Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Book Review: Letters From Home by Kristina McMorris

I have to admit that the main reason I asked to review Letters From Home was because of the beautiful cover photograph and design. Looking at the muted colors and bound letters made me feel nostalgic. Then I saw that the setting of the book was WWII, and so I decided to read it and review it.

Letters From Home is a romantic tale of three women and their soldier boys as the war keeps them apart. The book goes from love to heartache and back again as the couples struggle to maintain their relationships during extremely trying times. Here is a description of the book from the author's website:

Letters From Home"Chicago, 1944. Liz Stephens has little interest in attending a USO club dance with her friends Betty and Julia. She doesn't need a flirtation with a lonely serviceman when she's set to marry her childhood sweetheart. Yet something happens the moment Liz glimpses Morgan McClain. They share only a brief conversation - cut short by the soldier's evident interest in Betty - but Liz can't forget him. Thus, when Betty asks her to ghostwrite a letter to Morgan, stationed overseas, Liz reluctantly agrees.

Thousands of miles away, Morgan struggles to adjust to the brutality of war. His letters from "Betty" are a comfort, their soul-baring correspondence a revelation to them both. While Liz is torn by her feelings for a man who doesn't know her true identity, Betty and Julia each become immersed in their own romantic entanglements. And as the war draws to a close, all three will face heart-wrenching choices, painful losses, and the bittersweet joy of new beginnings."

This book is well-written and captures the flavor of what America was like during the second world war. Mrs. McMorris aptly describes what life was like for our men (and women) who fought and died for our country and for those left behind to wait for their return. The author is talented and  I think that this book will do well in the bookstores. It is an impressive debut novel.

I began reading Letters From Home and became quickly engrossed in the story. However, I was disappointed to find coarse language and sexual innuendos sprinkled throughout the book. I know this kind of stuff happens, but I also know that a book can be written, and written well, without it (see my review on Nightingale and my review on A Memory Between Us for a few books that were clean, yet better than Letters From Home). If you don't like language like this in the books you read, you may want to skip this one.   

I did finish the book and was satisfied with the ending. The characters, although challenged by life's trials, found a measure of happiness through circumstances which were obviously beyond their control but which made them stronger and caused them to see that it is through pain and suffering that we grow and often find redemption. 

I give Letters From Home 3 1/2 out of 5 stars.

(I received this book from Pump Up Your Book! for review purposes. I received no monetary compensation for this review. All opinions expressed are completely my own.)

Here is a recipe from the 1940's from Kristina's website:


1 1/2 cups shortening

2 cups brown sugar

2 eggs 1 cup shredded bran (or buds)

3 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

In a medium bowl, cream shortening. Add sugar, well-beaten eggs, and bran. Mix well. Sift together flour and baking powder, then add to mixture. Shape into two log rolls, cover in plastic wrap, and store in refrigerator. When desired, slice dough into thin disks and place on cookie sheet 2" apart. Bake at 350°F for approximately 8-10 minutes.

For more recipes, info on the book, book club ideas, and to view actual letters from WWII, visit Kristina's website.

Kristina McMorris lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two sons. Her foray into fiction began in the fall of 2006 as a result of interviewing her grandmother for the biographical section of a self-published cookbook intended as a holiday gift for the family. Inspired by her grandparents' wartime courtship, Kristina penned her first novel, a WWII love story titled Letters from Home. This award-winning debut is scheduled for release in trade paperback from Kensington Books (2-22-11; U.S.) and Avon/HarperCollins (5-5-11; U.K.). Various book club rights have been sold to Reader's Digest and Doubleday, and the film rights are represented by the prestigious Creative Artists Agency of Los Angeles.

Prior to her literary career, Kristina acted in numerous independent films and major motion pictures. She began hosting an Emmy® Award-winning television show at age nine, and most recently served as the six-year host of the WB's weekly program Weddings Portland Style. Adding to her diverse résumé, McMorris is a professional emcee, literary workshop presenter, and former owner of a wedding/event planning business. Her previous writing background includes being a contributing writer for Portland Bride & Groom magazine and ten years of directing public relations for an international conglomerate. A portion of Kristina's sales proceeds from Letters from Home will benefit United Through Reading®, a nonprofit organization that video records deployed U.S. military personnel reading bedtime stories for their children. She is currently working on her next novel.

Online video interview (2 min.):


Kristina said...

Hi, Judylynn. Thanks for taking the time to read and review my novel. I appreciate your honest thoughts and kind words. Wishing you well.

Carrie said...

I, too, am drawn to the cover art. And I do like the premise of the story. (Favorite time period!) But I think the language and insinuations would bug me as well so I'd probably take a pass on it. Glad to hear your thoughts! Thanks.