Book Review: The Girl Who Came Home by Hazel Gaynor

The Girl Who Came Home by Hazel Gaynor on Mandy Boles Life Between BooksTitle: The Girl Who Came Home: A Novel of The Titanic
Author: Hazel Gaynor
384 pages, Published by William Morrow Paperbacks, $14.99
Hazel’s Info: Twitter | Facebook
Buy The Book: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound


A voyage across the ocean becomes the odyssey of a lifetime for a young Irish woman. . . .

Ireland, 1912 . . .

Fourteen members of a small village set sail on RMS Titanic, hoping to find a better life in America. For seventeen-year-old Maggie Murphy, the journey is bittersweet. Though her future lies in an unknown new place, her heart remains in Ireland with Séamus, the sweetheart she left behind. When disaster strikes, Maggie is one of the few passengers in steerage to survive. Waking up alone in a New York hospital, she vows never to speak of the terror and panic of that fateful night again.

Chicago, 1982 . . .

Adrift after the death of her father, Grace Butler struggles to decide what comes next. When her great-grandmother Maggie shares the painful secret about Titanic that she’s harbored for almost a lifetime, the revelation gives Grace new direction—and leads both her and Maggie to unexpected reunions with those they thought lost long ago.

Inspired by true events, The Girl Who Came Home poignantly blends fact and fiction to explore the Titanic tragedy’s impact and its lasting repercussions on survivors and their descendants. (Summary provided by William Morrow Paperbacks.)

My Thoughts:

I, like so many others, have always been fascinated by the facts surrounding the ill-fated voyage of the Titanic. So, when I heard about Hazel Gaynor’s novel The Girl Who Came Home: A Novel of The Titanic, I knew it would be a must read for me. Gaynor expertly weaves fact and fiction in this historical fiction novel. With The Girl Who Came Home readers are introduced to a group of 14 people from the fictional town of Ballysheen, Ireland traveling in steerage class aboard the Titanic with dreams of more opportunities in America. What makes this novel even more fascinating is that the 14 residents of Ballysheen are loosely based on a group of fourteen Irish passengers from Addergoogle. So this historical novel is a true mixture of history and fiction.

The book centers around Maggie, a teen from a Ballysheen – a small village in Ireland, who finds herself about to board Titanic after her mother dies and her aunt comes from the states to take her to America with her. Maggie is upset because she doesn’t want to leave her boyfriend Seamus behind. The Girl Who Came Home goes back and forth telling Maggie’s story in 1912 and her great-granddaughter Grace’s story in 1982. However, Maggie is the prominent character in the book. Much of the book is told through journal entries Maggie kept during her voyage on the Titanic and in the aftermath of the tragedy. There are also a few other POV’s of passengers aboard the ship throughout the novel as well.

Grace’s story set in 1982 mirrors that of her great-grandmother’s. After her father dies, Grace drops out of college to take care of her mother. Grace leaves behind a boyfriend and a promising journalism career. After seeing Grace sacrifice so much of herself for her mother, Maggie decides to finally share her story of what happened aboard the Titanic with Grace. It’s the first time Maggie has talked about the tragedy with anyone except her late husband since the incident happened. Maggie and Grace’s relationship is beautiful. As the book progressed Maggie’s story revived her great-granddaughter’s zest for life and taught her to make every moment count as well as providing a much needed sense of catharsis and closure for Maggie.

Gaynor’s attention to detail, specifically regarding the class divide aboard the ship and the aftermath of the tragedy, changed the way I’ll view the event forever. I’m really glad the novel focused on the steerage class passengers rather than the famous aristocrats and wealthy passengers who populated first class not because the stories of the wealthy passengers aren’t an important piece of history, but rather because I feel that the non-privileged passengers aboard the Titanic have been overlooked historically.

I highly recommend taking time to remember the many lives who were lost on the Titanic by reading The Girl Who Came Home this April 15th, the anniversary of the Titanic.I guarantee you’ll learn something you didn’t already know about this sad event and you’ll come away with a new understanding of some of the most overlooked passengers of the ship. Click here to read more about the historical background of the novel on Hazel Gaynor’s blog.

(April 15th is also my husband’s birthday. I had no idea it was also the anniversary date of the Titanic.)

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FTC Disclosure: I receive a commission on all purchases made through using the Amazon and ShopSense links on this site.I also received a free copy of The Girl Who Came Home from William Morrow.

Book Spotlight: The Frangipani Hotel by Violet Kupersmith

The Frangipani Hotel by Violet Kupersmith on Mandy Boles Life Between BooksI’m currently reading The Frangipani Hotel by Violet Kupersmith. It’s a collection of short stories based on traditional Vietnamese folk tales. At three stories into the book I can already tell this collection is special. The stories I’ve read so far are at once beautiful and chilling. Kupersmith has created a world where ghosts exist and the people who come into contact with them are left forever changed. I’m taking my time reading it, because I want to savor the stories. It’s that good. The book is a slim volume at 256 pages, and I can normally read a book of that length in one sitting. However, when I picked it up yesterday to read it I knew I needed to ponder each story a bit after finishing each of them. In a day or two I’m going to post a review of The Frangipani Hotel, but I want you to read about the book and the heaps of praise it’s received before I put up my review.

About The Frangipani Hotel:

An extraordinarily compelling debut—ghost stories that grapple with the legacy of the Vietnam War
A beautiful young woman appears fully dressed in an overflowing bathtub at the Frangipani Hotel in Hanoi. A jaded teenage girl in Houston befriends an older Vietnamese gentleman she discovers naked behind a dumpster. A trucker in Saigon is asked to drive a dying young man home to his village. A plump Vietnamese-American teenager is sent to her elderly grandmother in Ho Chi Minh City to lose weight, only to be lured out of the house by the wafting aroma of freshly baked bread. In these evocative and always surprising stories, the supernatural coexists with the mundane lives of characters who struggle against the burdens of the past.

Based on traditional Vietnamese folk tales told to Kupersmith by her grandmother, these fantastical, chilling, and thoroughly contemporary stories are a boldly original exploration of Vietnamese culture, addressing both the immigrant experience and the lives of those who remained behind. Lurking in the background of them all is a larger ghost—that of the Vietnam War, whose legacy continues to haunt us.

Violet Kupersmith’s voice is an exciting addition to the landscape of American fiction. With tremendous depth and range, her stories transcend their genre to make a wholly original statement about the postwar experience. (Summary provided by Spiegel & Grau.)

Praise for The Frangipani Hotel
“In this auspicious volume, Kupersmith has reshaped and womanhandled traditional Vietnamese folktales that her grandmother told her into a wildly energetic, present-tense fusillade of short stories. . . . In perhaps the most pungent story here, a young woman who works the graveyard shift stocking shelves at Kwon’s World Grocery in suburban Houston befriends an old man she finds standing naked beside a Dumpster. His problem: He occasionally turns into a fourteen-foot python. ‘I am just a very old man who is sometimes a python,’ the man tells the woman. ‘But you, my child, are a creature far more complex.’ One might suspect that Kupersmith, who is working on her first novel, is that creature.”—Ben Dickinson, Elle

“Violet Kupersmith has woven together culture, tradition, family, and ghosts to create a series of short stories that are as fresh as they are mesmerizing. These stories will haunt you long after the last words have drifted off the page.”—Lisa See
“Surgically precise and feverishly imaginative.”—Téa Obreht, author of The Tiger’s Wife

“This first collection introduces a writer to watch and belongs in any library serving a short story readership.”Booklist

“What is most haunting in Kupersmith’s nine multilayered pieces are not the specters, whose tales are revealed as stories within stories, but the lingering loss and disconnect endured by the still living. . . . [A] mature-beyond-her-years debut.”Library Journal (starred review)

“These polished stories mark Kupersmith, who is in her early twenties, as one to watch.”Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“In this impressive debut, Violet Kupersmith displays a remarkable gift for voice and setting. Using history and horror, mystery and imagination, she has created this vivid collection of haunted and haunting stories.”—Karen Joy Fowler, author of We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves and The Jane Austen Book Club

About The Author:

Violet Kupersmith graduated from Mount Holyoke College in 2011 and then spent a year in Vietnam on a Fulbright teaching fellowship. She is currently at work on a novel.

For more reviews and news regarding The Frangipani Hotel by Violet Kupersmith check out these stops on her TLC Book Tour:

Monday, March 3rd:  Bibliophiliac

Tuesday, March 4th:  The Things You Can Read

Wednesday, March 5th:  Savvy Verse and Wit

Tuesday, March 11th:  The Written World

Tuesday, March 11th:  Books a la Mode – author guest post

Wednesday, March 12th:  River City Reading

Thursday, March 13th:  Under My Apple Tree

Monday, March 17th:  1330 V

Wednesday, March 19th:  Melody & Words

Monday, March 24th:  A Bookish Way of Life

Tuesday, March 25th:  Suko’s Notebook

Wednesday, March 26th:  Lit and Life

Thursday, March 27th:  Too Fond 

Monday, March 31st:  Svetlana’s Reads and Views

Tuesday, April 1st:  Mandy Boles: Life Between Books

Wednesday, April 2nd:  Guiltless Reading

Thursday, April 3rd:  Books and Movies

Friday, April 4th:  The Relentless Reader

Monday, April 7th:  The Lost Entwife

Tuesday, April 8th:  Unabridged Chick

Wednesday, April 9th:  girlichef


Don’t miss a thing! Keep up with Mandy Boles: Life Between Books by subscribing to my rss feed, following me on Twitter, Bloglovin’, and Instagram, and by liking my Facebook page.

FTC Disclosure: I receive a commission on all purchases made through using the Amazon and ShopSense links on this site. I received a review copy of The Frangipani Hotel from Spiegel & Grau as part of a TLC Book Tour.

Book Review: Tempting Fate by Jane Green

Tempting Fate by Jane Green on Mandy Boles Life Between Books MandyBoles.comTempting Fate by Jane Green (St. Martin’s Press, 352 pages, $25.99) tells the story of forty-three year old Gabby, a wife and mom who’s started feeling invisible since she hit middle age. Gabby desperately wants another child (even though her husband had a vasectomy against her wishes), and as she watches her daughters grow into teens, she begins to feel restless. When Gabby goes along for a rare girl’s night out, she is secretly pleased when a handsome, young entrepreneur shows interest in her. Gabby begins emailing back and forth with him all the while convincing herself it’s a harmless flirtation and nothing could possibly happen. Soon the emailing and texting turns into an emotional affair, and Gabby contemplates the unthinkable.

Jane Green takes readers on a roller coaster ride of emotions throughout Tempting Fate.  I felt for Gabby, but also found myself wanting to jump into the pages of the book at certain points and say, “Stop it. You don’t want to do this”! This is the kind of book that gets me a little anxious. I could not put it down because I had to know what Gabby would do next and how her actions would effect her family.

Gabby is a complex character sure to invoke many emotions and reactions from readers of all ages . I didn’t agree with many of the decisions she made throughout the book. I went through emotions ranging from disgust to pity toward her as I read. Green takes readers through every angle of Gabby’s situation without missing a beat.

Tempting Fate is a novel that explores what goes on after a woman decides to “blow up” her life as she knows it, and I found it fascinating. This book will make you step back, take a deep breath, and thank your lucky stars you’re not Gabby. It’s also an excellent look at communication in the modern age: Is it okay for a married person to email or text with someone when it crosses the line into flirtation? Is that the same thing as cheating? Is an emotional affair worse than a one night stand? Tempting Fate calls the reader to examine his or her own morals as well as the protagonist’s in addition to exploring themes such as betrayal, infidelity, family, friendship in middle age, and how one’s childhood can affect a person’s adult life.

I enjoyed Tempting Fate and its gentle reminder that I should be forever grateful for the beautiful family I have. I highly recommend this book for women of all ages, but beware! You won’t be able to put it down!

You can find Jane Green online at, Twitter, and Facebook.

Buy Tempting Fate by Jane Green here.

Related Reviews:

See my review for Another Piece of My Heart by Jane Green here, and my review for Family Pictures by Jane Green here.


Don’t miss a thing! Keep up with Mandy Boles: Life Between Books by subscribing to my rss feed, following me on Twitter, Bloglovin’, and Instagram, and by liking my Facebook page.

FTC Disclosure: I receive a commission on all purchases made through using the Amazon and ShopSense links on this site. I received a review copy of Tempting Fate from St. Martin’s Press.

Book Review: Love Like The Movies by Victoria Van Tiem

Love Like The Movies by Victoria Van Tiem on Mandy Boles: Life Between BooksTitle: Love Like The Movies
Author: Victoria Van Tiem
384 pages, Published by Pocket Star
Author Info: Website | Twitter | Facebook
Buy The Book: Amazon

In this irresistible romantic romp, movie fanatic Kensington Shaw is thrown into love—Hollywood-style—when her gorgeous ex presents a series of big screen challenges to win back her heart.

What girl wouldn’t want to experience the Pretty Woman shopping scene? It’s number two on the list. Or, try the lift from Dirty Dancing? It’s number five. One list, ten romantic movie moments, and a handful of shenanigans later, Kenzi has to wonder…should she marry the man her family loves, or risk everything for a love like the movies? (Summary provided by Pocket Star/Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc.)

My Thoughts:

I’ve never been a fan of watching romantic comedies, but I love chick lit. So, I was a little undecided about whether or not to read Love Like The Movies by Victoria Van Tiem. I ended up reading it, and I’m so glad I did!

The premise of the novel is really fun. Kensington has never really felt like she fit in with her perfect family. She’s the artsy one in a family of perfectionists, and her entire family lives to criticize her. Now, Kensington has a corporate job at an ad agency and a boyfriend who works with her at the agency. Her family loves her boyfriend and is elated when they get engaged. Kensington is excited too, until a new client comes to the agency, her college boyfriend Shane. The agency is in trouble and her boss is depending on Kensington to seal the deal to save the firm. However, before she can get him to sign on the dotted line, Shane gives Kensington an “Indecent Proposal” (see what I did there?). He gives her a list of romantic comedies, and tells her she must agree to act out scenes from each of the movies with him in order to clearly understand the vision for the movie theater/restaurant he’s opening.

Kensington has mixed feelings about acting out the scenes with Shane, because their relationship ended on bad terms. She’s also worried her fiance will be angry if he finds out. What follows is a hilarious look at what happens when Kensington stops trying to please everyone and starts living for herself.

This book was such a great escape read. It’s like the book version of a romantic comedy. One could, of course, argue that all chick lit is like that to an extent, but trust me. It’s not. Chick lit is a varied genre ranging from light reading to heavy dramas. Love Like The Movies has all of the ingredients of a good romantic comedy. There are heart touching moments and slapstick comedy, along with a BFF and the requisite frenemy.

One of my worries before reading Love Like The Movies was that I wouldn’t get any of the romantic comedy references in the book. There was only one reference in the book I didn’t get, because I’ve haven’t watched 27 Dresses (which my SIL is pretty much determined to make me watch since I mentioned it to her before writing this review).

I think my favorite scene in the book was one that echoed the paintball scene in Failure to Launch. It was so cute and funny when Kensington acted out the “trigger move” sequence. The plot of this book is so quirky and unique that I can’t imagine it not getting made into a movie, and Love Like The Movies is a romantic comedy I would most definitely see in the theater. Victoria Van Tiem is a fresh, new voice in the romance world, and I can’t wait to read what she writes next!


Don’t miss a thing! Keep up with Mandy Boles: Life Between Books by subscribing to my rss feed, following me on Twitter, Bloglovin’, and Instagram, and by liking my Facebook page.


FTC Disclosure: I receive a commission on all purchases made through using the Amazon and ShopSense links on this site. I received a  review copy of Love Like The Movies from Pocket Star.