Books April 2023


"The more you read, the more you know. The more you learn the more places you will go." Dr. Seuss

My brother, Bill, said to me, "Your nose was always in a book when we were growing up."  How true that statement was and remains constant today.  I absolutely adore, love and drink up historical fiction or books that are well-written, sometimes funny, and ultimately engaging.   Authors have the power to teach, to create drama about the human condition and to fill the mind with imagination, emotion and deep thought.  When you read (eyes to paper or on a Kindle, iPad, or any tech gadget) your mind expands, your language increases and your knowledge is unapparelled.   My hope is that when you read this piece, you will select these worthy novels.  I guarantee you will not be disappointed. 

As stated previously, when I find an author who is exceptional in storytelling, researching of a subject, understands history and writes from the heart, I cannot stop reading their works.  Here are my latest choices.  May you too, love the power and joy from reading. 

My Favorite Picks

NOTE:  All three books are about strong, courageous, and intelligent women who forged new paths for women. The first two are from the incredible historical fiction author, Natasha Lester.  She brilliantly and eloquently writes about WWII and those that made a difference and survived.  However, the horrors and hell that was seen is something no person should ever experience. It is a reminder that there is evil in this world and we must never forget those who fought valiantly and bravely against man's inhumanity to man.  At the end of the novel, you will learn about who the books were loosely based on. 

The Riviera House - Natasha Lester

For Fans of Kate Quinn and Kristin Hannah

Art, WWII, Resistance, Spell binding, Powerful, Reminder and Moving

The Riviera House is an engrossing tale set in France during WWII in 1939.  It is about a young woman, E'liane's, desire to keep the Nazis from stealing priceless art during WWII.  The Germans do not think she can understand them.  She can. She catalogs the art in the Louvre knowing that they are stealing national treasures and private collections.  E'liane is playing a dangerous game. Just who can she trust?  A love affair, trust and uncertainty are at the forefront.  A trip to a stunning home in the French Riviera brings a whole different level of fear.  

Remy Lang, present day, mysteriously inherits a beautiful home on the Riviera. Heartbroken with her own personal loss, she ventures abroad to regain her life and soul.  While visiting and working on her vintage fashion business, she uncovers a catalog of stolen artworks during the war.  In the catalog, she is shocked to see one of the paintings listed is currently in her bedroom at the Riviera home. The ties between the two eras  begin to weave together and escalate to a worthy and emotional conclusion. 

The novel is loosely based on the true hero Rose Valland who spied on the Germans and recorded the details of the stolen art from the Jewish people. 

We are reminded of the unimaginable atrocities of war and the innocent lives horrifically taken.  The author eloquently and sensitivity writes with respect and consideration this topic deserved.   It is a poignant portrayal of those who were in the Resistance and fought against insidious evil.  You will not be able to put this book down.  

"The woman with nothing around her." The Riveria House - Natasha Lester

  The Paris Orphan - Natasha Lester

Model, Photojournalist, Orphan, WWII, Intrigue

The Paris Orphan is split between two timeframes, 1942 and 2005.  In 1942, American model Jessica May arrives in Europe to cover WWII as a photojournalist for Vogue magazine.  The men make her life extraordinarily difficult to proceed.  Yet there are three friendships at the core of this novel who make everything possible during this horrific period in history. Martha Gellhorn, wife of Ernst Hemingway, encourages Jessica to fight against those who are stopping her from taking photographs.  Captain Dan Hallworth keeps her safe.  And, the love for a young orphan, Victorine, plays the ultimate role in in Jessica and Dan's lives.  

Sixty years later, present day, D'Arcy Hallworth arrives at a beautiful chateau to curate a collection of famous wartime photos by a reclusive artist.   Of course, there are decades of secrets revealed that change everything her mother Victorine has ever told her.   

A terrific and emotional read.  The author keeps the reader on edge wondering what is coming next.  All is mixed with the diabolical and unimaginable.   It is truly a wonder how anyone survived without being completely ruined for the rest of their days.  Evil is profound yet love always prevails. 

At the end of the novel, in the authors notes, you will learn that the book is loosely based on Lee Miller, an American model turned photojournalist.  After the WWII, Miller and other female photojournalists were not allowed to continue working as serious journalists.  Miller suffered mightily from post-traumatic stress syndrome.  Her photographs were discovered by her son's wife after her death. Today, she is regarded as one of the world's preeminent war correspondents and photographers. 

"The war was marching on without them.  Their male counterparts were the only ones reporting anything worth reading." - The Paris Orphan - Natasha Lester

Lessons in Chemistry: A Novel - Bonnie Garmus

Scientist, Dog 6:30, Single Mom, Television Cooking Star, Woman

A laugh out loud novel.  Lessons in Chemistry is about a highly intelligent woman who does not follow societal rules or norms slated for women in the 1960's.  Elizabeth Zott, scientist, and chemist, in the early 60's begins her work career with an all-male team at Hastings Research Institute.  Of course, it is difficult to fit into the old boys' club.  Zott remains stubborn, often annoying, and continually strikes at the system.  Then she meets Calvin Evans, chemist extraordinaire, and bingo chemistry between the two results.  

Life, as with science, is unpredictable and constantly changing.  Nothing is ever static. Zott finds herself as a single mother who reluctantly becomes a household name. Her cooking show Supper at Six is a hit.  However, the cooking show becomes a catalyst for Zott to encourage women to become who they truly want to be in life rather than following a stereotype.   Thus, Zott is at the forefront of the feminism movement. 

Also, one of the best characters is the dog named 6:30. Through his eyes you see the hilarity, sadness, and joy of every situation. 

The novel is entertaining, enlightening, observant while reminding women to follow your dreams.  After all, there is more to life than cooking, cleaning, decorating and all the household chores that befall women daily.  In other words, live fully, vibrantly, and never let anyone tell you that you will not succeed.  Or that you cannot do this or that. 

"Your days are numbered.  Use them to throw open the windows of your soul to the sun." - Bonnie Garmus, Lessons in Chemistry

I hope you enjoy these books.  All are about strong women who were courageous in following their dreams.  We as women are thankful for their courage and sacrifice.  At least I am! 

That's a Wrap!

Until Next Time,
Kim Hardwick


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