Code Name Helene by Ariel Lawhon



Dear Fellow Readers,

I must admit a bit of fatigue with historical fiction centering around World War II. I am sure that is unfair to the genre, but I felt like I had read more than my fill.

And then I read a description of a book based on a real person. It intrigued me so I decided to read yet another one.

Code Name HeleneCode Name Helene is the story of Nancy Wake. Nancy Wake was an Australian who moved to  Paris. She was in her early 20s and working as a journalist for the American Hearst newspaper chain. As a woman, she could not get a byline and her stories were never treated the same as the men she worked with. That did not stop her from trying. At the beginning of the book, she and her photographer witness a scene that affects Nancy. On a tip, they go to a town in Germany. When they get there, they see that a Hitler Brownshirt has a Jewish woman tied to a waterwheel. He starts whipping her and threatens to take the whip to anyone who tries to help her. Over the silence of the crowd, the camera’s click catches the attention of the Brownshirts. They take the camera and destroy it. Nancy brought the story back and her editor tried to kill it because he said it wasn’t believable without the pictures. It was finally published but not with Nancy’s name. The incident served to awaken her to the cruelty of Hitler and her desire to fight against him.

Nancy starts by smuggling traveling papers and people across the border to evade the Gestapo. When France is invaded, she and her husband, Henri, know they must leave. They also know that they must be surreptitious and decide to leave separately and meet later.

The book opens on February 29, 1944, with  Helene jumping out of a plane into France. The second chapter takes place in 1936 with Nancy meeting a friend in a bar in Paris. It is one of those books that go back and forth in time. One chapter will be what is happening during the war and the next will tell Nancy’s background. I did not have any trouble following where we were in the story.

The tale not only tells us of Nancy Wake’s heroism but also her humanity. From bracing herself with her red lipstick to her silk nightgowns, she is a woman in battle but also a woman. She doesn’t want to live without a few of her feminine accouterments. I did not find that her personal affectations affected my view of her. I found them to make her more real.

I enjoyed the book. It is well worth reading. I was given a copy of the book so that I could give a fair review. The book will be published on March 31, 2020.

Thanks for reading.

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Free Books

download (2)


Dear Fellow Reader,

Here we all are in our houses sheltering in place or working from home and trying to keep well. I thought it would be a good time to update my prior posts on free sources for books. In some cases, you may find audiobooks, magazines, and videos available also. Why? Because even though you have that stack of books to read, none of them may appeal to you right now.

All my suggestions are for eBooks rather than physical books. If you don’t have an eBook reader, you can download the app for whichever reader you would want. You can put the app on your phone, tablet, or computer. It is easy and free.

images (1)Your public library – If you don’t normally take out eBooks,  now is the time to learn how.  At my library, there are three different online ways to take out materials. The first is by using Overdrive. If you go to the Overdrive site, and you have a library card, you can use the site to get books – eBooks or audiobooks. You can probably link to the site from your library website also. Now, I will admit that this is not always the most satisfying way to get a book just because there can be such long lines of people waiting for a book. But if you are just looking for something to read, there is a filter you can use to access books that are available for immediate download.

Overdrive has an app called Libby you can download to your tablet, phone, or computer that will allow you access to Overdrive. The app saves your library card and you can read through the app or have the books sent to your Kindle.

NOTE:  One of my pet peeves about having to put books on hold is that it seems that they all come in at the same time. Well, someone must have been listening! Now you can delay taking a book when it is finally your turn. You can stay at the top of the list but let the next person go ahead of you. I think it is a brand new option – don’t miss it!

My library also subscribes to another service called Hoopla. Hoopla has videos you can download, eBooks, audiobooks, and music. If you see it on the screen, you can get it. There is no waiting time. Not surprisingly, there is not the selection that you will see on Overdrive. The Library purchases the access so you may be limited to only being able to get so many items a month. With my library, I can take out 5 items a month. (Just as a note – if you are downloading a video series, you only get one episode at a time. So in one month, you can only get 5 episodes, maximum.) If your library subscribes to this service, it is well worth checking out.

The other service that my library subscribes to is RBdigital where you can download magazines and audiobooks.

Check your local library website to see what programs you have access to and check them out. You may easily find there is much more at your fingertips then you imagined. (My library also offers Rosetta Stone and access to

download (3)Little Free Libraries – This is the name for those little boxes with books that can spring up in someone’s yard. I wrote about these before and there are more scattered across the country all the time. There is an organization (Little Free Library) that sells the boxes and keeps track of locations. There has been a suggestion that these boxes be used during this time as free food pantries for those in need but you may still find books in some of them.

Project Gutenberg –  There are over 60,000 free books available through the Project Gutenberg web site.  These books can be downloaded to eReaders or your computer. The books shared on this site are books that the copyright on the book has expired. Therefore, this is the place to go for your classics.

(In case you are wondering how long a copyright lasts, it depends on the date of publication and if the author was alive when the book was published. All books published prior to 1923 are in the public domain. Books published between 1922 and 1978 have a copyright that lasts 95 years from the date of publication. If the author was dead when the book was published, the copyright lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years. If the work was published after 1978, the copyright is the life of the author plus 70 years. This is the simplistic guide there are many ins and outs that you can look up if you need more information. )

download (4)Kindle Free Books – You can go to Amazon and in the search box type in  “free Kindle books” and a list of currently free Kindle books will come up.

Nook Free Books – As with Amazon, you can go to Barnes and Noble’s web site and type “free Nook books” into the search and a list of currently free books will come up.

Kobo Free Books – In case you are not familiar with Kobo, it is another company that makes eReaders and sells eBooks. You can go to Kobo and type in “free eBooks” and a list of their current free books will come up.

Note:  You can download a  free app from each of these companies to your computer, phone, iPad, or tablet so that you can read their books. These titles will change all the time. If you don’t see something one day, you might the next. You will not find the latest best sellers on these sites but you may find your new favorite author. – I just found this site. It seems to have a mix of old and new books. I have never used it. 

Open Library – This is another site for free downloadable books. Go to Open Library to check it out. There is an FAQ page that you can check out at FAQ.

With sites where you download books, remember that they will download where you are downloading them. So if you want to read on your tablet, download to your tablet not your computer.

Do you have a source for free books that I have not mentioned?  Please let me know about it so that I can add it to my list.

Thanks for reading!


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Reading Bingo

Many people are now at home with some time on their hands.  I thought I would give you something to do while you are sitting around reading. You are reading, right?


Reading Bingo

Have fun with it.  I will put up some sources for free or reduced-price ebooks in the coming days.  I have enough to read for quite a while but perhaps some of you weren’t prepared for a long stint at home.

Thanks for reading!

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City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert


Dear Fellow Readers,

I was avoiding reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s current book. I think that her hype for the book irritated me. Plus, she lives her life in the public eye and she was beginning to feel like that friend that just sucks the air out of the room because they are so much. So much drama, wanting so much attention, just so much…

I know that most people will have no idea what I am talking about. I am an Elizabeth Gilbert fan. I get her newsletter; if I see anything about her in the news, I will look to see what is going on. I have watched both of her TED talks – one of them several times. I bought a kindle copy of Big Magic but wanted to be able to refer to sections and go back over it, so I bought a physical copy of the book. I liked Eat, Pray, Love. and have read all her books since then.

But I was not rushing to read City of Girls. I didn’t want to. I had had enough.

51VP8qOBvYL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_As these things happen, City of Girls was chosen for one of my book clubs. I kept ignoring the fact that it was coming and that I should read it. (I don’t know about you, but another problem is when I “should” read a book rather than when I “want” to read a book I often have a hard time settling down with it.) But time was running out and I knew I had to get to it.

The first evening I read 25 pages. I was completely hooked. The book made me happy – I wanted to read more. I would say that her writing in this book exceeds her other books. I enjoyed reading it for the writing. I wish I could write like that.

The book tells the story of Vivvie (Vivian) Morris. The tale, told by Vivvie, is being told to Angela Grecco. We know from the beginning that the reason Vivvie is writing to Angela to answer the question “What were you to my Father?”

To answer that question, Vivvie tells the story of her life. The meat of Vivvie’s story starts in the 1940s in New York City. Vivvie has been sent to live with her Aunt Peg in NYC because she has flunked out of Vassar and is driving her parents crazy with her aimlessness.

“Anyway, I arrived in New York city safely – a girl so freshly hatched that there was practically yolk in my hair.”

That decision is pivotal in Vivvie’s life. She moves to NYC to live with her aunt in the theater that her aunt owns. There are many things that immature Vivvie doesn’t understand but she soon learns about the parts of life that she has been sheltered from and decides to take those new lessons and run with them. She even admits that she was asking for trouble and was excited by testing boundaries. From the mistakes she makes, she learns many lessons and has many heartbreaks.

“The field of honor is a painful field, Olive went on… That’s what my father taught me when I was young. He taught me that the field of honor is not a place where children can play. Children don’t have any honor, you see, and they aren’t expected to, because it’s too difficult for them. It’s too painful. But to become an adult, one must step into the field of honor. Everything will be expected of you now. You will need to be vigilant in your principles. Sacrifices will be demanded. You will be judged. If you make mistakes, you must account for them. There will be instances when you must cast aside your impulses and take a higher stance than another person – a person without honor – might take. Such instances may hurt, but that why honor is a painful field. Do you understand?”

Vivvie’s grandmother taught her to sew – not in a casual way but taught her to be a master seamstress. That skill was Vivvie’s savior throughout her life. She could always make money with her sewing and her ability to know what would flatter a person’s physique. With her talent and skill, she also learned about using old clothes to remake new clothes. This was needed at the cash strapped theater. It helped to make her part of the Lily Theater family. And then at other times in her life, she used her abilities to support herself.

Vivvie is a complicated character. She floats through life without many commitments but has people that she loves and that love her. She defines her own family. Part of the book is the realization that each generation thinks that they have discovered new societal behaviors when in truth, those behaviors have existed for all of mankind.

There is truly nothing new under the sun.

“The world ain’t straight. You grow up thinking things are a certain way. You think there are rules. You think there’s a way that things have to be. You try and live straight. But the world doesn’t care about your rules, or what you believe. The world ain’t straight, Vivian. Neve will be. Our rules, they don’t mean a thing. The world just happens to you sometimes, is what I think. And people just gotta keep moving through it as best they can.”

This book is one that makes me want to yell from the mountaintops that you should read it. No doubt, Vivvie will make you wince with some of her decisions, but you will love her anyway. She is a flawed character – just as we are all flawed characters.

Thanks for reading.

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The Corpse Wore Stilettos by MJ O’Neill

Dear Fellow Reader,

Have you seen those tee shirts that say, “So many books, so little time”? That is the way I feel. I have so many books that I want to read and I just can’t get them all in. What a wonderful problem to have, right? And to think that there are more books coming out each week. The opportunities abound.

I know that they say the parents are the child’s influence as readers. What a wonderful thing that is if it is true. To think that by just sharing books, we can foster a love of learning, adventure, compassion and kindness. So many truly wonderful things can be learned from reading books. What lifelong joy we can add to our children’s lives. And to make it even better, we can all read things that appeal to us and help us develop. We don’t all have to read the same thing. Some of us love biographies, some love stories about love, some science fiction but we can all be bound by the incredible amount of learning we do through reading.

While I do read a lot, I do take breaks occasionally. Sometimes, I have read so much that I need to find a different use for any time I have. It is easy these days to switch to some mindless entertainment. Which I am not opposed to. Sometimes playing a game on my phone is what my mind needs to re-group.

But I also find with my reading that I need to take a break in the type of books I read. After I have done a stretch of books that might have “heavier” topics, I need a book that I can quickly read and enjoy. A book that will tell me a story that I might not remember forever but will give me something to smile about and clear out the other subjects.

Do you ever feel that way?

If you do, perhaps I have a mind-clearing book for you. Or perhaps you like lighter fiction. I know people who just want to read something to get their mind off their lives. That they deal with serious matters all day and at night want something light and enjoyable.

I will admit that the title of this one, places the book in a certain genre in my mind. But don’t be completely taken in by the title. It is better than the title suggests.



The Corpse Wore Stilettos by M J O’Neill is worth a look. I expected it to be a lightweight book. It was better than I expected. (My apologies to Ms. O’Neill) While it does have some elements of some more lightweight fiction I have read, the story was better. Yes, there are fashion references, (which I think can sometimes be a bit airheaded) the plot had a bit more meat to it. There is a handsome guy trying to solve the crime but the plot stands without depending upon beautiful woman and her attraction to the guy. The plot has several twists and turns that make the book much more interesting. Even better, while it is on one level resolved by the end, there is still a mystery there. I liked that.

So, depending upon what you are looking for, I think that The Corpse Wore Stilettos could fill the bill for you. I enjoyed it more than I expected to and am glad I read it. Oh, and I did receive a copy of the book in return for a review.

Thanks for reading!

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