Tag: World War II

Book Review: Paris Never Leaves You, by Ellen Feldman

paris never leaves you
Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title: Paris Never Leaves You
Author:  Ellen Feldman   
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4.0 out of 5

Moving between wartime Paris crushed under the boot of the Nazi Occupation and 1950s Manhattan giddy with postwar abundance and optimism, Paris Never Leaves You is the story of one woman’s struggle to save her infant daughter and herself.

Running a bookshop in occupied Paris, a city darkened by blackouts, curfews, and constant fear; gripped by hunger, cold, and sudden roundups and deportations, Charlotte Foret walks a fine line between protecting her daughter and staying true to herself and her country; between her hatred for the enemy and her unwanted sympathy for a Wehrmacht physician tortured by his own lethal secret.

Charlotte endures and her daughter ultimately thrives, but the compromises she has made shadow her new life in postwar New York, where she works in a publishing house presided over with wry irreverence by a man haunted by his own war history. Their fates and that of the Wehrmacht physician who has fled to South America prove that though the war is over, the past is never past.

I have to admit, this book traumatized me a bit…and I’m not completely sure why. Yes, the basic setting and time period in history was awful, so that was part of it. And, Charlotte’s worry over her daughter and her struggle to keep her well and safe was terrible to imagine, but that wasn’t all of it either. Just the horrifying experiences of Charlotte and the doctor and everyone…

Honestly, I didn’t connect too well with Charlotte. The guilt she inflicted on herself was a lot, and I found it hard to relate to her. Her actions in the present weren’t that likable, either, but even the secondary characters weren’t terribly likable (Except the doctor. I liked him.). I just found this book more emotional than I was comfortable with at the time I was reading.

Ellen Hampton lives in New York. Paris Never Leaves You is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review and Blog Tour: The Black Swan of Paris, by Karen Robards

the black swan of paris
Image belongs to Harlequin/MIRA.

Title:   The Black Swan of Paris
Author:   Karen Robards
Genre:   Fiction
Rating:   4.5 out of 5

Paris, 1944

Celebrated singer Genevieve Dumont is both a star and a smokescreen. An unwilling darling of the Nazis, the chanteuse’s position of privilege allows her to go undetected as an ally to the resistance.

When her estranged mother, Lillian de Rocheford, is captured by Nazis, Genevieve knows it won’t be long before the Gestapo succeeds in torturing information out of Lillian that will derail the upcoming allied invasion. The resistance movement is tasked with silencing her by any means necessary—including assassination. But Genevieve refuses to let her mother become yet one more victim of the war. Reuniting with her long-lost sister, she must find a way to navigate the perilous cross-currents of Occupied France undetected—and in time to save Lillian’s life.

I recently read a novel about Coco Chanel’s time during the Nazi occupation—and Chanel is mentioned in passing at once point during this novel—but I found this story far more engrossing than that one. I liked Genevieve from the beginning, and she only grew more intriguing as more of her story was revealed.

I enjoyed the parts of the story about her singing and performances, her costumes, and her glitzy life, but the mysteries and intrigues she gets into were even more fascinating. I highly recommend reading this!

Karen Robards is a bestselling author. The Black Swan of Paris is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Harlequin/MIRA in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Queen of Paris, by Pamela Binnings Ewen

the queen of paris
Image belongs to Blackstone Publishing.

Title:  The Queen of Paris
AuthorPamela Binnings Ewen
Genre:  Historical fiction
Rating:  4 out of 5

Coco Chanel doesn’t care about the war. She cares about keeping her secrets and the rights to her legendary perfume. But the Nazis have other ideas, and when they occupy Paris during the war, Coco finds she has much more at stake than she ever imagined. And even more secrets to hide.

I love a good historical fiction read, although the subject of this was a little bit outside my wheelhouse. An interesting look at how Coco grew up—and how she became the icon she became. The writing was vivid and well-done, but the character herself was a bit off-putting to me, being mainly focused on herself and her concerns, with no self-awareness or interest in anything outside her own little bubble.

Pamela Binnings Ewen lives outside New Orleans. The Queen of Paris is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Blackstone Publishing in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: How We Disappeared, by Jing-Jing Lee

how we disappeared
Image belongs to Hanover Square Press.

Title:  How We Disappeared
Author:  Jing-Jing Lee
Genre:  Fiction/historical fiction
Rating:  4.2 out of 5

In 1942 Singapore, the world is at war, but it becomes personal when soldiers ransack a village and murder everyone, leaving only two survivors. In a nearby village, girls are taken captive and forced to become “comfort women”—prostitutes—earning them the shame and disdain of their families—if they are fortunate enough to survive and escape. Wang Di was one of these women, and after sixty years of silence, she is finally ready to talk about the horrors she experienced.

In the year 2000, twelve-year-old Kevin is going blind, so he records everything he hears. Including the dying confession of his beloved grandmother…who isn’t really his grandmother at all. Kevin knows this secret is bigger than he is, but he’s determined to find out the truth—and share it.

How We Disappeared isn’t an easy book to read. It’s full of the sometimes-horrific experiences of these characters, but there are glimpses of hope as well. The settings are realistic—good and bad—and, though the book gets off to a slow start, it is well-worth reading.

Jing-Jing Lee is an author and a poet. How We Disappeared is her debut novel.

(Galley courtesy of Harlequin/Hanover Square Press via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Things We Cannot Say, by Kelly Rimmer

the things we cannot say
Image belongs to Graydon House.

Title:  The Things We Cannot Say
Author:  Kelly Rimmer
Genre:  Fiction, historical
Rating:  5 out of 5

Alice never expected to be a stay-at-home mom, but 7-year-old Eddie is on the autism spectrum and nonverbal, and needs all the care Alice can give him, while 10-year-old Callie is smart enough to cause herself problems. So, Alice’s world revolves around her kids and her husband, until her beloved grandmother falls ill, and asks Alice to find those she left behind in Poland during WWII. Her only clues are a faded photo of a young man, a tiny leather shoe, and a letter.

In 1940s Poland, Alina is young and in love, and gets engaged to Tomasz just before he goes away to college. She can’t wait to start their future together. Then the Nazis arrive, and her whole world changes to hunger, fear, and a desperate longing for Tomasz. She knows he’ll keep his promise to return to her, but so many obstacles stand in the way, and the darkness around them may sweep them under if anyone finds out their secrets.

This book. This book. Fantastically well-written, I found myself drawn into both timelines effortlessly, caring about both Alice and Alina and their happiness. The horrors of war are captured in small bits, enough to paint the picture, but not so much that the reader can’t move past it. I cried at the end, but this story is filled with so much hope and love. A wonderful read!

Kelly Rimmer is a USA Today bestselling author. The Things We Cannot Say is her newest book.

(Galley courtesy of Graydon House via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Burning Fields, by Alli Sinclair

burning fields
Image belongs to Kensington Books/Lyrical Press.

Title:   Burning Fields
Author:   Alli Sinclair
Genre:   Fiction, historical
Rating:   4 out of 5

In 1948, World War II has impacted every corner of the globe and brought change. For Rosie Stanton, it brought an opportunity to live and work away from home for the first time, growing her independent nature even stronger. But now she’s back home on her family’s sugarcane farm, which is foundering thanks to her father’s old-fashioned ideas, sabotage from the inside, and her parents’ grief over the loss of her two brothers. Even worse is her father’s dislike of Italians, especially the Conti family that lives next door.

Thomas Conti left the war behind him when he came to Australia but finds prejudice and hatred here as well. Thomas still struggles with his experiences in the war and wants to keep to himself because he just knows he’ll hurt anyone who cares about him. Rosie wants to get to know Thomas, but when a ghost from his past shows up to ruin his future and a bombshell from Rosie’s past destroys who she thinks she is, they’ll have to turn to each other if they’re to survive.

I’d never read anything from this particular setting, so it was an interesting—and sad—read. So much conflict and hatred towards others…kind of like today. Rosie is an interesting character:  caught on the brink of a changing world and society but having to fight for every single step she takes forward. I enjoyed this read quite a bit.

Alli Sinclair is an award-winning author. Burning Fields is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by Kensington Books/Lyrical Press in exchange for an honest review.)

The Orphan’s Tale, by Pam Jenoff

the orphan's tale
Image belongs to harlequin/Mira.

Pam Jenoff is a lawyer and former government employee who now teaches law school. She is an award-winning author, and her newest novel is The Orphan’s Tale.

Noa’s family kicked her out when she became pregnant by a Nazi soldier. She was forced to give up her baby, and took a job cleaning a rail station. When a boxcar full of Jewish infants headed for a concentration camp stops at the station, Noa finds herself stealing one of the babies and escaping into the snowy night.

A German circus takes Noa in, and she’s forced to learn the trapeze to earn her keep and so she can blend in. Her presence puts the entire circus at risk, and she butts heads with the lead aerialist, Astrid, who must train her. Soon, she and Astrid forge a strong bond, as the threat to the circus looms larger, and the two women must overcome the secrets between them if they—and the rest of the circus—are to survive.

I was supposed to read this last month, and somehow skipped over it. I’m so glad I figured that out and read this! It’s a dark book, set in one of the bleakest periods of human history. World War II-era Germany was a terrifying place to be Jewish, and this danger snakes through every page of this book. The tragedies faced by both Noa and Astrid are harrowing, at best, and the way they fight to overcome them and reach for a brighter future is both inspiring and sad. This is a great read, but not for someone looking for a book that’s light or happy—despite being set in a circus.

(Galley provided by Harlequin/Mira.)