Catching Katy

Reads, Eats, & Everything Else


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The Alice Network

Another fantastic historical fiction! I definitely need a break now, though from war stories. The Alice Network by Kate Quinn follows three unlikely friends, all dealing with their own ghosts from their pasts. Eve was a spy in WWI and is still haunted by people and actions from her time in France. Finn, a little more minor character, was a soldier in WWII. Charlie (short for Cahrlotte) is in search of her cousin who hasn’t been seen since the end of WWII.

This crew finds each other and their lives begin to interlace in ways unimanginable. They cross countries in search of leads and answers. And along the way, we read of Eve’s adventures and tasks as a spy. This book was fascinating to me, especially after learning that some of the characters were based on real people. Not the 3 main characters, but the others in the spy network Eve worked in – The Alice Network – were. I think I will always be fascinated by WWI and WWII historical fiction because, again, there is so much information and so many stories. And the stories about women’s roles in those times is so interesting.

Check it out and let me know what you think!


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Orphan Train

Thanks to my mom for sharing this book! Like the last book, this is a story set in two different times. But the two main characters share a very similar life. Both orphaned at a young age and left to survive the system. Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline is still historical fiction but it wasn’t directly set during a World War. Many historical events are happening during the story but they are not the main story. I had no idea that in the 1920s orphans in the northeast were put on trains and taken around the midwest to try to find families, so this was an interesting new piece of history.

Molly is seventeen and has been through many foster families. When she gets in trouble and has to do community service, she ends up at the house of 91-year-old Vivian. She’s there to help her go through her attic and get rid of things, but quickly realizes Vivian doesn’t actually want to get rid of anything. What she begins to learn, though, is that Vivian has a fascinating story and one that mirrors her own, to some degree. Vivian was also orphaned as a child and began an incredible and sometimes horrific life journey at the age of seven.

This was a great quick read and definitely a unique story line. Enjoy!


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The Things We Cannot Say

I have a new favorite book for the year! Of course it’s historical fiction. If you’re not into historical fiction, I apologize, but I am trying to mix it up. It just so happens that the books the keep coming off my holds list or that are available are the historical fiction! I do have a stack of books my mom gave me, though, so I’m working through those and one one is this genre.

The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer was great. It jumps back and forth between present day and the start of WWII in Poland. Alina knows she will marry Tomasz when he returns from medical school, but before that happens, the Nazis infiltrate their town near the Germany border. Her family must make tough decisions to survive, including choosing between their own children and keeping the farm up and running for the Nazi but also keeping themselves alive.

In present day, Alice tries hard to balance being there for her dying grandmother, her son with special needs, and the rest of her family. And when her grandmother sends her on an epic journey around the world to find answers from birthplace, she gets way more than she bargained for. I love how Rimmer wrote the timeline and how, as a reader, you were about a step ahead of the characters, but never knowing all of the information at once. It was a very emotional story about love and survival, in both time periods. Even though I keep reading the novels set in WWI and WWII, they’re never the same. There were so many experiences and views of those times that each story is unique. I definitely recommend this one, even if you’re not a huge historical fiction fan. Enjoy!


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The Summer Before the War

I have definitely been on a historical fiction kick lately. Not completely by choice, though, and I’m itching to switch it up a little bit. But they’ve been books I was either reading with friends or became available from my holds list. My last book, Lost Roses, was I think the first WWI historical fiction I had read and it just so turned out that this one was too – just from a very different perspective.

The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson begins in England 1914, the summer before the country joins WWI. A young woman, Beatrice, has just been hired to be the new latin teacher at the school in the coastal town of Rye, which is unusual at best. She is a single woman whose money is wrapped up in a trust left by her late father and controlled by her vicious aunt. But she is determined to make a life for herself. She arrives in the summer to get settled and tutor some students. She is quickly taken under the wing of Agatha, who went out on a limb to get her hired as the first female in such a desired teaching position, and her two nephews who are staying for the summer.

The summer turns exciting when the town begins taking in Belgian refugees to do their part in the pre-war effort. This of course comes with plenty of drama as the wealthier class shuffles for recognition, not realizing what is coming for England. As the summer rolls on, Beatrice becomes close with Agatha’s two nephews, Hugh and Daniel, who are polar opposites and stir up some drama of their own. Hugh thinks he is in love with his mentor’s daughter and Daniel is a poet and everything is dramatic.

The war eventually comes to England, and Rye, and the end of the book is a whirlwind of battles, both local and abroad. But I won’t give anything away. The book was a little slow at the beginning but redeemed itself. And fair warning, I did cry a little at the end. I’m just glad I wasn’t riding the train when reading it – thanks corona virus! Can’t wait to discuss with my friends!


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Lost Roses

I really enjoyed reading Lilac Girls so I went quickly to Martha Hall Kelly’s second book, Lost Roses. It is a prequel to the first book, so some of the characters are the same. I wasn’t sure it would be as intriguing as the first, which is set during WWII, but I was pleasantly surprised.

In Lilac Girls, Caroline is one of the main characters, so in Lost Roses she is a young girl. This story line focuses on Caroline’s mother, Eliza. It is set in 1914, during the fall of the tsar and aristocratic class in Russia and World War I. Eliza’s friend Sofya, cousin to the tsar, and her family end up entrapped and held hostage in their own home. Sofya’s son is taken from her and members of the family attempt escape at different times, causing the family to split up. Meanwhile, Eliza is in the US trying to help Russian women and children who have fled to the US.

The story follows each of their paths and struggles to the end of the war. I won’t spoil who survives and who doesn’t, but it’s not all happy endings. It is written in a similar style to the first book and I enjoyed reading the parallel paths of the women in their respective countries trying to survive and make a difference. And you definitely don’t have to read them in the order they were written. Enjoy!


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Lilac Girls

Still loving the historical fiction books and this one may be up there as my favorite. Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly was based on real people and real events, which makes it even better.

Three women are followed during and after WWII in Poland, Germany, and America. Their lives cross paths in different ways and they are involved in and affected by the war in very different ways. Caroline is in America, trying to help those affected overseas, especially children and worrying about a man she loves who ends up back in France. Herta is a German doctor who ends up working at one of the concentration camps. Kasia is a Polish teenager who ends up, with her sister, mother, and friend, at one of the concentration camps.

I have read enough WWII fiction and nonfiction that none of the story was necessarily surprising, but it was a more detailed story line about this specific concentration camp and what happened to a group of young girls. And even if you are familiar with WWII events, it never ceases to be completely appalling. What I enjoyed most about this story was that it continued after the war. Even after the liberation of the camps, the pain and damage, both mentally and physically, was incredible and I cannot even begin to imagine that life. But there were people like Caroline, who worked, even many years after the war, to continue to help.

I absolutely loved this story of hardship, friendship, family, and recovery. I definitely recommend it, especially if you like historical fiction.


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The Storyteller

New year, new reading challenge! I exceeded my 2019 reading goal, so I set my bar high this year with 50 books. You can follow my progress and books on Goodreads!

My first book of the year was a good one. I’ve read numerous Jodi Picoult books over the years. They are usually pretty heavy topics so I never read more than one of hers in a row. And this one was right up my alley for historical fiction and WWII. The Storyteller is fiction, history, mystery, and deception – all used to tell the stories of numerous people who are related in different ways.

Sage is a baker whose past scars haunts her daily. She attends a grief support group where she befriends an elderly man, Josef who is beloved in their community. Josef confides a huge secret that could have legal and moral implications for him, but also emotional implications for Sage. As she navigates what to do with the information he gives her, she connects deeper with her grandmother and meets someone new who sees past her scars to her true person. I don’t want to give too much away, but the information Josef confesses has to do with the Holocaust and the story goes back to that time for a good bit of the book, with lots of details. So if you are easily affected by tough facts from that time, this may not be the best book for you. But it is truly fascinating and appalling all at the same time.

I feel like I picked a good one to start the year, so here’s to another year of good books!