Book review: The Designer by Marius Gabriel

  • Title & Author:  The Designer by Marius Gabriel
  • Publisher:  Lake Union Publishing
  • Date published:  October 1, 2017
  • Pages: 388 pages
  • Genre:  biographical fiction / general fiction / historical fiction

Book Description:

In 1944, newly married Copper Reilly arrives in Paris soon after the liberation. While the city celebrates its freedom, she’s stuck in the prison of an unhappy marriage. When her husband commits one betrayal too many, Copper demands a separation.

Alone in Paris, she finds an unlikely new friend: an obscure, middle-aged designer from the back rooms of a decaying fashion house whose timid nature and reluctance for fame clash with the bold brilliance of his designs. His name is Christian Dior.

Realising his genius, Copper urges Dior to strike out on his own, helping to pull him away from his insecurities and towards stardom. With just a camera and a typewriter, she takes her own advice and ventures into the wild and colourful world of fashion journalism.

Soon Copper finds herself torn between two very different suitors, questioning who she is and what she truly wants. As the city rebuilds and opulence returns, can Copper make a new, love-filled life for herself?

Buy the book:   Amazon    Barnes & Noble

Meet the author:  

Marius Gabriel is an international thriller and mystery writer.  Under the pseudonym Madeleine Ker, he wrote over 30 romance novels in the 1980s.

As Marius Gabriel he has written several mystery best-sellers, some of them historical novels. 

He has three grown-up children and currently lives in Cairo and London.

Connect with the author:   Twitter    Facebook    goodreads

REVIEW:

As a photographer and fashion enthusiast, I was looking forward to exploring the rise of fashion and the world of Christian Dior during the remaining years of WWII.  The story revolves around Oona Reilly (Copper), a young American woman stationed in Paris with her journalist husband.  After her marriage falls apart and her husband is stationed elsewhere, Oona becomes heavily involved in the bohemian art and fashion world.  This association leads her to become a protege of Christian Dior, a talented designer who has yet to establish his own design house.

Although this book is primarily historical fiction, there are several historical events relating to the war described in this novel such as the concentration camps, the severe living conditions in France at the time as well as the role the American army and the French resistance played in liberating France from the Nazis.  I found myself googling the characters and events in the book for more information and found that the events described were accurate.

Although Oona’s meteoric rise as a photographer and  a successful freelance journalist seemed “a little too effortless” to be believable I really did enjoy reading this novel.

 

Book review: What is Forgiven (The Anna Klein Trilogy Book 2) by C.F. Yetmen

  • What is Forgiven by C.F. Yetmen
  • Publisher:  Ypsilon & Co. Press
  • Date published:  September 5th, 2017
  • Pages:  367
  • Genre:   Historical romance / historical fiction / mystery / suspense

DESCRIPTION:

At the end of 1945 in a shattered Germany, Anna Klein is faced with tough choices about her future. Her plum job working as a translator for Captain Henry Cooper, one of the American Monuments Men, means she has a house and an income, as well as hands-on access to some of the world’s most precious art. But her life is falling apart on all fronts: her family is displaced, the boy in her care is being sought by authorities, and she must resolve to finally end her marriage. When she realizes that someone has tampered with two important paintings taken from a Jewish collector—paintings she was charged with safeguarding—Anna is determined to solve the crime. But without hard evidence and no motive, she can prove nothing and as State Department big wigs threaten to shut down the Monuments Men’s operation, she and her boss are under special scrutiny. As all signs begin to point to an inconvenient suspect in the crime, she has to play it by the book to keep her job and return the art to its rightful owner, if she can find him.

Buy the book:   Amazon
MEET THE AUTHOR:

C.F. YETMEN is a writer and consultant specializing in architecture and design.

She is co-author of The Owner’s Dilemma: Driving Success and Innovation in the Design and Construction Industry and a former publisher of Texas Architect magazine. The Roses Underneath is her first novel.

Connect with the author:  Website   Facebook   Twitter   goodreads

REVIEW:

This book is a sequel to The Roses Underneath where we continue to follow the activities of Anna Klein and Captain Cooper as they become unwittingly become embroiled in conspiracies involving a huge cache of stolen artwork they recently discovered in an abandoned farmhouse.

Anna’s life has taken on another element as she “adopts” a streetwise orphan boy.  Her home with her mother’s friend has been requisitioned by the army and she has two days to find somewhere to place her family.  Captain Cooper, not an army man per se, has “bucked the system” a few times too many and now the army has them both under surveillance.  Anna is beginning to feel the pressure and has doubts who she can really trust – the army – her new roommate – even Captain Cooper.  Her husband has been branded a “Commie” and is not welcome in Wiesbaden.  Anna is unwilling to return to the Russian held part of Germany.  Her love for her husband but her respect and admiration for Captain Cooper pull her in two directions.

An excellent follow through of Anna’s story and I can’t wait to read the third segment.  Kudos to a wonderfully talented debut writer!

BOOK TOUR: The Nomad’s Premonition by Georges Benay

Book Details:

Book Title:  The Nomad’s Premonition by Georges Benay
Category:  Adult Fiction,   240 pages
Genre:  Thriller, mystery/suspense
Publisher:   Story Merchant Books
Release date:  April 28, 2017
Format available for review:  print & ebook (mobi, PDF)
Will ship print books to:  Canada
Tour dates: August 14 to Sept 15, 2017
Content Rating: PG-13 (some violence, a couple of swear words – minimal)

Book Description:

​Eric Martin is desperate to forget his past, one that almost cost him his future.

Working in Paris as deputy head of a bank’s internal security department, Eric notices a high-speed trader’s uncanny ability to predict extremely profitable trades. Even though there’s nothing illegal about the activity, he knows the trader’s success is more than just luck.

But, no one believes him. Armed only with a handful of data and a powerful instinct, Eric searches for the mysterious trader on his own. He suspects that a predictive algorithm has fallen into the wrong hands.

​Eric sets off for Istanbul to find answers promised to him by an informant. He finds an unlikely ally in Interpol agent Stephanie Brule. With Interpol wanting him back in Paris and out of the way, Eric’s quest is also hampered by the sudden appearance of his ex-lover, a boss he’s not sure he can trust, and a terrorist who always seems one step ahead.

​Will Eric put an end, once and for all, to the nightmare that began when he accepted a job that was too good to be true? Or will his need for revenge and justice lead him deeper into a treacherous world he has no way of escaping?

Buy the book:    ​Amazon

Georges Benay

Meet the Author:

Georges Benay is a former international banker who is now working as a Toronto-based writer and award-winning photographer.

He is the author of two novels, including The Nomad’s Premonition and a collection of short stories. His award winning pictures have been featured in several magazines and book covers.

Connect with the author: Website  ~  Photography Website  ~  Twitter

REVIEW:
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Eric Martin is intrigued and disturbed when he uncovers data about a mysterious but highly successful stock trader.  Unable to pinpoint where the trades are originating, Eric takes it upon himself to flush out the unknown trader.  He is joined by an agent from Interpol who is one of the few who he can trust with his mission.
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The author cleverly throws in action-packed sequences and red herrings to keep us guessing the identity of this now dangerous adversary.
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Unfortunately, this book was a very slow read as it was bogged down by excessive descriptions and off-shoots in the plot which, I felt, detracted from a very good storyline.  I reached a point about half way through the book where I didn’t have the mental energy to want to find out “whodunnit”.
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Book review: A Year in the Company of Freaks by Teresa Neumann

Book Details:

Book Title:  A Year in the Company of Freaks
Author: Teresa Neumann
Category:  Adult Fiction,   515 pages
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Publisher:   All’s Well House
Release date:  Dec 21, 2015
Format available for review:  print & ebook (gifted Kindle copy)
Will ship print books to:  USA & Canada only
Tour dates: Sept 11 to 29, 2017
Content Rating: PG + M (Little violence and profanity, no f-words, no sex, but some drug use)

Book Description:

It’s 1972 and a seismic clash-of-cultures is rattling northern California. In the redneck town of Trinity Springs, rumors of hippies migrating up from San Francisco have residents bracing for an invasion. When Italian-American hometown boy and Berkeley graduate Sid Jackson is busted for growing pot on his deceased parents’ farm, locals suspect the assault has begun. Will a crazy deferral program devised by the sheriff keep Sid out of prison? Or will a house full of eccentric strangers, a passionate love interest, and demons from his past be his undoing?

A “disarmingly appealing” tale of discrimination, transformation and restoration, Freaks is bursting with intrigue, drama, comic relief and romance. Reviewers agree this five-star, coming-of-age classic “very much reflects the attitude and mood of the times.”

Praise for A Year in the Company of Freaks:

“This coming of age story will draw the reader right in. Teresa Neumann demonstrates how much she values relationships in her writing … a precious skill. I held my breath all the way through to the final few pages. Five stars!” — The San Francisco Book Review

“As it relates to the complicated clash of culture and counterculture, Freaks acts as an authentic, strongly Seventies book. Northern California works as a strong presence in the novel that is vivid and omnipresent, but never overwhelming. Sure to intrigue and entertain, Freaks will have its digs in you before you realize how involved you’ve become.” — The Manhattan Book Review

Teresa Neumann

About the Author:

Author of highly-acclaimed “A Year in the Company of Freaks,” Teresa was raised in a large Midwest family and now lives in Oregon. She is also the author of “Bianca’s Vineyard,” and its sequel, “Domenico’s Table.” Both books are based on the true stories of her husband’s Italian family in Tuscany. In addition to enjoying family, writing, reading, meeting her readers, wine tasting, traveling, and all things Italian, Teresa loves playing the fiddle with other musicians.

Connect with the Author:  Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter

REVIEW:  (by Anne Benard)

Well this novel certainly surpassed my expectations!  The narrative quickly grabbed my attention and kept me intrigued all the way through. I found it to be a real page turner due to its interesting storyline and well thought out character development. I appreciate that the personalities in this novel are multifaceted and not the usual stereotypes that are often found in fiction.  It’s obvious that the author based her tale on real people facing issues that we can all recognize and easily identify with.  Being a child of the 70s I also appreciate that the language and description of the era is authentic to the times. Thanks for the ‘trip’ Ms. Neumann, it was fun. An entertaining read that I would highly recommend.

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The Portrait by Antoine Laurain

  • Publisher:  Gallic Books
  • Date of publication:  June 26, 2017
  • Pages:  144
  • Genre:  Literary fiction / humour

SYNOPSIS:

A collector unearths the find of a lifetime: an eighteenth-century portrait of a man uncannily like him.  While wandering through a Paris auction house, avid collector Pierre-François Chaumont is stunned to discover the eighteenth-century portrait of an unknown man who looks just like him.  Much to his delight, Chaumont’s bid for the work is successful, but back at home his jaded wife and circle of friends are unable to see the resemblance.  Chaumont remains convinced of it, and as he researches into the painting’s history, he is presented with the opportunity to abandon his tedious existence and walk into a brand new life.

BUY THE BOOK:    AMAZON.CA    AMAZON.COM    BARNES & NOBLE    WEBSITE

MEET THE AUTHOR:  Antoine Laurain was born in Paris and is a journalist, antiques collector and the author of five novels. The President’s Hat, a charming fable set in the Mitterrand years, was awarded the Prix Landerneau Découvertes and the Prix Relay in 2012 and is published in English by Gallic.

It was a Waterstones Book Club book and ABA Indies Introduce pick in 2013. Antoine was chosen to represent France at European Literature Night 2014.

CONNECT WITH THE AUTHOR:    GOODREADS  

REVIEW:

Antoine Laurain has written a provocative and uncanny novella that takes place in Paris. The story revolves around a collector, an obsessive collector whose passion began as a child when he decided to start a rubber eraser collection.  Pierre-Francois Chaumont is a lawyer is devoted to surrounding himself with beautiful objects. His obsession has landed him in trouble with his wife so he’s on the straight and narrow. Until he sees the portrait.  The face is his own.

This story has a  very different feel from the other novels the author has written.  Whereas the stories such as “The Red Notebook” and “The President’s Hat” were good natured and lively, this tale is a tad darker with a hint something that is possibly otherworldly.

A good book to bring with you as you enjoy a cappuccino at your favourite cafe.

Book review: The Elephant of Frimley by Nicholas Rawls

 

  • The Elephant of Frimley by Nicholas Rawls
  • Publisher:  Clink Street Publishing
  • Publication date:  April 25th, 2017
  • Genre:  children’s fiction
  • Pages:  48

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Two sisters and an elephant embark on an exciting adventure in this charming illustrated children’s book.

After the discovery of an elephant in their back garden, sisters Hannah and Emily make it their adventurous mission to return it back home.

Originally written as a bedtime story for his two daughters, and beautifully illustrated by Louise Jewell, The Elephant of Frimley is a delightful and fun read that parents, primary school teachers and extended families will enjoy sharing with young children.

Buy the book:   Amazon UK

Meet the author:  

Retired and happily living in Farnborough, Surrey, Nicholas Rawls enjoys spending time chatting on-line with his grandson and five adult children who are scattered across the world. When he’s not writing poetry and children’s verse he can be found pursuing his other interests —from antique fountain pen restoration to stamp collection, amateur astronomy and learning to play the banjo.

REVIEW:

What a delightful little rhyming story!  A sweet story about a lost elephant and two cheeky girls.  I adored the funny rhymes!  I have used this book to teach poetry to my young students who are learning English.

Book review: Vera McLuckie and the Daydream Club

  • Vera McLuckie and the Daydream Club by Jane Evans (illustrated by Ruth Mutch)
  • Publisher:  Your Stories Matter
  • Published:  January 2017
  • Genre:  Children’s fiction (ages 7-9)
  • Pages:  184

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Vera McLuckie hates school. Mainly because she struggles with stuff the other kids find easy. Oh, and because she keeps getting into trouble for doing what she is really good at. Daydreaming.

So when Vera gets the chance to show just how extraordinary she is, will she dare take on the coolest, smartest girl in the whole of Acorn Bank Primary?

But it goes deeper. Whilst not named in the book explicitly, the three main characters exhibit dyspraxic, dyslexic and autistic (Asperger’s Syndrome) tendencies respectively. So the story can be used by parents and teachers as a catalyst for discussing what it is like to have a specific learning difficulty. In schools, teachers can use the book on a one-to-one, group or class basis to help raise awareness and improve well-being.

Book Background

Both author and illustrator are keen to raise awareness of specific learning difficulties in a way accessible to children. The illustrator is herself autistic.

Buy the book:  Amazon

Meet the author:

Jane Evans lives in Edinburgh, UK with her husband, daughter, cat and six fish. Although she has had many different jobs over the years, she keeps coming back to her first love, writing. ‘Vera McLuckie and the Daydream Club’ is her first book, written with kids in mind who sometimes find things a bit tricky.

Ruth Mutch is a young artist, living in Glasgow with her rather lazy cat Phoebe. She is autistic and has a post graduate qualification in autism as well as a Primary Educational Studies degree and an HND in interactive media. She has a lot of experience of autistic children. Mutch has done various illustrations for autism awareness including an e-learning course but this is her first venture into illustrating a children’s fiction book which she is very excited about!

Connect with the author:   Goodreads   Twitter   Facebook

REVIEW:

I could soooo relate to this book.  I myself have a learning disability and remember staying after class with a teacher yelling at me because I couldn’t understand the basic concepts of letters and numbers.  I suspect I passed math in high school just so that my math teacher didn’t have to see me anymore.  Add to that the fact that I have difficulty seeing letters / objects in boxes, well – you get the picture.

In Vera McLuckie and the Daydream Club we are introduced to three lovable characters who, despite their learning difficulties, become the best of friends. They help each other with their homework at Vera’s grandmother’s bookstore.

Vera is a daydreamer and a very creative one at that.  Which means that she often isn’t able to remember or complete her school work in class.  She also doesn’t like loud noises.

Max has a hard time understanding the way that other people talked and what they really meant when they said things.  He doesn’t like to be touched and notices everything!  The cool thing is, he really rocks at math!

Harry finds writing and spelling hard and she hates to read because the words just dance around on the page.  Vera and Harry help Max write about his feelings.

What I really admired about this book is that it is written in the Dyslexie font, which is a typeface for people with dyslexia.  The illustrations were drawn by Ruth Mutch, who is herself autistic.   There is also an mission in the back of the book to unlock a code word.  Is that cool or what?

A friendly and encouraging book for all those children who think they don’t fit in because they are different.

ABOUT YOUR STORIES MATTER:

About Your Stories Matter: Based in Kendal, Cumbria Paul Johnson is the founder of Your Stories Matter and the parent publishing company Explainer HQ —which provides creative video, audio, animation and print to the business and education sector. All Your Stories Matters titles are published in paperback and are available to order from online retailers including amazon.co.uk.

For more information please visit: https://www.yourstoriesmatter.org and follow on Twitter @ysm_books

Book review: The Back to Front World of Azzie Artbuckle

  • The Back to Front World of Azzie Artbuckle
  • Publisher:  Your Stories Matter
  • Genre:  children (ages 6-8 years)
  • Published: January 31, 2017
  • Author:   Beth Montgomery
  • Pages:  36 (softcover)

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Azzie doesn’t really like school. If she could spend every day drawing, painting and making stuff, things would be great. But she can’t. The teachers make her do other stuff. This nearly always means she has to read from the board, a worksheet or a text book. The trouble is, she really really struggles to read letters, words and numbers. This makes her feel stupid. But she knows she isn’t. If only she could tell someone …

This book has been written from the point of view of a child who feels misunderstood. She finds it very difficult to read, which makes school life a struggle. She feels stupid, even though she is clever and creative. She gets told off for messing around, when the truth is she can’t do what is asked of her because she has a specific learning difficulty.

This illustrated book helps parents, teachers, and other adults who support children, have a non-threatening discussion about dyslexia with children of primary school age. Children find it easier to relate to, and discuss, the character in the story rather than have all the attention focused on them.

Using the book as a catalyst for discussion, adults can use the illustrated story at home or in school with children who have dyslexia, or exhibit dyslexic tendencies. Teachers can use the book to help classmates better understand their peers who may struggle reading. Similarly, parents can use the book to help children better understand family members.

This book was written and illustrated by someone who is herself dyslexic, and is based on her own life. She wanted to do something to help children who, years later, are still facing the same lack of understanding in school.

Buy the book:  Amazon   

MEET THE AUTHOR:  Elizabeth Montgomery lives in Nottinghamshire, England. She studied a BA in Design at Leicester’s De Montfort University, going on to complete an MA in writing at Nottingham University. Montgomery pursued various careers, including teaching, working for the Prince’s Trust and designing bespoke shoes for celebrities, before finally becoming a registered nurse. She wrote the Back to Front World of Azzie Artbuckle to help children and adults accept the unique abilities of being dyslexic, instead of being made to feel bad and stupid.

Website  

Book Objectives

This book has been written from the point of view of a child who feels misunderstood. She finds it very difficult to read, which makes school life a struggle. She feels stupid, even though she is clever and creative. She gets told off for messing around, when the truth is she can’t do what is asked of her because she has a specific learning difficulty.

This illustrated book helps parents, teachers, and other adults who support children, have a non-threatening discussion about dyslexia with children of primary school age. Children find it easier to relate to, and discuss, the character in the story rather than have all the attention focused on them.

Using the book as a catalyst for discussion, adults can use the illustrated story at home or in school with children who have dyslexia, or exhibit dyslexic tendencies. Teachers can use the book to help classmates better understand their peers who may struggle reading. Similarly, parents can use the book to help children better understand family members.

Book Background

This book was written and illustrated by someone who is herself dyslexic, and is based on her own life. She wanted to do something to help children who, years later, are still facing the same lack of understanding in school.

As with all of its books, the publisher – Your Stories Matter – aims to help people know they are not alone with what makes them different. If a young person or adult can relate to a story, it gives them hope and encourages them to share their concerns. The publisher aims to provide free teaching resources for all of its books that can be used in schools, to help improve understanding and celebrate differences.

REVIEW:

What a delightful book!  The Back to Front World of Azzie Artbuckle is about a little girl who is smart, creative and who tries very hard to read.  But she can’t read.  No matter how hard she tries, she can’t remember how to pronounce a word she has already read on the same page.  She says:  “I can see the letters just fine, but I see them differently to everyone else”.

Azzie has Dyslexia.  But it’s ok.  With a little extra help she can learn to read at her own pace.

Beth Montgomery provides an informative introduction about neurodiverse children and their neurological conditions.  These children are often misunderstood, which exacerbates the stress they already feel when they cannot learn as quickly as other children.  The author explains that there are many “positives” to being “wired differently” and that we should champion and celebrate these differences with the children in our care.

I have a degree in speech therapy and work one-on-one with children four days a week.  This book has helped me to identify those children who are experiencing the same struggle and frustration as Azzie.  This book would be an excellent addition to any pre-school library or paediatrician’s office.

ABOUT YOUR STORIES MATTER:

About Your Stories Matter: Based in Kendal, Cumbria Paul Johnson is the founder of Your Stories Matter and the parent publishing company Explainer HQ —which provides creative video, audio, animation and print to the business and education sector. All Your Stories Matters titles are published in paperback and are available to order from online retailers including amazon.co.uk.

For more information please visit: https://www.yourstoriesmatter.org and follow on Twitter @ysm_books

Book review: The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck

  • Title:  The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck
  • Published:  March 28, 2017
  • Publisher:  William Morrow
  • Pages:  368
  • Genre:  Historical Fiction

DESCRIPTION:

Three women, haunted by the past and the secrets they hold

Set at the end of World War II, in a crumbling Bavarian castle that once played host to all of German high society, a powerful and propulsive story of three widows whose lives and fates become intertwined—an affecting, shocking, and ultimately redemptive novel from the author of the New York Times Notable Book The Hazards of Good Breeding.

Amid the ashes of Nazi Germany’s defeat, Marianne von Lingenfels returns to the once-grand castle of her husband’s ancestors, an imposing stone fortress now fallen into ruin following years of war. The widow of a resister murdered in the failed July 20, 1944, plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler, Marianne plans to uphold the promise she made to her husband’s brave conspirators: to find and protect their wives, her fellow resistance widows.

First Marianne rescues six-year-old Martin, the son of her dearest childhood friend, from a Nazi reeducation home. Together, they make their way across the smoldering wreckage of their homeland to Berlin, where Martin’s mother, the beautiful and naive Benita, has fallen into the hands of occupying Red Army soldiers. Then she locates Ania, another resister’s wife, and her two boys, now refugees languishing in one of the many camps that house the millions displaced by the war.

As Marianne assembles this makeshift family from the ruins of her husband’s resistance movement, she is certain their shared pain and circumstances will hold them together. But she quickly discovers that the black-and-white, highly principled world of her privileged past has become infinitely more complicated, filled with secrets and dark passions that threaten to tear them apart. Eventually, all three women must come to terms with the choices that have defined their lives before, during, and after the war—each with their own unique share of challenges.

Written with the devastating emotional power of The Nightingale, Sarah’s Key, and The Light Between Oceans, Jessica Shattuck’s evocative and utterly enthralling novel offers a fresh perspective on one of the most tumultuous periods in history. Combining piercing social insight and vivid historical atmosphere, The Women in the Castle is a dramatic yet nuanced portrait of war and its repercussions that explores what it means to survive, love, and, ultimately, to forgive in the wake of unimaginable hardship.

BUY THE BOOK:  Amazon   Barnes & Noble   Harper Collins

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Jessica Shattuck is the award-winning author of The Hazards of Good Breeding, which was a New York Times Notable Book and finalist for the PEN/Winship Award, and Perfect Life. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, New Yorker, Glamour, Mother Jones, Wired, and The Believer, among other publications. A graduate of Harvard University, she received her MFA from Columbia University. She lives with her husband and three children in Brookline, Massachusetts.

Connect with the author:   Website   Facebook   Twitter

REVIEW:

Wow, where do I even start?  This is a book that really makes you think about how the response of the German people to Hitler’s rise to power affected the lives of millions of innocent people. We see WWII through the eyes of three very different German women and how they chose or chose not to see the injustices and brutality perpetrated against fellow Germans as well as those from other countries.  Each of these women suffered terribly during the war and their experience gives us a unique perspective of what a German living at that time may have experienced.

Marianne:  the wife of a resister from a privileged background.  Firm in her conviction that Hitler should be stopped at all costs.

Benita:  a beautiful young woman, married to another resister, yet ignorant of her husband’s plot to assassinate the Fuhrer.

Ania:  a mother with two sons, liberated from a camp at the end of the second world war.

These three women barely survived the the war.  They are brought together by Marianne who promised her late husband that she would protect the widows of resisters. The chapters in this book fly back and forth to each woman’s past both before and during the war.  Slowly we are able to put together the pieces of their lives, their sorrows as well as the guilt they deal with as they try to rebuild their lives and those of their children.   This book provides us with a series of moral issues that each and every one of us must take a personal stand for now, for, if the past repeats itself, we may be as lost as those who did not resist the holocaust.

Book review: Russian Winter by Daphne Kalotay!

  • Published:  March 28, 2017
  • Publisher:  Harper Collins Canada
  • Pages:  560
  • Genre:  General fiction

BOOK DESCRIPTION:  

In present-day Boston, Nina Revskaya, once a great star of the Russian ballet, has decided to auction her jewellery collection and donate the proceeds to the Boston Ballet Foundation. It is a mysterious gesture that has piqued the interest of two particular individuals: a rising associate director at the auction house, Drew Brooks, who seeks to unravel the provenance of the pieces; and a professor and Russian translator at the nearby university, Grigori Solodin, who believes the jewels might hold the key to his past.

The stakes are raised when an anonymous individual donates a necklace that perfectly matches the bracelet and earrings in Nina’s collection, claiming the pieces belong together. It is this donation that will bring Drew and Grigori together in unexpected ways to uncover the story behind Nina’s fabulous jewels—a bounty said to have been smuggled out of Stalinist Russia when she defected from the country in the early 1950s.

It was there, in Russia, that Nina first learned to dance, fell in love with the handsome poet Viktor Elsin, and struggled with the choice to pursue her craft or begin a family. Nina and her circle of free-thinking artist friends lived in constant fear of Stalin’s disapproval, of arrest and torture by the secret police for unpatriotic behaviour and so-called crimes against the state. Yet when their circle was broken by just such an arrest, a devastating misunderstanding parted the four friends and lovers forever.

BUY THE BOOK:   HarperCollins | Amazon

MEET THE AUTHOR:  Daphne Kalotay is the author of the award-winning novel Russian Winter, which has been published in twenty languages, and the fiction collection Calamity and Other Stories. She has received fellowships from the Christopher Isherwood Foundation, the MacDowell Colony, and Yaddo, and has taught at Boston University, Skidmore College, Grub Street, and Middlebury College. She lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.

Connect with the author:  Website – Facebook – Goodreads

REVIEW:

Russian Winter is a Dr. Zhivago-esque blend of fiction and history.  There are several storylines blending together in this book with Nina, a young Russian ballerina as our principal player.  She is now living in Boston and has decided to auction off the jewels she received as gifts while she was living in the Soviet Union.

Grigori Solodin, an immigrant Russian professor in Boston is haunted by artifacts in a purse he received from his parents.  He is unable to determine their provenance until he learns of the auction of Nina Revskaya’s jewels.

Nina grows up in Stalinist Russia and is chosen to work for the Bolshoi Ballet. As she makes her way to becoming the principal dancer, she must choose between what comes first in her life, the Bolshoi Ballet or those she loves.

During the 1950’s in Stalinist Russia it is impossible to trust anyone, and with Nina this mistrust includes her family and friends.   Intrigue, informers and fear are the background to this story.   Despite the political environment, Nina falls in love with a handsome poet, Viktor Elsin.  As artists, however, they are not free to pursue their own passions, they belong to Stalin.

I was concerned that I a very short time frame in which to read this 500+ page book for review. The pages flew!  The author left clues throughout the book and so it was fairly easy to guess what would happen.  However, I was not prepared for the gut-wrenching revelations toward the end of the book. This is a keeper!