Book review: Stella Bain by Anita Shreve


  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; 10/13/13 edition (October 13, 2013)
  • 264 pages
  • Women’s fiction / historical fiction


“Shreve’s 17th novel is a tragic yet hopeful story of love, memory, loss, and rebuilding….The novel is both tender and harsh….Shreve’s thoughtful, provocative historical tale has modern resonance.” –Publishers Weekly

Stella Bain has no memory of her past when she wakes up in a hospital bed in Marne, France. It is 1916, and she wears the uniform of a British war nurse but speaks with an American accent. As soon as she is able, Stella sets out for London, where she hopes to find answers. What she discovers-with the help of Dr. August Bridge, who takes an interest in her case-both shocks and startles.

As Stella’s memories come racing back, she must undertake a journey across the ocean to confront the haunted past of the woman she used to be.

In this gripping historical drama that transports us from Europe to America and back again, Anita Shreve weaves an engrossing tale about love and memory, set against the backdrop of a war that devastated an entire generation.

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Meet the author:

Anita Shreve grew up in Dedham, Massachusetts (just outside Boston), the eldest of three daughters. Early literary influences include having read Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton when she was a junior in high school (a short novel she still claims as one of her favorites) and everything Eugene O’Neill ever wrote while she was a senior (to which she attributes a somewhat dark streak in her own work). After graduating from Tufts University, she taught high school for a number of years in and around Boston. In the middle of her last year, she quit (something that, as a parent, she finds appalling now) to start writing. “I had this panicky sensation that it was now or never.”

Joking that she could wallpaper her bathroom with rejections from magazines for her short stories (“I really could have,” she says), she published her early work in literary journals. One of these stories, “Past the Island, Drifting,” won an O. Henry prize. Despite this accolade, she quickly learned that one couldn’t make a living writing short fiction. Switching to journalism, Shreve traveled to Nairobi, Kenya, where she lived for three years, working as a journalist for an African magazine. One of her novels, The Last Time They Met, contains bits and pieces from her time in Africa.

Returning to the United States, Shreve was a writer and editor for a number of magazines in New York. Later, when she began her family, she turned to freelancing, publishing in the New York Times Magazine, New York magazine and dozens of others. In 1989, she published her first novel, Eden Close. Since then she has written 12 other novels, among them The Weight of Water, The Pilot’s Wife, The Last Time They Met, A Wedding in December, and Body Surfing.

In 1998, Shreve received the PEN/L. L. Winship Award and the New England Book Award for fiction. In 1999, she received a phone call from Oprah Winfrey, and The Pilot’s Wife became the 25th selection of Oprah’s Book Club and an international bestseller. In April 2002, CBS aired the film version of The Pilot’s Wife, starring Christine Lahti, and in fall 2002, The Weight of Water, starring Elizabeth Hurley and Sean Penn, was released in movie theaters.

Still in love with the novel form, Shreve writes only in that genre. “The best analogy I can give to describe writing for me is daydreaming,” she says. “A certain amount of craft is brought to bear, but the experience feels very dreamlike.”

Shreve is married to a man she met when she was 13. She has two children and three stepchildren, and in the last eight years has made tuition payments to seven colleges and universities.

Connect with the author:   Website   Twitter 


Although written as a novel, this account describes how women began to be affected by shell shock during the first world war. Shell shock was the term used for what we now understand to be PTSD. Nurses who worked side-by-side with surgeons during the war experienced as much trauma as the men who fought in the trenches and the author describes how much they went through without going into excessive graphic detail.

A woman wearing a VAD uniform wakes up with amnesia in France while serving close to the front. Stella Bain, as she calls herself, realizes that she has amnesia and remains unsettled because there is something she has come to France to do but she can’t remember why. Her story takes us to England where, in an attempt to discover who she is, she is overcome by “hysteria” or “shell shock” and is taken in by a kindly couple who help her to recuperate. We later learn of another serious trauma suffered prior to her arrival in France which is the reason for her flight as well as the initial trigger to her shell shock.

An insightful account into how trauma, of varying natures, can cause both a physical and psychological impact to the victim or sufferer.

Book review: In the Context of Love by Linda K. Sienkiewicz


Book Details:

Book Title:  in the context of Love by Linda K. Sienkiewicz
Category:  Adult fiction, 270 pages
Genre:  Women’s fiction
Publisher:  Buddhapuss Ink LLC
Release date:  September 2015
Available for review in:  Print, ebook, gifted Kindle copy, (PDF)
Will send print books:  USA & Canada
Tour dates:  March 28 to April 1, 2016
Content Rating:  PG-13 + M ( may contain profanity, violence, non-explicit sex scenes and mature themes)

Book Description:  

What makes us step back to examine the events and people that have shaped our lives? And what happens when what we discover leads to more questions?

Angelica Schirrick wonders how her life could have gotten so far off-track. With two children in tow, she begins a journey of self-discovery that leads her back home to Ohio. It pains her to remember the promise her future once held and the shattering revelations that derailed her life.

Can she face the failures and secrets of her past and move forward? Somehow she must learn to accept the violence of her beginning before she can be open to life, and a second chance at love.

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Praise for In the Context of Love

“Linda K. Sienkiewicz’s powerful and richly detailed debut novel is at once a love story, a cautionary tale, and an inspirational journey. In the Context of Love should be required reading for all wayward teenage girls—and their mothers, too.” ~Bonnie Jo Campbell, author of National Book Award Finalist, American Salvage, and critically acclaimed, Mothers, Tell Your Daughters.

“With tenderness, but without blinking, Linda K. Sienkiewicz turns her eye on the predator-prey savannah of the young and still somehow hopeful.” ~ Jacquelyn Mitchard, author of the #1 NY Times Bestseller, Deep End of the Ocean

“Absorbing, heartbreaking, compulsively-readable and insightful, Linda Sienkiewicz’s In the Context of Love casts a hypnotic spell. This is storytelling at its best.” ~ Lewis Robinson, author of the critically acclaimed, Officer Friendly: and Other Stories, and Water Dogs

Linda K. Sienkiewicz author pic

Meet the author:    

Linda K. Sienkiewicz is a published poet and fiction writer, cynical optimist, fan of corgis, tea drinker, and wine lover from Michigan. Her poetry, short stories, and art have been published in more than fifty literary journals, including Prairie Schooner, Clackamas Literary Review, Spoon River, and Permafrost.

She received a poetry chapbook award from Bottom Dog Press, and an MFA from the University of Southern Maine. Linda lives with her husband in southeast Michigan, where they spoil their grandchildren and then send them back home.

Connect with the author:   Website   Twitter   Facebook

“How easy it would be to fall back in love with you.     How the heart remembers”.
In the Context of Love is can be described as a touching memoir-letter to a lost love.  I immediately identified with Angelica, a hardworking high-school student whose mother obsessively controls her.  Like a spring ready to bounce, Angelica seeks acceptance and consolation outside her family.  She falls in love.  But scandal tears them apart and she never sees him again.
Although this is first and foremost a love story, other events in Angelica’s life push her in a downward spiral into drinking, drugs and bad relationships.  We feel for her as she loses her sense of self and ends up in an abusive relationship.
Linda has managed to take a small family drama and turn it into an incredibly moving and emotional account of love, redemption and hope.  The simple truths and insights touched me deeply.  Please note that there are several mature themes in this book and strong language.

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Book review: Emmy Nation, Undercover Suffragette by L. Davis Munro


Book Details:

Book Title:  Emmy Nation, Undercover Suffragette by L. Davis Munro
Category:  Adult fiction, 320 pages
Genre:  Historical Fiction, Women’s Fiction
Publisher:  L. Davis Munro
Release date:  November 2015
Available for review in:  Print, mobi, PDF
Will send print books:  USA & Canada
Tour Dates:  Feb 15 to 26, 2016
Content Rating:  PG + M (My book will describe the force feeding of women in jail and some violence such as, window smashing, post box bombings, and street fights as well as some mild profanity. Mature content relates to the feminist movement’s militant activities and the subsequent force feeding of women when they were imprisoned.)

Book Description: 

Being an independent woman in 1913 London is certainly empowering, but Emmy Nation is tired of the inescapable damp seeping through her worn shoes and the hopeless grumblings of her stomach.

When she receives an offer from Scotland Yard to boost her typist income by spying on the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), Emmy jumps at the chance. But as she grows closer to the WSPU women the lines begin to blur, and when a painful part of her past resurfaces Emmy begins to question her choices.

​How far are you willing to go to secure your equality?

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Book Trailer:

L. Davis Munro author pic

Meet the author:

​L. Davis Munro holds a master’s degree with a focus on women’s suffrage theatre and works in theatre and dance. She currently lives in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, with her husband and her dog.

Connect with the author:   Website   Twitter   Facebook


Feb 15 – Working Mommy Journal – review / author interview / giveaway
Feb 15 – Amie’s Book Reviews – review / guest post / giveaway
Feb 16 – Jorie Loves a Story – review / author interview
Feb 16 – Jaquo Lifestyle Magazine – review
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Feb 17 – Jaquo Lifestyle Magazine – guest post
Feb 18 – Reviews by Martha’s Bookshelf – review / guest post / giveaway
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Feb 24 – Sahar’s Blog – review
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Feb 26 – Library of Clean Reads – review / giveaway

Imogen Madeline Nation (or Emmy as she likes to be called) is a woman of principle.  A woman of principle with holes in her shoes and a tedious job as a typist for Scotland Yard.  She lives in a room converted from a pantry and never seems to be able to save up enough money to buy a new pair of boots. Although she’s found herself in distressing straits, she’s not a complainer, just a realist.  Little does she know that her quiet, boring existence is about to change – she’s about to get more than she bargained for at Scotland Yard.
I really enjoyed reading Undercover Suffragette – I think I would call it a “cozy mystery”. Emmy is a likeable character that most women can identify with – we all want her to succeed.  In 1913, women were still considered second-class citizens with marriage as the only viable option for most.  I did a bit of research recently and discovered that almost a third of women in Victorian times never married, so this era of protest amongst women from all classes, spearheaded by the suffragette movement was a really big deal.  The book deals with the inhumane treatment of these suffragettes while they were in prison as well mistreatment by the police and men in general.  An interesting insight into the activities and lives of British suffragettes.
The book was well-written and flowed quickly.  I would probably recommend a quick re-edit to remove the modern words and expressions from the dialogue that don’t fit in a piece of historical fiction.  The ending ended a bit abruptly, leaving me wondering “what just happened here?”  (I really want the story to continue…then voila!  I discovered that it’s volume I).  What next adventures are in store for Emmy Nation?

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Book review: The Thread That Binds by Alice Hayes


Book Details:

Book Title:  The Thread That Binds by Alice Hayes
Category:  Adult fiction, 284 pages
Genre:  Women’s Fiction
Publisher:  Fastpencil
Release date:  September, 2015
Available for review in:  Print, ebook (mobi for Kindle), PDF & ePUB
Will send print books:  Internationally
Tour dates:  Nov 23 to Dec 11, 2015
Content Rating:  PG 13 + M (Profanities are used occasionally, but there are only one or two f-bombs. The word ‘G*d d*mn’ is referenced, but never used. The book deals with mature issues, such as unplanned pregnancy, spousal abuse, and parental abandonment. There are a few non-graphic sex scenes (one is ‘fade to black’, the other are a little more descriptive but by no means explicit). There are two non-explicit labor/birth scenes. There is one mildly violent sex scene.

Book Description:  

Sherice is a new mother, a sonographer, quilter, and wife; an overworked young woman whose elderly mother is slipping away from her.

Sylvie is a newlywed and recent immigrant, unemployed and virtually penniless. Her husband’s paycheck can’t even cover prenatal care, let alone a baby, and her due date is only drawing nearer…

Joanne’s unconventional pregnancy turns her world upside down, redefining her career and relationships, and even bringing to the surface long-buried demons from her past.

Payton is seventeen, pregnant, and on the run. She flees to her uncle in Georgia with the hope of making a fresh start, but discovers making it on her own is harder than she could ever have imagined.

Gloria is trapped in an unhappy marriage; in love with someone else. Her life is falling apart. With a baby on the way, would it be selfish to flee?

Five women, once strangers, form bonds. Set in modern day Georgia, this is the story of friendship that blossoms in the land of country music, sweet tea, and secrets kept locked tight behind closed doors. Moving, funny, and at times heartbreaking, The Thread That Binds is a lesson in empathy, strength, and the beauty of love.

Buy the book:  Amazon  

Alice Hayes Author Pic

Meet the author:  

Originally from Winchester, England, Alice’s plans to read law at a British university were disrupted when she fell deeply in love with Georgia, USA, while studying abroad. After moving all over Georgia, Alice has finally settled in Athens and has no plans to go anywhere else.

She is a single mother to a three-year-old girl and a 65 lb hound dog. She likes coffee, wine, and anything edible with the words ‘salted caramel’ in its description.

At the time of publication, Alice is a 24-year-old history student working full time in a law office, and writing fiction at every stolen moment. She hasn’t slept in approximately two years.

Connect with the author:  Website   Twitter


Where do you turn to when you are in a hopeless situation?  For Sylvie, it was non-existent healthcare for her baby.  For Payton, it was finding a new home and job for herself and her baby.  For Sherice, it was dealing with her mother’s advancing Alzheimer condition.  Gloria was surviving an abusive marriage and Joanne’s decision to raise a child alone without a husband raised more questions than answers.

The author managed to blend these very different scenarios easily by introducing the new characters one at a time.  Each character had it’s own chapter so you were able to identify with each person without getting lost.

Some of the situations in this book were loosely based on the author’s own life.  Her goal was to show that kindness and empathy can make the difference between despair and hope.  The friendships that developed between the characters was heartwarming.

Although I enjoyed the book overall, I found the ending to some of the women’s story to be a bit unrealistic and easy.   A good read for someone who enjoys women’s fiction.

Please note:  there is profanity throughout the book as well as some crude / distressing situations.


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Book review: the supreme macaroni company by Adriana Trigiani


Adriana Trigiani is one of my favourite writers of women’s fiction, having read eight of her books to date. I enjoyed reading Vera Valentine and subsequently Brava Valentine because I could identify with the main character. However, in this third book I almost feel that Valentine has changed from the smart, thoughtful and endearing character that she was and has become someone that I really feel no affinity to anymore. It seems that the author just wanted to finish this story and move on. The character development in the previous two novels was so good, I was excited to learn more about Valenine’s new romance, her life with her family (both old and new) and her continuing artistic endeavours. Unfortunately, the plot just sort of peters out and seems unresolved. Adriana’s skill at storytelling is witty and skillful; however, my expectations were not met with this book.

Notwithstanding the foregoing, I do look forward to reading more of Adriana’s stories in the future.

Buy the book here:    Amazon    Chapters