The Secrets of FlightWe’re starting our giveaway for the Amazing Books Giveaway Hop a day early. The book we’ve chosen seems appropriate for Mother’s Day – The Secrets of Flight by Maggie Leffler. It continues our historical fiction theme for the week, yet it also has a contemporary element as you’ll see in the video clip below. It’s a story about family, love, dedication and persistence, and choices made that change people’s lives and the lives of those around them. It’s also about how World War II changed lives in the U.S., even though the U.S. was never invaded…and how those changes rippled across the decades.

The Secrets of Flight is told from two perspectives: that of someone who lived through WWII and chose to follow her dream – and – that of a teenager who is still trying to figure out life and is determined to follow her dream. I found it fascinating and hope you will too – and one of you is going to win a copy in our giveaway!

Mary Browning is an established author in her eightieth decade of life, and yet she feels like a fraud. For almost her entire adult life, she has been in hiding and no one around her really knows who she is or that she’s not of the religious faith she professes. Mary made a fateful decision in World War II to follow her dream of flying and that meant leaving her family behind her. When she met the man of her dreams, she also left her religion behind her.

Both things, in addition to promises broken, have haunted her for her entire life because they don’t fit her picture of who she is underneath it all. Even her name is not her real name. If she had known how isolated she would become because of the decisions she made, and the price she would pay, would she still have made those decisions? If she came clean about who she is now, wouldn’t it be too late?

Fifteen-year-old Elyse Strickler is much closer to the beginning of her life but she also has a passionate dream, the dream of becoming a writer just like Mary Browning. No one seems to understand Elyse’s dream or to take her seriously, yet she’s determined to fulfill her dream. To that end, she decides to join a writer’s group at the local library. Her hope is that she will find people just like her – people who live to write and are working toward their dream of becoming a published writer. What she hasn’t counted on is that the group is comprised of old people. Still she’s desperate and the group is run by Mary, a professional author, so maybe it will work out.

As for Mary, her real name is Miriam “Miri” Lichtenstein, but it’s a name she left long ago – even though it still haunts her. When Mary meets Elyse, she feels an instant connection and is convinced Elyse was sent to her for a reason. Mary has long wanted to write a memoir disguised as a novel and Elyse seems like just the gift she needs to get to work on it before it’s too late. So she offers Elyse a summer job typing up notes for the new book – an offer Elyse can’t resist.

As Mary dictates her story and Elyse transcribes those notes, Elyse becomes fascinated by characters who lived when her own grandmother was just a girl. When Elyse spies a picture at Mary’s home of three young WASPS in uniform, she begins to wonder if this is more than a novel.

What she doesn’t know is that Mary recently read that she and the surviving members of her WASP squadron are finally going to be given a Congressional award to acknowledge the role they played in WWII. It’s made Mary wonder if she should come out of hiding after all these years. What would the consequences be? Will she then feel like a fraud twice over? She’s convinced no one will understand why she did it when even she feels such guilt at the betrayals involved. She definitely doesn’t deserve a Congressional honor. How can she ever be forgiven for what she’s done?

Mary/Miriam was just as strong, opinionated, and persistent as Elyse is when she was young…and those qualities are part of what drew Mary to Elyse. I liked both young women, and the older Mary, immediately. Mary/Miriam made heart-wrenching decisions to follow her dream without realizing their far reaching consequences. None of us ever seem to have a crystal ball handy when we have to make life altering decisions, yet Mary somehow believes she should have been able to predict the future. She’s spent a lifetime punishing herself, often without even realizing it. She gives up even more of herself for the sake of the man she falls in love with – a good man by the way and not a villain by any means. And that piece that she gives up, her Jewish heritage, exacts a price that goes far beyond where she worships every week. Now this may all sound really heart-wrenching, yet so much of Mary/Miriam’s story is joyful and wonderful even though in her 80’s she seems filled with regrets. A real dichotomy…

Maggie Leffler has done a wonderful job in The Secrets of Flight of portraying what it was like to be a woman who loved flight more than anything and wanted to contribute to the U.S. war effort. She hasn’t pulled any punches about the condescending way women were treated, even the best women pilots of the day, or the hardships they endured. She has also written a touching novel about friendship between two very different generations, about how similar different generations are underneath the surface, and how we can all learn from each other no matter our age differences.

I was swept up into The Secrets of Flight and read spellbound the whole way through. I once worked with a woman who had been part of a WASP squadron in WWII and she had some amazing stories to tell. I was in my mid-20’s and I was outraged that they were treated with so little respect both during and after the war. She always just shrugged when I brought it up and said, “We knew what we’d done. We’d didn’t need a pat on the head for doing it, and that’s all it would have been, a pat on the head.”

In many ways, The Secrets of Flight contains two coming-of-age stories – stories that are in many ways more alike than they are different despite how far apart they occurred. I believe this novel is going to be one all ages will appreciate because some things are universal no matter your age. I hope you like this novel as much as I did – I loved it!

Click here to learn more about the role WASPs (Women Air-Force Service Pilots) played in WWII.

Upcoming Author Events & Book Signings:
May 6, 2016 at 7pm at Mystery Lovers Bookshop in Oakmont, PA
May 14, 2016 at 3pm at Barnes & Noble in Long Gate Shopping Center in Ellicott City, MD
June 3, 2016 at 6:30pm at A Likely Story Bookstore in Sykesville, MD

Can’t wait to read it? The Secrets of Flight is available in all formats from your favorite online bookseller. Click on the link below to get it to read immediately!

I’d love to get your comments on The Secrets of Flight, Maggie Leffler and/or her other work, and/or this review!


Amazing Books Giveaway Hop

Our Giveaway:
One lucky reader will win an ARC (advance review copy) of The Secrets of Flight by Maggie Leffler!

Giveaway Rules:
1) The deadline for entries is Thursday night, 5/19/2016, at 11:59pm EDST. No entries after that date/time will be eligible.
2) This giveaway is open to entries with U.S. mailing addresses only because we do not ship books outside of the U.S.
3) Please note: You must be at least 15 years old to enter this particular giveaway.
4) You must use the Rafflecopter form. Even if leaving a comment is part of the giveaway, you must use the form in addition to leaving the comment for the comment to count as an entry.
5) If you already follow Popcorn Reads on Twitter or Linky, you must still complete that part of the Rafflecopter form for your follow to count as an entry.
6) If you do not provide a complete mailing address in the Rafflecopter form, your entry will not be eligible. We will use your mailing address to ship your book to you. Please allow 2-3 weeks for book delivery.
7) That’s it – this is an easy giveaway, so have fun and best of luck!

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Everyone Brave Is ForgivenEvery novel bestselling author Chris Cleave writes is very different from his others. I’ve read both Little Bee and Gold, and loved them both even though they were completely different. FYI: We reviewed Gold and the link to that review appears at the end of this review.

With his new historical World War II novel, Everyone Brave Is Forgiven, Chris Cleave has another bestseller on his hands and we readers have another wonderful novel to savor…and I couldn’t be happier because it was well worth the wait!

War time is hard on life, much less on romance. There’s an urgency to everything because no one knows if they’ll even be alive the next day. Everyone Brave Is Forgiven captures that urgency. It is inspired by love letters exchanged by the author’s grandparents, letters that shed light on the unforeseen complexities war lends to any relationship. Although it is a brilliant portrayal of life during wartime, it’s also about how we behave when life puts our core values and beliefs to the ultimate test.

Like many people, eighteen-year-old Mary North wants to do her part when war is declared in 1939. She’s just left her finishing school (without graduating) and has no real-world work experience, but she feels she must be able to do something to help. Surely the war effort needs all the help it can get. So she sets off for the London War Office to volunteer her services.

Mary believes she will make a really good spy or something else clandestine and vital to England succeeding in the war. The War Office, however, has something else entirely in mind and assigns her to teach school…not at all what she had in mind. Mary has never been that fond of school and can’t possibly imagine how teaching school will do anything to help win the war; however, she’s determined to do her part. Unfortunately, the headmistress at her school also doesn’t see how Mary teaching school will help anyone, including the students there.

Mary is a bit of an unconventional teacher; however, she quickly grows to love her students and decides her mission is to protect them at all costs. She believes that all of her students can excel if someone believes in them, not just the ones who’ve had privileges, and she works hard with the school’s “charity” students who she senses are incredibly bright…and begins to make steady progress with them.

When The War Office decides London is no longer safe for its children because of relentless bombings, they ship them off to remote countryside villages to protect them. To read more about Operation Piped Piper, click here. The only problem with that is that the villagers don’t want children who aren’t like them, i.e., children from impoverished homes or who have different racial or ethnic backgrounds, illnesses or disabilities. That means those children face bigotry and what would be called today hate crimes – and they are eventually returned to London.

Of course, the children believe that is just more proof that they are unlovable and worthless – not worth protecting in the countryside. Mary is even more determined to see that their education is continued, despite orders to not teach them, and that they regain some small portion of the self-confidence they had attained when they left London.

Tom Shaw and Alistair Heath are London roommates, who’ve made a bargain to ignore the war and continue to live their lives the way they always have – at least that’s what they tell each other. The truth, however, is much more complicated than that. No one in London can escape the constant subtle and more overt peer pressure, the barrage of patriotism coming from all angles 24/7, and the guilt that comes from not being one of the young men shipping off to war.

Alistair can’t take the guilt and can’t justify living the good life while others sacrifice themselves – his values and beliefs won’t let him do that, so he secretly enlists. Tom is livid and horrified when he learns about it because he knows Alistair is the last person who is capable of fighting in a war – it’s 180 degrees away from who Alistair is as a human being…but there’s nothing he can do because it’s too late. Alistair has already received his orders.

And, meanwhile, Alistair and Mary have met and fallen in love with each other when it’s too late for Alistair to back out of his enlistment. And that too makes Tom livid. Mary can only hope Alistair will somehow manage to survive his posting in Malta and return safely to her in London – although even London isn’t very safe these days. At least she has Tom to rely upon while he’s gone, or at least she thinks she does. But does she, really? What will become of the three of them, and Mary’s students, when there is no place that is safe from one minute to the next – and when no one knows what tomorrow will bring?

As with Little Bee and Gold, the people in Everyone Brave Is Forgiven are real, warts and all. They are not characters – instead they live and breathe on the page. You feel like you could invite them for dinner tomorrow night and know exactly who would show up…if that makes any sense. They are complex and layered and…real. The villain in this novel is the war and what war does to people, all kinds of people, with no thought at all for the amazing wealth of possibility that is being lost forever – because even the survivors are not who they were when war began.

Everyone Brave Is Forgiven is a microcosm that beautifully and horribly illustrates the truth about war and its ramifications. It is lovely and heartrending all at the same time. It is touching and funny and – well, it’s like life. You never know what will happen from one minute to the next. I came to really like these characters, even when they were not very likeable, and I wanted them to make it and have the life they dreamed of – all of them, even when I knew that wasn’t possible. In short, Everyone Brave Is Forgiven is a very different kind of look at wartime and one well worth the read. I’m highly recommending it!

Author Upcoming Appearances & Book Signings:
May 4, 2016 at 7pm at Macaulay Honors College, New York City
May 5, 2016 at 7pm at Boswell Books in Milwaukee, Wisconsin
May 6, 2016 at 7pm at Book Passage in Corte Madera, California
May 7, 2016 at 7pm at La Jolla Riford Library in La Jolla, California
May 8, 2016 at 2pm at Pages Bookstore in Manhattan Beach, California
May 9, 2016 at 7pm at Powell’s Books (Cedar Hill Crossing) in Beaverton, Oregon
May 10, 2016 at 1:30pm at Microsoft Redmond Campus (for Msft employees) in Redmond, Washington
May 10, 2016 at 7pm at Seattle Public Library in Seattle, Washington
May 11, 2016 at St. Louis Library Headquarters in St. Louis, Missouri
May 12, 2016 at Book Expo America (BEA) in Chicago, Illinois
May 13, 2016 at Carnegie Lecture Hall in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania
May 16, 2016 at Bonnie Stern Bookclub (venue TBA) in Toronto, Ontario, Canada
May 17, 2016 at North York branch of Toronto Public Library in Toronto, Ontario, Canada
May 18, 2016 at Vancouver Writers Fest (Incite) in Vancouver, British Colombia, Canada
May 19, 2016 at 7pm at Bolen Books (Hillside Mall) in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
May 20, 2016 at WordFest, John Dutton Theater, Calgary Public Library in Calgary, Canada

Check the author’s web site for events beyond May 20th…

Can’t wait to read it? Everyone Brave Is Forgiven is available in every format from your favorite online bookseller. Click on the link below and you can have it to read immediately!

I’d love to get your comments on Everyone Brave Is Forgiven, Chris Cleave and/or his other work, and/or this review.

Click here to read our review of Gold by Chris Cleave.

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The Secret Healer by Ellin Carsta: Could You Have Survived the 14th Century?

The Secret Healer

Ellin Carsta is as mysterious as the novels she writes. She is a successful German author who writes under various pseudonyms. My internet research was completely unsuccessful in discovering anything else about her other work…and that’s unusual for me. Normally I can find something, but not in this case. The Secret Healer was translated into […]

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King Maybe by Timothy Hallinan: Junior Bender Mystery Review & Giveaway

King Maybe

Having reviewed two Junior Bender mysteries, and loved all of them, I’ve been looking at what it is about that series that appeals to me so much – other than award-winning Timothy Hallinan’s writing style, which is excellent. Not only are they entertaining but they ring true. Anyone who’s worked in any way with the […]

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The Year We Turned Forty by Liz Fenton & Lisa Steinke: Want a Do-Over?

The Year We Turned Forty

If Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke sound familiar, it might be because we reviewed their novel, Your Perfect Life, not that long ago. The link to that review is at the bottom of this one. I liked its hilarious and heartwarming style so much that I jumped for joy when I saw that they had […]

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For Dead Men Only by Paula Paul: Why Are Village Freemasons Dying?

For Dead Men Only

I realize intellectually that, even though I read like a fiend, I can’t read everything that’s written or every good author out there…not for lack of trying, of course. Still, when I stumble onto an award-winning author I’ve never heard of, I always do a bit of a double-take. Paula Paul falls into that category. […]

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