Review: Mr. Churchill’s Secretary

10161216Mr. Churchill’s Secretary by Susan Elia MacNeal

Series: Maggie Hope Mystery
Genres: Mystery, Historical Fiction, Fiction
Maturity Level: 3 maybe?
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Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆


London, 1940. Winston Churchill has just been sworn in, war rages across the Channel, and the threat of a Blitz looms larger by the day. But none of this deters Maggie Hope. She graduated at the top of her college class and possesses all the skills of the finest minds in British intelligence, but her gender qualifies her only to be the newest typist at No. 10 Downing Street. Her indefatigable spirit and remarkable gifts for codebreaking, though, rival those of even the highest men in government, and Maggie finds that working for the prime minister affords her a level of clearance she could never have imagined—and opportunities she will not let pass. In troubled, deadly times, with air-raid sirens sending multitudes underground, access to the War Rooms also exposes Maggie to the machinations of a menacing faction determined to do whatever it takes to change the course of history.

Ensnared in a web of spies, murder, and intrigue, Maggie must work quickly to balance her duty to King and Country with her chances for survival. And when she unravels a mystery that points toward her own family’s hidden secrets, she’ll discover that her quick wits are all that stand between an assassin’s murderous plan and Churchill himself.


While perhaps not the most well-written book of all time, Mr. Churchill’s Secretary was a lot of fun. Maggie Hope was spunky and easy to relate to, and not too caught up in romance for a young woman. The plot was intriguing, moved quickly, and I often found I had a hard time putting the book down. However, I was often confused by the frequent point-of-view change, and the repeated period cliches in the dialogue were distracting. I was also distracted by the irrelevant references to British literature, as if Maggie somehow had to prove that she was living in War-Era Britain. But if you’re looking for a quick read and a little light entertainment, Mr. Churchill’s Secretary is perfect.

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Review: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

2728527The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

Genre: Historical Fiction
Maturity Level: 1
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Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆


January 1946: London is emerging from the shadow of the Second World War, and writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject. Who could imagine that she would find it in a letter from a man she’s never met, a native of the island of Guernsey, who has come across her name written inside a book by Charles Lamb….

As Juliet and her new correspondent exchange letters, Juliet is drawn into the world of this man and his friends—and what a wonderfully eccentric world it is. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society—born as a spur-of-the-moment alibi when its members were discovered breaking curfew by the Germans occupying their island—boasts a charming, funny, deeply human cast of characters, from pig farmers to phrenologists, literature lovers all.

Juliet begins a remarkable correspondence with the society’s members, learning about their island, their taste in books, and the impact the recent German occupation has had on their lives. Captivated by their stories, she sets sail for Guernsey, and what she finds will change her forever.

Written with warmth and humor as a series of letters, this novel is a celebration of the written word in all its guises, and of finding connection in the most surprising ways. 


What a nice book. Wow, that sound’s awful, calling a book nice, but that’s exactly what it was. And no less sweet for being rather predictable. It’s exactly the sort of book I could picture middle aged women around the country falling in love with. As a younger person I enjoyed the book, but would by no stretch use the word “love.” While the use of written letters as the only story telling device was enchanting and nostalgic, all the characters read like old women, even the men. Still, there was plenty to enjoy.

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Review: Life after Life

15790842Life after Life by Kate Atkinson

Genres: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Fantasy
Maturity Level: 5
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Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆


On a cold and snowy night in 1910, Ursula Todd is born, the third child of a wealthy English banker and his wife. Sadly, she dies before she can draw her first breath. On that same cold and snowy night, Ursula Todd is born, lets out a lusty wail, and embarks upon a life that will be, to say the least, unusual. 

For as she grows, she also dies, repeatedly, in any number of ways. Clearly history (and Kate Atkinson) have plans for her: In Ursula rests nothing less than the fate of civilization.

Wildly inventive, darkly comic, startlingly poignant — this is Kate Atkinson at her absolute best, playing with time and history, telling a story that is breathtaking for both its audacity and its endless satisfactions.


Equal parts depressing and fascinating, Life After Life was as difficult to read as it was to put down. It reminded me in some ways of a modern day Tess of the D’Ubervilles in that Ursula seemed to be completely out of control of her own destiny, as well as unaware of what was happening to her. Plus, you know, the sheer number of terrible things that happened to her. But the concept of this book is what makes it truly unique. It’s like a mix between time travel and reincarnation. And while the ending left me with more questions than answers, they are questions I am more than willing to ask myself again and again. While I probably won’t read Life After Life a second time, mainly due to the many unnecessary (and graphic) reminders of how terrible WWII was for ALL parties involved, it is a book I will surely be discussing and thinking about for many years to come. I strongly recommend to anyone who loves history or who just loves to think.

Review: The Book Thief

51LK1NgAk6L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Genres: Historical Fiction, Young Adult
Maturity Level: 4
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Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆


It’s just a small story really, about among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery. . . .

Set during World War II in Germany, Markus Zusak’s groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement before he is marched to Dachau.

This is an unforgettable story about the ability of books to feed the soul.


The Book Thief was not at all what I was expecting. I don’t know what I thought I was getting myself into, but the oddities and the grittiness took me completely by surprise. Continue reading