The Lost Letter by Jillian Cantor-a 5/5 Star Review!

Kristoff has found a home, finally. Having been abandoned as a young child, finding his way as an adult has proved difficult. He finds refuge as an apprentice in the home of well-known stamp engraver, Frederick Faber. Frederick and his family, a wife and two daughters, are Jewish and living in Austria. However, as winter begins to invade, so do the Nazis, tearing Kristoff’s new family apart.

In another time and place, (California, 1989 to be precise) another family is tearing at the seams. Kate is struggling at work because her co-worker is her soon to be ex-husband. He filed the papers, she just needs to sign them. She is also juggling that with her father, Ted, a formerly avid stamp collector who has Alzheimer’s. She meets Benjamin, a philatelist, to get her father’s stamp collection appraised and one stamp in particular sends them on an adventure.

Although the plot jumped between the two stories, I thought it was done seamlessly. There were some chapters, however, where I wish it had not jumped because I was too eager to find out what happens next in one setting. It had several twists and turns, as well as several times where my heart ached for the characters. Although romance stories from World War II have been done quite often, this one stands out as unique. It brings elements of stamp engraving as well as collecting that I have yet to read elsewhere. Furthermore, the romance is a subtle build that is often cast aside in the urgency of the war period timeframe. The characters are not begging for attention nor are they overdramatic in responses. This is true for the stories in both time periods.

I do recommend this book for those who enjoy historical fiction, a bit of adventure, and romance. I read through it quickly as I found it to be gripping at times and heart-wrenching at other times.

For those who may be offended: there was kidnapping, guns, and sexually suggestive scenarios.

Please note: an electronic copy of this book was generously provided for free from Penguin’s First To Read program in exchange for an honest review.

You Were Here by Gian Sardar-DNF at 28%-1 Star Review

Rarely do I ever put a book down as a DNF but I just could not get into this one. There were a lot of names thrown out and it was hard to know which names would develop into characters the reader would get to be familiar with later. Typically, I enjoy books with parallel plots and that jump from past to present. However, there were so many characters introduced in both tenses that it came off as overwhelming to me. Furthermore, I did not care for one of the main characters in the present tense, Abby. I was not sure if she was supposed to have a panic disorder, anxiety, or if her tragic theatrics are what attracted the attention of her boyfriend, a screenwriter looking for his big break. The meltdown that Abby has at a restaurant, where she just got into her hometown that she hadn’t been to in a long time, with her mother and her mother’s best friend about a potential serial rapist in town was what made me put the book down for good. Maybe it’s because I’m a city girl and her hometown was small suburb of Minneapolis, and therefore she might have been in imminent danger. But it just did not connect for me nor did it seem realistic.

DNF at 28%, maybe some time away from the book will allow me to come back and pick it up again.

Please Note: an electronic copy of this book was generously provided for free from Penguin Random House’s First To Read Program in exchange for an honest review.

Please also note: for readers who may be triggered or offended, there were mentions of infidelity, sexual harrassment, incest, violence, murder, and rape.

The Animators by Kayla Rae Whitaker-5/5 Star Review

Sharon Kisses crept into New York City from her small hometown in Kentucky and tried not to look back. But then something happens that forces her to go back and see her childhood in a new light.

Mel Vaught attracts attention wherever she goes. Bold, enigmatic, and often reckless, she and Sharon’s opposite personalities attract and balance in their personal and work life. They meet in college and start their careers as partners in an animation project that gained unexpected fame.

Their work life and their personal lives are consistently intertwined in a complicated friendship firmly set on a foundation of loyalty-and partying. The ebb and flow of luck and misfortune hit each of them yet it springboards their creativity and a large animation project seems to be a result.

Initially, I was growing a bit bored with this book. However, a plot twist emerged and I jumped back in. After this point, it was difficult to put down. Not only do the main characters develop throughout the story, but even the smaller side characters.

The story is told solely from Sharon’s perspective and the timeline spans a few decades. In my opinion, this provided depth and built connection between the characters and the reader. The author did a fantastic job of incorporating multiple plot twists that enriched the story (which was partly why I was amazed to find that this is the author’s debut novel). Towards the end of the book, I was entrenched in Sharon and Mel’s lives. I felt their frustrations. I felt their bond. I felt their grief.

I highly recommend this book for anyone looking to be able to feel a connection to characters. Also for anyone who enjoys books focusing on honest friendship and the strength required to maintain it.

Conversely, this book would not be for anyone who is offended by alcohol abuse, substance abuse, suggestions of sexual abuse, sexually suggestive scenarios, and foul language.

Please note: an electronic copy of this book was generously provided by Penguin Random House through their First to Read program in exchange for an honest review.