Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Review: Code Name Helene by Ariel Lawhon

Code Name Helene
by Ariel Lawhon

Publisher: Doubleday Books
Pages: 451
Format: eARC
Buy the Book: Amazon

Goodreads:  It is 1936 and Nancy Wake is an intrepid Australian expat living in Paris who has bluffed her way into a reporting job for Hearst newspaper when she meets the wealthy French industrialist Henri Fiocca. No sooner does Henri sweep Nancy off her feet and convince her to become Mrs. Fiocca than the Germans invade France and she takes yet another name: a code name.

As LUCIENNE CARLIER Nancy smuggles people and documents across the border. Her success and her remarkable ability to evade capture earns her the nickname THE WHITE MOUSE from the Gestapo. With a five million franc bounty on her head, Nancy is forced to escape France and leave Henri behind. When she enters training with the Special Operations Executives in Britain, her new comrades are instructed to call her HÉLÈNE. And finally, with mission in hand, Nancy is airdropped back into France as the deadly MADAM ANDRÉ, where she claims her place as one of the most powerful leaders in the French Resistance, armed with a ferocious wit, her signature red lipstick, and the ability to summon weapons straight from the Allied Forces.

But no one can protect Nancy if the enemy finds out these four women are one and the same, and the closer to liberation France gets, the more exposed she--and the people she loves--become.

Kritters Thoughts:  Based in truth on a real woman, Nancy Wake lead a heroic life contributing her entire life to fighting for justice for individuals and a group of people and this book was an epic tale that made me want to read more about this woman.  Nancy Wake took on many names and personas to survive the war and not only did she survive but she impacted the war and people who were also trying to survive.  

For me, the pacing of this book wasn't consistent and there were times where I felt as though it lagged a bit and it was hard for me to keep my attention focused on the book.  I think after finishing the book, I could say that there are a few parts that could have been edited out and the flow of the book would have been spot on.  

On the flip side, what I loved most about this book is seeing a woman take command of not only her life but gaining the respect of others and Nancy had the respect of a whole host of men who saw her as the commander of their unit.  Watching her take a skill and become a pro and then use it to outsmart the German army was very fun to read.  

My first Ariel Lawhon book and after reading this one, I would love to catch up on her backlist.  I love how she writes empowering women and shines a light on their story when they may have not made it into the traditional history books.    

Rating: definitely a good read, but can't read two in a row

Ebook 2023 Challenge: 5 out of 100

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I received one copy of this book free of charge from Netgalley.  I was not required to write a positive review in exchange for receipt of the book; rather, the opinions expressed in this review are my own.

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Review: The Madwomen of Paris by Jennifer Cody Epstein

The Madwomen of Paris
by Jennifer Cody Epstein

Publisher: Ballantine
Pages: 400
Format: eARC
Buy the Book: Amazon

Goodreads: A young woman with amnesia falls under the influence of a powerful doctor in Paris’s notorious women’s asylum, where she must fight to reclaim dangerous memories—and even more perilously, her sanity—in this gripping historical novel inspired by true events, from the bestselling author of Wunderland.

“I didn’t see her the day she came to the asylum. Looking back, this sometimes strikes me as unlikely. Impossible, even, given how utterly her arrival would upend the already chaotic order of things at the Salpêtrière—not to mention change the course of my own life there.”

When Josephine arrives at the Salpêtrière she is covered in blood and badly bruised. Suffering from near-complete amnesia, she is diagnosed with what the Paris papers are calling “the epidemic of the age”: hysteria. It is a disease so baffling and widespread that Doctor Jean-Martine Charcot, the asylum’s famous director, devotes many of his popular public lectures to the malady. To Charcot’s delight, Josephine also proves extraordinarily susceptible to hypnosis, the tool he uses to unlock hysteria’s myriad (and often sensational) symptoms. Soon Charcot is regularly featuring Josephine on his stage, entrancing the young woman into fantastical acts and hallucinatory fits before enraptured audiences and eager newsmen—many of whom feature her on their paper’s front pages.

For Laure, a lonely asylum attendant assigned to Josephine’s care, Charcot’s diagnosis seems a godsend. A former hysteric herself, she knows better than most that life in the Salpêtrière’s Hysteria Ward is far easier than in its dreaded Lunacy division, from which few inmates ever return. But as Josephine’s fame as Charcot’s “star hysteric” grows, her memory starts to return—and with it, images of a horrific crime she believes she’s committed. Haunted by these visions, and helplessly trapped in Charcot’s hypnotic web, she starts spiraling into actual insanity. Desperate to save the girl she has grown to love, Laure plots their escape from the Salpêtrière and its doctors. First, though, she must confirm whether Joséphine is actually a madwoman, soon to be consigned to the Salpêtrière’s brutal Lunacy Ward—or a murderer, destined for the guillotine.

Kritters Thoughts:  Historical fiction is a genre that I fall back on especially during times when my attention span is having a hard time connecting and reading is difficult - diving into someone else's story and being swept into another time and place helps me escape the chatter of the here and now.  Going back in time to Paris when a woman had very little rights, even over her own healthcare (hmmm. . . .) women were sent to a psychiatric hospital for the smallest thing and then while there were being used a test subjects while doctors tried to figure out what was wrong with them!  

Laure graduated from the asylum having what I seem to be cured from hysteria, but doesn't have anywhere to go, so she ends up staying and becoming an attendant until a fateful day when Josephine arrives and they bond and change each other's lives forever.  It was both heartbreaking and insightful to read about what these women went through as they were battling their demons in these horrific conditions.  My favorite experience is when I am lead to search and find more about a subject or person based on my reading of a book and I wanted to read so much more about this doctor, this hospital and the people that passed through these kind of places.  

This was my second Jennifer Cody Epstein read and I have two of hers in the backlist that I want to read.  I would love to get caught up with her soon and hope for more from her in the future.  


Rating: definitely a good read, but can't read two in a row

Ebook 2023:  4 out of 100

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I received one copy of this book free of charge from Netgalley.  I was not required to write a positive review in exchange for receipt of the book; rather, the opinions expressed in this review are my own.

Thursday, September 7, 2023

Review: A Good Man by PJ McIlvaine

A Good Man
by PJ McIlvaine 

Publisher: Bloodhound Books
Pages: 317
Format: eARC 
Buy the Book: Amazon 

Goodreads: Decades after a brutal childhood trauma, a famous novelist finds his life shattered once again, in this unsettling psychological mystery thriller.

After years of turmoil, Brooks Anderson is sober and has a stable life with his wife and two kids. He should be enjoying life, but the persistent nightmares and sleepwalking tell a different story.

As hard as he’s tried, Brooks can’t run away from the defining event of his life: the senseless murders of his mother and brother during a vacation in Montauk. An eight-year-old Brooks was the sole survivor of the carnage, which left him in a catatonic state. He buried his pain and eventually overcame his demons. Or so he believed.

Now an unscrupulous journalist is threatening to write about the deaths. Fearful that the truth will be twisted to suit sordid ends, Brooks decides to write his own book, despite the grave misgivings of his agent, wife, and father.

However, when the journalist is brutally killed, Brooks finds himself in the authorities’ crosshairs. To prove his innocence and exorcise the past, he digs deeper into his psyche and that fateful summer. His relentless pursuit of the truth soon leads Brooks down a slippery slope that challenges everything—and brings him face-to-face with the real monster of Montauk . . .

Kritters Thoughts:  What a mystery read where the bodies kept dropping chapter by chapter!  Brooks Anderson is about to write the book that he has had churning his entire life.  A traumatic event that happened when he was just a young boy has stayed with him and with the threat of someone else writing his story he decides now is the time.  

What a ride!  While I may have known from the very beginning the culprit and maybe a bit of the how, I was not disappointed to take the ride and see how it would all unfold.  It reminded me of my romance reads where you know where you will end up, but the ride is just as fun!  And still there were some twists and reveals that took me by surprise and I wanted to talk them through with someone immediately.  

I may be a little partial in that I tend to steer myself to read books with female main characters and ones that are near my age range, I still enjoyed reading Brooks' point of view and watching him contemplate where he was at in his life and what he wanted his legacy to be.  I hope PJ McIlvaine has more up their sleeve as the writing style and pacing were just right for me.  

Rating: definitely a good read, but can't read two in a row

Ebook 2023: 5 out of 100

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I received one copy of this book free of charge from Laura Marie Public Relations.  I was not required to write a positive review in exchange for receipt of the book; rather, the opinions expressed in this review are my own.

Friday, September 1, 2023

August an eventful month!

August was an eventful month with a few birthdays to celebrate, a list of house projects to attend to, and a long end of summer to do list!  I am loving reading a book in my new lake community and spending time with my toes in the sand and my brain in a good book!  

1.  The Art of Making Memories by Meik Wiking
2.  Twilight at Blueberry Barrens by Colleen Coble
3.  Dollhouse by Kourtney, Kim and Khloe Kardashian - one of those books I wanted to read and pass on!
4.  American Black Widow by Gregg Olsen (audiobook)
5. Tom Lake by Ann Patchett
6. The Madwomen of Paris by Jennifer Cody Epstein

Total pages read, clicked and flipped: 2,023

Where Have I Been Reading?:

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