The Home for Unwanted Girls by Joanna Goodman #Review @joannagoodman @HarperCollins

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During the 1950s in Quebec, teenagers Maggie Hughes and Gabriel Phénix fell in love. Their romance comes to an abrupt end when Maggie’s parents find out their fifteen-year-old daughter is pregnant. When her daughter, Elodie, is born, Maggie is forced to give her up for adoption. A few years later, a new law results in orphanages being converted into mental hospitals because funding provided for patients is greater than what is provided for orphans—and Elodie is one orphan among many who is declared mentally ill. It also serves to complicate things when Maggie begins searching for her daughter.

What I Liked

I’m a sucker for fiction based in fact, to some degree, and that’s what got my attention about this novel. The tragedy of the Duplessis Orphans is reflected in Elodie’s story, and the abuse suffered by the orphans at the hands of the nuns in the book mirrors what happened in real life to orphaned children who were falsely diagnosed as mentally ill. It was disturbing to read, but I appreciate the fact that it stayed true to the spirit of the actual history.

I liked the character of Maggie a great deal, and easily connected with her on an emotional level.  I knew how her pregnancy with Elodie would end, of course, but it was still heartbreaking to read about that time of her life, and understood completely the depth of her grief in the years that followed, as well as her desire to reunite with her.

Elodie easily won a place in my heart, as well, but most of what I read about her left me feeling indescribably sad. It was one of those things where—every time she went through something difficult (and it happened a lot)—I just wanted to jump inside the book and give her a hug. (Come on now… y’all know what I’m talking about here, right readers?) I always have a hard time reading about kids who aren’t loved and cherished as they should be, and her portions of the story always made me want to cry.

What I Didn’t Like

Nothing to say here about the book itself.  As far as characters go? There was a particular nun in the story that I truly despised—as I was meant to, I’m sure—which means she was written exceedingly well!

Final Thoughts

Filled with vivid characterizations and devastatingly emotional situations, Goodman has created a story that will be hard to forget. If you love reading books that are based partially on actual historical events, then this is the book for you. Just be sure to keep a box of tissues handy. You’ll need them!

I received an advance reading copy of this book courtesy of Harper Paperbacks via Edelweiss.

 

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Author: Joanna Goodman
Title: The Home for Unwanted Girls
Genre: Historical Fiction
Published: April 3, 2018 by Harper Paperbacks
Rating: 4 stars

About the Book

Philomena meets The Orphan Train in this suspenseful, provocative novel filled with love, secrets, and deceit—the story of a young unwed mother who is forcibly separated from her daughter at birth and the lengths to which they go to find each other.
In 1950s Quebec, French and English tolerate each other with precarious civility—much like Maggie Hughes’ parents. Maggie’s English-speaking father has ambitions for his daughter that don’t include marriage to the poor French boy on the next farm over. But Maggie’s heart is captured by Gabriel Phénix. When she becomes pregnant at fifteen, her parents force her to give baby Elodie up for adoption and get her life ‘back on track’.
Elodie is raised in Quebec’s impoverished orphanage system. It’s a precarious enough existence that takes a tragic turn when Elodie, along with thousands of other orphans in Quebec, is declared mentally ill as the result of a new law that provides more funding to psychiatric hospitals than to orphanages. Bright and determined, Elodie withstands abysmal treatment at the nuns’ hands, finally earning her freedom at seventeen, when she is thrust into an alien, often unnerving world.
Maggie, married to a businessman eager to start a family, cannot forget the daughter she was forced to abandon, and a chance reconnection with Gabriel spurs a wrenching choice. As time passes, the stories of Maggie and Elodie intertwine but never touch, until Maggie realizes she must take what she wants from life and go in search of her long-lost daughter, finally reclaiming the truth that has been denied them both.

About the Author

JOANNA GOODMAN is the author of four previous novels, including Canadian bestseller, The Finishing School. Her stories have appeared in The Fiddlehead, The Ottawa Citizen, B & A Fiction, Event, The New Quarterly, and White Wall Review, as well as excerpted in Elisabeth Harvor’s fiction anthology A Room at the Heart of Things.
Originally from Montreal, Joanna now lives in Toronto with her husband and two kids, and is the owner of the Canadian linen company Au Lit Fine Linens.
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Jane Seymour, The Haunted Queen by Alison Weir #Review @alisonweirbooks @randomhouse

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This next book in the Six Tudor Queens series tells the story of Jane Seymour, third wife of King Henry VIII. This fictionalized tale of Jane’s life begins at her childhood home of Wulfhall and, in time, we see how Jane came to serve as a maid-of-honor for the Queen—Katherine of Aragon, Henry’s first wife. When she arrives, the King’s pursuit of Anne Boleyn, another of Katherine’s maid’s-of-honor, is already well underway. Jane remains fiercely loyal to her beloved Queen Katherine, even after she is forced to leave her and serve Anne, instead. When Anne is unable to provide a son for the King, he sets his sights on Jane, and marries her eleven days after Anne’s beheading. Jane was able to give Henry the son he so greatly desired, but died shortly thereafter.

I still haven’t read the first book in this series, but I enjoyed the second very much. I was excited to read about Seymour, hoping it would be as enjoyable as the book about  Boleyn.

Jane Seymour, The Haunted Queen swept me back into the Tudor era and kept me enthralled the entire time. The fanciful element of Jane being haunted was a nice addition to the story; it was never over the top, and didn’t detract anything from the main story. It was presented in such a way as to be believable that would Jane might feel haunted, and I enjoyed reading those portions.

The real Jane Seymour left behind no letters, so little is known about her thoughts on events that took place during her time at Court and, later, as Queen. Despite that, Weir has written a wonderful novel that makes fine use of the facts known about Jane, her family, and the time she spent with Henry.

Filled with rich imagery and careful attention to detail, Tudor fans are sure to love reading about Henry VIII’s third bride… I certainly did!

I received an advance reading copy of this book courtesy of Ballantine Books via Netgalley.

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Author: Alison Weir
Title: Jane Seymour, The Haunted Queen
Series: Six Tudor Queens #3
Genre: Historical Fiction
Expected Publication: May 15th, 2018 by Ballantine Books
Rating: 5 stars

About the Book

A novel of the devout young woman who became the unwilling object of King Henry VIII’s ardor–and the mother of his only son. In this third book in the epic Six Tudor Queens series, the acclaimed historian and bestselling author brings new insight to this dramatic story, showing how pure fear for her life determined Jane Seymour’s actions.
25-year-old Jane Seymour wants nothing more than to become a nun. But her ambitious father has forced her to live at court as lady-in-waiting to Queen Katherine of Aragon, a fellow-Catholic whom she soon comes to love and admire. So Jane is appalled when King Henry shunts Katherine aside in his lustful pursuit of Anne Boleyn, but even more so when he takes Anne’s life in his rush to wed–Jane herself!
Unwilling to marry but terrified to resist Henry’s advances for fear she might share Anne’s fate, and propelled by her family, Jane becomes Queen of England a mere ten days after Anne’s execution. She knows she must produce a male heir without fail. Her very life depends on it.

Dread Nation by Justina Ireland #Review @justinaireland @BalzerandBray

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Historical fiction meets the zombie apocalypse in Justina Ireland’s addictive new novel, Dread Nation.

The Civil War came to an abrupt end when the dead rose from the battlefields to feast upon the living, and slavery fell sometime later, with the passing of the Native and Negro Reeducation Act. Children of a certain age (and race) are required to go to combat schools to learn how to fight the dead. Jane McKeen has nearly finished her training at Miss Prescott’s School of Combat for Negro Girls when a friend requests for help from Jane and Katherine (another girl at Miss Preston’s) regarding a missing family, it leads to the discovery of a deadly conspiracy that puts all three of them in danger.

Historical fiction with zombies—two of my favorite things put together meant I had to read this book. My only regret is that I didn’t start reading it early in the day, because I read 80% of this in one sitting. (I would have finished it in one sitting, but my eyes kept insisting on closing. How rude!) I was hooked from the moment I read the Prologue title: In Which I Am Born and Someone Tries to Murder MeWhat a way to kick off a book!

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Each chapter title began the same way (In Which I…) and I looked forward to each one. Chapter titles aren’t used much anymore (at least, not in the books I read), which is a shame because they really add something to the overall reading experience that is quite enjoyable. I’m going to go on record right now and blame those enticing chapter titles for keeping me up all night. If it weren’t for those little hints of what each new chapter held, I might have been spared the major book hangover the next day… but no! There they were, making it impossible for me to set the Kindle aside and get some sleep… and I’m SO glad! 🙂

Dread Nation never shies away from the unsavory topics of racism and white supremacy. It’s used in the context of the historical setting, but one cannot help but acknowledge that it’s remains a serious blight on present-day lives; as such, it serves as a subtle commentary on the race issues that continue to plague America.

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Ireland’s writing is simply fabulous, and the world she created within Dread Nation is frightening in more ways than one. The zombies, known as shamblers in the book, are a definite threat in this world, but they aren’t the sole enemy. As with any good zombie story, people—white, religious zealots, in the case of Dread Nation—are the biggest threat to people of color.

I loved the fact that a woman is the main protagonist in this story. Jane is everything you could want in a heroine—she is courageous, a fierce fighter whose loyalty and need to protect her friends is as deeply ingrained within her as her will to survive. Jane is a force to be reckoned with—an admirable character that I won’t soon forget.

Final Thoughts

Dread Nation is an outstanding cross-genre novel that readers are sure to love. I’m extremely excited for the next novel in the series, and can’t wait to see what awaits our fierce heroine in the next chapter of this thrilling series. I’m highly recommending this novel, as it is truly a book worth reading!

I received an advance review copy of this book courtesy of Balzer+Bray via Edelweiss.

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Author: Justina Ireland
Title: Dread Nation
Series: Dread Nation #1
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Speculative Fiction, Alternate History
Published: April 3, 2018 by Balzer+Bray
Rating: 5 stars

Jane McKeene was born two days before the dead began to walk the battlefields of Gettysburg and Chancellorsville—derailing the War Between the States and changing America forever. In this new nation, safety for all depends on the work of a few, and laws like the Native and Negro Reeducation Act require certain children attend combat schools to learn to put down the dead. But there are also opportunities—and Jane is studying to become an Attendant, trained in both weaponry and etiquette to protect the well-to-do. It’s a chance for a better life for Negro girls like Jane. After all, not even being the daughter of a wealthy white Southern woman could save her from society’s expectations.
But that’s not a life Jane wants. Almost finished with her education at Miss Preston’s School of Combat in Baltimore, Jane is set on returning to her Kentucky home and doesn’t pay much mind to the politics of the eastern cities, with their talk of returning America to the glory of its days before the dead rose. But when families around Baltimore County begin to go missing, Jane is caught in the middle of a conspiracy, one that finds her in a desperate fight for her life against some powerful enemies. And the restless dead, it would seem, are the least of her problems.