She lives in Westchester County, New York, and teaches writing at Sarah Lawrence College and privately. She is currently at work on her third novel.

Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

“For her, coming back was all about comfort. And family. For him, coming back was about emptiness. And loss.”

Jenna is moving to Lake Summers, nestled in the Adirondack Mountains; back into the house where she’d spent her summer months when she was growing up, and where her mother now lives year-round. She’s moving forward after being in “freefall” from her divorce and ex-husband’s pending engagement, mounting expenses, and the impact of all this on Sophie, her eleven-year-old daughter. Jenna’s return to Lake Summers is filled with memories of adventures spent exploring the trails with friends and grilling and eating on the deck under the trees with her family. But teenage romance is always part of summer at the lake, right? That was certainly true for Jenna. Enter, Troy-Jenna’s first love and first kiss. Mostly sweet memories, except for that Fourth of July, that changed everything. Troy, now returned to take over the Vet Clinic in Lake Summers, is operating mostly out of guilt. Readers will tangle with mixed emotions regarding Troy as he attempts to “untangle” his past.

Jenna’s older sister, Chloe, is loud, assertive, and always sports her “bossy pants!” Chloe is angry at having so little control over Jenna and fearful of what may be happening to “Sweet,” Jenna & Chloe’s mom. Operating out of fear rarely leads to good relationships or decisions. Will Jenna’s decision to move back to Lake Summers destroy or improve the sisterly bond?

Sophie has arrived in Lake Summers ahead of her mom to spend some “quality time” with Sweet, and is completely enthralled with a fascinating, never before told story of her grandmother’s first love. Sophie’s questions and excitement lead Sweet to begin examining her own long, lost memories. The memory that emerges involves a “chip” -which leads Sweet down to the basement and a tumble that lands her in the hospital. Sweet is frustrated with the gaps in her memory and is struggling to recall two very important words to share with Sophie. Readers will appreciate and learn from these two words.

The ups and downs of family dynamics are familiar to readers. In Barbara Josselsohn’s The Bluebell Girls connections are easily made with Sweet, Jenna and Sophie as they each attempt to move their lives forward while in Lake Summers; each “writing a story.” The emotions and attachments to the residents of Lake Summers become a part of the reader’s daily thoughts as the descriptions and dialogue ring heartfelt and so true. Whether it’s the juicy burgers at The Grill, new creations at the Smoothie Dude’s or fresh muffins at Pearl’s Cafe; readers will be welcomed with open arms to take a slow drive down Main Street, gaze at the Victorian-style homes, then settle back in wonder at the twinkling star filled sky over Lake Summers. Thank you, Barbara Josselsohn, for helping readers to understand family members sometimes operate out of fear, guilt, and lack of control; but in the end, love prevails.

Book #2 in The Lake Summers Series, The Bluebell Girls, is a reminder to always treasure memories and family.

The Bluebell Girls earns “Five Bluebell bouquets filled with twinkling stars and lots of love.” GR.


In the Lion’s Den by Barbara Taylor Bradford

“Barbara Taylor Bradford OBE was born and raised in England. She left school at 15 for the typing pool at the Yorkshire Evening Post. At 16 she was a reporter, and at 18 she became the paper’s first woman’s page editor. Two years later, aged 20, she moved to London and became a fashion editor and columnist on Fleet Street. Barbara started writing fiction when she was just seven-years-old and sold her first short story to a magazine for seven shillings and sixpence when she was ten. She published her first novel, A Woman of Substance, in 1979. It went from bestseller to super seller within its first year and stayed on the New York Times’ list for 43 weeks. Barbara has had 34 books published, all worldwide bestsellers, and her latest, In the Lion’s Den, is coming October, 2020. Ten of her books have been produced as TV films or drama series by her late movie producer husband Bob Bradford and actors including Liam Neeson, Sir Anthony Hopkins, Jenny Seagrove, Deborah Kerr, Sir John Mills and Elizabeth Hurley. Today, Barbara Taylor Bradford is published in over 90 countries in 40 languages, with sales figures in excess of 90 million. ”

Here’s a link to a wonderful interview with BTB on the launch of The House of Falconer: Book One: Master of His Fate-https://youtu.be/H6XV9hY-X-M

The Grateful Reader Review: by Dorothy Schwab

“James Lionel Falconer has risen quickly from a mere shop worker to being the right-hand man of Henry Malvern, head of the most prestigious shipping company in London. With Malvern’s daughter Alexis running away to the country after a terrible tragedy and refusing to return, James’ ascent to head of the company seems inevitable. But even a charmed life like James’ is not without its setbacks.”

Barbara Taylor Bradford fans have been anticipating the newest developments in the life of James Falconer, the brilliant young man that was the focus of Book One-Master of His Fate. Book Two in the House of Falconer series arrives here in the U.S on October 6, 2020. The wait for In The Lion’s Den has been similar to the anticipation for the next season of Downton Abbey a few years ago or now, season 4 of The Crown! Not to worry. All the events and characters from Book One are tied together quite nicely in Book Two. Readers will be relieved to see a quick review of the cast of characters; always appreciated when there are several family histories to track. BTB uses her typical finesse as she weaves the lives of the Lords and Ladies with the housekeepers and butlers, and all the offspring from past generations. Fans of the grand homes of the English countryside will take deep breaths and sigh at the descriptions; from the soaring ceilings in entryways to the sweeping vistas seen from the library windows. Just sink into the velvet cushioned sofas and imagine the delicious aromas drifting from the kitchens, as footman and waiters deliver covered platters of poached salmon and dressed crab topped with sprigs of parsley. With closed eyes, listen as the white wine is poured into the crystal goblets and chilled water into the silver beakers. Yes, please.

James Falconer is “charismatic, with a natural, persuasive charm and perfect manners.” He has brilliant business acumen to share with Henry Malvern, the ailing tycoon of London’s shipyards, docks, and warehouses. Mr. Malvern’s heir, Alexis, is not particularly interested in her father’s business and is dealing with her own bouts of depression; even being treated by the much talked about, Dr. Sigmund Freud. Throw in some really British bits: Uncle George from the Chronicle and his reports on the Prince of Wales and Queen Victoria from Balmoral, quick meet ups at the Pig & Whistle with Detective Crawford, and dining on borscht and chicken Kiev with Irina, a descendant of a Russian ambassador. All this along with the reboot of the wine division and the building of the “arcade” in Hull, and James Falconer figures he has his future planned in detail; written out and locked in the desk drawer, ready to put into action.

James Falconer has his parents’ support, the trust of Henry Malvern, and a “posse” of colleagues to listen or advise him. What could possibly keep him awake at night? His strategy is reflection and analysis. There really is so much to learn from the 21 year-old James Falconer. Oh, and by the way, his hobby is READING!

Relish and enjoy Book Two-In the Lion’s Den. GR

Here’s an added bonus: The Stately Homes I Love; an article written by BTB this past August. https://barbarataylorbradford.com/the-stately-homes-i-love/


Essie’s Roses by Michelle Muriel

“Michelle Muriel is the award-winning, bestselling author of the #1 Amazon historical fiction bestseller ESSIE’S ROSES and her new novel Amazon bestseller, WATER LILY DANCE. Water Lily Dance follows the lives and secrets of three brave women, centuries apart, connected by French Impressionist artist Claude Monet. Michelle holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts, magna cum laude, and worked as a professional actress, a member of Actors’ Equity and The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists for twenty years, doing theater, voice-over, and commercial work. Michelle transferred her skills in complex character development and historical research into writing heartbreaking, heart-mending historical, literary fiction. Her novels poetically explore the secret sides of life, stories told from multiple points of view by strong female characters in history harboring secrets and breaking norms fighting for freedom. She is also a songwriter and musician. Michelle lives in Missouri with her husband, Michael.To learn more about Michelle and her books, visit the author’s website: www.MichelleMuriel.com.”

Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

“While Evie was growing up behind the windows of the big house, I was too, behind the windows of a slave’s cabin.” This is the story of two girls, Evie and Essie, confessing to each other as they lie side by side on a hillside; their dream is the same: To Be Free.

Amidst the vast cotton fields and flowers in Alabama, 1841, was nestled a small plantation named Westland. The land was inherited by the impossibly beautiful Miss Katie, now married to the corrupted, evil John Winthrop; the two have a daughter, intimidatingly, blonde and equally beautiful, Evie. The Winthrops live in the big house; along with house slave, lovable, pumpkin bellied, full of scripture and wisdom, Delly. Add the daily visits of young Essie from the slave cabins, to fill in the dynamic days at Westland. Michelle Muriel has “birthed” a family for readers to adopt as Evie and Essie grow up among Miss Katie’s roses and their favorite hillside on the plantation.

Evie, with nature’s help, teaches Essie to listen to her heart and DREAM: “The thing you most want to happen in your life. Right now. Someday. Only you know. Listen.” The ties that bind Evie and Essie are tested over and over, as they grow from sharing “giggles and gossip” into mature young women with dreams of their own “to do.” Will the ties of love and friendship shared between these two girls be broken? Will they be delivered from their own personal, living nightmares?

Michelle Muriel’s dialogue and descriptions will sweep readers away as the saga of Essie’s Roses unfolds from 1841-1865. Pearls of wisdom, inside jokes and humor, along with nightmares and secrets, will cast a spell that can only be broken by the fragrance of Essie’s roses drifting over the hillside as the last page turns. Oh, to wish for just one more day with Evie and Essie.

Meanwhile, hold tight to Evie and Essie’s prayer:

“Lord keep us safe. To run the race.

Faster still, though all uphill.

Keep us strong when we’re afraid.

Guide us home today we pray.

Hold our dreams inside Your hands.

Help us do the dreams You planned.

Amen. ”

Wishes do come true! The lovely Michelle Muriel is gifting devoted readers with the sequel, WESTLAND- COMING SOON!


Jackie and Maria by Gill Paul

http://gillpaul.com/ Available NOW!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aduTHQkmYC8 A great interview; the author discusses her novels The Lost Daughter and Jackie and Maria

The Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

This novel of Jackie Kennedy, the most famous First Lady in American history paired with the world-famous opera singer, Maria Callas, will snap readers right up and create chaos with emotions. Gill Paul parallels the public spectacle and heartbreak of Jackie’s marriage woes and her grieving process in front of the entire nation with the rise and fall of Maria Callas’ opera career and marriage to her manager. Enter- Aristotle Onassis! As Americans watched this whole “affair” play out publicly, in every form of the press, there are certain assumptions that were made. Readers will now question the actions of the First Lady and Maria Callas as they each endured tragedy and found ways to survive the media’s interruption and interpretation of their personal lives. This phenomenon is nothing new with the current media situation in 2020. Readers may feel a deep connection to Jackie, as many lived the days of Jack Kennedy’s presidency, assassination and the aftermath. Gill Paul creates the idyllic world readers have always imagined – the “Camelot” that Jackie herself coined-and then crushes those images with vivid descriptions and accounts. From the White House to La Traviata in Dallas, to Milan and private islands, readers will be whisked away in limousines and yachts to a world most will only read about. So pour a glass of champagne, don your big, black sunglasses, find a chaise on the deck of the Christina then hide behind Jackie and Maria for a private tour of the world of Jackie, Maria, and Aristotle Onassis.


The Lions of Fifth Avenue by Fiona Davis

In nationally bestselling author Fiona Davis’s latest historical novel, a series of book thefts roils the iconic New York Public Library, leaving two generations of strong-willed women to pick up the pieces.AVAILABLE TUESDAY, AUGUST 4, 2020

Fiona Davis is the nationally bestselling author of five novels, including The Dollhouse, The Address, and The Lions of Fifth Avenue. She lives in New York City and is a graduate of the College of William & Mary in Virginia and the Columbia Journalism School.

The Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

“It’s 1913, and on the surface, Laura Lyons couldn’t ask for more out of life—her husband is the superintendent of the New York Public Library, allowing their family to live in an apartment within the grand building, and they are blessed with two children.”

Flash forward: ” Eighty years later, in 1993, Sadie Donovan struggles with the legacy of her grandmother, the famous essayist Laura Lyons, especially after she’s wrangled her dream job as a curator at the New York Public Library.”

EXPLORING: PERSONALLY Laura and Sadie are forced to examine their own beliefs, goals and values. One would think at eighty years apart these would be vastly different, but are they really?

EXPLORING: EMOTIONALLY-Laura must sort out her feelings and devotion to her mother, her husband and her children. Sadie is musing over her past relationships along with her obsession with her curator’s job. Lots of self examination takes place for both women.

EXPLORING: SOCIALLYFor Laura, suffrage, women’s rights and birth control are new topics to learn about in the early years of the century. She discovers a bohemian group involved in speaking out and even protesting current laws & rulings. Should she join? What will her family think? These topics are not so different for Sadie, even in the late part of the twentieth century.

EXPLORING: PHYSICALLY From the steps of the New York Public Library and the powerful statues of Patience and Fortitude, readers will gape in awe at the intricate descriptions of the building’s architectural designs; tunnels, elevators, private apartments, and of course, the Berg Collection.

As Laura Lyons is aspiring to be a writer at Columbia Journalism School she becomes involved in a mystery that “threatens her home and the library.” In the dual timeline so expertly woven by Fiona Davis, eighty years later Sadie’s job as curator is in jeopardy as rare manuscripts, books and notes begin disappearing!! This is on the cusp of preparations for the opening of the Berg Collection Exhibition. Is the thief on the inside or outside?

Readers, along with a private security expert, will be quickly ( but shhh….quietly!) turning pages deep into the night as clues to the mysteries are methodically revealed. THE LIONS OF FIFTH AVENUE and a trip to the New York Public Library for EXPLORING is “on hold” for readers everywhere. Five ***** to the Lions, the Librarians, and Fiona Davis. GR

The Library Lions

Patience and Fortitude, the world-renowned pair of marble lions that stand proudly before the majestic Beaux-Arts building at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street in Manhattan, have captured the imagination and affection of New Yorkers and visitors from all over the world since the Library was dedicated on May 23, 1911. https://www.nypl.org/help/about-nypl/library-lions


Across the Winding River by Aimie K. Runyan

Available August 1, 2020

“Aimie K. Runyan writes to celebrate history’s unsung heroines. She is the author of historical novels: Promised to the Crown, Duty to the Crown, Daughters of the Night Sky, and Girls on the Line. She is active as an educator and speaker in the writing community and beyond. She lives in Colorado with her wonderful husband and two (usually) adorable children.”

Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

“A woman unlocks the mystery of her father’s wartime past in a moving novel about secrets, sacrifice, and the power of love…”

Across the Winding River follows the “hearts and minds” of Max, a young American soldier during WWll; Beth, his daughter’s search for clues to a long, lost secret sibling, and Johanna, the brilliant German test pilot in the Luftwaffe for the Nazi’s. All three walk a delicate line between memories and truth.

Readers will identify with Beth, a modern-day woman grieving the loss of her mother and also beginning to recognize and accept herself-recently divorced and adjusting to a new social standing. Beth’s father, Max, is living out his last days in a private care facility while Beth is doing all she can to organize his affairs while sorting out his memorabilia and learning about his war- time experiences. The author chooses to focus on Max and his medic experiences in a lesser known battle that raged for three months in Hurtgen Forest, known as the Death Factory, rather than the D-Day beaches of Normandy. The descriptions and details of the area and the lengthy battle with no clear victor, is a different perspective of the war. The third bend in the “winding river” is Johanna and the role she plays in living out her own mathmatical dreams as she finds it more and more difficult to hide her Jewish ancestry, while actually working for the Nazi’s in order to survive and avoid the concentration camps.

The lives of Beth, Max, and Johanna intersect in some twists and turns in the river; all to reveal powerful lessons in the sacrifices that have been made, and to uncover surprising secrets of love and loss.

Readers who choose Across the Winding River by Aimie K. Runyan will come to “champion amd adore” Max’s story.

The Battle of Hürtgen Forest was a series of fierce battles fought from 19 September to 16 December 1944, between American and German forces on the Western Front during World War II, in the Hürtgen Forest, a 140 km² area about 5 km east of the Belgian–German border.

New Orleans, Louisiana: The National WWII Museum tells the story of the American experience in the war that changed the world—why it was fought, how it was won, and what it means today—so that all generations will understand the price of freedom and be inspired by what they learn. https://www.nationalww2museum.org/


How Lulu Lost Her Mind by Rachel Gibson

From New York Times bestselling author Rachel Gibson comes the story of a mother-daughter journey to rediscover the past before it disappears forever.

Rachel Gibson is a New York times and USAToday bestselling author of 21 books.

Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

Lou Ann, a.k.a The Love Guru, has built her “brand” and thriving business from a highrise in Seattle. She travels IRL and virtually, spouting relationship advice to thousands of followers. In fact, she’s in the middle of her ten-city Find True Love in February tour! Now her mother, Patricia, age 74, diagnosed with Alzheimers four years ago, has been tossed out of the third care facility and is requesting to spend her last days at the family home near New Orleans. Lou Ann begrudgingly takes Patricia to Sutton Hall, an old sugar cane plantation that comes with its own “To Do” list. Packing for speaking engagements and book signings is not exactly the same as packing for south Louisiana; heat, humidity, possible alligators, a century old cemetery and a crazy bird named Raphael, soon take the place of fame, fanfare & fortune!

Lulu experiences the culture shock of moving across country to a locale of unfamiliar culture and landscape- swamps & bayous; not to mention dealing with the mood swings of Patricia as they both begin to deal with how these last days together would unfold for each of them. Lulu relies on meditating and Patricia gets caught up in TV game shows. Finding common ground and a good mattress turn out to be crucial! Lulu is grappling with saving her business or spending the last days making her mother happy- something many readers may know first-hand or have experienced vicariously. Either way, juggling family, business & volunteer commitments, are always a struggle as ill or aging parents take precedence in our lives. Rachel Gibson deals with the emotional struggles of such a life changing situation with honesty and laugh out loud humor.

How Lulu Lost Her Mind is a magnified view into the dynamic day to day battle of thoughts and emotions that emerge in times of crisis, but also the self analysis & reflection involved. Gibson juggles Lulu’s emotional episodes with Patricia by wrapping the “daily dilemas” in Cajun dialect and taking readers to local shops like Rouse’s market, Monique’s Chic Boutique, and Boots ‘N Roots! Readers will savor the poignant moments of mother-daughter time; and “laugh to keep from crying,” when those heart felt tensions ring so true.


The Paris Secret by Natasha Lester

Natasha Lester is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of historical fiction.

Her new novel THE PARIS SECRET is out now in Australia and will be published in the US and the UK later in 2020. Her other books, THE FRENCH PHOTOGRAPHER / THE PARIS ORPHAN, THE PARIS SEAMSTRESS, A KISS FROM MR FITZGERALD and HER MOTHER’S SECRET are also available from all good bookshops.

Coming September 2020

The Paris Secret

A wardrobe of Dior gowns, a secret kept for sixty-five years, and the three women bound forever by war … from the New York Times bestselling author of The French Photographer
England, 1939: Talented pilot Skye Penrose joins the war effort where she encounters her estranged sister, Liberty, and childhood soulmate Nicholas Crawford, now engaged to enigmatic Frenchwoman Margaux Jourdan. Paris, 1947: Designer Christian Dior unveils his extravagant first collection to a world weary of war and grief. He names his debut fragrance, Miss Dior, in tribute to his sister, Catherine, who worked for the French Resistance. Present day: Australian fashion conservator Kat Jourdan discovers a secret wardrobe filled with priceless Dior gowns in her grandmother’s vacant cottage. As she delves into the mystery, Kat begins to doubt everything she thought she knew about her beloved grandmother.An unspeakable betrayal will entwine all of their fates. The Paris Secret is an unforgettable story about the lengths people go to protect one another, and a love that, despite everything, lasts a lifetime.

The Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

Captivating characters. Breathtaking, emotional relationships developed in the innocence of childhood and others wrapped in the arms of a devastating war. The novel opens in Cornwall, England in 1928, with young, adventurous Skye and sister “in the house” Liberty, more often than not, at odds with each other, kicking and fighting! Their mother, Vanessa Penrose, with a devil-may-care attitude, is loved by both girls. Vanessa is a pioneer in her own right and loves to fly-even trying to set records. Readers are buoyed along the beaches of Porthleven with Skye and her friend, Nicholas; collecting cowrie shells, floating in caves or exploring lost gardens finding adventures on rope bridges! All simply exhilarating until the idyllic childhood ends and Skye & Liberty – following Vanessa’s footsteps, are sunk into the quagmire of women becoming pilots and clawing through the red tape of the WAAF-Women’s Auxiliary Air Force and the SOE-Special Operations Executive. This triple timeline moves from England, 1939 to Paris, 1947 and the unveiling of Christian Dior’s first collection. The world has known and admired Dior’s designs and creativity for decades; but his sister, Catherine, is the real heroine of the French Resistance. Catherine is superbly intertwined with Skye and Liberty as the war’s scarring memories have a life long impact on the sisters- and eventually, Kat Jourdan, a granddaughter. Natasha Lester brings the family saga full circle as present day, Kat, a fashion conservator, discovers a priceless collection of 65 Christian Dior dresses in a cottage in Cornwall. Readers will appreciate the depth of research into the WAAF, the Resistance, and struggles of the female pilots to actually fly and make a difference in the war. Natasha Lester’s background in fashion really shines through in her descriptions of the Dior gowns as Kat begins to wear them for meetings and rendezvous!

Plot “pattern pieces:” Dior gowns, sisters at odds, concentration camps, stolen identities, most of all a love story spanning decades. These pattern pieces are designed and stitched together to create a dream novel worthy of a Dior tag and definitely one for your collection!


Where the Lost Wander by Amy Harmon

In this epic and haunting love story set on the Oregon Trail, a family and their unlikely protector find their way through peril, uncertainty, and loss.

“Amy Harmon is a Wall Street JournalUSA Today, and New York Times Bestselling author. Amy knew at an early age that writing was something she wanted to do, and she divided her time between writing songs and stories as she grew. Having grown up in the middle of wheat fields without a television, with only her books and her siblings to entertain her, she developed a strong sense of what made a good story. Her books are now being published in seventeen different languages, truly a dream come true for a little country girl from Levan, Utah.”

“The Overland Trail, 1853: Naomi May never expected to be widowed at twenty. Eager to leave her grief behind, she sets off with her family for a life out West. On the trail, she forms an instant connection with John Lowry, a half-Pawnee man straddling two worlds and a stranger in both.

But life in a wagon train is fraught with hardship, fear, and death. Even as John and Naomi are drawn to each other, the trials of the journey and their disparate pasts work to keep them apart. John’s heritage gains them safe passage through hostile territory only to come between them as they seek to build a life together.”

Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

“Wagons Ho!” That was the cry of the wagon master at the “jumping off place” for the brave families heading West to Oregon or California. Two thousand miles-with all their cherished and necessary items loaded into wagons, followed by herds of cattle and horses. The unimaginable quest of finding gold, land for the taking, or the adventure is what prompted the Pioneers to leave home and loved ones; to embark on such a wondrous, but treacherous journey.

Map provided by Amy Harmon https://www.authoramyharmon.com/wherethelostwander.html

For 20 years a map very similar to this was provided by the Grateful Reader for third graders as a similar novel for children was read; Bound for Oregon by Jean Van Leeuwen. All the chats by firelight between husbands & wives, and other parents, after the children were in bed, led to the pros and cons of “if and when” to leave on this journey into the unknown. A few had traveled to Oregon and California and returned, and were now available as guides or had written guide books for purchase. Diaries written by adults are accessible but accounts by children are rare. In the case of Amy Harmon’s Where the Lost Wander, her research and genealogy studies give her great family insights into the personalities and possible lives of Naomi May and John Lowry. Check out her website for a great Q&A on the blog. Where the Lost Wander is an adventure, mystery, and love story-but for older teens and adults.

Readers will be in anguish at times, and experience pure delight at others. With every crossing of the Platte and landmarks passed, “travelers on the trail” with Naomi May, her brothers, Wyatt, Will and Web and John Lowry and his mules, will celebrate each mile closer to the destination. Naomi’s mother, Mrs. May, is a brave, proud woman; a font of wisdom and understanding. In a poignant conversation she shares with John, ” The hardest thing about life is knowing what matters and what doesn’t. If nothing matters , then there’s no point. If everything matters, there’s no purpose. The trick is to find firm ground between the two ways of being.”

Traumas along the trail: Cholera, orphaned children, Indian attacks; all add to the stress and emotional turmoil for the families and the reader! But the celebrations of new life, new love, and weddings makes up for it. John’s mother, Jennie, said it best:

A Mother’s Wisdom

In order to travel West decisions had to be made as to what was necessary for survival-physical and emotional. The only decision at this point is to “load your wagon, put on your hat or bonnet”, and read Where the Lost Wander. Destinations and Celebrations are in sight!

Where the Lost Wander earns all the stars in the big prairie sky!

Once Upon a Book Club Box-Open gifts as you read! Use Gratefulreader10 as a promo code when you subscribe! https://www.onceuponabookclub.com/

Raphael Painter in Rome by Stephanie Storey

Another Fabulous Art History Thriller by the Bestselling Author of Oil and Marble, Featuring the Master of Renaissance Perfection: Raphael!

“Stephanie Storey’s debut novel Oil and Marble was hailed as “tremendously entertaining” by The New York Times, has been translated into six languages, and is currently in development as a feature film by Pioneer Pictures. Storey is also the author of Raphael, Painter in Rome, which came out in April 2020 in conjunction with the 500th anniversary of Raphael’s death.

Storey has a degree in Fine Arts from Vanderbilt University and attended a PhD program in Art History, before leaving to get an MFA in Creative Writing from Emerson College, and has studied art in Italy and been on a pilgrimage to see every Michelangelo on display in Europe.

Storey has also been a national television producer for nearly twenty years in Los Angeles for shows including Alec Baldwin on ABC, Arsenio Hall for CBS, and Emmy-nominated The Writers’ Room on the Sundance Channel. When not writing novels or producing television, Storey can usually be found with husband Mike Gandolfi — an actor and Emmy-winning comedy writer — traveling the world in search of their next stories. ” https://stephaniestorey.com/

Raphael : Summary from Simon & Schuster

Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling is one of the most iconic masterpieces of the Renaissance. Here, in Raphael, Painter in Rome, Storey tells of its creation as never before: through the eyes of Michelangelo’s fiercest rival—the young, beautiful, brilliant painter of perfection, Raphael. Orphaned at age eleven, Raphael is determined to keep the deathbed promise he made to his father: become the greatest artist in history. But to be the best, he must beat the best, the legendary sculptor of the David, Michelangelo Buonarroti. When Pope Julius II calls both artists down to Rome, they are pitted against each other: Michelangelo painting the Sistine Ceiling, while Raphael decorates the pope’s private apartments. As Raphael strives toward perfection in paint, he battles internal demons: his desperate ambition, crippling fear of imperfection, and unshakable loneliness. Along the way, he conspires with cardinals, scrambles through the ruins of ancient Rome, and falls in love with a baker’s-daughter-turned-prostitute who becomes his muse. 

Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

“Why this is shaping up to be a wonderful competition, isn’t it?” The pope said with a musical lilt. “A Florentine in the Sistine, and an Urbinite in my apartments. May the best painter win.”

Stephanie Storey paints a fresco for readers: blending a fiery piazza in Florence with the eyebrow-raising shenanigans of the Vatican halls in Rome; highlighting Raphael’s insecurities and obsessions while illuminating Michelangelo’s gifts in sculpture and his unpredictable inadequacies in oil! Told in first person, which makes this novel an absolute delight, readers will gush at being taken into Raphael’s confidence, as he recounts the competition for becoming the best painter on the peninsula or even the world!

The reader is immersed in rich descriptions of Italian villages, the people’s deep emotion and devotion to family and the volatile political landscape of the late 1400’s. Strategies to succeed and be noticed by the pope and struggles with technique and recipes for a fresco mix, are the “tarps” over Raphael’s obsessive tendencies like twirling his father’s paintbrush or parting his hair behind his ears, and- oh the counting: una, due, tre, quattro– so he enters a room on the right number and foot! Readers will learn a bit of Italian and fill tablets with Renaissance history and places to visit. All this along with dukes, cardinals, palaces, and parades, are mixed into a stunning palette of plot and paintings.

Author, Stephanie Storey, suggests keeping a device handy for researching paintings so the visual descriptions and historical references may be appreciated and discovered as the novel progresses. This is good advice! The account of Raphael’s pondering, in retrospect, about the visit of Martin Luther to Rome and his possible reaction to the “sin, excess, and corruption” regarding the behavior of the cardinals, the pope, and the aristocrats, was certainly eye-opening and pointed to a naivete of the general population. Was this trip, in fact, what prompted Martin Luther to return home to Germany to write his bishop, including his 95 Theses; thus leading to the beginning of the Protestant Reformation?

Raphael hoped his paintings would “bend the world away from the earthly realm of violence, anger and war, and toward the heavenly ideal of harmony, love, and peace.” When a painting is revealed to the world the artist has no control of how it is received-people see what they want to see. The same is true when an author releases a book into the hands of readers- themes and characters are perceived in individual ways. After years of study and research, Stephanie Storey’s Raphael: Painter in Rome is a portrait of adoration and respect for the painters of the Renaissance. Her hope is that Raphael and his readers will “bend the world toward beauty.”


We Came Here to Shine by Susie Orman Schnall

Expected on June 16
This gorgeous map is provided for readers at the front of the book: Illustrated by Silvia Gherra, Italy https://susieschnall.com/books/we-came-here-to-shine/map/
World’s Fair History Provided by the author’s website: https://susieschnall.com/books/we-came-here-to-shine/worlds-fair-history/

Summary by Susie Orman Schnall

Set during the iconic 1939 New York World’s Fair, two intrepid young women—an aspiring journalist and a down-on-her-luck actress—form an unlikely friendship as they navigate a world of endless possibility, stand down adversity, and find out what they are truly made of during the glorious summer of spectacle and opportunity…

Vivi Holden is closer than she’s ever been to living her dream as a lead actress in sun-dappled L.A., but an unfair turn of events sends her back to New York, a place she worked so hard to escape from. She has one last chance to get back to Hollywood—by performing well as the star of the heralded Aquacade synchronized swimming spectacular at the World’s Fair. Everything seems to be working against her, but her summer in New York will lead to her biggest opportunity to find her own way, on her own terms…

Maxine Roth wants nothing more than to be a serious journalist at the iconic New York Times, but her professor has other plans. Instead, she’s landed a post at the pop-up publication dedicated to covering the World’s Fair—and even then, her big ideas are continually overlooked by her male counterparts. Max didn’t work this hard to be the only—and an unheard one at that—woman in the room.

When Max and Vivi’s worlds collide, they forge an enduring friendship. One that shows them to be the daring, bold women they are, and one that teaches them to never stop holding on to what matters most, in the most meaningful summer of their lives.

Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

“Building the World of Tomorrow”- The theme of the 1939 World’s Fair in NYC. The fair spanned 1,216 acres with seven zones. Max was assigned to work as an intern in the Communications zone at “Today at the Fair,” a daily publication for each days’ events and Vivi was in the Amusement zone performing as the star of the synchronized swimming show. Check the map for those locations- isn’t that map the best? The girls are on opposite sides of the fairgrounds. So how do the paths of Max and Vivi cross? That’s what makes this “story go round!”

Susie Schnall employs an interesting mirroring technique in her opening lines of chapters 1 & 2 and even several more times in the novel. “Vivi Holden would eventually realize that not getting what she wanted that day was the best thing that could have happened to her.” Similarly, opening chapter 2 with, ” Maxine Roth would eventually realize that not getting what she wanted that day was the best thing that could have happened to her.” Each girl is coping with personal life dilemmas, power struggles in career paths and discerning conflicting dominant male opinions and uninvited advances. Schnall also uses foreshadowing early on when Vivi admits her sister has told her “she never wanted to see her again. And she couldn’t bring herself to even think of the other person. The potential of what could have been…”

Schnall takes the reader on a grand tour of the fair as the girls’ stories unfold. Readers will “yearn” for the girls to mature and grow in their own belief systems and find their own voice amidst the male dominated world in which they exist. Along with fabulous facts and descriptions of the World’s Fair, including a royal visit by King George VI and Elizabeth; readers will meet Elizabeth Dorchester and the National Woman’s Party. Max and Vivi hearing her speak at a rally, are inspired by rhetoric regarding women being treated equally in workplaces and how they should stand up for their ambitions. Remember, this is 1939. But sound familiar?

“Two friends who had shared an extraordinary experience, and extraordinary summer.” As Max’s professor had said, “The World’s Fair could be life-changing.” Susie Orman Schnall says it best: “All lit up by sunshine and optimism and a belief that the future and the better days it promised were just around the corner. The fair had a way of touching everyone who passed through its gates.”

We Came Here to Shine will change readers just as the 1939 World’s Fair changed Max and Vivi. Give it a “whirl!” ****


The Bright Side of Going Dark by Kelly Harms

“Even casual users know how absurd and unrealistic social media can be—yet keep logging on day after day. Kelly Harms takes this dichotomy to new heights in a clever and unputdownable story of two women whose so-called online lives collide IRL. I laughed, I cried, I came away from the experience with a newfound appreciation for life—which is to say THE BRIGHT SIDE OF GOING DARK is everything I’d hope for in a Kelly Harms novel, and more. I loved every page.”

— Camille Pagán, bestselling author of I’m Fine and Neither Are You

The Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

Throw your phone over a cliff? Could you do it-go dark, for even a day? Read The Bright Side of Going Dark for insights into that odd, almost indescribable feeling of no social media feedback; no text, no GPS, Google; actually being without a phone for several days. (It’s rather mind boggling that we all used to live this way-well, those of a certain age, anyway.) This is a story of self-discovery without a device for support; rather, actually speaking face to face, having conversations via voice rather than text-and living in real life (IRL) Kelly Harms shares such insights into “going dark”, that one wonders, did she manage it, even for a few days? Readers will appreciate the candid conversations between sisters, mothers, complete strangers and of course, all the so called, “friends.”

Why are those ‘likes” and “loves” from followers so important? Kelly Harms finds the humor but also the serious consequences of not being truthful and sharing real feelings and fears, with those we love. And then there’s the whole “virtual life” some find so intriguing. Main characters: Mia- a social media “influencer” on Pictey with thousands of followers and sponsors, posts thirty/day; Paige-employed by Pictey as part of the Standards Enforcement /Quality Assurance Team whose job it is to flag “obscene, dangerous, inflammatory, cyber-bullying or any way humans are awful to each other;” and Jessica, Paige’s half sister, who has attempted suicide. Each young woman has much to learn-about living IRL and about each other. Every page is a gem.

The self-reflection and shared wisdom in this book will impact – daily- what readers think about when the phone is picked up to check FaceBook, Instagram, Twitter.

Here’s the IN REAL LIFE take-a-way: A Wish from Mia:

“Long quiet walks where the wind is your podcast. Lost wanderings where your instincts are your GPS. Peaceful early mornings where you have your nose in a cup of coffee instead of an email inbox. Yoga with a friend, not an app. Family time with no “shares” and lots of sharing. Mental selfies in the flat, calm reflection of a mountain lake. Sponsorships of children and animals. Quiet summer evenings where the stars are your backlight. A phone that’s used for calling someone you love. Friends, I wish you joy. I wish you airplane mode.”

Mia would make a great friend-now that she’s learned so much. There truly is a “Bright Side of Going Dark.” Read it, and then try it.