Thursday, July 30, 2015

REVIEW: Heart of a Knight by Barbara Samuel

Heart of a Knight
by Barbara Samuel

Publisher: HarperCollins
Page Count: 368
Release Date: first August 1997
Format: Kindle

How got: personal Kindle library

First attention getter: the author


From GoodReads:


Britain, 1351. After an arduous exile to flee the darkness and danger sweeping her lands, Lady Elizabeth D’Auvers returns home to Woodell Castle, yearning only for her looms and her quiet life. To her astonishment, she finds the castle and farmlands thriving, thanks to Lord Thomas of Roxburgh, a knight errant whose size and strength offer protection to Elizabeth’s castle and its people.

Lord Thomas’s warm gaze makes Elizabeth’s flesh burn with unaccustomed fire, and her defenses crumble, leaving her heart as vulnerable as her trembling body. Yet chilling thoughts trouble her mind. For there is something dark and mysterious about this man—a secret that makes him as forbidden to desire as he is impossible to resist.

My Thoughts:

Star Rating - 3

I gotta say this book was actually a bit disappointing. I’m used to strong, dramatic stuff from Samuel and this one was just so-so. Not horrible but not that awesome either.

I liked that the author strives to give us a firm grounding in history, citing occasionally the Black Death and the social unrest among the classes due to it. She also gives enough details, setting-wise, to firmly establish the story in the late Middles Ages rather than a vague “medieval” setting.

Yet, she veers from past patterns and seems to stay away from anything that could be considered “heavy” or substantial. There’s no in-depth look at how society is affected by the Black Death nor is the class different between our two leads explored like it screamed out to be. In the past, this author has really given me food for thought with her forbidden romances, but this one was just lacking that spark that could have been there.

I liked the leads well enough. I was invested in their developing relationship and in the potential danger hanging over their heads due to Thomas’ hidden status as a noble and the pending marriage for Elizabeth. However, they seemed to fall into stereotypes more often than I liked. Elizabeth was the perfect demure and beautiful medieval lady, seemingly perfect in every way. Thomas was your big and brawny peasant, virile, strong, and just a butch of a man. I sighed more than once at these cookie-cutter characterizations.

Secondary characters fall into the same trap. Isabella is the slutty, teenager step-daughter. Robert is the bratty step-son. Isabella’s betrothed is instantly in love with her. Of course, they are all reformed by our two leads and their circumstances (note the heavy sarcasm…). Another neat little trap Samuel fell into with this one.

So, not a horrible book but not up to the standards I’ve grown to expect from Samuel. Maybe this is an older work; I don’t know. Setting and world-building show some effort. Characters are mostly stereotypes, though the leads are still enjoyable to a point. I was at least in tune with them enough to care about their relationship’s eventual outcome. I wouldn’t read this book again; it’s that forgettable. Sad, for a book by this author to fall into that chasm.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

REVIEW: The Last Innocent Hour by Margot Abbott

The Last Innocent Hour
by Margot Abbott

Publisher: St. Martins Press
Page Count: 505
Release Date: October 1991
Format: Hardcover

How got: public library

First attention getter: the synopsis


From Amazon:

In 1946 Lt Sally Jackson returns to Berlin to work on photographic evidence for the Nuremburg Trials, and there, staring up at her, is the photograph of a handsome SS officer - her husband. Memories flood back - of parties, nightclubs, and glittering days spent in pre-war Nazi Germany.

My Thoughts:

Star Rating - 4

Oh snap! What a book… I was shocked where it went and at some of the content explored. From reading other reviews, I kinda had an inkling about where the book would go. But that still doesn’t fully prepare you for the entire work.

This book was a surprising blend of many genres, all merged together for one very satisfying whole. There’s romance, an in-depth examination of the early Nazi years and post-WWII Germany, a mystery/war crimes story, politics, and character examinations.

Yet, where this really shines is in its psychological thriller aspects. This book takes its characters on a mind-warping journey of deception, betrayal, and brain washing that keeps the reader spellbound. Abbott gives us a rare glimpse into really how powerful the psychological power of the Nazis were in their influencing the German masses to their beliefs. This is especially evident in Christian’s journey. His change from beginning to end is so drastic and so scarily believable that I was just stunned.

For the most part, I really liked Sally. She’s a pleasant balance of trusting innocent and spunky idealist that really jives with the reader. Her standing up for the oppressed Jews against the SA and the format her final showdown in the end took made me want to cheer her on. I mean, how many characters could do that in her condition as easily and well as she does?

However, there were times where her innocence was stressed too much. Even towards the end, after all the times her trust had been dinged, she still seemed to give people the benefit of the doubt and her trust far too easily. I don’t know if the author was just trying to stress her innocence in the face of Nazi brutality and mind-manipulation or she was just a somewhat empty-headed bimbo at times. But I wanted to slap some sense into her more than once.

The emotional journey this book will take you on defies description. From the banger of an opening all the way through the mind-twisting journey to the end, this book kept me on the edge of my toes and my emotions firmly held in the driver’s seat. I felt every deception, every triumph, and every urge to believe that Sally felt so strongly.

This is a winner overall. A blend of many genres, it balances out all the aspects of the story splendidly. A special focus on the psychological and emotional make for an even stronger story. The characters shine, even though there is an emphasis on certain character aspects that set my teeth on edge. I highly recommend this book to reads of WWII fiction as it’s a journey that won’t soon leave your mind or heart.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

REVIEW: City of Women by David Gillham

City of Women
by David R Gillham

Publisher: Putnam Adult
Page Count: 400
Release Date: August 7. 2012
Format: Trade Paperback

How got: personal library; bought from local B&N

First attention getter: pretty cover and storyline of regular Germans during WWII


From GoodReads:

Whom do you trust, whom do you love, and who can be saved?

It is 1943—the height of the Second World War—and Berlin has essentially become a city of women.

Sigrid Schröder is, for all intents and purposes, the model German soldier’s wife: She goes to work every day, does as much with her rations as she can, and dutifully cares for her meddling mother-in-law, all the while ignoring the horrific immoralities of the regime. But behind this façade is an entirely different Sigrid, a woman who dreams of her former lover, now lost in the chaos of the war. Her lover is a Jew.

But Sigrid is not the only one with secrets. A high ranking SS officer and his family move down the hall and Sigrid finds herself pulled into their orbit. A young woman doing her duty-year is out of excuses before Sigrid can even ask her any questions. And then there’s the blind man selling pencils on the corner, whose eyes Sigrid can feel following her from behind the darkness of his goggles.

Soon Sigrid is embroiled in a world she knew nothing about, and as her eyes open to the reality around her, the carefully constructed fortress of solitude she has built over the years begins to collapse. She must choose to act on what is right and what is wrong, and what falls somewhere in the shadows between the two. 

In this page-turning novel, David Gillham explores what happens to ordinary people thrust into extraordinary times, and how the choices they make can be the difference between life and death.

My Thoughts:

Star Rating - 5

My favorite part of this book was how intimate a look we get into the daily lives of the average German during WWII. The reader gets an in-depth look at the long lines for food, the ever-looming threat of the Gestapo and watching what one says, the dank fear of the bomb shelters, and the struggle to keep u hope in such a gray, drudge-filled world. I liked how this book showed that not every German was a hard-toed Nazi; some were just trying to survive in a country gone mad.

I really liked Sigrid’s character. She shows incredible character development and change as the story progressed. Starting out as a simple, pushover of a girl, she blossoms into a strong, courageous, and intelligent woman, facing all the circumstances that come her way with aplomb. I liked that she found herself in staying others and conducting her own form of resistance against the Nazis.

I also have to give a shout-out to the other characters, too. I adored the fact that most of the people portrayed are NOT what they appear to be. Allies are betrayers, neighbors are hidden people, soldiers are purveyors of assistance, and those whom one thought would be the biggest threat actually provide the best of help. The author does a great job in layering his characters to create three-dimensional models in which to explore this world through.

This book deserves all the hype it got. With a great setting, balance portrayal of Germany at war, and intense characters with an intriguing story, this book stands out in the WWII historical fiction genre. I’d highly recommend this book to those who enjoy the genre. I heartily hope the author writes something else as the world would benefit by more than his pen.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

REVIEW: Trail of Kisses by Merry Farmer

Trail of Kisses
by Merry Farmer

Publisher: Smashwords
Page Count: 226
Release Date: October 27, 2014
Format: Kindle

How got: free copy direct from publisher

First attention getter: romance on the Oregon Trail


From GoodReads:

Someone is trying to kill Lynne Tremaine. After her father sentences two members of The Briscoe Boys gang to death, Judge Tremaine feels he has no choice but to send Lynne to Denver City along the Oregon Trail to live with her Uncle George…against her will. For Lynne, the only thing worse than being sent away to the wild west is making the journey with the handsome, arrogant, wicked man her uncle has hired to escort her. Especially when the anger she feels toward him begins to turn to something hotter.

Cade Lawson is determined to prove himself to his employer, George Tremaine, after letting him down months earlier. But what he thought would be his second chance may, in fact, be a harsh punishment for his past mistakes. Lynne is headstrong, fiery, and determined to show him she is fearless. She is also beautiful and tempting, and when Cade sees just how afraid she really is underneath her brave act, he may be in danger of losing his heart to her forever. When her would-be killer attacks, it’s all he can do to keep Lynne safe.

He swore to protect her, but who will protect him from her?

My Thoughts:

Star Rating - 3

A fairly middle of the road romance, this work doesn’t really have much that makes it stand out. It’s an enjoyable read but not outstanding.

The author sets a nice scene, with enough description to give the reader a clear picture of the events portrayed. I liked the different hardships of the trail she incorporated: thunderstorms, stampedes, and river crossings. Though at times, it seemed like she was trying to incorporate too much. I mean, if a wagon train experienced all that this one did, it’s a surprise that anyone would have had the courage to brave this journey. The only thing missing was an Indian raid.

Our two leads were enjoyable. I liked Cade and his no-nonsense approach to things. He was dedicated to protecting Lynne on her journey west. Lynne, however, I’m a bit more ambivalent on. I liked her spunk and personal courage. She wasn’t afraid to speak her mind and protect herself if needed. Yet, too often, she’d go to the extreme. She’d insist too hard that she could protect herself and flout society’s expectations too much. There’s being assertively independent and then there’s being too annoying about it.

The whole suspense/murder plot thing was more annoying than entertaining. I mean, really, this guy can’t just slit her throat and have done with it? He’s got to leave all these “spooky” threats and teases along the trail. Seems more incompetent than threatening. More melodrama than suspenseful. And also, I could see who the guy was a mile away. What the heck was Cade smoking that he couldn’t see what this guy was?!

So a good way to spend a few hours, but don’t go out of your way to find this title. Solid characters for the most part are a plus, with a few slides into annoying land. Nice description helps visualization of the scenery and events. But an overly melodramatic plot and other issues plague this title. I wouldn’t advise against reading this, but there are better ones out there.

Note: Book received for free from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

BLOG ENTRY: Wonderful World of BookMooch!

Leave it to this Gruwell girl to arrive late again for this technology party. I recently discovered the world of online book swapping @ last week. I never knew anything like this existed but apparently, the heyday of this site was back in ’09-’10 (according to this article). So, I guess better late than never!

I’ve only been on this site a week but already have sent out 28 books as of this blog entry and have somewhere around 21 incoming to me. So heyday in the past or not, it’s still a thriving world. I’ve been building up my wishlist, posting books I no longer want or will not read again (those shelves are getting a cleaning!), and just generally enjoying this new world.

I’ve also got to give a shout out to the incredible community of people that inhabit this site. Like most everything in my life, I’ve bulldozed ahead like a Tasmanian devil in an antique shop and made some fundamental mistakes along the way. The incredible people who have mooched from me have been outstanding in their patience and their helpful hints. I don’t think I would be enjoying this site as much without their friendly support and general advice on mooching and shipping.

And OMG, shipping…. Before getting involved with this site, the last time I’d shipped anything was a decade ago. I mean back in the foggy annals of prehistory. Now, after shipping abroad and domestically, I’m getting a quick refresher on customs forms, book/media rates, shipping via USPS or UPS, needing to reinforce the mailing sleeves with packing tape, what boxes to use, and the crazy rates for shipping out country.

I love the idea of this being an international thing, too. I’ve personally shipped to the UK and Greece so far. And I’ve requested books from countries all over the world. Who would think that a book I might possibly get would be coming from so different a part of the world from my native US? The idea of book lovers congregating on one site, communicating and swapping books over vast oceans makes me feel more like a global community than ever before. While shipping costs makes me limit how much I send now, I still will in future and mean to enjoy it.

I know there are other online book swapping sites out there, like PaperBackSwap and Bookcrossing. I’d like to try them someday. But for now, I’m going to be sticking with the Bookmooch world. It seems to be a pretty lively place still with nice people and not a bad range of selection (though more unique historical fiction selections would be nice). I’m looking forward to mooching more titles and giving the books I’m finished with to a good home I know they’ll be appreciated at.

The corner of my closet which has become Mooch Grand Central Station! LOL

What are your thoughts? Do you utilize any of these sites? Prefer in-person book swapping to online? What’s your take on this whole international thing? I’d love to hear your opinions and suggestions. J

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

REVIEW: Transformed by E V Fairfull

by E. V. Fairfull

Publisher: R Mind (taken from Amazon)
Page Count: 277
Release Date: February 1, 2014
Format: Kindle

How got: free from author in exchange for review

First attention getter: that pretty cover!!!


From GoodReads:

Since the beginning, two entities have had complete, unquestioned control over Thea: the Earth and God.

But when Thea suddenly figures out that the Earth has trapped her within a forest, she discovers that the only way to set herself free is to break God's one rule; she must forsake her animal form and become human.

The result is nothing she could ever have expected. Lost within the torrent of human emotions, Thea starts to lose who she is and even begins to fall in love with the one thing she always hated: a hunter.

As her act against God proves more problematic than anticipated, it is only a matter of time before her punishment may prove to be worse than Earth's entrapment.

My Thoughts:

Star Rating - 3

I was drawn to this book by the pretty cover and the unique ideas it explored. There aren’t too tales out there where goddess’ take human form and experience all that entrails for the first time. The author gives us an original tale of discovery and detailing what it really means to be human. However, there were a few bumps along the way keeping this book from greatness, though I seem to be among the few of that opinion gathering by other reviews.

I liked some of the intriguing ideas explored in the book, too. The different magical elements, the concept of life as light, and the origin story are just some of the examples I can point to as highlights of the uniqueness of this story. And the author tells a great story filled with all the elements thereof: high emotional content, underlying themes, and dramatic storytelling. The author pleases there.

I also liked the author’s gift for scene-setting. Her descriptions are lush without merging into over description much. I could visualize each setting with vivid color, feel every breeze on my cheek, and breathe in the scents of Mother Earth.

I’m a bit ambivalent on Thea’s character. I liked her enough to sympathize with her most of the way through her trials and triumphs, her loves and tragedies. I liked her perseverance and very human qualities she developed over time. Yet, there were times she read as too innocent. Nature is full of death and tragedy; she should have been exposed to them all the time. Her attitude was a romantic view of nature that I found unrealistic.

This next bit I might be over-reading-into; it might not be what the author was intending at all. Yet, I found the whole view of hunters “murdering” her creations as absurd and just full of propaganda from sources like PETA. I felt like I was getting slapped over the head by this extreme-left interpretation of environmentalism and their politics. So again. May not be what the author intended but that’s how I read it.

I’d give this book a solid three. It had some interesting story ideas and elements that went along with superb scene-setting skills. The main character wasn’t a bad gal, just too innocent and romantic at times to be believable. The politics I could have done without. But then again, take everything I say with a grain of salt. I might reading more into it than was really present. Check it out if you’re looking for a romantic, uniquely supernatural read as it will please on those counts.

Note: Book received for free from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, July 20, 2015

REVIEW: The Queen of Last Hopes by Susan Higginbotham

The Queen of Last Hopes
by Susan Higginbotham

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Page Count: 326
Release Date: January 28, 2011
Format: Kindle

How got: personal library

First attention getter: author


From GoodReads:

A man other than my husband sits on England's throne today.

What would happen if this king suddenly went mad? What would his queen do? Would she make the same mistakes I did, or would she learn from mine?

Margaret of Anjou, queen of England, cannot give up on her husband-even when he slips into insanity. And as mother to the House of Lancaster's last hope, she cannot give up on her son-even when England turns against them. This gripping tale of a queen forced to stand strong in the face of overwhelming odds is at its heart a tender tale of love.

My Thoughts:

Star Rating - 5

I was first introduced to this author earlier this year, and I’ve been working through her stuff throughout. She has a real gift for historical fiction that I’ve had pleasure in experiencing. This addition is no exception.

Again, she is able to give life to her historical figures like few others can. I was especially impressed with Henry. History likes to forget him as the mad, weak king. You’re left with an image of a muttering, sad wreck of a man staring off into space and not acknowledging anyone or anything. Yet, there was so much more to him. Yes, that happened for a time, but overall he was just a gentle soul who really wasn’t made for the harsh times he lived in. I liked seeing his depth of courage and his quietly solid convictions that Susan portrayed.

Then, of course, there’s Margaret. Young, inexperienced for the position she was thrust into, but brave and loyal to the end, she brings the reader into her struggle and life with an iron will in a velvet glove. If ever there was a woman in history who deserved the name of “she-wolf”, it was her (and I mean that as a compliment). Sucking me into her struggle and tumultuous life from page one, her characterization is to die for.

There’s the great setting and building up of the political situation of the turbulent Wars of the Roses as well. The reader gets a real sense for what’s happening where and how it affects all the different parties involved. I was able to keep everything straight which is a hard thing to do in this time period for me. The author brings to life the great battles and struggles along with the intimate life at court.

Another great winner from Higginbotham, I loved Margaret’s and Henry’s characters; they really breathed with life. The author also excels with the setting and historical details. I look forward to exploring this author’s other works and any future ones. I know that she has one coming out in 2016 that’s already on my most-anticipated list. Highly recommended for historical fiction lovers, especially for those who love the crazy world of the Wars of the Roses.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

REVIEW: The Milliner's Secret by Natalie Meg Evans

The Milliner's Secret
by Natalie Meg Evans

Publisher: Quercus Publishing
Page Count: 560
Release Date: July 30, 2015
Format: Kindle ARC

How got: ARC Kindle copy from NetGalley

First attention getter: that pretty cover!!!!!


From GoodReads:

London,1937. A talented young woman travels to Paris with a stranger. The promise of an exciting career as a milliner beckons, but she is about to fall in love with the enemy...

Londoner Cora Masson has reinvented herself as Coralie de Lirac, fabricating an aristocratic background to launch herself as a fashionable milliner. When the Nazis invade, the influence of a high-ranking lover, Dietrich, saves her business. But while Coralie retains her position as designer to a style-hungry elite, Paris is approaching its darkest hour.

Faced with the cruel reality of war and love, Coralie must make a difficult choice—protect herself or find the courage to fight for her friends, her freedom and everything she believes in.

My Thoughts:

Star Rating - 4

I was first drawn to this book by the cover. The gorgeous colors and figure dressed so prettily caught my attention while browsing future Amazon titles. When I saw it offered on NetGalley, I jumped at the chance to read and review. For the most part, expectations were met.

The character of Coralie took some getting used to. In the beginning, she read as a shallow diva out only to further her dreams and poo to everyone else. I found myself feeling no sympathy for her at all. Yet, once the crap hit the fan and everything happened to her in Paris, my opinion of her did a turn around. Her tenacity, pluck, and intelligence shined as she conquered the fashion world of Paris during the dark days of WWII, survived multiple brushes with danger, and built a life for herself.

I also enjoyed the overall storyline. The shifting alliances, shadowy Resistance activities, and the daily life in a war-torn city kept me engaged throughout. She balances the intimate of her character’s inner thoughts with the broader spectrum of events like the deportation of Jews and the assassination plot against Hitler to create a well-balanced whole. That’s a rare gift with a book this size and was well-appreciated by this reader.

The one thing I didn’t appreciate was how much melodrama was packed into the story in the second half, especially around Coralie’s and Dietrich’s relationship. It’s “off again, on again” pattern happened so many times that I lost count. There was enough drama with the spy/Resistance thriller elements that this constant soap opera quality was unneeded.

I also felt that the ending was rushed, due to the amount of page space dedicated to the melodrama. This book would have benefited from more resolution than one wimpy epilogue and final chapter and less see-sawing relationships.

An engrossing tale of resistance and love in Nazi France, this book looks to please all lovers of the genre. You’ll get behind the characters as life happens and grow to love the amazing story. While melodrama and a lackluster resolution do bog down the works a bit, I’d not let that stop you from checking out this book. I look forward to checking out the author’s other work, which I hear ties into this one.

Note: Book received for free from publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

MEME: Six in Six

Now this is a fun idea: choose six categories, choose six books you've read in the first half of 2015 that fit in those six categories, and list! I've been looking over the books I've read so far and been remembering the good and the bad. What a fun way to contemplate, analyze, and just remember our reading patterns. This meme comes originally from Jo over @ The Book Jotter. But I first read of it here @ Helen's She Reads Novels. So here we go!!

Six books from my Most Anticipated of 2015:

1) The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
2) The Price of Blood by Patricia Bracewell
3) The Chosen Queen by Joanna Courtney
4) The Other Side of Midnight by Simone St. James
5) The Thunder of Giants by Joel Fishbane
6) Madeleine's War by Peter Watson

Six author introductions:

1) The Lost Wife by Alyson Richman
2) Queen by Right by Anne Easter Smith
3) The Traitor's Wife by Susan Higginbotham
4) The Girl From the Train by Irma Jourbet
5) Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal
6) The Curiosity Keeper by Sarah Ladd

Six historical romance's that showed the genre contains more than just fluff:

1) The Sleeping Night by Barbara Samuel
2) Never Less Than A Lady by Mary Jo Putney
3) Longing by Mary Balogh
4) Morning Glory by LaVyrle Spencer
5) Redemption by Carolyn Davidson
6) His Saving Grace by Sharon Cullen

Six books set during WWII:

1) The Culture Chamber by Jeffrey Stalk
2) The Winter Guest by Pam Jenoff
3) The Cherry Harvest by Lucy Sanna
4) Berlin Calling by William Kelly Durham
5) The Wind is Not a River by Brian Payton
6) Japanese Roses by Theresa Lorella

Six Christian Fiction novels:

1) Wildflowers of Terezin by Robert Elmer
2) Prelude for a Lord by Camille Elliot and Camy Tang
3) Mist of Midnight by Sandra Byrd
4) Beyond All Dreams by Elizabeth Camden
5) The Butterfly and the Violin by Kristy Cambron
6) Dear Enemy by Jack Cavanaugh

Six biographical fictions:

1) Enchantress of Paris by Marci Jefferson
2) The Stolen Crown by Susan Higginbotham
3) The Creation of Eve by Lynn Cullen
4) The Fortune Hunter by Daisy Goodwin
5) Lady of the English by Elizabeth Chadwick
6) The Summer Queen by Elizabeth Chadwick

Well, that's my six in six for this year! Will you be posting yours?

Sunday, July 5, 2015

REVIEW: The Garden of Letters by Alyson Richman

The Garden of Letters
by Alyson Richman

Publisher: Berkley
Page Count: 384
Release Date: September 2, 2014
Format: Trade Paperback

How got: personal library

First attention getter: story of Resistance in WWII Italy and author


From GoodReads:


Set against the rich backdrop of World War II Italy, Garden of Letters captures the hope, suspense, and romance of an uncertain era, in an epic intertwining story of first love, great tragedy, and spectacular bravery.

Portofino, Italy, 1943. A young woman steps off a boat in a scenic coastal village. Although she knows how to disappear in a crowd, Elodie is too terrified to slip by the German officers while carrying her poorly forged identity papers. She is frozen until a man she’s never met before claims to know her. In desperate need of shelter, Elodie follows him back to his home on the cliffs of Portofino.

Only months before, Elodie Bertolotti was a cello prodigy in Verona, unconcerned with world events. But when Mussolini’s Fascist regime strikes her family, Elodie is drawn into the burgeoning resistance movement by Luca, a young and impassioned bookseller. As the occupation looms, she discovers that her unique musical talents, and her courage, have the power to save lives.

In Portofino, young doctor Angelo Rosselli gives the frightened and exhausted girl sanctuary. He is a man with painful secrets of his own, haunted by guilt and remorse. But Elodie’s arrival has the power to awaken a sense of hope and joy that Angelo thought was lost to him forever.

My Thoughts:

Star Rating - 5

An intriguing tale of resistance against the invading Germans and one young lady’s growth in her music and as a woman, this book cements my love for this author. I adored her previous novel, The Lost Wife, with its richness and historical details. So I went into this book with high expectations; they were all met.

The author’s writing style needs a special mention. It’s rich with phrase choice and symbolism; the whole garden of letters and imagery on the walls made tears come to my eyes from how beautiful it sounded emotionally. Her writing is almost lyrical in its presentation; she makes that work where others would be too wordy or esoteric.

I loved this exploration of WWII in Italy and that country’s role in the struggle. Seeing the Resistance start to build only to be cut down so soon was heart-wrenching. I also found myself intrigued by the different ways that they passed messages around; the idea of hiding a message in a musical score performance boggles the mind. These people put so much passion into fighting against their invaders that the reader can’t help but be sucked into the story, heart and soul.

I adored Elodie. She’s such a rich character to explore the story through. A musical prodigy that showed so much promise, it surprises to see where she ends up in the end after so much struggle and strife. She grows so much and learns what truly matters in life, suffering tragedy after tragedy to find true happiness after it all.

Another winner from Richman. She meets the grades again on historical details, great writing style, and characters that engage you. I found myself engrossed by this look at WWII in Italy and Elodie’s growth as a woman. Highly, highly recommended for lovers of WWII historical fiction.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

REVIEW: The Woman Who Heard Color by Kelly Jones

The Woman Who Heard Color
by Kelly Jones

Publisher: Berkley
Page Count: 400
Release Date: October 4, 2011
Format: Trade Paperback

How got: personal library

First attention getter: the pretty cover and title


From GoodReads:

Lauren O'Farrell is an "art detective" who made it her mission to retrieve invaluable works stolen by the Nazis during the darkest days of World War II. Her quest leads her to the Manhattan apartment of elderly Isabella Fletcher, a woman who lives in the shadow of a terrible history-years ago her mother was rumored to have collaborated with the Nazis.

But as Isabella reveals the events of her mother's life, Lauren finds herself immersed in an amazing story of courage and secrecy as she discovers the extraordinary truth about a priceless piece of art that may have survived the war and the enduring relationship between a mother and a daughter.

My Thoughts:

Star Rating - 3.5

This author creates a rich and vibrant story of a woman growing up in an ever changing Germany and Europe during the early 20th century, fighting through tyranny and tragedy to create a better life for her children and to rescue the great artworks of Germany from destruction. I enjoyed the atmosphere the author created, an ever darkening aura over the art world as the story marches towards bonfires of color annihilation. She breathed life into this affluent world of wealth and art as well as its eventual decline under the Nazis.

I liked how the author just drew me into Hanna’s story; she makes her very personable from page one of her story. I loved her vulnerability, intelligence, and fire early in the story as she builds a new life and finds love. The evil on the horizon slowly slides into her life. Eventually, she is forced to live in quiet shadows, showing her resistance and fire in only small ways and living in constant fear of her life.

I do wish the dual storyline would have been handled differently, though. The modern chapters felt very out of place and jarring within the narrative. They had a different pace and focus that I didn’t like. They slowed the flow of Hanna’s story and didn’t really add that much. They were boring, and I frankly didn’t like Lauren or Isabella. All the material presented in these chapters was covered elsewhere or could have been better incorporated as opening or closing chapters.

A beautiful story of resistance and love, Hanna’s story kept me entertained and emotionally invested long after reading. I loved the atmosphere the author was able to achieve in the dark Nazi state and the earlier bright, art-filled world of early 20th century Germany. Yet, her interspersing modern chapters throughout the book jarred the reading experience and slowed the story flow dramatically. An enjoyable look at a personal opposition against Nazism but with some issues, this book should still entertain, if only for Hanna’s beautiful story.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

REVIEW: Night of Flames

Night of Flames
by Douglas W Jacobson

Publisher: McBooks Press
Page Count: 384
Release Date: October 1, 2008
Format: Kindle

How got: personal library

First attention getter: spy story in WWII Poland


From GoodReads:

Painting a vivid and terrifying picture of war-torn Europe during World War II, this tale chronicles the lives of Anna, a Krakow University professor, and her husband Jan, a Polish cavalryman. After they are separated and forced to flee occupied Poland, Anna soon finds herself caught up in the Belgian Resistance, while Jan becomes embedded in British Intelligence efforts to contact the Resistance in Poland. He soon realises that he must seize this opportunity to search for his lost wife, Anna.

My Thoughts:

Star Rating - 3

I read this author’s other book a year and a half ago, enjoying most of it but finding the ending lacking. This novel both shines and suffered from the same areas as the last one.

The book’s plot is phenomenal. The tale starts out stunning with the invasion of Poland and just keeps the steam up all the way to the liberation of Antwerp four years later. There is not one slow area of the book; it’s just chock full of nail-chewing escapes, close calls, horrifying battles, and the struggle against an overwhelming invader/enemy. All of this is a big plus in a spy/Resistance thriller.

I enjoyed the characters in this volume, too. Anna more than Jan, as she seemed the more developed of the two, but both kept me on the edge of my seat on their journeys through war-torn Europe and fighting against the Nazis. I liked how vulnerable and realistic both were. They weren’t super-secret agents but real people driven to act against the ultimate evil.

Where this book falters, like the first, was towards the end and the ending itself. Again we have a serious lack of resolution. The reader is left hanging when it comes to character development and dealing with the entire trauma the author put them through. The actual spy stuff is concluded but then we’re left with nothing on how the characters dealt with the war itself and all its brutality.

This is especially evident with Anna’s storyline. I mean, dang this girl was put through the ringer but nothing. No scenes of healing or peace after her ordeal. Just a scene asking for time. I mean, really?!?! Her storyline also suffered towards the end from a bit too much melodrama. The whole thing with Dieter felt out of place and just stuck in there for sh*ts and giggles.

So good things and bad things within, this book was about the same as the previous. A plotline that won’t let you go and realistic, down-to-earth characters were a real plus. Yet, an ending that lacked resolution and some out-of-place melodrama towards the end really sucked the good out of the book. A solid three stars, I’d give this book a read if you’re in the market for a spy thriller as they story pleases. Brace yourself for that ending, though.