Book Review: The Thief of Blackfriars Lane by Michelle Griep

We’re well into the third day of the first month of a brand new spanking year that we as a family brought in much like we do every other strike of midnight – sleepy, contemplating bed for the adults, and wide awake, gaming, for the teens. You’d think for someone who spent more time than usual encamped at home this year that my reading goals would have been a breeze to meet, but I miscalculated and by the last of 2020 had not met my benchmark at all. Oh well! A new year… a new book… some new reading goals!

The Thief of Blackfriars Lane by Michelle Griep was the perfect official inaugural read for this booklover. While I technically finished another title prior, that title straddled the line between years and is accounted for somewhere in a reader’s no-man’s land. This smashing work of fiction, however, was published January 1st and seemed the exactly right title to start my new book year fresh. I finished it in the wee hours of the morning, being fully ensconced in this sweet, mysterious, and fast paced romp, aided in part by a miscalculated (but enjoyable) coffee at 9 p.m. last night. As I put my Kindle to sleep around 3 a.m., and contemplated sleep myself, I remembered again how much I truly enjoy Griep as an author of historical Christian fiction. Why do I not read her work more often?

I was swept back in time and settled in for a delightfully vivacious adventure. The author crafts a beautiful word picture that will immerse you in the action, location, and emotion on every page. The romance lends itself to sweetness and naivete, while the need to meet a deadline lends a sense of urgency and need to engage. Through this clever and compelling novel with elements of faith and trust, I was transported through the smelliest, darkest parts of London where danger and deception lurk to the glittering ballrooms of the wealthy (where danger and deception lurk) to the noble halls of the historic metropolitan police. A 5-star read to start the year off right. What a delight!

Publication Date: January 1, 2020
Publisher: Barbour Fiction

I was provided with a complimentary digital copy of this title via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are my own.

Book Review: The Paris Dressmaker by Kristy Cambron

It’s been sometime since my last post – life and all that. As I was going through my bookshelves (actual bookshelves) I wondered how anyone has time to read all the books – because again, life and all that. In my ongoing purge and organization, I actually made the decision to donate (4) 8″x8″ books that I’ve accumulated through my lifetime reflecting various reading patterns that I just don’t enjoy anymore. (Apologies, Percy Bysshe Shelley & Lord Byron…) I also found some treasures in the mix, and a few titles that gave me sentimental pause but remain in a pile of undetermined fate.

I am happy to say that even though my library has grown smaller, I have climbed out of my reading slump. I’ve read a few great titles that I’ve truly enjoyed. Unfortunately, I’ve fallen even more massively behind in my reviews. Today I’m choosing to tell you about a recent favourite that hasn’t even hit bookshelves yet – sharing early in the hopes that my thoughts on it remain fresh and my review accurate to my time of reading. If I can’t post a review, I try to take notes about my feelings and the things that strike me about a book, but, in my opinion, fresh thoughts are always conveyed better in a situation like this.

Without further ado, I’d like you to turn your attention to The Paris Dressmaker by Kristy Cambron, publishing Februrary 16, 2021. Not only does it have a beautiful cover, it is a beautifully written story about Paris in WWII and the courage of a select few members of La Resistance. I had concern that it would be just another tale written like many others on the market today – nothing wrong with it, but nothing to make it different… but I was pleasantly surprised that it read different, with exquisite description and detail, gripping narrative, and a basis on true events (I quite enjoyed the author’s notes at the end regarding her research.) It’s a beautifully crafted story told with layers of care at a pace that will keep you engaged, beginning to end.

My only criticisms or points of note are to mention that the novel is more than one timeline and it helps to pay attention to the where and when at the beginning of each chapter to keep one’s threads from tangling. I didn’t find it confusing, but did have to go back once or twice to clarify my point in the timeline. Secondly, with a steady pace throughout the whole novel, the ending felt not rushed, or unexpected, but perhaps slightly lackluster even though all the loose threads were tidied up. I just wanted something a little “more.” I don’t know why I feel that way, but I do. Overall, I’m adding this to my recommendations of must-reads for 2021. It does contain elements of faith which shouldn’t be surprising coming from a Thomas Nelson publication.

From the Publisher:

Based on true accounts of how Parisiennes resisted the Nazi occupation in World War II—from fashion houses to the city streets—comes a story of two courageous women who risked everything to fight an evil they couldn’t abide.

Paris, 1939. Maison Chanel has closed, thrusting haute couture dressmaker Lila de Laurent out of the world of high fashion as Nazi soldiers invade the streets and the City of Lights slips into darkness. Lila’s life is now a series of rations, brutal restrictions, and carefully controlled propaganda while Paris is cut off from the rest of the world. Yet in hidden corners of the city, the faithful pledge to resist. Lila is drawn to La Resistance and is soon using her skills as a dressmaker to infiltrate the Nazi elite. She takes their measurements and designs masterpieces, all while collecting secrets in the glamorous Hôtel Ritz—the heart of the Nazis’ Parisian headquartersBut when dashing René Touliard suddenly reenters her world, Lila finds her heart tangled between determination to help save his Jewish family and bolstering the fight for liberation.

Paris, 1943. Sandrine Paquet’s job is to catalog the priceless works of art bound for the Führer’s Berlin, masterpieces stolen from prominent Jewish families. But behind closed doors, she secretly forages for information from the underground resistance. Beneath her compliant façade lies a woman bent on uncovering the fate of her missing husband . . . but at what cost? As Hitler’s regime crumbles, Sandrine is drawn in deeper when she uncrates an exquisite blush Chanel gown concealing a cryptic message that may reveal the fate of a dressmaker who vanished from within the fashion elite.

Told across the span of the Nazi occupation, The Paris Dressmaker highlights the brave women who used everything in their power to resist darkness and restore light to their world.

Early Praise:

“Stunning. With as much skill and care as the title’s namesake possesses, The Paris Dressmaker weaves together the stories of two heroines who boldly defy the darkness that descends on the City of Light.” —Jocelyn Green, Christy Award-winning author of Shadows of the White City

“A thoroughly satisfying blend of memorable characters, evocative writing, and wartime drama that seamlessly transport you to the City of Light at its most desperate hour.” —Susan Meissner, bestselling author of The Nature of Fragile Things

“With real life historical details woven in with her fictional tale, the story popped off the page. Readers will be thinking of this book long after they’ve read the last word.” —Rachel Hauck, New York Times bestselling author

My final thoughts on this one are to say I highly recommend this title. It was exquisite and enjoyable. I mentioned in Instagram that it contained all my favourite things in a book (even though I’m not even sure what those “things” are) – it hit all the right notes for me. I’ll be pre-ordering a copy for a permanent place on my bookshelves.

“I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.”

Our Hectic Mundane… and A Book Recommendation

It’s a quiet Friday morning in September – it was 3 degrees (Celsius) when I woke up and I can feel in my frozen toes that winter is coming.The boys have headed back to school, but like most people around here, that has meant nothing in terms of routine. As of today, we are officially on our specific schedules which still seems to involve a lot of juggling with varied timetables even though we opted (optimistically) for in person learning. My contract was reestablished and I headed back into the office on a scaled-back schedule.

While I have a few hours to myself (the oldest is only out of the house for 3 hours, every other day) on this dedicated “day off”, I sat down with a Tetley gingerbread tea latte (featuring a combo almond/coconut milk and oat milk froth because I’m eliminating reducing dairy) and realized I have a to-do list, yes, but nowhere and nothing that NEED to be done. If I want to sit in my pajamas all day and read, well, I could do that – guilt-free. (I won’t though, because I don’t think that’s what my body needs today. Yesterday, yes – I worked, I napped, I ate (ugh) cup-o-soup for dinner instead of the veggie stir fry I prepared because I wasn’t feeling up to anything. Not all days are a success on this journey.)

I have been scaling back on my NetGalley reads – the to-be read list is still ridiculously long, but so is my pile of books I’ve actually invested in. I most recently picked up The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri from the fabulous Blue Heron Books in Uxbridge. (It’s one of my favourite independent bookstores – probably my favourite locally!) I’ve been tip-toeing my way through this title because I’m feeling book burnout. It’s an unfortunate state of being. So instead of reading what I “need” to – as I felt I was sometimes missing the pleasure of the read and therefore, perhaps unconsciously skewing my reviews – I opted to read something that grabbed me in the moment.

The Wikipedia summary of this title blandly states: The Beekeeper of Aleppo is a 2019 novel by Christy Lefteri. It deals with the flight of refugees from Aleppo in Syria to Europe during the Syrian Civil War. While a work of fiction, it is based on the author’s experience over two summers volunteering in Athens at a refugee center.

What Wikipedia fails to mention is the passion, heartache, and beauty that has gone into this work. I don’t have a full review for you – I’m only half-way through, but I would, based on reading to date, recommend this title to anyone and everyone. It’s captivating and moving and almost too much for me to read in a binge session. It’s heavy-weighted and I need air in between passages at times, but it’s beautiful. Perhaps my view is a little slanted because as I read, I can’t help but relate the carefully crafted words to the experiences those of my own limited acquaintance have encountered as they lived the plight of the refugee.

So today, I leave you with that recommendation and quick glimpse into our current life. Myself? Well while the dishwasher runs, my toes warm under a blanket on the couch, and the kittens (yes, we adopted two kittens this summer) run amok through the house, I will take a few breaths, enjoy my few hours of freedom, find joy in the sunshine, and peace in our special hectic mundane (which may or may not involve unclogging a shower drain – oh the glamour!)