Friday, February 15, 2019

Dear Abby - Dog Songs: Hounds of Love by Kate Bush

Dear Friends,

Continuing with my dog song series, I am going to get a little creative this week.   "Hounds of Love" by Kate Bush is our featured song this week.   This is NOT a song about dogs, although it does feature "Hounds" in the title.  I have several favorite old songs like this, though, that I would like to share with you during this series.

"Hounds of Love" was the title song from Kate Bush's 1985 album.  (It is my Momma's favorite song from the album.)  This is a song about being afraid to fall in love ... with the image of falling in love being like running from hounds. 

From my pup perspective:  this is a beautiful song, but she sings about being chased by "hounds of love" like that is a bad thing.  I bet those hounds were perfectly delightful!

I'm including the official video for this song here.  It is filmed in an old movie style, and I just learned that it was a homage to the Alfred Hitchcock movie The 39 Steps

Do you remember this song?  What did you think of the music video?  I'd love to hear from you in the comments.

Talk to you next week!

Abby xoxoxo

Book Review - The Lost Girls of Paris by Pam Jenoff

Book Synopsis

1946, Manhattan
One morning while passing through Grand Central Terminal on her way to work, Grace Healey finds an abandoned suitcase tucked beneath a bench. Unable to resist her own curiosity, Grace opens the suitcase, where she discovers a dozen photographs—each of a different woman. In a moment of impulse, Grace takes the photographs and quickly leaves the station.

Grace soon learns that the suitcase belonged to a woman named Eleanor Trigg, leader of a network of female secret agents who were deployed out of London during the war. Twelve of these women were sent to Occupied Europe as couriers and radio operators to aid the resistance, but they never returned home, their fates a mystery. Setting out to learn the truth behind the women in the photographs, Grace finds herself drawn to a young mother turned agent named Marie, whose daring mission overseas reveals a remarkable story of friendship, valor and betrayal.

Vividly rendered and inspired by true events, New York Times bestselling author Pam Jenoff shines a light on the incredible heroics of the brave women of the war and weaves a mesmerizing tale of courage, sisterhood and the great strength of women to survive in the hardest of circumstances.

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My Review
The Lost Girls of Paris begins in New York City in 1946.  Grace Healey is on her way to work, and while passing through Grand Central Station she discovers an abandoned suitcase.  On an impulse she looks inside and finds a folder with photos of women -- just their first names written on the back.  She is determined to find out more about this mysterious folder.  It leads her to the story of Eleanor Trigg, a spymistress during World War II London.  Eleanor recruited young women to work across the continent during World War II.  Although they were ostensibly radio operators, they often did much more dangerous work in secret.   One of those women was Marie Roux.  Her story is also featured here.

This is just a remarkable book.  There are so many layers of storytelling, from 1946 New York to 1944 London and France.  Most impressively, though, Pam Jenoff tells the story from the perspective of three different women:  Grace Healey (New York), Eleanor Trigg (London), and Marie Roux (London and France).

I love historical fiction set in the 1940's, especially during the years of World War II.  I had never heard of Vera Atkins (the inspiration for Eleanor Trigg) or Special Operations Executive (SOE) and their work before this book.  

The characters in The Lost Girls of Paris are beautifully drawn.  I especially found recent widow Grace and young single mother Marie to be very sympathetic, and I read their stories with great interest.  Eleanor was more of a cipher, rarely seen outside of work;  I never was quite as engaged in her story for that reason, although this in no way impacted my interest in this book.

The historical details are subtle but perfect.  The author also does a fine job of sense of place across a variety of different locations and settings.

There was so much that intrigued me about this novel.  What prompted Grace to take the photos and investigate the story?  Why did Marie leave her young daughter impulsively to join SOE?  Who was Eleanor and was she to be trusted?  

I read this book in about 48 hours because I was compelled to know the answers to these questions and to find out what happened to these women.   The Lost Girls of Paris is sure to be one of my favorite reads of the year, and I cannot recommend it highly enough for other fans of historical fiction, and especially for anyone who loves 1940's history.

Author Bio

Pam Jenoff is the author of several novels, including the international bestseller The Kommandant’s Girl, which also earned her a Quill Award nomination. Pam lives with her husband and three children near Philadelphia where, in addition to writing, she teaches law school.


Connect with Pam

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Book Review - Castle on the Rise by Kristy Cambron

Book Synopsis
A storied castle. A band of rebels.

A nation chasing a centuries-old dream of freedom.

And three women who rise above it all . . .

When Laine Forrester travels overseas to attend her best friend’s vineyard wedding, she expects to find the bride on the brink of a fairy-tale life. But after a series of unforeseen setbacks, it seems the storybook lives they’d imagined are suddenly ripping apart.

With hopes of resurrecting a happy ending, Laine agrees to accompany the newlyweds to the groom’s home in Ireland—never expecting she’d be the one drawn in by its wide-open moors, backroads bordering the Irish Sea, and a mysterious castle that dares to keep its secrets hidden.

From the storied streets of Dublin to the shores of the Emerald Isle, Laine is drawn in to the land and its rich history. The castle ruins whisper stories of Issy—a photojournalist battling through the 1916 Easter Rising, and Maeve—the castle’s lady of legend, fighting for survival through the 1798 rebellion that started it all.

Spanning more than two centuries, Castle on the Rise unites the legacy of three women who must risk mending the broken places within for life, love, and the belief that even through the depths of our pain, a masterpiece of a story can emerge.

My Review
Castle on the Rise begins with Laine Forrester traveling to her best friend Ellie's wedding in France.  They all travel on to Ireland.  From there the story branches into three storylines:  we have Laine, a newly divorced single mother, in present day;  Issy, a budding photojournalist, in 1916 Ireland;  Maeve, an Irish lady in love with a pirate during the 1798 Irish rebellion. 

This is the second book in the Lost Castle series.  I read the first book last year, and it was one of my favorite books of 2018.  I was so glad to read more about Ellie (from The Lost Castle) in this book, and to continue her story.

There are three Irish stories that comprise this book.  It took me a while to find my footing as a reader, as the storylines switched back and forth on a chapter to chapter basis.  I was most interested in the contemporary storyline of Laine, recovering from a painful divorce and slowly warming to Ellie's brother-in-law Cormac.   I really liked Laine as a protagonist.  She has a background in antiques, as I do, and I found her work researching antiques at the family's castle to be fascinating.   I also loved Cormac as a romantic lead.  He was so quiet and wise.  I marked his line to Laine in the book:  "Funny thing about Dublin -- the rain always stops, just not in the moment we may want it.  So like God.  His plan, His timin'" (p. 176).

Issy's 1916 storyline was also very interesting.  I especially liked the details of early photography, and her fascination with her new Kodak camera, as well as her dedication to chronicle the Easter Rising on film.  I loved this description:  "Issy squeezed the camera case just to feel the leather against her skin.  How she wished to capture the moment -- anything to remind her that the world had so much more to offer than what transpired within the confines of ladies' parlors in County Wicklow" (p. 85).

Maeve's storyline was a little harder for me to get into, although I enjoyed it more as the book went on.  I often read and enjoy dual storyline historical fiction, and perhaps I just found triple storyline fiction a bit of an adjustment.  

Kristy Cambron's descriptions are beautiful.  She has a masterful ability to create a strong sense of time and place.  I loved her description of places in Ireland, and especially loved the castle that figures prominently in this story.  

The storylines all came together in an interesting way -- with some good detective work from Laine and Cormac.  Without spoilers, I will add that I loved the last chapter of the book.

I recommend the Lost Castle series to fans of historical fiction, and especially to readers who want to explore another time and place (and who love mysterious old castles!).  I look forward to reading the third book in this series.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Dear Abby - Dog Songs - "Me and You and a Dog Named Boo" by Lobo (1971)

Dear Friends,

I have an oldies song that involves a dog for you today.   It is called "Me and You and a Dog Named Boo."  It's about a young hippie couple who are taking a road trip with their dog named Boo.  They have adventures, including getting stuck in the mud, taking food and working to pay off their debt, and ending up back in Los Angeles, ready to go again.

The lyrics include the chorus:

"Me and you and a dog named Boo 

Travellin' and livin' off the land 
Me and you and a dog named Boo 
How I love being a free man"

This song was a hit in 1971.  It was written and performed by Lobo (real name Kent LaVoie).  Kent LaVoie is originally from Tallahassee, Florida.  He was in a band called The Rumours in the 1960's with Gram Parsons and Jim Stafford.  He also played in a band called the Sugar Beats.  He decided to try a solo career, and recorded under the name Lobo ("the wolf").  "Me and You and a Dog Named Boo" was his first hit.  It went to #5 on the charts, and received a gold record.  Lobo had two other 1970's hits - "I'd Love You to Want Me" and "Don't Expect Me to Be Your Friend."

I found a video of this song so you can listen.   Have you heard this one before?

I always love to hear from you in the comments.   Wishing you a good weekend!

Abby xoxoxo

Book Review - With This Pledge by Tamera Alexander

Book Synopsis

What can a woman–a mere governess–do against the scourge of slavery?
Elizabeth “Lizzie” Clouston’s quietly held principles oppose those of the Southern Cause–but when forty thousand soldiers converge on the fields of Franklin, Tennessee, the war demands an answer. The Carnton home, where she is governess, is commandeered as a Confederate hospital; and Lizzie must summon fortitude to assist the military doctor with surgeries that determine life or death–even as she fears for the life of Towny, her fiancĂ© and lifelong friend.
A young soldier’s dying words convey an urgent message that Lizzie promises to deliver, yet she knows little more than the boy’s first name. That same night, decorated Mississippi sharpshooter Captain Roland Ward Jones extracts a different promise from Lizzie: that she intervene should the surgeon decide to amputate. Even if it costs him his life.
Lizzie is nothing if not a woman of her word, earning the soldiers’ respect as she tends the wounded convalescing within Carnton’s walls. None is more admiring than Captain Jones, who doesn’t realize she is already pledged to another. But Captain Jones holds secrets of his own, which prove costly for Lizzie. Because a betrothed woman shouldn’t harbor feelings for a man other than her intended. Especially not when that man is a slave owner.
When Towny vanishes after a crushing battle in Nashville, Lizzie must confront the costs of war. And torn between love, principles, and promises made, she struggles to be true to her own heart while standing for what she knows is right–no matter the cost.


Purchase Links

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My Review
With This Pledge is set at Carnton Plantation in Franklin, Tennessee during the Civil War.  Lizzie Clouston is a governess in the house.  When the war moves close to home (the Battle of Franklin), the house becomes a makeshift hospital, and Lizzie is recruited to work as a nurse.  As she takes care of the soldiers she develops a special bond with a sharpshooter from Mississippi named Roland Jones.  She is engaged to another man and deeply conflicted about her feelings.  This novel is Lizzie and Roland's story, but it is also the story of how the war effects the family and community.

Although I am a great fan of historical fiction, I am not really a Civil War buff (despite growing up in Georgia).  For that reason I was surprised at how engrossed I was in this novel.  It is beautifully told with solid historical research.  (After you read the book, be sure to visit Tamera Alexander's website to see photos of the real people and places that inspired this novel!)  

I appreciated how nuanced this book was.  The protagonist, Lizzie, has strong moral beliefs against slavery, but she also feels strongly about taking care of the wounded military men.  I particularly liked Tempy, the family's cook, and Lizzie's warm friendship with her.  I also admired Lizzie's determination to do what was right and her sense of independent thought.  She was a natural with medical care (her father was a pharmacist) and I think at a later time she would have become a doctor.

Lizzie and Roland's story is fascinating, especially because it was based on fact.  The author did a wonderful job at character development in general, and of these two characters in specific.

In some respects, this novel reminded me a bit of the PBS series Mercy Street, especially as it dealt with medical care during the Civil War.  I think that anyone who enjoyed that series will also really love this novel.

I have to add that I loved the way Lizzie and the McGavock family (including the family's young children) reached out to the soldiers to provide comfort and a sense of home during the Christmas season.  There is a storyline about Lizzie reading A Christmas Carol to the soldiers evenings during the holiday season.  The sense of time and place in these scenes is exceptional.

I found With This Pledge utterly fascinating and look forward to reading the upcoming books in the Carnton series.  I also plan to catch up with the author's other series.   Very highly recommended for fans of historical fiction, and especially for anyone interested in Civil War history.

Author Bio
Tamera Alexander is a USA Today bestselling novelist whose works have been awarded and nominated for numerous industry-leading honors, including the Christy Award (two-time winner, seven-time finalist), the RITA Award (two-time winner, four-time finalist), the Carol Award, the Maggie Award, the Booksellers Best Award, and Library Journal’s top distinction, among others. After seventeen years in Colorado, Tamera and her husband now reside in Nashville, Tennessee, where they live a short distance from Belmont Mansion and Belle Meade Plantation, the setting of Tamera’s two USA Today bestselling Southern series.


Connect with Tamera

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I received a copy of this book from TLC Book Tours.