The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes
ISBN:  9780670026616 (hardcover)
ISBN:  9781101638163 (ebook)
ASIN:  B00BSY6U6K (Kindle edition)
Publication date: August 20, 2013 
Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books/Penguin Group

What happened to the girl you left behind?

In 1916, French artist Edouard Lefevre leaves his wife Sophie to fight at the Front. When her town falls into German hands, his portrait of Sophie stirs the heart of the local Kommandant and causes her to risk everything – her family, reputation and life – in the hope of seeing her true love one last time.

Nearly a century later and Sophie’s portrait is given to Liv by her young husband shortly before his sudden death. Its beauty speaks of their short life together, but when the painting’s dark and passion-torn history is revealed, Liv discovers that the first spark of love she has felt since she lost him is threatened…

In The Girl You Left Behind two young women, separated by a century, are united in their determination to fight for the thing they love most – whatever the cost.

Sophie Lefevre is a rather headstrong woman dealing with a difficult situation in 1916 France. She has returned to her hometown while her artist husband fights against the Germans. Her husband felt she would be better served in a rural location rather than staying Paris. Unfortunately her town and her family’s inn are soon under the control of the Germans. Sophie watches her sister, niece, nephew and young brother slowly starve as food becomes scarce. When she is offered the opportunity to feed them as a direct result of cooking for the Germans she hesitates but realizes she has little choice in the matter. What follows is a game of cat-and-mouse as she tries to avoid the attention of the local Kommandant. When she finds out that her husband has been captured and there’s a possibility she may be able to see him one more time she’s willing to do almost anything for that chance, even giving up her most prized possessions — a painting and her virtue.

Fast forward ninety-six years to England and Liv Halston is a young widow still mourning the death of her husband. Three years after his death, she lives in the house he built and works for a foundation developed to instill a love of architecture in at-risk youth. Liv barely makes a living as a copywriter, but isn’t willing to consider giving up her home or the painting her husband had purchased for her during their honeymoon. Things get very bleak when she receives notification from an art recovery service that her prized painting was stolen during World War I. In Liv’s quest to keep her painting she is willing to give up almost everything but at what cost?

The lives of Sophie and Liv are mirrored by the risks they are both willing to take to protect a painting. For both Sophie and Liv the painting represents life with their beloved husbands. Ms. Moyes deftly weaves a story that spans nearly a decade in the telling. As Liv fights to retain what she sees as rightfully hers, she also fights to uncover Sophie’s story and the story of the painting. The Girl You Left Behind provides background on the tragedies that occurred in France during World War I as part of Sophie’s story. It also provides insight into the steps families can take, even a century later, to reclaim their possessions. This story includes the tragedy of war and the effect on those left behind, as well as the despair and grief of those mourning their loved ones. I read The Girl You Left Behind in one sitting as the story grabbed my attention and I couldn’t put it down. If you enjoy contemporary novels that incorporate a blend of the historical with elements of intrigue, tragedy and romance, then you’ll definitely want to read this one. This was actually the first novel I’ve read by Ms. Moyes and I can’t wait to read more. 

Learn more about author Jojo Moyes and her books by clicking here or visit the author’s website:

Disclaimer: I received a digital copy of this book free for review purposes from the publisher via NetGalley and I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Book 160: THE FIREBIRD Review

The Firebird by Susanna Kearsley
ISBN:  9781402276637 (paperback)
ISBN:  9781451673845 (ebook)
ASIN:  B009RXJONA (Kindle edition)
Publication date: June 4, 2013 
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Nicola Marter was born with a gift. When she touches an object, she sometimes glimpses those who have owned it before. When a woman arrives with a small wooden carving at the gallery Nicola works at, she can see the object’s history and knows that it was named after the Firebird—the mythical creature from an old Russian fable.

Compelled to know more, Nicola follows a young girl named Anna into the past who leads her on a quest through the glittering backdrops of the Jacobites and Russian courts, unearthing a tale of love, courage, and redemption.

Nicola Marter doesn’t consider her talent at psychometry a gift. This is partially due to her grandfather’s constant warnings about revealing her gift to others. However, as a student, she did make an attempt to learn more about controlling her talent before giving up. When an older woman arrives at the gallery where Nicola works, she tells the story of a small wooden carving, a family heirloom, reportedly given to an ancestor by Tsarina Catherine of Russia. Regrettably she doesn’t have documentation to support the family legend. After handling the object Nicola is assured of the woman’s story but isn’t sure how the gallery can help without proper paper documentation. This woman, her story and the information Nicola learns from touching the object peaks Nicola’s interest in learning more and wanting to help. Is it possible she can found some documentation to support the woman’s claim?

The Firebird is a fascinating blend of contemporary and historical fiction with paranormal elements. Once Nicola decides to try and help the gallery’s potential client, she realizes she needs help and seeks the assistance of Rob McMorran, an outstanding psychic she knew from her college days. With Rob’s assistance, Nicola is able to trace the history of the original recipient of the Firebird, Anna. Nicola and Rob are able to track Anna from Scotland to Belgium and finally to Russia. Anna was born into the Moray family, but due to her family’s Jacobite leanings, she is trusted to friends of the family to raise as a foster daughter. She lives in Scotland for almost seven years before she is forced to flee to a convent in Ypres, Belgium in the company of Colonel Graeme and Captain Jamieson. She resides in the convent for one year before being forced to flee once again and this time winds up in Russia as Anna Jamieson, the ward of Admiral Thomas Gordon. Ms. Kearsley provides the reader with details of the Jacobite cause and its supporters in Scotland, as well as expatriates in Belgium and Russia. Anna’s life is revealed in vignettes as Rob and Nicola search for places she lived and visited. Anna’s life is one filled with love and courage but no true family.  As Nicola and Rob work to piece together the puzzle of Anna’s life, Nicola realizes that she actually has more control over her talents than she initially thought. The Firebird is a well-crafted story that incorporates tales of love, courage, and self-confidence in both Nicola and Anna’s lives. If you’re looking for something a little different to read, then you may want to add The Firebird to your reading list.

Read an excerpt here

I read The Firebird as the July selection for the She Reads online book club. For more information on She Reads, please visit: The book was from my personal digital book collection.
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Book 84: AND THEN I FOUND YOU Review

And Then I Found You by Patti Callahan Henry
ISBN:  9780312610760 (hardcover)
ISBN:  9781250036780 (ebook)
ASIN:  B009K9152Y (Kindle edition)
Publication date: April 9, 2013
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Kate Vaughan is no stranger to tough choices.

She’s made them before. Now it’s time to do it again.

Kate has a secret, something tucked away in her past. And she’s getting on with her life. Her business is thriving. She has a strong relationship with her family, and a devoted boyfriend whom she wants to love with all her heart. If Kate had ever made a list, Rowan would fill the imagined boxes of a perfect mate. But she wants more than the perfect on paper relationship; she wants a real and imperfect love. That’s why, when Kate discovers the small velvet box hidden in Rowan’s drawer, she panics.

It always happens this way. Just when Kate thinks she can love, just when she believes she can conquer the fear, she’s filled with dread. And she wants more than anything to make this feeling go away. But how?

When the mistakes have been made and the running is over, it’s time to face the truth. Kate knows this. She understands that a woman can never undo what can never be undone. Yet, for the first time in her life she also knows that she won’t fully love until she confronts those from her past. It’s time to act.

Can she do it? Can she travel to the place where it all began, to the one who shares her secret? Can the lost ever become found?

And Then I Found You gives new life to the phrase “inspired by a true story.” By travelling back to a painful time in her own family’s history, the author explores the limits of courage, and the price of a selfless act.

Kate Vaughan has loved and lost and will probably be the first to tell you that it isn’t better to have loved and lost than never at all. Losing those she’s loved has been hard and that pain and loss have been with her every day for the past thirteen years. She’s tried to move on with her life and has a successful boutique and is in loving relationship, but she craves what she has lost. In an effort to say goodbye to her past, she makes a trip to Alabama to visit her ex. Jack has moved on with his life and although he’s glad to see her he doesn’t want to revisit the past. Just when it seems like things couldn’t get any worse, her current boyfriend shows up in Alabama . . . at Jack’s house. Kate is forced to reveal the secrets of her past and only hopes that Rowan can understand and that they can move forward. Easier said than done because the daughter she gave up for adoption has tracked her down. Kate now has her two lost loves back in her life but isn’t quite sure what to do with them.

Ms. Henry has provided a story that deals with love, loss and the consequences of our choices. Kate has to deal with the constant reminder from her parents of their lost first grandchild. She deals with the anguish of giving up her daughter for adoption each year on her birthday. Kate wants to build a future with Rowan but is that even possible when she can’t let go of the past? Now that she has contact with her biological daughter what does that mean for her and her family, not to mention her daughter’s adoptive family? The choices that Kate and others make have unforeseen consequences, some good, some bad and some downright heartbreaking. There aren’t any bad guys in this story as everyone is simply trying to do what is best for their families as well as themselves. And Then I Found You is an excellent reminder that we can’t live in the past and sometimes the only way to keep something in our lives is to let go . . . trite but fundamentally true. And Then I Found You isn’t a happy ever after story but it is a hopeful ever after, as the reader is left with the hope that everything will work out after all.

Disclaimer: I received a digital copy of this book free for review purposes from the publisher via NetGalley and SheReads. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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