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The Summer Before the War
The Summer Before the War: A Novel | Helen Simonson
The bestselling author of Major Pettigrews Last Stand returns with a breathtaking novel of love on the eve of World War I that reaches far beyond the small English town in which it is set. East Sussex, 1914. It is the end of Englands brief Edwardian summer, and everyone agrees that the weather has never been so beautiful. Hugh Grange, down from his medical studies, is visiting his Aunt Agatha, who lives with her husband in the small, idyllic coastal town of Rye. Agathas husband works in the Foreign Office, and she is certain he will ensure that the recent saber rattling over the Balkans wont come to anything. And Agatha has more immediate concerns; she has just risked her carefully built reputation by pushing for the appointment of a woman to replace the Latin master. When Beatrice Nash arrives with one trunk and several large crates of books, it is clear she is significantly more freethinkingand attractivethan anyone believes a Latin teacher should be. For her part, mourning the death of her beloved father, who has left her penniless, Beatrice simply wants to be left alone to pursue her teaching and writing. But just as Beatrice comes alive to the beauty of the Sussex landscape and the colorful characters who populate Rye, the perfect summer is about to end. For despite Agathas reassurances, the unimaginable is coming. Soon the limits of progress, and the old ways, will be tested as this small Sussex town and its inhabitants go to war. Advance praise for The Summer Before the War At once haunting and effervescent, The Summer Before the War demonstrates the sure hand of a master. Helen Simonsons characters enchant us, her English countryside beguiles us, and her historical intelligence keeps us at the edge of our seats. This luminous story of a family, a town, and a world in their final moments of innocence is as lingering and lovely as a long summer sunset.Annie Barrows, author of The Truth According to Us and co-author of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society Helen Simonson has outdone herself in this radiant follow-up to Major Pettigrews Last Stand. The provincial town of Rye, East Sussex, in the days just before and after the Great War is so vividly drawn it fairly vibrates. The depth and sensitivity with which she weighs the steep costs and delicate bonds of wartimeand not just for the young men in the trenches, but for every changed life and heartreveal the full mastery of her storytelling. Simonson is like a Jane Austen for our day and ageshe is that goodand The Summer Before the War is nothing short of a treasure.Paula McLain, author of The Paris Wife and Circling the Sun A bright confection of a book morphs into a story of dignity and backbone. . . . This book is beautifully plotted and morally astute.Kirkus Reviews (starred review) This novel is just the ticket for fans of Simonsons debut, Major Pettigrews Last Stand, and for any reader who enjoys leisurely fiction steeped in the British past.Booklist From the Hardcover edition.
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thea-block
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Pickpick

Like Downton Abbey in book form! Not as much drama, but the same focus on a wide variety of class/experience and a picture of the 1910s ethos, culture, and pressures.

I‘m not sold on the pacing of the story, the many POVs, and the foray into a year+ of the war. I enjoyed the cultural mindset, the relationships, and many characters. I wish there was more Beatrice!

Certainly one of my favorite reads in a while.
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2

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BarbaraJean
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August Reading! LOTS of good books this month, but my favorites were: The Summer Before the War and The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street. Honorable mentions: Wade in the Water, We Need to Talk About Kevin.

August Stats:

📰Nonfiction: 3 📚Fiction: 2 🔍Mystery: 2 👧🏽YA/Kids: 2 ⚡️SFF: 1 🖋Poetry: 1

📚Print: 7 🎧Audio: 3 💻eBook: 1
🏫Library: 8 📚TBR: 2 🔂Re-read: 1

Crazeedi Duchess is by the woman who wrote 84 charing cross! That looks good! 5mo
BarbaraJean @Crazeedi Yes! It‘s kind of a sequel—it‘s her journal/travelogue from when she visits London for the British release of 84 Charing Cross Road. 😊 5mo
Crazeedi @BarbaraJean sounds good! 5mo
55 likes3 comments
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BarbaraJean
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Pickpick

This was lovely—both charming and heartbreaking in turn. I enjoyed the WWI-era English village setting, while at the same time being infuriated by its of-the-time sexism, prejudice, and petty politics. The novel is packed with great characters, and I especially loved the main character: strong, intelligent, independent Beatrice Nash. This was my third book finished for #MakeMeReadIt—another fantastic pick!

Nute I haven‘t read this book but I thoroughly enjoyed Helen Simonson‘s first novel, Major Pettigrew‘s Last Stand, and for the same reason that you liked this book...endearing characters. 5mo
BarbaraJean @Nute Oh, I‘m glad to hear you enjoyed Major Pettigrew! It‘s been on my shelf a little longer than this one, but I was enticed to read this one first, seasonally, because of the “summer” in the title! 5mo
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monalyisha
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1. Gourmet marshmallows. Sour Patch Kids/any gummies. Wasabi peas.
2. Coffee. K-cups for work (💚 mint); non-flavored, ground for home. We have a grinder that we use for special/non-lazy occasions. 😉
3. Woods (pine/spruce); flowers; herbs. Candles + incense.
4. A bunny!
5. Reading, camping, Scrabble, nature walks
6. The ocean
7. Green/blue/gray
8. Buffy the Vampire Slayer
9. Traditional (paper, wood, fabric, crocheted, embroidered)
#HFTSS

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marleed
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Mehso-so

This beauty seemed so long that it‘s been sitting on my tbr for quite some time. It gave me Downton Abbey Season 1 vibes, but did I mention it was waaay longer than necessary. I fear I‘ll carry with me the DAs1 feels rather than the actual story. However, cuteness helps and she‘s a gorgeous cover! ...It also makes me grateful my long widowed self is not attempting to live my best life in the culture of 100 years ago.

KimM I bought it for the cover. Still haven't read it and its looking more and more like I won't. It's ok to buy books for home decor, right? 😂 6mo
marleed @KimM Haha - absolutely! I often purchase for cover, title, and even spine. It may explain why my physical tbr is toppling! It feels like a lottery hit when I also rate above 4.25 stars. 6mo
Caroline2 Yep I felt the same about this one. Way too long and a bit soapy. 🙄 6mo
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Penny_LiteraryHoarders Oh I loved loved this one. Sorry it didn't give you the same feelings! ☺ 6mo
marleed @Penny_LiteraryHoarders @Caroline2 DAs1 was my favorite- how lives changed for women with the sinking of the Titanic and the current culture and estate laws. I think I would have enjoyed this book much more had it been of shorter length because I am intrigued by pre WWI England. 6mo
BooknerdsLife Sorry it wasn‘t a pick but ... What a gorgeous photo! 😍😍❤️ Love that cover! 6mo
marleed @BooknerdsLife i just love this cover too. Had this book been 150 pages less It would have been a certain pick for me. I have this added criteria of a lengthy book needing to justify its size and this story just didn‘t hit my saga mark. But I did love the DAs1 feels! 6mo
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Caroline2
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Mehso-so

The beginning was good and the ending but there‘s a good 200 pages in the middle where nothing happens and the story reallllly drags. At nearly 600 pages there‘s a good book in there somewhere but boy did this need editing! 🙄 glad it‘s done. 👍🏻

Ncostell I was disappointed by this book too. I loved Major Pettigrew‘s Last Stand but felt like this one was all over the place. 6mo
Caroline2 @Ncostell yeah it just doesn‘t quite work does it. 6mo
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Caroline2
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My summer TBR pile! 😀 it‘s prob over ambitious but my husband is working abroad for most of the next two months so I should get more reading time. 👍🏻

tammysue Great stack 🙌🏻 7mo
bedandabook Ooh, you‘ve got some great books there! Enjoy 😊 7mo
PathfinderNicole My husband was gone for work for two months too (though his round is almost done) and I feel like I‘ve read double what I normally would have even with the kid and the dog 😂. 7mo
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Chelsea.Poole Bright and beautiful books there! I'm currently reading 7mo
Cathythoughts Looks good 👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻 7mo
squirrelbrain Some good ones there! 😁👍❤️ 7mo
Penny_LiteraryHoarders Summer Before the War!!! SWOON! A fantastic fabulous book to read for the summer. That's when I read it and I adored it! So good! Dying for a new one by Helen Simonson!! 7mo
Eggs Read After You, Great Alone, and Everything i never told You 💗 7mo
74 likes8 comments
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Mindyrecycles
Summer Before the War | Helen Simonson
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I love this cover. #summertime #songsofsummer

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Deborah42
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Pickpick

Historical fiction set in a small English town in the summer of 1914, right before WWI. This is a quiet book where not a lot happens, but the atmosphere is wonderful. Beatrice, whose father has just died, comes to the town to teach Latin. The townsfolk are shocked at her independence, but she eventually becomes part of the town. When Belgian refugees come seeking help, the town will never be quite the same.

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Bookwormjillk
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29 likes2 stack adds
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Bookwormjillk
Summer Before the War | Helen Simonson
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Got out for the first time this week due to a hurt foot. Today foot felt okay and brain felt much better after my walk. I enjoyed the azaleas, lilacs, and tulips at the Netherlands embassy. #litsywalkers #audiowalk

Eggs Gorgeous!! 9mo
Bookwormjillk @Eggs I can‘t remember a prettier spring 9mo
35 likes2 comments
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Bookwormjillk
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All done with the garden for now, and liking the book much better on audio.

rretzler I enjoyed this book, but not nearly as much as her first - Major Pettigrew‘s Last Stand. 9mo
Bookwormjillk @rretzler yes, I agree. It has that same slow, dreamy pace, but not as engaging 9mo
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Bookwormjillk
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I tried this earlier in print, but couldn‘t get into it. Trying it again on audio while I tackle a big gardening project.

BookishMarginalia Good luck on both fronts! 9mo
gradcat Wow! That IS a big gardening project...I know it will be beautiful when you finish, though. Happy gardening, and good luck with the weather! 9mo
Jaimelire That looks like the ideal place for a nice garden. ❤️ 9mo
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Bookwormjillk @gradcat thanks. The previous owners had a trampoline here so it was looking pretty rough. Hoping for a soft rain tonight to help it along. 9mo
Bookwormjillk @Jaimelire yes, the sunniest spot in the yard 9mo
gradcat If you feel like it, post some pix as you go along—it looks like a great space! 💐🌹🌷🌸🌺🥀🌼🌻🌞 9mo
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Samplergal
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Pickpick

The writing was delicious and I loved the first part of the book that truly had a feminist message. Given that this was set in 1914 Britain, it was wonderfully refreshing. I can‘t help to say that the romance that followed disappointed me. The story was a quiet story that reflected a simpler time in England, which led to the shattering of that world with the onset of WWI.

Louise “Delicious” is a great word to describe this book! I loved the witty banter between the characters. 10mo
KarenUK Glad you enjoyed it.... Rye is one of my favorite places... 💕 10mo
Samplergal @KarenUK I was sorry the romance was the “fix”. Bleh. Wanted her to continue with her independence. 😉 10mo
KarenUK @samplergal oh me too... I loved the female characters so much! 10mo
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PickwickPlockPlock
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Pickpick

I had lots of reading time for this library book because I stayed home with my sick son the last days (he's feeling better now). It started a bit slow, but I didn't mind because it was clear that soon nothing would be the same. I really liked Beatrice and was angry how she was treated. Some parts had a Downton Abbey vibe (I'm not complaining). I prefer the English version's cover.
A great book, I will check out the author's other book sometime.

Louise Did you find that the English wit in this book translated well into German? 10mo
PickwickPlockPlock @Louise I wouldn't have called the book especially witty, so maybe it doesn't, but I didn't have the impression that I was missing a layer, so to speak. 10mo
Louise Interesting. In English, there is often a very British dry humor in the banter between the characters. Aside from poetry, humor may be one of the most difficult things to translate. 10mo
PickwickPlockPlock @Louise That's one of the reasons I normally prefer to read English books in the original, but this was a library book, so I didn't have the choice. 10mo
Louise I can understand that! I enjoy the humor of Ingrid Noll and prefer to read her books in German. Of course, I don‘t really have a choice, as only 2 of her books are available in English! 😆 (edited) 10mo
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Louise
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Pickpick

Excellent #audiobook. The dialogue is clever and witty, and the characters are interesting and nicely developed. The reader gets to know the characters before WWI and then experiences the effect of the war on each of them. One sees how people‘s perspectives change in the face of so much death. It is deeply moving and thought-provoking.

Chelleo Love this cover 11mo
Crazeedi Sounds really good! 11mo
Tanisha_A Hello! How are you? Wanted to check if your address is same as before, sending you a little something. It's been a while! 💕 11mo
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Louise Hi, @Tanisha_A! Yes! My address is the same as before. Looking forward to hearing from you! Hooray! 🤓 11mo
margreads I really enjoyed this author's first book but haven't read any others 11mo
Patchshank I really like the cover 11mo
FreeReadAndWrite This has been on my TBR way too long 11mo
106 likes3 stack adds7 comments
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Devyn
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Pickpick

Loved, loved, loved this one. It tells the story of a sleepy town and its inhabitants as World War I breaks out and they‘re forced to reckon with the reality of a war. All of the characters where lifelike and truthful, even if, at times, I wanted to grab some of them by the shoulders and shake em. If you liked Major Pettigrew‘s Last Stand and Downton Abbey, this should be right up your alley.

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Devyn
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When you‘ve gotta use whatever you can as a bookmark...even your pup‘s tail.

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Devyn
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An old neck injury flared up this week but I had too much to get done to rest so I‘m finally in bed with a hot water bottle, a chai, and an uninterrupted hour or so while the puppy naps. HEAVEN.

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Devyn
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Just about halfway through this hefty one and I‘m really enjoying it so far and it has definitely prompted a rewatch of Downton Abbey. I have to take a break from this morning‘s reading for brunch with a friend, but I‘ll be coming back home and getting right back into this.

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DivineDiana
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I enjoyed this story of a young Latin teacher who rides her bicycle into Sussex to begin her new position, before the outbreak of World War I. Hailed as a book for lovers of Downton Abbey, I confess my agreement. #musicalnewyear #summernights

SamanthaMarie OOOO! Added this to my TBR. Sounds so good. 12mo
Cinfhen I really love this cover🤩 12mo
DivineDiana @SamanthaMarie It is a perfect Summer read! 12mo
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DivineDiana @Cinfhen As do I! 😘 12mo
vivastory #LitsyConfessions I've never seen an episode of Downton Abbey 😬 12mo
Freespirit Sounds like something to add to the stack! 12mo
77 likes4 stack adds6 comments
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Jenken1998
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"All we want is a kind voice in the dark isn't it now?"

This weeks audio book (fun) while i am deep cleaning the house (not fun).. lol

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starlight97
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Mehso-so

This was a very slow-paced but thus realistic book. Although I felt like there was no ultimate goal or dénouement the story was going towards, it was just flowing pointlessly, touching this and that on the way.

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PaperbackPirate
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Mehso-so

I really never connected with any of the characters in this story which was surprising compared to Major Pettigrew. Maybe I‘m comparing the 2 books too closely but I think The Summer Before the War is missing that Zing.
🍻 Taken at a veteran owned cidery 🍎

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starlight97
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This title came out of the #TBRjar. I love the cover (even more when it's in color)!
Has anyone read it or have it on their list? :)

JenlovesJT47 I have this and I love the cover. Just need to get around to reading it one of these days! 😆 14mo
starlight97 @JenlovesJT47 I'd love to have a physical copy of this too! 📖 14mo
smilingshelves I loved this one! 14mo
18 likes4 comments
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staci.reads
Summer Before the War | Helen Simonson
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Pickpick

I loved this one. It was on my tbr forever, and I finally got to it. It was a really enjoyable story of family, love, acceptance, and independence set in England prior to WWI. Beatrice is a woman before her time. The story has shades of Downton Abbey and Pride and Prejudice.

lesliemarie I really like this book! 1y
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JulAnna
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Pickpick

I know far too little about WW1, but the same part of me that enjoyed Downton Abbey enjoyed this book. Yes, it was gentle and slow, at least at the beginning, but it felt just right for these last, hot days of summer. 🤓

Desha Another book on my tbr pile you are encouraging me to move up...😂😊👍🏻 1y
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JulAnna
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This feels just right for this last long weekend of summer. Enjoying rocking in my hammock swing with a light breeze and a cool drink 😊

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Dragon
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Pickpick

Beatrice Nash has come to Rye to teach Latin , the school‘s first woman in that role. It is just months before the start of the Great War , life in the village is very class and gender specific. A slow burn romance with interesting social commentary. 👍👍 I loved her nod to Dame Agatha Christie. One of my favourite characters was called Agatha and there were Belgium 🇧🇪 refugees like my favourite sleuth Poirot.

68 likes4 stack adds
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JulAnna
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🤔I went to the bookstore today to buy a book to start when I finish my current read. Oops! Now I don‘t know which to read next!?!

TheBookAddict I loved Americanah! 💕 1y
Amiable Another vote for "Americanah"! 1y
47 likes3 comments
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KarenUK
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#abbainaugust
A story of #ourlastsummer before WW1
Loved wallowing in this gentle tale set in Rye (near where I‘m from). On the brink of war, the town grapples with social change (by 1918 women in UK gain the right to vote). Loved the wry dialogue and feisty female MC. It‘s a time of bike rides, seaside picnics, a formality of manners and sherry before dinner, all captured so beautifully, you can almost smell the summer blossoms and fresh sea air.

Cinfhen Looks like a lovely place to live 💙💚 1y
Reviewsbylola Looks so beautiful. 1y
Penny_LiteraryHoarders LOVED this one!! 💗💗 Perfection for summer reading. 1y
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Mdargusch Wow! What a gorgeous area! I need to visit! 1y
Dragon What a great review and lovely photos! 👍😀 1y
emilyhaldi Charming ❤️ 1y
Meredith3 🙌🏻 1y
Dragon So happy I saw your post. It reminded me I owned this book. I just finished reading it. I admit to a bit of sobbing at the end. 💜 1y
KarenUK @dragon I‘m so glad you liked it! It‘s a hard one to recommend because it‘s a slow read but I loved it 👍💕 1y
KarenUK @dragon I loved her other book too 1y
Dragon Me too! 👍🐉 1y
74 likes2 stack adds11 comments
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Foragingfantasy
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Audiobook of the day.

alisonrose I love this cover art. 1y
DivineDiana A book club pick that was a favorite! 1y
Foragingfantasy @DivineDiana I really liked it! 1y
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rsheldr
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Pickpick

@MicrobeMom thank you so much for the Harry Potter things.I am excited to read the books,especially summer before the war!@bookaholicnatty

MicrobeMom Yay! I am so glad you got it! I hope you enjoy! 1y
BookaholicNatty I love this!!!!! I‘m loving that wallet @MicrobeMom you did a fabulous job picking out goodies for her!!! ❤️❤️❤️ 1y
MicrobeMom Thanks @bookaholicnatty thanks! It was such a fun swap. Thanks for organizing. 1y
6 likes3 comments
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KYutzy4
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I'm struggling with this one. I've read reviews that said the first half is slow to get through and boy are they right. Hoping it picks up soon.
#24in48

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mklong
Summer Before the War | Helen Simonson
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Mehso-so

This could have been a great summer read if only it had been edited a bit. It is overstuffed with superfluous details and characters that bog it down without adding any depth. The result is a narrative that plods along, rather than the smooth country bicycle ride that I was expecting.

#LMPBC #GroupQ

mklong @JenlovesJT47 I‘m sorry it‘s going out so late! It took longer to read than I thought. 2y
Rcoco Her other book is delightful. If you haven‘t read it I would recommend. 2y
JenlovesJT47 No worries, I‘m in the same boat! 2y
69 likes1 stack add3 comments
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DivineDiana
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I‘m a huge Beatles fan, and plan to participate in the #heyjune challenge. I had been struggling with #HeyJude and then decided to go with the lyric “Remember to let her into your heart. Then you can start to make it better” This book takes place in England, home of The Beatles. One of the main characters, Hugh Grange, decides to let the new young Latin teacher into his life.

GypsyKat I love that you used the lyrics. 💗 2y
staci.reads Also on my summer reading list 2y
Cinfhen Fabulous choice and so glad your playing along ❤️❤️❤️ 2y
77 likes3 comments
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mdm139
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@callunakeep Thank you for such a wonderful #bottleandbookswap. I love everything! You stalked me well. I think you know me better than my own family. I look forward to reading these books and using the bottles over the summer. I would expect to see these books and bottles in future litsy pics very soon. @JoScho

Smrloomis That popcorn looks amazing! Oh, yeah, the books are nice too. 2y
JoScho Love it all!! 💕 2y
callunakeep I am soo happy you love it!!! 🙌🏻🎉. I totally enjoyed enjoyed the stalk, glad to hear i did well!!🙌🏻💕🎉 2y
APLitlife Pretty water bottle! 2y
38 likes4 comments
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Bookishgal71
Summer Before the War | Helen Simonson
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And away she goes...headed your way @mklong ! #lmpbc #groupq

mklong Yay! Looking forward to it! 2y
mklong It‘s here! Thank you so much for the bookmark and your sweet card! ❤️ 2y
16 likes2 comments
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Bookishgal71
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This is SO good so far! #litsymarkuppostalbookclub #groupq

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sweetpealsd
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Pickpick

I enjoyed this book. It wasn‘t a fast read but it was a very gentle read. I hope that makes sense. I got more chuckles out of this book than I expected. A very nice spring read! Thank you @JenlovesJT47 #LPMBC #GroupQ

@mklong @Bookishgal71

Eggs On my TBR! 2y
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sweetpealsd
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I‘m received this Saturday but I‘ve just felt well enough to post about it. I‘m excited to start this now that the cloud of sickness has started to lift from us! #LPMBC Group Q #

@mklong @JenlovesJT47 @Bookishgal71

JenlovesJT47 Feel better soon! 💚 2y
71 likes1 comment
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JenlovesJT47
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These are headed to you today @sweetpealsd - looking forward to round two of the #LMPBC !

#bookmail

📚🤓📚🤓📚🤓📚🤓📚🤓📚🤓📚🤓📚🤓📚

Bookishgal71 Mine are heading out tomorrow! 2y
mklong So excited too!! I‘m finishing up Aviator‘s Wife and will mail mine next week ☺️ 2y
sweetpealsd Mine went out yesterday morning. @Bookishgal71 , you should be getting them today! 2y
84 likes3 comments
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Leelee08
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I‘m so lucky that my professor let me write my literary criticism paper on this amazing book. ❤️❤️❤️#Edwardian

CoverToCoverGirl In my TBR pile.. 2y
Litsi Tell us about it 2y
Leelee08 @Litsi it‘s a beautiful love story/ woman empowerment tale set it 1914 in a little country town in England. It‘s absolutely beautiful 😍 2y
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emilycoc
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Pickpick

I really enjoyed this read. The first half of the book moved almost too slowly for my liking but the second half kept my attention. Reminds me of a book I read in university, where the tone at the beginning is slow to denote the atmosphere before a big specific event, and the end moves quickly to show the chaos following the event. That's how I take the pace of this book; to show the "before and after" the start of the war.

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S.Web
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Book haul from just one of my Christmas gift cards.

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emilycoc
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Next up.

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Erinreadsthebooks
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Do y'all have an Ollie's near you? They have a great book section, and it's super cheap! #bookhaul

Leigh0906 I‘m jealous- the Ollie‘s near me never has such good stuff! 2y
32 likes1 comment
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DivineDiana
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Pickpick

I have a soft spot in my heart for Helen Simonson‘s first Book “Major Pettigrew‘s Last Stand”. This was a longer book and the pace was slower. It was like drinking a warm cup of tea in a porcelain cup. The book describes an outdoor party that includes a dramatization of a poem by some of the young guests. What fun!

Mdargusch That photo! ❤️❤️❤️ 2y
KarenUK I loved both her books.... they are like a warm hug💕💕 2y
DivineDiana @Mdargusch I think we should revive this tradition! 😉 2y
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DivineDiana @KarenUK I agree! 💗 2y
Cinfhen Lovely review 💚 2y
DivineDiana @Cinfhen Thank you! Wishing you and yours a wonderful holiday season! ❤️ 2y
Cinfhen Thanks so much, Diana 😍my wonderful #phillycrew friend 😘same to you!!! 2y
Cathythoughts Magic ✨✨✨ 2y
DivineDiana @Cathythoughts I am thinking it is truly magical how a book can transport you to another time and place! 2y
88 likes2 stack adds9 comments
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BookishMarginalia
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TheBookHippie The mushrooms 🍄🍄🍄🍄🍄🍄🍄💕💕💕 2y
SauerPatch Beautiful! It's been a while since I've been able to audiocolor but it's so therapeutic! What coloring book is that? It looks delightful. 2y
148 likes2 comments
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BookishMarginalia
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Home after a long week of school, our last full one before recess starts on the 21st. Enjoying this novel immensely!

DivineDiana As did I ! It slowly wraps you in a warm blanket of love. 📚💗📚 2y
139 likes4 stack adds1 comment