(Review) The Kitchen Front by Jennifer Ryan

Publisher and Publication Date: Ballantine Books/Penguin Random House. February 23, 2021.
Genre: Historical fiction. WW2.
Pages: 416.
Format: NetGalley e-book copy.
Source: I received a complimentary NetGalley e-book copy. I am not required to write a positive review.
Audience: Readers of historical fiction who like the WW2 era.
Rating: Excellent.

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Four women each want to win The Kitchen Front contest. Each woman is from a different station in life. Each woman has a uniquely different personality than the others. Two of the women are estranged sisters. One is an outsider.
The setting is Fenley Village, England. The year is 1942.

My Thoughts:

I love the unique storyline of this World War II historical fiction period.

The themes are cooking, baking, sisters, gardening, single parenting, pregnancy, maternal health, hospitality, honor, sacrifice, war, ambition, perseverance, courage, grieving, compassion, forgiveness, power of love, self-worth, loyalty, and bravery.

I love reading WW2 stories. I love cooking and baking. I love stories about women who persevere against the constraints placed on them. I love reading about true friendship among women. If all of these were points they’d add up to 100% for this story.

Additional reasons why I love The Kitchen Front:

1. The plot of the story is who will win the coveted prize, but the story is so much more. It is about building relationships. It is about forgiveness and the steps needed before then. It is about grieving; and how grieving impacts people differently. It is about shame from abuse. It is about closure.
2. I love it that these women are all from different lifestyles. Yet, through their experience in The Kitchen Front, and through their love of cooking and baking, these bring them a oneness-a bond-a building point for everything else.
3. The Kitchen Front is an uplifting story. It’s encouraging. It’s a feel good story.
4. The Kitchen Front has characters who evolve in a good way. I love transformations.
5. I love a story that’s focus is not on a romantic element, but on a true and lasting bond of love. I’d like to see more stories like this!

(Review) Hamnet: A Novel of the Plague by Maggie O’Farrell

Publisher and Publication Date: Alfred A. Knopf. 2020.
Genre: Historical fiction. Women and literature. Shakespeare.
Pages: 321.
Source: Borrowed library eBook copy.
Audience: Historical fiction readers.
Rating: Very good.

Amazon link

Hamnet is the story of Shakespeare’s family life. His life at home growing up, his early relationship with Agnes, marriage, children, and his departure away from family and to London.
The center of the story is the plague infiltrating the family home and its outcome of despair.

My Thoughts:
I originally was drawn to the book because of the front cover; and secondly because of the specific people and themes in the story.

Some examples of themes are ambition, loyalty, courage, death, honesty, love, and perseverance.

What I found interesting and brilliant is Shakespeare is not named perse. He is a larger than life historical figure who is not the hero of this story.
He is a husband and family man. Then, he is a man who left his family to follow a dream to London leaving his family behind.
I feel it is his wife, Agnes, who is the stand-out character in the story. She is an unusual woman because she is resilient and independent during an era when women were dependent on men. She has a unique gift. She encouraged and supported her husband to follow his dream. At least until the unspeakable happened.
The story has dual time periods. Reflections are made to the past to share the courting of Agnes and Shakespeare. It shares the problems in Shakespeare’s childhood home. It shares the births of their children. The present time period is the plague and its impact on the children, family unity, and marriage.
I love the structure of the story. Its form and shape in how it is told. Instead of the focus on Shakespeare (the expected), it is his wife and family who has the spotlight. Shakespeare is not even named.
Hamnet is the story of how people grieve. Different forms of grief are shown. In other words, different aspects of how people grieve and what they do to avoid grieving is displayed.

(Review) Sin Eater by Megan Campisi

sin eater
Publisher and Publication Date: Atria Books. April 7, 2020.
Genre: Historical fiction, dystopian, 16th century England.
Pages: 304.
Source: I received a complimentary eBook copy from NetGalley, I was not required to write a positive review.
Audience: Readers who are looking for a heavy story with unique elements.
Rating: Excellent.

Amazon link 

Barnes and Nobles link

Megan Campisi is a playwright, novelist, and teacher. Her plays have been performed in China, France, and the United States. She attended Yale University and the L’École International de Théâtre Jacques Lecoq. The author of Sin Eater, she lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her family.
Megan Campisi website
Goodreads author page

Another review: Kirkus Reviews

“The Sin Eater walks among us, unseen, unheard
Sins of our flesh become sins of Hers
Following Her to the grave, unseen, unheard
The Sin Eater Walks Among Us.”

For the crime of stealing bread, fourteen-year-old May receives a life sentence: she must become a Sin Eater—a shunned woman, brutally marked, whose fate is to hear the final confessions of the dying, eat ritual foods symbolizing their sins as a funeral rite, and thereby shoulder their transgressions to grant their souls access to heaven.

Orphaned and friendless, apprenticed to an older Sin Eater who cannot speak to her, May must make her way in a dangerous and cruel world she barely understands. When a deer heart appears on the coffin of a royal governess who did not confess to the dreadful sin it represents, the older Sin Eater refuses to eat it. She is taken to prison, tortured, and killed. To avenge her death, May must find out who placed the deer heart on the coffin and why.

“A keenly researched feminist arc of unexpected abundance, reckoning, intellect, and ferocious survival” (Maria Dahvana Headley, author of The Mere Wife) SIN EATER is “a dark, rich story replete with humor, unforgettable characters, and arcane mysteries. It casts a spell on your heart and mind until the final page” (Jennie Melamed, author of Gather the Daughters). For fans of The Essex Serpent and Red Clocks, SIN EATER is an inventive exploration of history and womanhood in the 16th century with a dystopian and eerily contemporary feminist twist.

Have you heard of the old custom of a Sin Eater? I read a book several years ago, The Last Sin Eater by Francine Rivers. This was my first introduction about this strange custom.
A few links about the history of a Sin Eater:
Hub Pages—watch for the popups

My Thoughts:
I was drawn to the book because of the interesting subject and the front cover.
In this book, the Sin Eater is always female. In the true history of Sin Eaters, they were both male and female. So, this story adds an element of feminism.
The book is considered dystopian. It is a world unjust in the treatment of a young girl. This was another added tweak to the story.
I saw similarities to the Elizabethan world of England, 1558-1603. I may be wrong but the queen in the story reminds me of Elizabeth I.
The element of plot, and the themes in the story are creative and bold. I love this.
I was drawn immediately to the main character, May Owens. At a young age her world is turned upside down. She has a strong personality that others do not like. This places her in a unique situation because of the strength of her person and the punishment that robs her of the way she expresses herself. In addition, she is an extrovert and is now considered cursed and repulsive by people. I love her character and story, and this was the most important reason that I continued to read. I had to know what was going to happen to this young girl.
This is a heavy story. I’ve mentioned the different elements. In addition, it is a story where most of the conversations we hear is May’s thoughts. This made for a lonely feeling. A feeling of isolation which is an added burden for the heavy atmosphere of the story.
May is a classic heroine. She is a strong character (not perfect), but given her situation she rises above it to become a stronger and better person. This is my favorite reason why I loved this story!


(Review) The Victory Garden by Rhys Bowen


Publisher and Publication Date: Lake Union Publishing. February 12, 2019.
Genre: Historical Fiction.
Pages: 368.
Source: Library.
Audience: Readers of World War I, historical fiction and romance.
Review: Okay.


Emily Bryce is a young woman who is yearning to be involved in the war effort. Her best friend Clarissa shares about her role in caring for the wounded, and this makes Emily more determined to become involved on the home front.
Emily’s brother, Freddie, died in the Battle of Ypres. Her parents are determined to keep Emily safe. Emily’s mother is determined to show Emily off to society.
Emily volunteers as a Land Girl. It is hard work. Her parents are shocked and appalled that their darling girl is doing manual labor. While on this new adventure, Emily meets an Aussie pilot on medical leave. She also finds a journal about medicinal arts. This journal changes her life. It also keeps her busy during the hard days ahead.

My Thoughts:
I didn’t feel an attachment to any of the characters. The story has an interesting plot, but I didn’t feel emotion that I should have about the main character at least. Emily’s had sad events in life, but I was not effected.
The part of the story I found most interesting was the journal Emily found with information about medicinal arts. So, it is not a person that held my interest, but a journal about medicinal arts. It shouldn’t be that way.
This is a serious story. Life and death occur, but I didn’t become swept up in it or feel it mattered.
I finished the story but am disappointed. This book did not work for me.

(Review) The Way of Glory by Patricia J. Boomsma

04_The Way of Glory_Blog Tour Banner_FINAL02_The Way of Glory

Publisher and Publication Date: Edeleboom Books. November 14, 2018.
Genre: Historical fiction.
Pages: 406.
Source: I received a complimentary copy, but was not required to write a positive review. Complimentary paperback copy provided by the author, Patricia J. Boomsma.
Rating: Very Good.
Audience: Readers of historical fiction. Readers who love medieval history. Adult and young adult audience.

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Praise for The Way of Glory:
“One of the many impressive things about The Way of Glory is how lightly it wears its scrupulous research. This fine novel invites you to lose yourself to the compelling character and tumultuous life of a young woman trying to find God and love at the heart of a crusade rooted in greed and hate. This is a remarkable debut by a writer to watch.” -Naeem Murr, author of The Perfect Man
The Way of Glory convincingly portrays a place, a time, and a people vastly different from our own. Historical fiction is a fantastically difficult genre to get right, but Pat Boomsma manages it with aplomb.” -Pinckney Benedict, author of Dogs of God
The Way of Glory is a riveting read from first page to last, as it expertly traces the trajectories of several compelling characters caught up in the Crusades. As the protagonist, Cate will steal your heart; she’s as complex a fourteen-year-old as you will ever meet, and the fate she struggles against is a complicated and often frightening vortex of forces, made ever richer by the intense evocation and very thoughtful depictions. This is a remarkable novel.” -Fred Leebron, author of Welcome to Christiania

03_Patricia Boomsma

About the Author:
I grew up in a far southwestern suburb of Chicago among the trees and sloughs of the Cook County Park District, then attended college in Michigan. After graduating, I dreamed of an academic life teaching English literature and began a Ph.D. program at Purdue University. There I concentrated on medieval studies, receiving a Master’s and continuing on for four more years before realizing that no one I knew was finding a permanent, let alone tenure-track, position. So, instead of writing my dissertation I went to law school. I moved to Arizona to escape the brutal midwestern winters and have been practicing law there for over thirty years. My first novel, The Way of Glory, is, in part, an extension of my love for all things medieval.

Cate, a teenage girl from twelfth century England, joins her brothers and aunt on a crusade to save Jerusalem that stops in Hispania to battle the Moors. Life on a battlefield strains the family’s closeness as they confront the terror and contradictions of holy war. Cate’s dreams of sainthood change to those of a husband and children when she falls in love with a soldier, but she finds no peace even after the family settles on land taken from the Moors. Cate’s friendship with a conquered Moor soon leads to impossible choices as she faces the cost of betrayal and the loss of all she’s known.

My Thoughts:
Medieval history is one of my favorite genres. I sometimes go through periods of reading time where this is the only type of book read.
The main reason I gave The Way of Glory a very good rating is because of the details of life during this historical period.
The main character is Cate. She is 14. She has two older brothers, a knight, and a future priest. They have other siblings and parents who do not have strong parts in the story. Cate’s aunt, Mary, is a strong character. Mary is a mature anchor in the story versus Cate’s impulsive immaturity.
Cate’s immaturity is irrational, selfish; and is in itself a theme that later leads to a disaster. Cate is the main character but I disliked her to the point of annoyance.
Mary is a character I’d like to read more about. She has knowledge and wisdom behind eyes that take in a mature perspective. However, making Mary the main character would change the whole story.
Cate wants to be given a mature responsibility. Mary is going to travel as a pilgrim with the soldiers who are “fighting for Christ” against the Moors. Mary can cook. She has knowledge of medicinal arts. And, she will care for the wounded soldiers. Cate and Mary will work together as a team ministering to the men who are fighting. However, Cate’s immaturity will display itself.

Reasons why I love The Way of Glory:
•The descriptions of everyday life in England: family life, church, food, role of women, priesthood, and knights training. And, early in the story a mystery surrounding a death. The village sheriff gave me a view of how a crime is investigated.
•The descriptions of how injured people were cared for during battle.
•Through Cate’s fresh lens I saw her world. The traveling by ship, plants, animals, buildings, bridges, ports, and a lighthouse.
•The people of Hispania. Their language and culture is interesting. Their culture versus the English culture was shown in the story.
•The feelings people had about the crusades. How they felt in England versus how they felt after arriving in a new land, and later, after the fighting began.