Tag: World War II

Book Review: The Living and the Lost, by Ellen Feldman

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.
  • Genre:   Fiction, historical
  • Rating:  4 out of 5

Millie Mosbach and her brother David escaped to the United States just before Kristallnacht, leaving their parents and little sister in Berlin. Now they are both back in their former hometown, haunted by ghosts and hoping against hope to find their family. Millie works in the office responsible for rooting out the most dedicated Nazis from publishing. Like most of their German-born American colleagues, the siblings suffer from rage at Germany and guilt at their own good fortune. Only Millie’s boss, Major Harry Sutton, seems strangely eager to be fair to the Germans.

Living and working in bombed-out Berlin, a latter day Wild West where the desperate prey on the unsuspecting; spies ply their trade; black markets thrive, and forbidden fraternization is rampant, Millie must come to terms with a past decision made in a moment of crisis, and with the enigmatic sometimes infuriating Major Sutton who is mysteriously understanding of her demons. Atmospheric and page-turning, The Living and the Lost is a story of survival, love, and forgiveness, of others and of self.

Millie was hard and unlikable enough at the beginning that I almost stopped reading, but she grew on me. This was set in post-WWII Berlin and offered a different view of the war—from someone who escaped before it got very, very bad, but who nonetheless did not escape unscathed. Solid writing and characters, and I enjoyed how all of them had such different layers. They weren’t all just one thing. That made for a nuanced and complex read, perfect for savoring.

Ellen Feldman lives in New York. The living and the Lost is her newest novel.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour: The Inheritance, by JoAnn Ross

Image belongs to Harlequin.

 

When conflict photographer Jackson Swann dies, he leaves behind a conflict of his own making when his three daughters, each born to a different mother, discover that they’re now responsible for the family’s Oregon vineyard—and for a family they didn’t ask for.

After a successful career as a child TV star, Tess is, for the first time in her life, suffering from a serious identity crisis, and renewed resentment around losing her father all over again.

Charlotte, brought up to be a proper Southern wife, gave up her own career to support her husband’s political ambitions. On the worst day of her life, she discovers her beloved father has died, she has two sisters she never knew about, and her husband has fallen in love with another woman.

Natalie, daughter of Jack’s longtime mistress, has always known about her half sisters. And she can’t help feeling that when Tess and Charlotte find out, they’ll resent her for being the daughter their father kept.

As the sisters reluctantly gather at the Maison de Madeleine to deal with their father’s final wishes, they become enchanted by the legacy they’ve inherited, and by their grandmother’s rich stories of life in WWII France and the wounded American soldier who would ultimately influence all their lives.

I actually really enjoyed this read! Tess was kind of unlikable at first, but she grew on me as she mellowed out a bit. As did Charlotte, who actually grew a pair and stood up for herself with her horrid, cheating husband. I would have enjoyed seeing more from Natalie’s viewpoint, as I liked her the best.

The stories of the three sisters, interspersed with tales from their grandmother’s time in the French Resistance, made for a compelling read, fraught with family tensions and truths waiting to be discovered.

JoAnn Ross is a bestselling author. The Inheritance is her newest novel.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour: The Bookseller’s Secret, by Michelle Gable

Image belongs to Harlequin/Graydon House.

In 1942, London, Nancy Mitford is worried about more than air raids and German spies. Still recovering from a devastating loss, the once sparkling Bright Young Thing is estranged from her husband, her allowance has been cut, and she’s given up her writing career. On top of this, her five beautiful but infamous sisters continue making headlines with their controversial politics.

Eager for distraction and desperate for income, Nancy jumps at the chance to manage the Heywood Hill bookshop while the owner is away at war. Between the shop’s brisk business and the literary salons she hosts for her eccentric friends, Nancy’s life seems on the upswing. But when a mysterious French officer insists that she has a story to tell, Nancy must decide if picking up the pen again and revealing all is worth the price she might be forced to pay.

Eighty years later, Heywood Hill is abuzz with the hunt for a lost wartime manuscript written by Nancy Mitford. For one woman desperately in need of a change, the search will reveal not only a new side to Nancy, but an even more surprising link between the past and present…

Nancy and her family were a bit of a dumpster fire. I really didn’t care for them. Nancy was very wishy-washy and I frankly just wanted her to grow a pair, make a decision, and follow through. I actually enjoyed Katie’s story in the present-day far, far more than Nancy’s, although she had her own set of issues (more of a campfire than a dumpster fire).

There were some parallels between the two women, with their writer’s block and indecisiveness, but it was fun to see Katie’s journey. The blurb makes this seem like everyone in London is talking about the possibility of a lost Mitford manuscript, but in reality it was basically three people, so there’s that.

Michelle Gable is a bestselling author. The Bookseller’s Secret is her newest novel.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour: Radar Girls, by Sara Ackerman

Image belongs to Harlequin/MIRA.

Daisy Wilder prefers the company of horses to people, bare feet and salt water to high heels and society parties. Then, in the dizzying aftermath of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Daisy enlists in a top secret program, replacing male soldiers in a war zone for the first time. Under fear of imminent invasion, the WARDs guide pilots into blacked-out airstrips and track unidentified planes across Pacific skies. 

But not everyone thinks the women are up to the job, and the new recruits must rise above their differences and work side by side despite the resistance and heartache they meet along the way. With America’s future on the line, Daisy is determined to prove herself worthy. And with the man she’s falling for out on the front lines, she cannot fail. From radar towers on remote mountaintops to flooded bomb shelters, she’ll need her new team when the stakes are highest. Because the most important battles are fought—and won—together.

This was a pretty cool read! I loved the historical premise of the novel, of which I’d never heard the slightest bit about:  Hawaiian women being trained to use radar in the wake of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

The writing is solid, and the characters are unique and believable individuals. I truly enjoyed finding out what happened to these women against the backdrop of war, with the setting of Hawaii as a vibrant character in its own right. A perfect weekend read!

Sara Ackerman lives in Hawaii. Radar Girls is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: The Forest of Vanishing Stars, by Kristin Harmel

Image belongs to Gallery Books.

After being stolen from her wealthy German parents and raised in the unforgiving wilderness of eastern Europe, a young woman finds herself alone in 1941 after her kidnapper dies. Her solitary existence is interrupted, however, when she happens upon a group of Jews fleeing the Nazi terror. Stunned to learn what’s happening in the outside world, she vows to teach the group all she can about surviving in the forest—and in turn, they teach her some surprising lessons about opening her heart after years of isolation. But when she is betrayed and escapes into a German-occupied village, her past and present come together in a shocking collision that could change everything.

This was a fantastic read! I had never heard of the historical facts behind the premise and found it both fascinating and heartbreaking. I read a solid amount of World War II-set historical fiction, but this was new territory for much. Surviving in the forest like this required so much strength and resiliency, and I am just in awe of these people.

I liked Yona a lot and seeing her grow from a child to a woman—and how her thoughts evolved—was engrossing to read. I loved how she left her comfort zone behind to help others—she knew it was the right thing to do, even though she’d never been taught that. Proof that people are inherently good (which I tend to forget). Loved this read!

Kristin Harmel is a bestselling author. The Forest of Vanishing Stars is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Gallery Books in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Widows of Champagne, by Renee Ryan

Image belongs to Harlequin/Love Inspired.

Champagne, 1939

Gabrielle Leblanc Dupree is taking her family’s future into her hands. While she should be preparing for a lavish party to celebrate two centuries of champagne making, she secretly hides Chateau Fouché-Leblanc’s most precious vintages behind a fake wall in the cellar in preparation for the looming war. But when she joins the resistance, the coveted champagne isn’t the most dangerous secret her cellar must conceal…

A former Parisian socialite, Gabrielle’s mother, Hélène, lost her husband to another war. Now her home has been requisitioned by the Germans, who pillage vineyards to satisfy the Third Reich’s thirst for the finest champagne. There’s even more at stake than Hélène dares admit. She has kept her heritage a secret…and no one is safe in Nazi-occupied France.

Josephine, the family matriarch, watches as her beloved vineyard faces its most difficult harvest yet. As her daughter-in-law and granddaughters contend with the enemies and unexpected allies in their midst, Josephine’s deep faith leads to her own path of resistance.

Across years and continents, the Leblanc women will draw on their courage and wits, determined against all odds to preserve their lives, their freedom and their legacy…

This was an incredible read! It wasn’t in the least what I expected, but it was so good. I will say that Hélène wasn’t my favorite character, but it was due more to her reserved and secretive personality than anything, as she was incredibly determined to protect her family. I didn’t care for the youngest daughter at all, but Gabrielle was a great character and I enjoyed her journey so, so much!

Renee Ryan grew up in Florida. The Widows of Champagne is her newest novel.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour: The Warsaw Orphan, by Kelly Rimmer

Image belongs to Harlequin/Graydon House.

TitleThe Warsaw Orphan
Author Kelly Rimmer
Genre:  Historical fiction
Rating:  4 out of 5

In the spring of 1942, young Elzbieta Rabinek is aware of the swiftly growing discord just beyond the courtyard of her comfortable Warsaw home. She has no fondness for the Germans who patrol her streets and impose their curfews, but has never given much thought to what goes on behind the walls that contain her Jewish neighbors. She knows all too well about German brutality–and that it’s the reason she must conceal her true identity. But in befriending Sara, a nurse who shares her apartment floor, Elzbieta makes a discovery that propels her into a dangerous world of deception and heroism.

Using Sara’s credentials to smuggle children out of the ghetto brings Elzbieta face-to-face with the reality of the war behind its walls, and to the plight of the Gorka family, who must make the impossible decision to give up their newborn daughter or watch her starve. For Roman Gorka, this final injustice stirs him to rebellion with a zeal not even his newfound love for Elzbieta can suppress. But his recklessness brings unwanted attention to Sara’s cause, unwittingly putting Elzbieta and her family in harm’s way until one violent act threatens to destroy their chance at freedom forever.

I’ve read a number of books about World War II, but I’m not sure I’ve ever read one set in Warsaw. With the different points-of-view, the reader sees what life is like inside the ghetto, but what it looks like outside the ghetto, too. This was an engrossing read, and although not a light or happy one, there were some glimmers of light peeking through.

I recommend this read, for illustrating a slightly different aspect of the World War II tragedy. The characters are believable and I was invested in what happened to them and how they learned and grew from their experiences.

Kelly Rimmer is a bestselling author. The Warsaw Orphan is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: The Secrets We Left Behind, by Soraya M. Lane

Image belongs to Lake Union Publishing.

TitleThe Secrets We Left Behind
AuthorSoraya M. Lane
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Rating:  4 out of 5

Occupied France, 1940. When the staff at a field hospital draw straws to find out who will join the evacuation from Dunkirk, Nurse Cate is left behind. But when the Nazis arrive to claim prisoners of war, she takes her chance and flees into the night, taking one patient with her.

Fifty miles away, the surrendering soldiers of the Royal Norfolk Regiment are shot dead by the advancing Germans. Beneath the pile of bodies two men survive, crawling to the safety of a nearby farmhouse, where sisters Elise and Adelaide risk their lives to take them in. When Cate, too, arrives at their door with her injured soldier, the pressure mounts.

The sisters are risking everything to keep their visitors safe. But with the Nazis coming ever closer and relationships in the farmhouse intensifying, they must all question the sacrifices they are willing to make for the lives of others. How far will they go for family, friendship, and love?

I enjoyed this read! I liked the characters a lot, and they were realistic and people to root for. Except maybe Adelaide, who I kind of wanted to smack in the back of the head. I was never sure how this was going to turn out, so it wasn’t predictable to me, and the writing was excellent, with a setting that I enjoyed reading more about.

Soraya M. Lane lives in New Zealand. The Secrets We Left Behind is her newest novel.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour: The Woman with the Blue Star, by Pam Jenoff

Image belongs to Harlequin/Park Row.

TitleThe Woman with the Blue Star
AuthorPam Jenoff
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Rating:  4 out of 5

1942. Sadie Gault is eighteen and living with her parents in the Kraków Ghetto during World War II. When the Nazis liquidate the ghetto, Sadie and her pregnant mother are forced to seek refuge in the perilous tunnels beneath the city. One day Sadie looks up through a grate and sees a girl about her own age buying flowers.

Ella Stepanek is an affluent Polish girl living a life of relative ease with her stepmother, who has developed close alliances with the occupying Germans. While on an errand in the market, she catches a glimpse of something moving beneath a grate in the street. Upon closer inspection, she realizes it’s a girl hiding.

Ella begins to aid Sadie and the two become close, but as the dangers of the war worsen, their lives are set on a collision course that will test them in the face of overwhelming odds. Inspired by incredible true stories, The Woman with the Blue Star is an unforgettable testament to the power of friendship and the extraordinary strength of the human will to survive.

This is not a happy book. I liked the characters; their strength, determination, and resourcefulness. I cannot even imagine hiding in a sewer for months on end. I did find the idea that Ella could stand in the middle of a street over a sewer grate for long enough to have entire conversations and give Sadie food and no one noticed a bit far-fetched. That wasn’t believable to me, but apart from that, I found the book entirely readable, even if sad.

Pam Jenoff is a bestselling author. The Woman with the Blue Star is her newest novel.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour: The Last Bookshop in London, by Madeline Martin

Harlequin/Hanover Square Press.

TitleThe Last Bookshop in London
AuthorMadeline Martin
Genre:  Historical fiction
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

August 1939: London prepares for war as Hitler’s forces sweep across Europe. Grace Bennett has always dreamed of moving to the city, but the bunkers and blackout curtains that she finds on her arrival were not what she expected. And she certainly never imagined she’d wind up working at Primrose Hill, a dusty old bookshop nestled in the heart of London.

Through blackouts and air raids as the Blitz intensifies, Grace discovers the power of storytelling to unite her community in ways she never dreamed—a force that triumphs over even the darkest nights of the war.

It seems like every World War II novel I read is sad, but this one proved to be an exception. Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely sad and horrifying moments, but the overall message of this novel is hope and helping others. I thought it was a wonderful touch that initially Grace isn’t even a reader, so we get to experience her falling in love with books as she grows to love the bookshop and its patrons. This is a lovely read!

Madeline Martin is a bestselling author. The Last Bookshop in London is her newest novel.

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