(Review) The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles

The Paris Library

Publisher and Publication Date: Simon and Schuster. February 2, 2021.
Genre: Historical fiction.
Pages: 409.
Source: NetGalley, eBook, Kindle edition. I received a complimentary eBook copy from NetGalley, I was not required to write a positive review.
Audience: Readers of historical fiction, World War II, and enjoy women’s stories.
Rating: Excellent.

This book will be published in 10 months. I had the chance to read it through NetGalley.

Amazon link for the Kindle copy

Author’s site at Goodreads

The American Library in Paris

Story number one, World War II.
Odile Souchet (pronounced Oh-deal) is a young woman who lives and breathes the Dewey Decimal Classification (the library system of organizing books.) When the story begins she interviews for a job as the Directress of the American Library in Paris, France. Her father works in the police department in Paris. Odile has a twin brother who is a student. Their mother is a delicate woman who is compliant and submissive to the husband.
Story number two, 1980s.
Lily is a teenage girl living in Froid, Montana. She is an only child. Her mother is in poor health. Her father works in a bank. Lily has an eccentric neighbor, Mrs. Gustafson. The two become friends at just the right time.

My Thoughts:
The first point I love about this story is usually when there is two different characters with two time periods, I have to guess how this story is going to intersect with the two characters, and why the two characters need one another. I was shown right away in
The Paris Library the purpose of the two characters. This is a breath of fresh air in a stagnant pool of dual time periods of characters who go back and forth. I love that right from the beginning the two characters have purpose for the relationship. It’s actually a lovely relationship of encouragement, comfort, companionship, and devotion.
A second reason I love this story is Odile’s personality. Odile is a young woman. Often young women are shown either extremely naïve or extremely independent. Odile is in the middle. She is a young woman with education and a career that gives her a bit of freedom and independence. She still lives at home and under her parent’s rules. She also has little experience with romantic relationships. However, she is a careful person. She is observant and waits to make a decision. She does not immediately act on feelings.
I love the conflict between the two women: Odile and Lily. Even the best of friends have misunderstandings and situations that require good communication. Their story is a teaching element for the book.
I love how Skeslien weaved in several sub stories. For example: a romantic relationship with a German enemy. And, an older French woman’s perspective on marriage.
I enjoyed reading the story of Odile more than Lily. Lily is a solid character, but I was drawn to Odile.
I could go on and on about this story because it’s wonderful!


(Review) Her Side of History: Finding My Foremothers’ Footprints by Claudia J. Severin

Her Side of History
Publisher and Publication Date: Pella Road Publishing. February 25, 2020.
Genre: Historical fiction.
Pages: 293.
Source: I received a complimentary paperback copy, but was not required to write a positive review.
Audience: Reader’s of women’s stories.
Rating: Good.

Landing page for the book blast tour
@Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours.

Amazon link
Kindle Unlimited is free

About the Author:
Claudia Johnson Severin lives with her farmer husband on a southeastern Nebraska farm that was homesteaded in 1869 by her husband’s great-grandparents, a setting for a portion of her anthology. At one time, the farm was home to dairy cows and chickens, as well as children. The cows, chickens, and children have all moved on, along with her day job. She spent a year researching many branches of her family tree but decided the facts she uncovered did not leave enough to the imagination. She applied imagination to the facts and came up with this book.
When she is not writing, she is constructing one-of-a-kind play structures for her grandchildren. She is a graduate of the University of Nebraska College of Journalism and a Cornhusker football fan.

Author Claudia J. Severin took things into her own hands when her genealogy research seemed limiting. Follow her foremothers, four mothers plucked from her family tree. She reimagines the lives of ancestral families in this anthology. Ina, the tragic suffragette, traded her college degree and teaching career for a loving husband and children in the 1910s, in the shadow of the Great War, but things did not work out as she planned. Mary, a German immigrant, finds love with an Iowa farmer, and crosses the state in a covered wagon with his entire family to become a homesteader on the Nebraska plains in 1869. She didn’t know that Indian encounters, prairie fires and locusts would threaten her and her rapidly growing family. Nellie fell for the bad boy, the Good Time Charley who didn’t let a little thing like Prohibition stand in his way. She tries to control his drinking and spending, while supporting her family in times of calamity in the 1920s and 1930s traveling from Nebraska to Kansas and back again. Katie finds herself the sole heir to her father’s farm in southeastern Nebraska decades after the Homestead Act took most of the land ownership out of play. She enjoys playing the flirtatious games learned from her older half-sisters. But are her suitors interested in her or her inheritance?

My Thoughts:
Over-all I liked the book.
•I feel having four main female character’s stories gave a fuller view of female personalities and life experiences, that one main character would not give.
•I enjoyed reading about Midwestern farm and pioneer life, even though some experiences of hardship was sad.
•Other aspects of the book that was interesting: the culture and society of the 19th century; male and female dating, engagement, sexual relations, and marriage; pregnancy and labor, childhood diseases and mortality.
•Severin is a great storyteller. The stories are endearing.
•I was shown the characters emotions, fears, angst, frustration; and also the back- breaking work life on the land.
Her Side of History showed me that women stayed married despite their choice in husbands they married. Marriage was binding. Women had little options if they were unmarried in order to earn a living and be independent. It was a precarious situation if the husband wouldn’t work or had a hole in their pockets for spending money. Most people during these time periods married young. Young people are often unwise in choosing a marriage partner because of naivete. It’s a sad state to be married to a person you cannot depend on except for trouble.
•I was reminded of the previous generations of women in my family. My mother’s parents, both of them lost their mothers at young ages. Both women were either pregnant or had just given birth. My grandparents grew up without mothers. Their fathers never remarried. However, despite growing up without mothers, both of them were wonderful parents to their two children.
•I enjoyed the black and white illustrations.
•I’m glad lists were made of family names in each women’s stories.

What I didn’t like:
•I don’t care for the front cover. The women in the story are strong characters. The female on the front cover gives me the impression she’s half hidden. She doesn’t want to reveal all of herself. I don’t feel the front cover reflects the characters.
•I don’t care for the title of the book. I feel it would be an okay subtitle but not the title of the book.
•One of the women got on my last nerve. When you put naïve and hardheaded together it makes a terrible recipe for disaster. My dislike of the character doesn’t take away from a positive review. It’s just me. Most women when they get older listen to that voice in their heads warning them not to do something. It was like watching a train wreck.
•There isn’t a clear break between the four stories. It’s one page ending the previous story and then the next page picks up with a new story. I feel a full blank page between the women’s stories gives a solid stop before beginning the next story.

The four stories are essentially short stories of four women. I wondered how a full-length story would be featuring one women?

During the Blog Tour, we are giving away 2 eBooks of Her Side of History! To enter, please use the Gleam form below.
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This is the link for the giveaway:https://gleam.io/JAVys/her-side-of-history.

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(Review) Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry

Hannah Coulter
Publisher and Publication Date: Counterpoint LLC. 2005.
Genre: Fiction. Women. Family. World War II.
Pages: 190.
Source: E book copy from Library.
Audience: Readers of women and family stories. This is a thinking story. A thoughtful book.
Rating: Excellent.





Further links on Wendell Berry:
Poetry Foundation
Wendell Berry books

Wendell Erdman Berry was born in 1934. He was born in Kentucky. He is a farmer and writer. The Britannica link gives a full biography.

This is the first book I’ve read by Wendell Berry. I plan to read more of his writings.

The title of the book is the name of the main character. Hannah is the voice. This is the story of her life. Her perspective, thoughts, feelings, fears, sadness, wistfulness, joy, longing, and reflection.
The story begins by letting me know some of the big moments: who she will marry, children, and the early part of her husband’s life before the war. So, I was given a little information about the books journey, but I didn’t know the fullness of experiences Hannah lived.
Hannah lived in a rural area most of her life. She is a white woman. She didn’t travel or have the ability to know much about what happened outside her community. She lives in Kentucky. She is born in the early part of the 20th century. She is apart of the Builder’s Generation. The Greatest Generation. People who experienced the Great Depression and World War II.
I’ve read a few reviews on this book and readers have been bothered that Hannah does not know people of other races. They don’t understand how this could be true. If you live in a rural area and amongst people who look like you do. If there isn’t Internet, and desegregation has not happened, and when going to town you don’t encounter people of another race, then that experience is not apart of your life. This is a different time period. This is history. People in history lived differently than we do.
A second point on this topic: Hannah shared about herself, family, and close friends. This was her world. She wrote about what she knew. When an event (World War II) impacted herself or family she reflected on it.
A final point: Hannah’s life experiences are things that people of any race or gender can identify. For example: an amazing grandmother.
I think it’s interesting Wendell Berry does not use technology. It’s possible that his non use of technology is transferred to the female character of Hannah. Internet makes the world closer to home. This is a personal choice to use or not use technology.

What I love about this story:
•Hannah shares her wisdom. When she realizes she has made a mistake about a perception or judgement of a person, she admits this and what she’s learned. I’m able to watch Hannah grow into the woman she becomes. Through life experiences, how she handles them, what she learns from them, and how she makes peace.
•She is a patient person. She knew her husband suffered from PTSD, but did not push him to reveal what he didn’t want to reveal. She was just there, beside him, and in a loving manner she loved him as best she could.
•She greets changes in life with grace. She had hard life experiences. She had joy. She raised children and watched them depart from home. At each stage, she had the grace to meet those challenges.
•Hannah is a person of gratitude. Even while experiencing grief, Hannah has reasons to be thankful.
•She reflects on the past, but lives in the present.
•This book is filled with memorable quotes. Quotes that are sheer beauty. They are filled with emotion. They prick the heart.
•She is okay with silence. She is not a woman or person who needs noise to fill her senses. She is okay with silence. She is okay with the quiet but hardworking life in rural Kentucky.
•Hannah Coulter is the story about the dynamics of relationships. Husbands and wives, parents and children, women who help other women, and friends.

Final Thoughts:
•It’s rare for me to cry while reading a book. I shed tears while reading the ending.
•This is a book that in some way most readers can relate or identify with.
•This is one of the most memorable and touching stories I’ve read.

A final point. I promise!
Wendell Berry writes long sentences. I counted 142 words in one sentence.
Do you remember a famous author who wrote lengthy sentences?

(Review) Lilli de Jong by Janet Benton

Lilli de Jong

Publisher and Publication Date: Anchor Books. Paperback published July 2018.
Genre: Historical fiction.
Pages: 352.
Source: I received a complimentary copy from Anchor Books, but I’m not required to leave a positive review.
Rating: Recommend.
Audience: Historical fiction fans. Readers of books about strong women.


It’s been a long time since a fiction book has stirred my heart with conflict and heavy emotion!

Janet Benton website

The year is 1883. The city is Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Lilli de Jong is a 23 year old woman who is unmarried and pregnant. She is a Quaker. Her mother died and life with the new step-mother is unbearable. When the pregnancy is revealed, she begins living in a place that houses unmarried pregnant women. The original plan was to give the baby up for adoption, but she changes her mind. An opportunity of employment brings a direction change, but it comes with a heart-wrenching cost.

My Thoughts:
I know what it is like to be pregnant and unmarried. I eventually did get married, but not until midway through the pregnancy. In the early 1980s, people were more judgmental and critical than now. I was 18 and had graduated from high school, but looked much younger. People judged me for looking younger too. They thought I was 13 or 14 and had a baby. It was incredibly tough. Never mind all the people who were having sex and who did not get pregnant. I did and was judged. This is a first reason why Lilli de Jong provoked strong emotion in me. I can relate to her circumstance and plight.
A second reason this book provoked strong emotion is Lilli has excruciating tough decisions to make. She is singularly alone. This is an era where women were under the control of either a father, husband, or a custodian. Independent women were rare. The decisions and consequences of Lilli’s made my hair stand on end, because I can not imagine enduring what she did.
Lilli de Jong is a story where the first line is a clincher. “Some moments set my heart on fire, and that’s when language seems the smallest.”
The book is written as a journal and the divisions are listed as notebooks.
I enjoyed reading about maternal and infant care. One example is what to do about a breast infection.
I loved the research (author’s notes) on a rarely talked about subject: women and infants in the 19th century. I also loved another storyline: a mother who cannot nurse her baby. I’d thought of this before and wondered what they did? Did they use milk from a cow or goat? A solid choice is to use a wet nurse. The conditions and direction of finding a wet nurse is described in the story, as well as how the mother of the child may have felt.
Adding Quaker as the religion of Lilli’s made the book enticing and different. In books similar to this storyline, most of the young women are Catholic.

Lilli de Jong is a Library Journal Best Historical Fiction 2017.
National Public Radio’s Best Books of 2017