Showing posts with label historical fiction. Show all posts
Showing posts with label historical fiction. Show all posts

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

The Lost Vintage Book Review


I've visited World War II Europe in my readings on numerous occasions in books like Cilka's Journey, The Girl They Left Behind and The Nightingale. This month I revisited the era via Ann Mah's 2018 novel, The Lost Vintage. I enjoyed the trip though of course, the situation was not always a pleasant one. 

The Lost Vintage travels between current day California and France and World War II France, where one family did as best they could to survive the German occupation. 

Living on a prestigious wine domaine in the Burgundy region of France, they managed for a while to avoid drawing attention to themselves by keeping their heads down but eventually they were drawn into the war in one way or another. 

The mystery that drags the current generation down in the modern day part of the book is whether or not members of the family were Nazi collaborators or members of the resistance.  The idea that our ancestors were on the right side of history is an interesting one that cannot be true for all of us.

Because this book is well written, I had no problem switching back and forth between the different time periods. I was a bit less enthusiastic about the inclusion of the occasional French phrase, sometimes translated and sometimes not. I expect the French was included to give a French feeling to the book and translation is not necessary but I did find the practice intrusive.

As the back of the book says, this story contains a mystery, a love story and of course, a history lesson.  It is packed with French food, culture and of course, wine. It is well written and it is easy to read. If you enjoy historical fiction, wine and/or reading about France, I believe that you will enjoy The Lost Vintage. You may even find yourself needing to read "just one more chapter", wanting to drink a bit of wine and desiring a trip to France.

Without giving away the secrets of this book, I will mention that it deals with a little discussed part of the story of France. That is, what happened to French women when the country was liberated from the Germans. French women were often treated as traitors and found guilty without a trial by what was really mob justice. No allowances were made for varying situations like the difference between women who slept willingly with German soldiers and those who were raped. 

This book comes HIGHLY RECOMMENDED by me. You can buy your copy of The Lost Vintage from Amazon by clicking right here.

See you
at the bookstore!
Brenda 

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas movie reviewed.




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Friday, October 23, 2020

Forever By Your Side by Tracie Peterson Book Review

Forever by Your Side
As soon as I saw this book available, I requested a copy.  Tracie Peterson is one of my all-time favorite Christian fiction authors.  I always love her books.  

I didn't realize this was the third book in the series, Willamette Brides, but that was not a problem.  I had already read the first two books, so I was familiar with the characters and the background story for the book.

A reader would probably enjoy this book without reading the first two in the series, but I'm not sure it would mean as much to them.  Knowing the complete backstory, what brought us to this point in time on the Indian reservation, fills in what might otherwise be blanks in the book.  I do recommend reading the first two books first, but you will definitely want to read the resolutions in "Forever By Your Side". 


Synopsis of Forever By Your Side

 Forever by Your Side
(Willamette Brides)
Constance Browning is thrilled when she is hired to catalogue the history of the American Indians on the Oregon reservation, her own childhood home.  Constance's parents are still missionaries there and she is excited to return after years away at school.  

Tom Lowell, Connie's best friend, is the second half of the team hired to record the historical facts.  Together, they travel from the East Coast to the Oregon reservation.  Once there, they are welcomed to stay with Connie's parents instead of other government accommodations.  This is an optimum arrangement for Connie & Tom since they also hope to find out who is supplying the Indians with whiskey and guns.  It has been rumored that her parents are behind the shipments and are organizing an upraising.  

Connie is certain her parents are not involved in anything that would put the Indians in danger.  She knows their hearts and their mission to help the people they love.  Unfortunately, her opinion doesn't matter when there is evidence that her father is part of the operation.  

Since Connie knows some of the Indians, she & Tom plan to use their research as a cover for inquiring about a potential upraising.  They are stunned by some old friends who now consider Connie's family the enemy.  

Connie is equally surprised by the government agent, Clint Singleton, on the reservation who now expresses a romantic interest in her.  She had a childhood crush on him years before and he had totally dismissed her then.  She has to ask herself, is she still in love with Clint?

All the changes are confusing, but Connie is determined to prove her parents are innocent.  With the evidence against her father, that won't be easy to do.


My Recommendation

As I stated in my introduction, while this could be a stand-alone book, I believe the entire series should be read in order.  Connie's cousins, their marriages, and most especially one husband's murder, are important to understanding the entire Willamette Brides story plot and the resolutions in this book.  

Personally, I was glad to finally know the true identity of Mr. Smith and the reasons behind his actions.  

The previous books in the series, Secrets of My Heart and The Way of Love are wonderful books, full of love, mystery and an excellent story that carried through the series.  I highly recommend the Willamette Brides series by Tracie Peterson, especially now that we have Forever By Your Side that provides the answers and resolutions.


 

 

I received an advance copy of "Forever by Your Side" to review from NetGalley. I would like to express my appreciation to Netgalley, the author, Tracie Peterson, and the publisher, Bethany House, for this opportunity. 
 



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Thursday, October 22, 2020

The Last Correspondent Book Review

The Last Correspondent is a work of historical fiction written by Soraya M Lane.  It takes place during World War II just prior, during and after the invasion of Normandy.  The scenes are set in London and France during the war.  

This story is about three woman who fight to use their careers to tell their story in a man's world.  They show a tremendous amount of courage, grit and determination in order to get the story told.  This then is the story of a war correspondent, a photographer and a model.

I found this book to be a real page turner.  In fact after I was about half way through the book, I couldn't put it down till I read the whole book.  It is one of those books where the author does such a good job of making the characters believable that I couldn't wait to see what happened next.

The Three Women

  • Danni-  Danni is a seasoned photographer, who has photographed the war on several different fronts.  As the days close in on the Normandy invasion she finds herself in London.   Only the  men are allowed to get passes to cover the war during the invasion, but Danni is determined to find a way to get to the action.  She has teamed up with a correspondent, Andy, who has been with her during her last several assignments.  They have become good friends and cover each others backs.  Danni enlists Andy to help her sneak aboard a medical ship that is sailing toward Normandy.
  • Ella-  Ella is a reporter who has written stories  under a man's pen name in order to get her works published.  When she is found out, her publisher fires her.  She finds a job with a magazine reporting on the war from a women's point of view.  She interviews women working on the war effort and the magazine is so pleased with her work that they send her to London to report on the war.  Like Danni, Ella also finds she is limited in her access because she is a woman.  Ella goes by herself to try to find a way to the action and find herself on the same medical ship as Dani and Andy.  After a rough night hiding on board they decide to team up as they make their way to shore.
  • Chloe-  Chloe is Andy's sister who was a Vogue model prior to the war.  When she was in Paris on a modeling job she met Gabriel, an editor, whom she fell in love.  At the beginning of the story Chloe is at her home in England, longing to find a way to be with Gabriel in Paris.  She says she is a showgirl in order to make her way into Nazi occupied Paris.


The Men in Their Lives

  • Cameron- Cameron is a Lieutenant that Danni first meets and has a conflict with when she is covering the war in Sicily.  She meets up with him again in a bar in London and then in Normandy.  They have a real love/hate relationship.
  • Andy- Andy is a war correspondent and best friend to Danni.  They have been together on several war zones and he always has her back when she is pushing the envelope.
  • Gabriel-  Gabriel is Chloe's lover and she sneaks in to Paris to be with him, only to find out the it is very pre-occupied working for the resistance.  
  • Michael - Michael is also a war correspondent and Ella first meets him at the bar at the Savoy in London.  This is a meeting place for many of the correspondents and photographers.  She next meets up with him in Normandy.

Recommendation

If you are a lover of historical fiction this is a wonderful  read.  It is full of history, women's fight to be treated as equals, and just a bit of romance.  A great read all around.  I highly recommend it.




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Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Heather Morris' Cilka's Journey, A Book Review

Heather Morris' Cilka's Journey, A Book Review

Following the very successful novel The Tattooist of Auschwitz, comes Heather Morris' 2019 book, Cilka's Journey. Yes, it is a sequel of sorts to the first book though it definitely stands alone. 

Frankly, this book is another dark look into a horrible time in man's history. That's to be expected based on the subject of the novel. Initially, I did not care for how the story flipped back and forth between the main character's time in the Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp in Germany and in her time in the Vorkuta Gulag Labor Camp in Russia but I quickly managed to overcome the darkness and the style and be absorbed by the very real characters in the story.

Cilka was sent to Birkenau when she was taken from her home at the age of 16 simply because she was Jewish and young and healthy and able to work. When Birkenau was liberated, she was tried and sent to the Siberian labor camp for having slept with the enemy. For her crime, she received a sentence of 15 years of hard labor. 

Whether the beautiful 16 year old really had any choice about whether to sleep with the enemy or not is debatable but the book is about her journey through and survival of both facilities. I don't need to say how unpleasant that situation was and I will not reveal how it ended.  Here's the official book trailer:


 


This second video is from the author and discusses albeit briefly the connection between this book and her first, The Tattooist of Auschwitz. 

Warning, this next video has LOTS OF SPOILERS but it does do a good job of telling you about the story.



FICTION OR NON-FICTION?

If you watched the preceding video, you know the answer to this question. Cilka's Journey is a fictional account of the true-life story of Cecília Kováčová. 

Of course, the story is filled out with details the author cannot really know but in large part it is said that the book is based on the conditions and situations people including Cilka found themselves living in at those two facilities. 

Descendants, however, declare the story to be outrageous calling it "lurid and titillating." They say that this is not the way Cilka shared her story to them.

The author defends the book saying that it is based on first-hand testimony given by people she interviewed and the experiences of women who were subjected to the life in those camps. She says, "It is a novel and does not represent the entire facts of Cilka's life." You can read more about the controversy here on The Guardian

In another interview with ABC, the author defends the disputed fact that women were used sexually in the camps and sums up with, "If it's all the same to you I think I'll go with their testimonies because they were there."


Heather Morris' Cilka's Journey Book Review


IS IT RECOMMENDED?

Yes, this book is HIGHLY RECOMMEND by me. The book has an average 4.39 stars on Goodreads and 92 percent of the reviewers on Amazon gave the book a five-star rating.

WARNINGS

Well, I feel that writing a warning about the unpleasant reading that comes in a book set in Nazi Germany and a Siberian Labor Camp in the 1940s is almost unnecessary I will say that this book deals with sex, starvation, murder.  The main character's work in the Labor Camp finds the reader face to face with terrible workplace accidents. It is definitely not nice but it is present and it is an intricate part of the story.  Plus, of course, there is the controversy of just how true this story really is.

WHO SHOULD READ THIS BOOK

Anyone who has an interest in historical fiction will enjoy the book, with consideration to the warnings given above. Anyone who read The Tattooist of Auschwitz and liked it will enjoy this book. As author Heather Morris says in the second video shown above, you should enjoy this book "not for the horror and evil that is included but for the humanity and the compassion and the love and the hope." I agree.

You can find your copy of Cilka's Journey on Amazon by clicking right here. Be sure to come back and let us know what you think of the book.

See you
at the bookstore!
Brenda

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Friday, October 9, 2020

A Defense of Honor (Haven Manor Book 1) by Kristi Ann Hunter Reviewed

A Defense of Honor has a very unique plot. That fact alone drew me to this book. Plus, I had never read a book by Kristi Ann Hunter and I love finding new authors (new to me). 

Normally, I review books that I can highly recommend to anyone.  A Defense of Honor delves into some very unpleasant realistic attitudes, especially during the time period of the book's setting of London in 1816.  Therefore, I would only recommend this book to someone who doesn't mind examining the dirty underbelly of society, as well as their own hearts and minds. 

As I read the book, I found myself questioning several things, which is most unusual when reading a Christian fiction.


Synopsis of A Defense of Honor (Haven Manor Book1)

Kit FitzGilbert is "The Governess".  She is hated by London society, even though her true identity is concealed.  Her self-appointed job is to ensure that illegitimate children are financially supported by their wealthy fathers.  She and her friends also protect the mothers and allow them a way to re-enter society without the child or society being any the wiser.

 A Defense of Honor (Haven Manor Book #1)Kit, Daphne & Jess provide a home for the children which is supported by the funds that Kit extracts from their fathers.  

Haven Manor is a large secluded estate that is overseen by a local solicitor, Nash Banfield.  The owner has no desire to live there, so Nash allows the women and children to live in the manor.  This arrangement benefits all parties because the women take care of the upkeep of the manor, the children have a home away from public awareness or scorn, and the owner's property maintains it's value.

It all works quite well for twelve years.  Then, Kit meets Graham, the Viscount Wharton, who is heir to the earldom of Grableton, at a ball she was not invited to attend.  When they go their separate ways, he doesn't even know her full name, but he is haunted by the memory of the beautiful woman in the green gown.

When Graham accidentally finds Kit at Haven Manor while searching for a friend's sister, he is thrilled to once again have an opportunity to get to know her.  However, even though he now knows where she lives, he has no idea who she really is.  In fact, until recently, he had never even heard of The Governess.  

Their relationship is tested multiple times as he discovers more about her, the children, and the household.  It is highly unlikely that a friendship between the two can continue.

 

My Opinion the Book "A Defense of Honor"

Even though this is a Christian fiction, it challenged me.  The reading was not difficult, but some of the judgemental attitudes of the characters were hard for me to embrace.  I don't really understand being able to totally write-off someone you love and dismiss them completely from your life.  

After reading certain chapters, I would stop and think about them.  Question if I knew someone who had done anything like that.  I wondered if the attitudes and actions were very "real-life".  As I delved into my own memories, I found that I have known individuals who, in fact, walk away from family members and friends.  They seemingly never look back, yet leave broken hearts and pain that can take years to overcome, if ever.

There was another point of opinion I found difficult.  The main character, Kit, was judged harshly for the means she used to ensure illegitimate children were financially supported by their biological fathers.  I'm not sure I see the great "sin" in her methods, even though I certainly see the danger.

Plus, the ending bothered me. I can't go into detail about that without ruining the book for you, but I would love to know how others feel about the plot's resolve.  If you read the book, please come back and tell me what you thought.


 

 




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Friday, September 18, 2020

Otherwise Engaged by Joanna Barker - Book Reviewed

Otherwise Engaged is a fabulous book!  It is a clean and wholesome romance for those of us who do not like explicit content.  It is also a historical fiction which is one of my favorite genres.  

This is the first book I have read by Joanna Barker, but it will not be the last!   She is a phenomenal writer who includes vivid descriptions of people and surroundings.  I was barely into the first chapter of Otherwise Engaged when I noted how much I loved this author’s captivating descriptions. I could easily envision the people and places in my mind’s eye. 

I also enjoy the touches of humor Barker includes throughout the book.  Several times I laughed out loud at the witty repartee between characters. 

All of these exceptional elements made this a thoroughly enjoyable book which I would highly recommend.   


Synopsis of Otherwise Engaged
England - 1822

Rebecca Rowley has just returned home from Brighton.  She has a big announcement to share with her family.  One that she knows her family will not be excited to hear.  Rebecca is engaged to Edward Bainbridge, whom she just met while in Brighton.  
 
She had heard the Bainbridge name before.  Their fathers had been business partners years before.  The reasons for the dissolution of that partnership had always been a secret that the parents never shared with their children.  Neither Rebecca nor Edward knew why they couldn't be together.  They agreed to find out the secret and, together, try to get their families to leave the past in the past, forgive and forget whatever was necessary, so they could be married with the acceptance and support of both families.  
 
 Otherwise EngagedCheck PriceRebecca had another secret.  She loved to ride her horse, Stella, but she enjoyed riding bareback.  She knew her family would disapprove of her riding in such an unladylike and dangerous way.  So, she would leave the estate with Stella saddled, then remove the saddle when they reached a secluded meadow.  Together, they would run like the wind, free and unencumbered by restraints. 
 
After one of their unconventional rides, Stella heard someone crying for help.  She and Stella immediately responded.  A child was drowning.  Rebecca ran into the water and swam to the girl, whose dress was caught on an underwater tree branch.  Once Rebecca freed her, she pulled her to safety on shore where they were joined by the child's very angry adult half-brother, Lieutenant Nicholas Avery.  This was definitely not the best way to meet new neighbors, especially since Rebecca was soaking wet and anyone could see that her nearby horse was not wearing a saddle.  This stranger now knew one of her best-kept secrets.  
 
Rebecca soon learned that Nicholas Avery was his sister, Olivia's, guardian.  Her mother had recently died and their father had died a few years before.  Nicholas barely knew Olivia since she was a much younger step-sister.  He had been in the navy all of her life and had only seen her a few times.  He wasn't always sure how to handle Olivia.  As a navy lieutenant, he knew how to make men obey his orders, but was clueless about how to deal with his little sister.  Rebecca stepped in to try to help.
 
Over the next few weeks, Rebecca and Nicholas became friends.  She confided in him and he kept her secrets, plus he enabled her to pursue activities that were otherwise not considered acceptable for a lady in society.   Rebecca's mother thought Nicholas would make the perfect suitor for her, but Nicholas knew Rebecca was otherwise engaged.
 

Conclusion


I immediately adored the free-spirited Miss Rebecca Rowley.  I applauded her desire to take on difficult tasks and live life on her own terms, not by wealthy society rules that stifled women.  I was tickled by Lieutenant Nicholas Avery’s independent little sister, Olivia, who clearly had a mind of her own.  I loved the witty quips of Rebecca’s family, as well as her conversations with Nicholas, and the jocular repartee they shared with each other.   
 
There are some authors who leave me wondering how they do it. How they write so well that they capture my attention.  How they describe their characters with such detail that I feel as if I know them, that they are close friends who have shared every confidence. How they weave a story that captivates me to the point of tears, laughter and even anger. 
 
Joanna Barker has done just that, and more, in “Otherwise Engaged”.  I have no doubt that I will miss Rebecca, Nicholas, and even Olivia in the upcoming weeks.





I received an advance copy of "Otherwise Engaged" to review from NetGalley. I would like to express my appreciation to Netgalley, the author, Joanna Barker, and the publisher, Covenant Communications, for this opportunity.



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Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Catherine Cookson Riley Book Review

Catherine Cookson Riley (1998) Book Review

Many years ago, I parted with most of my Catherine Cookson books, retaining only the few that I had not read, like the one shown here called Riley. It had been decades since I had picked up any of Cookson's books but I remember fondly having loved the stories, which are set in the 19th century in and around what was then at least a heavily industrialized area of northeast England called Tyneside. 

With the arrival in 2020 of the virus that would lock down most of the world, I set to reading through some of my old piles of books and hence returned to the works of Catherine Cookson via this novel, Riley. 


IS RILEY RECOMMENDED?

Riley was indeed very good and it did not in any way fail my memories of Cookson’s books. It is the story of a young lad with no direction who was surely bound for trouble but was indirectly 'rescued’ by a few heated comments from a caring teacher. The result of those comments was a tumultuous but successful life on the stage and marriage to a woman 20 years his elder. 

Riley is Highly Recommended by me for anyone who loves historical fiction.


THE AUTHOR

Author Catherine Cookson, despite being from an extremely poor, working class home in Tyneside, England, went on to become one of the richest women in Britain. More importantly in my mind at least, she also went on to become Britain’s most read author in the mid-1990s and remains on the list of the twenty most read British novelists. She wrote a remarkable two books a year in many years and, when she died in 1998, she left behind 103 novels and a fortune for charity. 


ROMANCE OR HISTORICAL FICTION?

Catherine Cookson's novels were often categorized as romance despite the fact that, as Cookson said herself, there was nothing romantic about the times or the situations in her books. Her stories offered up more than historical romance and are extremely well done in terms of depicting a time period in history, which would surely make them qualify as historical fiction today. 

I do not want to stop with recommending Riley, however. I want to make my post a call for people to pick up Catherine Cookson’s books whether they knew her before they arrived here on this page or not. It doesn’t matter which book you start with whether it be Riley or another, they are all sure to please. Just be careful if you start with a series like Mary Ann Shaughnessy, Tilly Trotter or the Bailey Chronicles that you pick the first one.  You will find Riley on Amazon by clicking right here.

See you
At the bookstore!
Brenda

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Buy Riley on Amazon.
Catherine Cookson’s Life 
Discover the new, used and vintage books in my eBay store by clicking here but be warned that unfortunately there are no Catherine Cookson novels!
The Alice Network by Kate Quinn reviewed. 
Fast Girls by Elise Hooper reviewed. 








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Saturday, July 25, 2020

Reviewing The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

This riveting historical fiction novel is one that is hard to put down once you start reading and takes you on a journey through both the first World War as well as post World War II.

review of the alice network by kate quinn
The Alice Network by Kate Quinn, photo by Lou16


A little while ago I read a review on this very site for a book called The Huntress by Kate Quinn which peeked my interest so when I was in a bookstore and saw The Alice Network by Kate Quinn author of The Huntress I just had to buy it.   The Alice Network was actually penned first and after reading it I am even more keen to read The Huntress!

The Alice Network was actually real as was the leader and Kate Quinn has done a marvelous job of interweaving actual historic events into a story that is hard to put down.

A WWI female spy - Louise de Bettignies - featured in the historical novel The Alice Network
The Queen of Spies herself, courtesy of Wikipedia
The novel features two strong heroines - Eve Gardiner and Charlie St Clair.   Eve's story takes us through the world of women espionage during the first World War and introduces us to the real life Queen of Spies, Louise de Bettignies.   What I found great after finishing this story was the author notes at the end which mention which of the characters were actually based on historical figures and which weren't.   Something I thought very interesting was where Kate Quinn got the idea for Eve's story, along with her spy name.

Eve's chapters take us through the perils of life as a female spy during World War I in France.   The other heroine is Charlie St Clair who finds herself (an American college girl) pregnant and unwed at 19 during the aftermath of World War II.

When her mother takes Charlie to Europe to dispose of her 'little problem' they make a stop in England where Charlie leaves the hotel to search for Eve Gardiner who was a name on the bottom of a missing persons report for her French cousin who went missing during the war.

Together they head to Europe, along with Eve's Scottish helper and driver and start on their individual quests - Charlie to find her cousin Rose and Eve to hunt down her enemy who handed her over to the Germans during WWI.

As the book interweaves through the two story lines we learn more about both heroines along the way and find where they both have to make major decisions which could totally change the outcomes of their lives.   The book also exposes the double standards women faced during WWI and showed how little these double standards had changed by the 1940s. 

Obviously as with any historical fiction some liberties were taken, but I'd love to think that Louise de Bettignies did buy ridiculous hats when travelling and was able to inject some fun into her life of intrigue.   I like the idea of her having the personality that was displayed in the book as the life of a spy in France at that time was very bleak - as it was for most every day people in Europe at that time.

I would love to see this book turned into a movie as I'm sure my husband would enjoy it.  What can you expect from this book?   If you pick up this book expect suspense, intrigue, a little romance and so many twists and turns.




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Thursday, July 2, 2020

Fast Girls - Book Review

Order Fast Girls Today
Three fast girls.  Three very different pathways to the 1936 Berlin Olympics.  Three: the number of seconds between "get set" and blasting off the starting line into your future.  Three young women running, for all they are worth, for their lives.

Fast Girls is historical fiction that introduces us to real women who broke world records, achieved Olympic gold, rose above rampant racism, sexism, and the societal norms meant to keep them off the track... out of the running for their dreams... out of their place in history.

Betty Robinson.  Louise Stokes.  Helen Stephens.  Remember their names.  These fast girls will teach us much that goes far beyond 100 meters.  From them, we will gain the perspective and insight that becomes a kind of second wind, which is what you need when you hit the wall during a race, or in the midst of dealing with life's hard challenges.

Each fast girl had to rise above tremendous obstacles to become who she was destined to be.  Take Betty Robinson, for starters.  As the first American woman to achieve Olympic gold, at the very first Olympics that included female athletes (Amsterdam, 1928), it seemed the "Golden Girl" had it made.  Not long afterwards, Robinson was involved in a near-fatal plane crash that left her body wrecked beyond hope of any kind of recovery, or any return to her former glory.  Everyone counted her out.  Everyone, that is, except Betty herself.  What she does with her brokenness is what will define her greatness.

Next up, Louise Stokes.  As a member of the first integrated Olympic team, Stokes, a black athlete, will face the kind of abuses no one deserves, or should ever experience.  Her treatment, how she copes with it, and where it leads, even to today's Black Lives Matter movement, is not just a lesson for the history books.  It is living history.  It matters as much right now as it did back in 1932.

Which brings us to Helen Stephens.  Stephens, a misfit, unwanted by her father, mocked and bullied by her childhood peers, so different, so confused about her identity, so incredibly talented.  What will become of Helen?  Who will see her immense promise and provide a means for her to leave the bleak, hardscrabble existence of her youth?

Fast Girls is about so much more than blazing speed.  Even though these women, at their peak, were the fastest women in the world, what mattered, and still matters, is what they did with their enormous capacity for turning tragedies into personal triumph.  Their disappointments and losses, perhaps even more than their triumphs, are what make for compelling reading.

This is a book for the history buff, the athlete, the coach, the teacher, the enthusiastic spectator, the one who cares about the worthiness, and enormous value, of every single person who asks only to be allowed the opportunity to fly down that straightaway toward the achievement of a dream... toward the fulfillment of personal destiny.

*I received an ARC of Fast Girls from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.  I wish to thank the author, Elise Hooper, and her publisher, HarperCollins, for this opportunity.

**You may also wish to check out my five-star review of Elise Hooper's fabulous book Learning to See.









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Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Spies, Wars, Winners and Losers, It's All So Intriguing To Me!

Reading is a wonderful Summer pastime, one that will take you to places that you've only dreamed of and so much more.




Image by Terri Cnudde from Pixabay

There are so many titles available,  but sometimes you just need someone to point out a book or two that you know will  be enjoyed from the moment they open that first page.  This is a Book Review of The Huntress, by Kate Quinn, published Feb. 2019.

My preferences lie with books that will keep me turning pages until the darkness of night and sometimes even till the morning light seems to be upon me.  I have been known to read until my eyes are literally streaming with tears to keep them lubricated enough to continue turning pages..

Recently, I got caught up with some spy thrillers, and historical novels about World War II and all the turmoil after the war was over.  Lives that had been shattered, families that lost loved ones and the most intriguing to me, the ones who just disappeared!

I have read all of these books and each one held me and my imagination from the opening pages to the very end.  I found myself even going back into the books to re-read chapters that had really captivated my yearnings to know more about this time in history.

Now I must remind you that these are all novels, but you know from in depth investigations after the war, that some of these scenarios are quite possible and not just figments of an authors musings.


The Huntress had me hanging by my fingernails, wanting to know what was going to happen next.  The cast of characters is so believable that I'm sure they could be neighbors of mine.

 From a group of young Russian women pilots (known by the Nazis as the Night Witches), to Nazi wives and/or lovers, to a couple of guys who are determined to bring down a high ranking German "killer".  This story has you spellbound within the first two pages.   


Image by Ella_87 from Pixabay


I should have known that I would be totally engrossed with The Huntress, because I have read Kate Quinn's, "The Alice Network", with just the same amount of interest.  She just writes so well that you are taken right into the heart of the story before you have finished the first chapter. You just need to know what is going to happen next.

The other book that I really enjoyed from this same time frame in history is Pam Jenoff's The Lost Girls of Paris.  What could possibly be in a suitcase left on a train stations platform?

If you want to enjoy a trio of books that will make your summer reading enjoyable, I would highly recommend that you start with any one of these three books.  Each one is amazing in it's own right.  I'm sure you will spend some quality time at the beach, pool, or just sitting in the yard enjoying both the good weather and a great book too. 

The best part of all this reading material is that there are options for you if you want to read them for free.  Life doesn't get any better than that.  You will have to check out these options for yourself !  

Happy Summer and Happy Reading!





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Monday, June 15, 2020

Book Review - One for the Blackbird, One for the Crow by Olivia Hawker

I was transported to 1876 Wyoming each time I began reading One for the Blackbird, One for the Crow here I left off. The story is so descriptively written that I felt as though I too were on the prairie. I will remember these two families and this natural setting for quite some time.




Each chapter was written from the viewpoint of Nettie, Cora, Beulah or Clyde. Each of them had a different reaction to the crimes that take place as the story opens. The tension between Nettie and the others is nearly as harsh as the Wyoming winter. Cora is as uncomfortable in the rural setting as Nettie is in Beulah's presence. And Clyde suddenly becomes the man of the house, of two households, but is still a boy who needs to decide whether or not to follow in his father's footsteps. 

The two families are oil and water but they must pull together to survive the winter.

Cora was from St. Louis. She met and married Ernest, who moved them to Wyoming. On her first night, she quietly ventured from the wagon as far as she dared and watched the turning stars in the night sky. She felt she could love the place. But it turns out that she didn't. Cora missed the excitement and socializing of Saint Louis too much. After Ernest left, she was suddenly solely responsible for her four children and the homestead.

Ernest found his wife at the river with Nettie's husband. He immediately leaves the homestead and heads for the sheriff's office in Painted Rock to turn himself in for murder.

Nettie is not the forgiving sort. She can't find it in herself to forgive Cora for her many sins but mostly for the sin of causing her husband's death. And Nettie is sure that the strange daughter of hers, Beulah, must be as corrupt as her mother. She directs her son Clyde to stay away from this girl. Nettie is stoic and strong. She has all of the right answers and solutions. Or does she?

Clyde is talented with the horses and knowledgeable with the sheep. He is hard-working and responsible but his father's anger bubbles just under the surface. This story is about Clyde's coming of age as much as it is about pioneers doing the best they can on the prairie. 

Beulah. Nettie is correct. Cora's daughter, is a strange girl. Beulah appears slow or lazy. But she's not lazy at all. She cares for the three younger children, gardens, helps Clyde with repairing fences, and she knows things. She knows things she shouldn't. Whether it is intuition or visions she knows things before they happen. And Nettie finds this very disconcerting.  




Life on the frontier is not peaches and cream. It is difficult. This story is about grudges, loss, forgiveness, a spirit, and the natural world - both good and bad. And two very broken families that may or may not find their way. There are portions of this story that are difficult to read offset by the beauty of love and healing. And family.

Related Link:

Renaissance Woman reviewed The Ragged Edge of Night by Olivia Hawker. That story is set in Nazi Germany 1942. "To immerse ourselves into Anton and Elisabeth's war-torn lives is to see glimmers of unimaginable beauty beneath the desolation of loss, shame, failure, and fear". Continue reading the review here.  


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Thursday, June 11, 2020

Book Review on Golden Poppies


Golden Poppies by Laila Ibrahim was my pick for the Amazon Prime free books for May.  I always enjoy historical fiction and I was not disappointed with this compelling story.


The Book on Amazon




Main themes of the Book


There are several themes that run throughout the book.  
  • Love and friendship that endures throughout the years
  • Racial discord and fear
  • Inequality 
  • Women's Voting Rights
  • Strong and resilient women


Highlights of the Book


This book looks at two generations of people who are linked by friendship and racial solidarity.

The book begins in 1894 with the story of Mattie, a former slave who escaped the plantation on which she lived and worked.  When the story begins Mattie is now living in Chicago and is very ill.  Her daughter, Jordan and grandaughter, Naomi are by her side; but Mattie desires to see her old friend Lisbeth one more time before she dies.  Mattie had been Lisbeth's nanny on the plantation before she escaped and they have kept in touch with each other through the years.   Jordan finally agrees to getting in touch with Lisbeth, even though she doesn't know if she wants to share her mother's last days with a "white" woman.  Upon getting the message, Lisbeth immediately makes plans to leave her home in Oakland California to visit Mattie.  Lisbeth's daughter Sadie travels with her by train to Chicago.

I don't want to give away the whole story but after Mattie's death all four woman end up going to Oakland.  During the weeks that follow they  become involved in the Women's Suffrage Movement.

There are many interesting side stories that make the book a real page turner.  These include the birth of a child, a husband's abuse, an interracial marriage and the continued loyalty and friendship of the two families.

My Thoughts on the Book


I found the book to be very compelling.   It was one of those books I just couldn't put down.  The author made the characters come to life and I found myself routing for their success and fearing for their safety.  

My favorite character was Sadie, Lisbeth's daughter, who had several struggles of her own during the story but always was there for her Mom and her friends.  She was married to a man who was very domineering and her struggles seemed very true, both for those times and today.

I think the one thing that struck me was that in all the struggles, even though they took place over a 100 years ago, you can see that many things are still the same today.  Sadly, sometimes the more things change the more they remain the same.  



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Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Before We Were Yours Book Review

A Book That Will Touch Your Heart

After having just finished the book Before We Were Yours, I would like to review it for you today. It isn't a book that I would have chosen for myself, to be honest. My youngest daughter gave it to me for Mother's Day this year. It turns out she made a very good choice for her mamma to read. The novel by Lisa Wingate falls into the historical fiction genre which is a genre that I read often but it also falls under Sisters Fiction (I didn't even know that was a thing!) and Mothers and Children fiction (another new genre to me). Anyway, it turned out to be one of those books that I found difficult to put down. Let me tell you about it.

before we were yours
This made me think of Rill and Fern in Before We Were Yours
image courtesy of pixabay.com
It took me a little while to get used to going back and forth in time as I read the first few chapters but after a short period of time, I rather liked the way the author was making the story unfold.

Before We Were Yours Synopsis


Although, the story line in this novel is fictional, it is based on historical records of a time in the not so distant past where children from very poor families were literally stolen from their parents to be adopted out to families with money and power. Spoiler alert: what these kids go through is gonna tug at your heart. 

Lisa Wingate weaves us through decades of time while telling the story of a family of River Gypsies or Shanty-boat people on the Mississippi River near Memphis, Tennessee. As you turn the pages, you learn about two families that are two generations apart. You see the power of the strings that hold a family together or rip them apart.  Will there be consequences from secrets kept and secrets shared?

Personally, I loved the honest way that the author wrote about the struggles that most multi-generational families have when faced with having to place a loved one in a facility to be cared for. She portrayed the heartache of a family member no longer being able to live in their own home. Those awful moments when someone you love no longer recognizes who you are. This wasn't the main plot of the novel but was interspersed very well as the story progresses through a span of about 80 years. 

This is a story that probably will break your heart, but by the end, I think it will mend your heart, too.  

Every Family Can Relate

I think one of the remarkable things I took away from this novel was that just about everyone will relate to this story about family. I kept thinking about my paternal grandmother while I read. Granny was a strong soul who went through a similar childhood as the Foss children did. She came from a poor family with several children. Her mother died in childbirth when she was about 8. It was decided that her father wasn't fit to raise the children. The younger ones were adopted out quickly but Granny and her sister Cora were deemed too old. They were sent to an orphanage. Those two sisters spent years trying to get back to their family. They actually escaped from 4 orphanages together. She and Cora stayed close and they were able to re-unite with their siblings when they were adults and even took care of their elderly father in his last years. 

Another connection to my own family was that Granny suffered from Alzheimer's. Having to put someone you love in a care facility for their own safety isn't an easy one for any family. It broke my heart that she didn't recognize me at all but it hurt even more to see my Dad's face when she didn't know him. The author writes about this in a sympathetic and poignant way. 

I highly recommend this book! I think it will resonate with many. Whether we are a mother, father, daughter, son, sister, or brother; I think parts of the story will seem like a bit of our own.





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Thursday, April 30, 2020

Learning to See - Book Review

Read an Excerpt
You have seen the photos.  The Migrant Mother.  Desperate families on the move.  Children experiencing abject poverty.  Desolate internment camps.

Migrant Mother (1936)
Credit: Dorothea Lange/Public Domain

You have heard the photographer's name.  Dorothea Lange.  But how many of us know the backstory of how Dorothea Margaretta Nutzhorn Lange (1895-1965) became one of the most famous documentary photographers of all time?

Dorothea Lange (1936)
Credit: The Library of Congress/No Restrictions

Learning to See is historical fiction that reads like an organic biography.  Elise Hooper used volumes of historical records and interviews to create this compelling memoir-like novel.  Like many based-on-true-life stories, the fiction morphs with the nonfiction into a very realistic portrait of the complex life and times of Dorothea Lange.

We are first introduced to the intrepid twenty-two-year-old Nutzhorn as she arrives in the bohemian San Francisco of 1918.  Having been the victim of a thief who makes off with her life savings, Dorothea must use her wits to secure housing and a job as a photographic assistant.  Before long, the renamed Lange decides to forge her own path as an independent studio photographer.

As things unfold, we discover Dorothea's many evolving iterations: friend, businesswoman, wife, mother, and fearless social activist.  There are elements of Lange's life that some will find upsetting (like choosing to foster out her children during the hard economic times of the Great Depression).  The sacrifices endured for the sake of Lange's calling will have lifelong ramifications.

This is a book for those who appreciate historical fiction, biographies, defining moments in time, photography, or reflections on the human landscape of America.  I couldn't help but see the parallels between the subjects of Lange's Depression Era portraits and those that are beginning to define this current time of economic collapse, migrant oppression, and social injustice.

As a photographer with a connection to our country's unseen and often marginalized individuals, the themes of this book deeply resonate.  For me, Lange's unvarnished look at the real America took me to a place deep within myself that wishes to compassionately acknowledge and respond to the pain of those who are struggling mightily.  We know there are multitudes experiencing the hardest times of their lives at this very moment in our nation's history.

Woman of the High Plains (1938)
Credit: Dorothea Lange/Public Domain
This is not the time to look away.  To peer into the haunting images of Dorothea Lange's America, is to have the opportunity of a lifetime to learn to see and to define who we will become in relationship to, and with, those who are trying to survive, while hoping for a better tomorrow.

I highly recommend this novel and encourage members of book clubs to consider Learning to See as a group selection.  It is sure to generate the kinds of conversations that matter.










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Thursday, March 12, 2020

Review of In a Field of Blue



In a Field of Blue is a compelling novel about life during and after World War 1.  I downloaded this book on my Kindle when it was one of Amazon Prime's first reads.  I thoroughly enjoyed the book and look forward to reading more books by the author.

Setting


The book takes place in three different countries.

  • England
  • France
  • Canada

 


Summary of Plot


The story follows an English family whose oldest son has gone missing in action in World War 1.  After four years they are looking for answers when a young woman, Mariette, arrives at their manor claiming to be their missing son's wife and the mother of his child.

The youngest son, Rudy, sets off on a quest to find the answers of the missing brother.  The quest takes him to the ruins of the war fields in France and then to the far northern territories of North America.

The book shows the ravages of war, the miracles of love and hope, and the secrets of another time.

Characters


  • Edgar- the oldest son who goes off to war and is listed as missing.
  • Laurence-the middle son who seeks to claim his inheritance when his older  brother is presumed dead.
  • Rudy- the youngest son who idolized his oldest brother.  He wants to believe that he is still alive and goes around the world to try to discover the truth.
  • Mariette- a young French woman who claims to be Edgar's wife and the mother of his son.  She shows up with very little proof.
  • Samuel- the young boy who shows up at the manor with Mariette.  He wins the hearts of Rudy and the staff at the manor.

More book by author Gemma Liviero


After reading In a Field of Blue, I am anxious to read more books by the author.





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