The Yellow Bird Sings

The Yellow Bird Sings by Jennifer Rosner

Published:  March 2020 – Flatiron Books

Digital Ebook courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description:

As Nazi soldiers round up the Jews in their town, Róza and her 5-year-old daughter, Shira, flee, seeking shelter in a neighbor’s barn. Hidden in the hayloft day and night, Shira struggles to stay still and quiet, as music pulses through her and the farmyard outside beckons. To soothe her daughter and pass the time, Róza tells her a story about a girl in an enchanted garden:

The girl is forbidden from making a sound, so the yellow bird sings. He sings whatever the girl composes in her head: high-pitched trills of piccolo; low-throated growls of contrabassoon. Music helps the flowers bloom.

In this make-believe world, Róza can shield Shira from the horrors that surround them. But the day comes when their haven is no longer safe, and Róza must make an impossible choice: whether to keep Shira by her side or give her the chance to survive apart.

Inspired by the true stories of Jewish children hidden during World War II, Jennifer Rosner’s debut is a breathtaking novel about the unbreakable bond between a mother and a daughter. Beautiful and riveting, The Yellow Bird Sings is a testament to the triumph of hope—a whispered story, a bird’s song—in even the darkest of times. (publisher)

My take:  Having already experienced unimaginable loss Róza and Shira find shelter in a barn. It’s a challenge to expect a young child of five to live almost silently but Róza finds a way. When it seems inevitable they’ll be discovered Róza sends Shira to the safety of a convent. She hopes to find her when the war is over. I couldn’t imagine being forced to do this, yet there was no other choice. As you might imagine The Yellow Bird Sings is an emotional story of loss, separation, survival and moving forward during the most desperate times. Jennifer Rosner’s tale moved me to tears more than once.  I loved the theme of music woven throughout the novel. For me it added emotional depth and I listened to a few of the works mentioned after turning the last page, feeling those emotions a second time. Recommended to fans of World War II historical fiction.


 

US Giveaway: Becoming Mrs. Lewis paperback release

Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti Callahan

Paperback release:  March 24, 2020 – Thomas Nelson

Giveaway copy courtesy of Tandem Literary

The new expanded edition includes:

  • a map of Oxford
  • an expanded discussion guide with 20+questions for book clubs
  • a timeline of Jack and Joy’s lives
  • Joy’s (imagined) letter to Jack
  • 10 Things You May Not Know About Joy Davidman and C.S. Lewis’s Love Story
  • A behind the scenes essay: Oxford – The City

Description:

From New York Times bestselling author Patti Callahan comes an exquisite novel of Joy Davidman, the woman C. S. Lewis called “my whole world.” When poet and writer Joy Davidman began writing letters to C. S. Lewis—known as Jack—she was looking for spiritual answers, not love. Love, after all, wasn’t holding together her crumbling marriage. Everything about New Yorker Joy seemed ill-matched for an Oxford don and the beloved writer of Narnia, yet their minds bonded over their letters. Embarking on the adventure of her life, Joy traveled from America to England and back again, facing heartbreak and poverty, discovering friendship and faith, and against all odds, finding a love that even the threat of death couldn’t destroy. 

In this masterful exploration of one of the greatest love stories of modern times, we meet a brilliant writer, a fiercely independent mother, and a passionate woman who changed the life of this respected author and inspired books that still enchant us and change us. Joy lived at a time when women weren’t meant to have a voice—and yet her love for Jack gave them both voices they didn’t know they had. (publisher)

My take:  Becoming Mrs. Lewis is about Joy Davidman and C.S. Lewis – how they met, became friends (kindred spirits, really) and eventually married. It’s a fascinating story that pulled me in and left me a bit emotional as I turned the last page. Theirs was a cerebral relationship that grew passionate in time. Davidman and Lewis had much in common, not the least being a spiritual conversion – the reason for Davidman’s first letter to Lewis, which he answered, much to her surprise. When she travels to England on the advice of her physician Davidman finally meets Lewis in person. The rest, as they say, is history. Patti Callahan’s novel is well-researched (as detailed in her author’s note at the end of the book). I’m a fan of historical fiction and love when an author motivates me to read more about the subject. That was the case with Becoming Mrs. Lewis. I’ve added titles by Davidman and Lewis to my TBR list. Recommended to fans of the genre and Joy Davidman and C.S. Lewis. (originally posted on Bookfan on December 26, 2018)


About the author:

Patti Callahan Henry is a New York Times best-selling author of fifteen novels, including the (Historical Fiction) BECOMING MRS. LEWIS – The improbable Love Story of Joy Davidman and C.S. Lewis. Now a USA TODAY, Publishers Weekly, and The Globe and Mail bestseller. Her latest novel, THE FAVORITE DAUGHTER, (Southern Contemporary Fiction) was released June 4, 2019, and is available now. A full-time author and mother of three children, she now resides in both Mountain Brook, Alabama and Bluffton, South Carolina with her husband.

Connect with Patti Callahan

Website:  patticallahanhenry.com

twitter:  @pcalhenry

Instagram:  @pattichenry

Facebook:  @AuthorPattiCallahanHenry


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Spotlight/US Giveaway: And They Called it Camelot

And They Called It Camelot by Stephanie Marie Thornton

Expected publication:  March 10, 2020 – Berkley Trade Paperback Original

Book provided by the publisher

Description:

An intimate portrait of the life of Jackie O…
 
Few of us can claim to be the authors of our fate. Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy knows no other choice. With the eyes of the world watching, Jackie uses her effortless charm and keen intelligence to carve a place for herself among the men of history and weave a fairy tale for the American people, embodying a senator’s wife, a devoted mother, a First Lady—a queen in her own right.
 
But all reigns must come to an end. Once JFK travels to Dallas and the clock ticks down those thousand days of magic in Camelot, Jackie is forced to pick up the ruined fragments of her life and forge herself into a new identity that is all her own, that of an American legend. (publisher)

About the author:

Stephanie Thornton is a writer and history teacher who has been obsessed with women from history since she was twelve. She lives with her husband and daughter in Alaska.


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The Girl In White Gloves

The Girl In White Gloves by Kerri Maher

Expected publication:  February 25, 2020 – Berkley

Book courtesy of the publisher

Description:

Grace knows what people see. She’s the Cinderella story. An icon of glamor and elegance frozen in dazzling Technicolor. The picture of perfection. The girl in white gloves.

But behind the lens, beyond the panoramic views of glistening Mediterranean azure, she knows the truth. The sacrifices it takes for an unappreciated girl from Philadelphia to defy her family and become the reigning queen of the screen. The heartbreaking reasons she trades Hollywood for a crown. The loneliness of being a princess in a fairy tale kingdom that is all too real.

Hardest of all for her adoring fans and loyal subjects to comprehend, is the harsh reality that to be the most envied woman in the world does not mean she is the happiest. Starved for affection and purpose, facing a labyrinth of romantic and social expectations with more twists and turns than Monaco’s infamous winding roads, Grace must find her own way to fulfillment. But what she risks—her art, her family, her marriage—she may never get back. (publisher)

My take:  Kerri Maher has a knack for taking an historical figure and telling her imagined story. She did it for Kathleen “Kick” Kennedy in The Kennedy Debutante and now gives readers her take on Grace Kelly’s story. From Grace’s strict Catholic upbringing to her years in Hollywood playing opposite some of the biggest stars of the day to becoming Princess Grace of Monaco, Maher’s story is a touching and thought-provoking portrait of a woman who seemed to have it all. Of course, appearances are one thing and reality is another. I found myself often searching online for photos of different aspects of Kelly’s life and I have a list of her movies I want to watch. I think fans of Grace Kelly and books about the days of old Hollywood will enjoy The Girl in White Gloves.


About the author:

Kerri Maher is the author of The Kennedy Debutante, which People magazine described as “a riveting reimagining of a true tale of forbidden love,” and This Is Not a Writing Manual: Notes for the Young Writer in the Real World under the name Kerri Majors. She holds an MFA from Columbia University and founded YARN, an award-winning literary journal of short-form YA writing. A writing professor for many years, she now writes full time and lives with her daughter and dog in a leafy suburb west of Boston, Massachusetts.

Praise for The Girl In White Gloves:

“With royal families once again in the gossip columns, this will be a good choice for readers curious of the inner life of a royal family. It’s an absorbing take on a complicated life.” —Library Journal

“There is much to relish about this well-researched, riveting tale.” —Booklist

“The stunning and very human story of a beloved icon…. Full of nuance and poignancy—this novel is gorgeous.”— Allison PatakiNew York Times bestselling author of The Queen’s Fortune

“[A] fascinating, deeply researched novel of the extraordinary Grace Kelly … establishes Maher as a true force in biographical fiction.”—Beatriz WilliamsNew York Times bestselling author of The Golden Hour


 

Spotlight: Tidelands – Paperback release

Tidelands by Philippa Gregory

Paperback release:  February 18, 2020 – Washington Square Press

Courtesy of the publisher

Description: This New York Times bestseller from “one of the great storytellers of our time” (San Francisco Book Review) turns from the glamour of the royal courts to tell the story of an ordinary woman, Alinor, living in a dangerous time for a woman to be different.

On Midsummer’s Eve, Alinor waits in the church graveyard, hoping to encounter the ghost of her missing husband and thus confirm his death. Until she can, she is neither maiden nor wife nor widow, living in a perilous limbo. Instead she meets James, a young man on the run. She shows him the secret ways across the treacherous marshy landscape of the Tidelands, not knowing she is leading a spy and an enemy into her life.

England is in the grip of a bloody civil war that reaches into the most remote parts of the kingdom. Alinor’s suspicious neighbors are watching each other for any sign that someone might be disloyal to the new parliament, and Alinor’s ambition and determination mark her as a woman who doesn’t follow the rules. They have always whispered about the sinister power of Alinor’s beauty, but the secrets they don’t know about her and James are far more damning. This is the time of witch-mania, and if the villagers discover the truth, they could take matters into their own hands. (publisher)


About the author:

Philippa Gregory is the author of many New York Times bestselling novels, including The Other Boleyn Girl, and is a recognized authority on women’s history. Many of her works have been adapted for the screen including The Other Boleyn Girl. Her most recent novel, The Last Tudor, is now in production for a television series. She graduated from the University of Sussex and received a PhD from the University of Edinburgh, where she is a Regent. She holds honorary degrees from Teesside University and the University of Sussex. She is a fellow of the Universities of Sussex and Cardiff and was awarded the 2016 Harrogate Festival Award for Contribution to Historical Fiction. She is an honorary research fellow at Birkbeck, University of London. She founded Gardens for the Gambia, a charity to dig wells in poor rural schools in The Gambia, and has provided nearly 200 wells. She welcomes visitors to her website PhilippaGregory.com.


Praise for Tidelands:

“Superb…a searing portrait of a woman that resonates across the ages.” People

“This is Gregory par excellence. A promising start to a family saga about ordinary people.”
Kirkus Reviews
“A gripping novel…with her usual meticulous attention to detail, the author easily elicits the chaos and dangers of the mid-17th century…this book will leave readers eagerly awaiting the next installment in the series. Fans of Gregory’s works and of historicals in general will delight in this page-turning tale.”
Library Journal (starred review)
“History buffs and Gregory’s fans alike will be anticipating the next installment.
–Publishers Weekly
“a welcome topical pivot from gifted Gregory”
Booklist
 
“Richly detailed and brimming with secrets (personal and political), Tidelands is a captivating portrait of a brave woman and a compelling start to a new series.”
–Shelf Awareness
“The first in a planned series, Tidelands has moved on from the Tudor and Plantagenet era of Gregory’s previous novels, and the author crafts her material with effortless ease. Her grasp of social mores is brilliant, the love story rings true and the research is, as ever, of the highest calibre.”

Daily Mail


 

 

Spotlight/US Giveaway: Courting Mr. Lincoln by Louis Bayard

Courting Mr. Lincoln by Louis Bayard

Paperback Published:  February 2020 – Algonquin

Book provided by the publisher

Description:  When Mary Todd meets Abraham Lincoln in Springfield in the winter of 1840, he is on no one’s short list to be president. A country lawyer living above a dry goods shop, he is lacking both money and manners, and his gift for oratory surprises those who meet him. Mary, a quick, self-possessed debutante with an interest in debates and elections, at first finds him an enigma. “I can only hope,” she tells his roommate, the handsome, charming Joshua Speed, “that his waters being so very still, they also run deep.”

It’s not long, though, before she sees the Lincoln that Speed knows: an amiable, profound man who, despite his awkwardness, has a gentle wit to match his genius, and who respects her keen political mind. But as her relationship with Lincoln deepens, she must confront his inseparable friendship with Speed, who has taught his roommate how to dance, dress, and navigate the polite society of Springfield.

Told in the alternating voices of Mary Todd and Joshua Speed, and inspired by historical events, Courting Mr. Lincoln creates a sympathetic and complex portrait of Mary unlike any that has come before; a moving portrayal of the deep and very real connection between the two men; and most of all, an evocation of the unformed man who would grow into one of the nation’s most beloved presidents. Louis Bayard, a master storyteller, delivers here a page-turning tale of love, longing, and forbidden possibilities. (publisher)

My take: I guess I’ve been living under a rock because until this novel I’ve never heard any mention that Abraham Lincoln was rumored to be gay. Courting Mr. Lincoln is about his early years in Illinois – where he met Mary Todd and where he lived with his good friend Joshua Speed and two other boarders above Speed’s shop. The novel is told from the perspectives of Mary and Joshua which served to give depth to the characters and added to my empathy for both. I’ve always thought Lincoln seemed like a sad man, consumed with melancholy – and that feeling continues with Bayard’s Lincoln. In contrast I was intrigued by Speed’s magnetic personality. No one could escape his pull. I’d want to sit next to him at a dinner party. For me this was an enjoyable read with sparkling dialogue that kept me turning the pages. Courting Mr. Lincoln is a different look at our 16th President and I’m glad I read it. I feel compelled to read more about Joshua Speed. I love when that happens.


Praise for Courting Mr. Lincoln

“An exquisite novel about how Lincoln’s courtship of the brilliant, complicated Mary Todd intersected with his long and very (possibly VERY) close friendship with Joshua Speed. Courting Mr. Lincoln is so subtle and human and heartbreaking, infused with sly wit. I loved every word of it, and the end is note perfect. My heart broke for both Joshua and Mary, and at the same time, they were the lenses that let me think about my favorite president in new ways.” 

—Joshilyn Jackson, New York Times bestselling author of Never Have I Ever

 

“[W]ith a richly imagined setting and complex characters…a worthy addition to the fiction about-Lincoln bookshelf.”

Booklist

 

“Bayard fictionalizes the early days of Mary Todd and Abraham Lincoln’s relationship in this delightful embellishment of American history. This charming love story delicately reveals the emotional roller coaster of two inexperienced adults traversing the unknown realm of love while trying to meet the demands and expectations of society.”

Publishers Weekly

A gripping historical thriller … an entertaining novel by a gifted storyteller.”

The Washington Book Review

 

“[An] acute and passionate portrait…[I]n Bayard’s skilled hands, three complicated people groping toward a new phase in their lives is all the plot you need.”

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

 

“Bayard does an exceptional job of keeping readers engrossed as he weaves fact and fiction in this intriguing tale of intimacy between Lincoln and his two closest confidantes.”

BookPage

 

“ What Bayard has accomplished is to take popular figures in U.S. history and not only make them more real — if that is possible — but humanize them to a level where we all can relate to them. Courting Mr. Lincoln is engaging because Bayard has such a fine way with words. The result is a triumph of a novel and an unforgettable read that is a true page turner.”

Bookreporter.com


About the author:

Louis Bayard is a New York Times Notable Book author and has been shortlisted for both the Edgar and Dagger awards for his historical thrillers, which include The Pale Blue Eye and Mr. Timothy. His most recent novel was the critically acclaimed young-adult title Lucky Strikes. He lives in Washington, DC, and teaches at George Washington University. Visit him online at www.louisbayard.com

Photo credit: Tim Coburn


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The Borgia Confessions by Alyssa Palombo

The Borgia Confessions by Alyssa Palombo

Published:  February 2020 – St. Martin’s Griffin

Book courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description:  During the sweltering Roman summer of 1492, Rodrigo Borgia has risen to power as pope. Rodrigo’s eldest son Cesare, forced to follow his father into the church and newly made the Archbishop of Valencia, chafes at his ecclesiastical role and fumes with jealousy and resentment at the way that his foolish brother has been chosen for the military greatness he desired.

Maddalena Moretti comes from the countryside, where she has seen how the whims of powerful men wreak havoc on the lives of ordinary people. But now, employed as a servant in the Vatican Palace, she cannot help but be entranced by Cesare Borgia’s handsome face and manner and finds her faith and conviction crumbling in her want of him.

As war rages and shifting alliances challenge the pope’s authority, Maddalena and Cesare’s lives grow inexplicably entwined. Maddalena becomes a keeper of dangerous Borgia secrets, and must decide if she is willing to be a pawn in the power games of the man she loves. And as jealousy and betrayal threaten to tear apart the Borgia family from within, Cesare is forced to reckon with his seemingly limitless ambition. (publisher)

My take:  If you like historical fiction set in 15th century Italy you probably know about the Borgias. Alyssa Palombo delves into this illustrious family that ruled the Vatican and provided fodder for Roman citizens who enjoyed gossiping about the rich and famous.

The novel is filled with the politics of the day, intrigue, and outrageous family dynamics fueled by the self-serving ambitions of the Borgia siblings and their father. The Borgias believed the ends justified the means and they did whatever it took to get what they wanted. Told from the perspectives of Maddalena, a pretty maid in the household of Lucrezia Borgia, and Cesare Borgia, the oldest son of Pope Alexander VI. Ultimately, The Borgia Confessions is a tale of ambition and betrayal and the cost to all involved.

Palombo’s informative author’s note at the end explains the fictional and actual events of the novel.


Praise for Alyssa Palombo and THE BORGIA CONFESSIONS

“[A] vivacious tale of power and love set in 1492… Excavating the personal relationships and petty disagreements that fueled Pope Alexander VI’s controversial reign, Palombo’s enticing tale will please fans of Sharon Kay Penman.” 

Publishers Weekly

“Readers looking for an immersive, light, romantic read will enjoy this book.”

 –Booklist

 

“Under Palombo’s skillful hand, the entangled world of the Borgias comes vividly to life, exposing the dark facets of class structure and the all-consuming greed that comes with ambition–and love. I was utterly engrossed from page one. A colorful and suspenseful novel, The Borgia Confessions is packed with complex characters and political intrigue, and will leave readers hungry for more.” 

Heather Webb, internationally bestselling author of Last Christmas in Paris and Meet Me in Monaco

“Palombo has crafted a sweeping and surprisingly sympathetic portrait of Cesare Borgia, one of history’s most notorious “bad boys,” and the world surrounding him. [A] dark Renaissance parable about the intertwining of lust and power. If you’re as fascinated with all things Borgia as I am, you won’t want to miss this one!” 

Kris Waldherr, author of The Lost History of Dreams and Bad Princess

“Handsome. Intriguing. Dangerous. Seductive. [This] is everything you want in a book–it’s a romance, a page-turner, and a ride deep into the sumptuous and tumultuous time of Renaissance Italy.” 

Crystal King, author of The Chef’s Secret

“Alyssa Palombo’s deft and delicate prose makes a gorgeous contrast against the visceral and cutthroat world of the Borgias. Dark and decadent, THE BORGIA CONFESSIONS is mesmerizing from start to finish.” 

Meghan Masterson, author of The Wardrobe Mistress


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

ALYSSA PALOMBO is the author of The Violinist of Venice, The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence, and The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel. She is a recent graduate of Canisius College with degrees in English and creative writing, respectively. A passionate music lover, she is a classically trained musician as well as a big fan of heavy metal. When not writing, she can be found reading, hanging out with her friends, traveling, or planning for next Halloween. She lives in Buffalo, New York, where she is always at work on a new novel.

Photo credit: Jennifer Hark-Hameister



THE BORGIA CONFESSIONS: A Novel

By Alyssa Palombo

Published by St. Martin’s Griffin | On-Sale: February 11, 2020

Trade Paperback | 9781250191205 | $16.99

EBook | 9781250191212 | $9.99