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.

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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: In This Grave Hour: (Maisie Dobbs Series #13) by Jacqueline Winspear

About In This Grave Hour

Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: Harper (March 14, 2017)

“A female investigator every bit as brainy and battle-hardened as Lisbeth Salander.”†ó Maureen Corrigan, NPR’s Fresh Air, on Maisie Dobbs

Sunday September 3rd 1939. At the moment Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain broadcasts to the nation Britain’s declaration of war with Germany, a senior Secret Service agent breaks into Maisie Dobbs’ flat to await her return. Dr. Francesca Thomas has an urgent assignment for Maisie: to find the killer of a man who escaped occupied Belgium as a boy, some twenty-three years earlier during the Great War.

In a London shadowed by barrage balloons, bomb shelters and the threat of invasion, within days another former Belgian refugee is found murdered. And as Maisie delves deeper into the killings of the dispossessed from the last war,” a new kind of refugee – an evacuee from London – appears in Maisie’s life. The little girl billeted at Maisie’s home in Kent does not, or cannot, speak, and the authorities do not know who the child belongs to or who might have put her on the ìOperation Pied Piper evacuee train. They know only that her name is Anna.

As Maisie’s search for the killer escalates, the country braces for what is to come. Britain is approaching its gravest hour – and Maisie could be nearing a crossroads of her own.

Purchase Links for In This Grave Hour

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Jacqueline WinspearAbout Jacqueline Winspear

Jacqueline Winspear is the author of the New York Times bestselling Maisie Dobbs series, which includes†In†This Grave Hour,Journey to Munich, A Dangerous Place, Leaving Everything Most Loved, Elegy for Eddie, and eight other novels. Her standalone novel, The Care and Management of Lies, was also a New York Times bestseller and a Dayton Literary Peace Prize finalist. Originally from the United Kingdom, she now lives in California.

Find out more about Jacqueline at her website, www.jacquelinewinspear.com, and find her on Facebook.

REVIEW:

WW II is looming and Maisie and her fellow Londoners are preparing for life under siege from the Germans.  Sandra and Billy, Maisie’s employees are back again at Maisie’s newly renovated office and she has re-opened her business as a private investigator.  She soon receives a request to solve a murder from an unusual source, a secret service officer from Belgium.  She needs to prevent further murders and pulls in a few favours from Scotland Yard to assist her as she must tread lightly when investigating in diplomatic circles.

At the same time, children are being sent out of London to be billeted in the countryside for safety reasons.  Several children are lodged at Chelstone, Maisie’s home outside of London.  A little dark skinned girl mysteriously appears with a group of boys and no one has been able to identify who she is or where she came from. Maisie is drawn to this little girl whose name is Anna and is determined to find her family.   Maisie’s father, Frankie and his wife Brenda are beginning to worry that Maisie is developing a stronger than normal attachment to Anna and don’t want her to be hurt when her family is found.

I really loved the way the author uses language that was common to the era. Several of the expressions were quite amusing and the characters that we know from the previous novels appear in this one as well. It’s been a pleasure to follow Maisie from a young girl to a mature woman, through one war and now into another.  I suspect there is another story in the works and can’t wait to read about happens next.

Book review: Journey to Munich: (Maisie Dobbs Series #12) by Jacqueline Winspear

  • Publisher:  Harper Collins
  • Publication date:  March 29, 2016
  • Genre:  mystery / crime / detective / suspense
  • Pages:  309

Description:

Working with the British Secret Service on an undercover mission, Maisie Dobbs is sent to Hitler’s Germany in this thrilling tale of danger and intrigue—the twelfth novel in Jacqueline Winspear’s New York Times bestselling “series that seems to get better with each entry” (Wall Street Journal).

It’s early 1938, and Maisie Dobbs is back in England. On a fine yet chilly morning, as she walks towards Fitzroy Square—a place of many memories—she is intercepted by Brian Huntley and Robert MacFarlane of the Secret Service. The German government has agreed to release a British subject from prison, but only if he is handed over to a family member. Because the man’s wife is bedridden and his daughter has been killed in an accident, the Secret Service wants Maisie—who bears a striking resemblance to the daughter—to retrieve the man from Dachau, on the outskirts of Munich.

The British government is not alone in its interest in Maisie’s travel plans. Her nemesis—the man she holds responsible for her husband’s death—has learned of her journey, and is also desperate for her help.

Traveling into the heart of Nazi Germany, Maisie encounters unexpected dangers—and finds herself questioning whether it’s time to return to the work she loved. But the Secret Service may have other ideas. . . .

Buy the book:   Amazon    Barnes & Noble   Harper Collins

Jacqueline Winspear is the author of the New York Times bestselling Maisie Dobbs series, which includes In This Grave Hour, Journey to Munich, A Dangerous Place, Leaving Everything Most Loved, Elegy for Eddie, and eight other novels. Her standalone novel, The Care and Management of Lies, was also a New York Times bestseller and a Dayton Literary Peace Prize finalist. Originally from the United Kingdom, she now lives in California.

Connect with the author:  Website   Facebook 

REVIEW:

This a very different storyline from the other Maisie Dobb novels. Maisie has returned to England after a brief sojourn in Gibraltar and Spain. She is grieving the loss of her husband and unborn child and is at odds with herself, especially as she no longer runs her investigation agency. Her longtime and closest friend Priscilla takes Maisie under wing as Maisie tries to come to terms with her life.

An unusual request from the British government presents itself as Maisie is requested to go to Germany on a special assignment. Her skills as an investigator and psychologist will prove to be her greatest assets. Her cut-and-dry assignment spirals out of control and she must rely on her “secret service” training to protect herself. She unexpectedly finds that she becomes a pawn in an international game of cat-and-mouse between Hitler’s henchman and Great Britain.

This segment of the Maisie Dobbs novels was one of the most intense so far.

 

 

 

Book review: Fifteen Words by Monike Jephcott Thomas

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  • Publisher: Clink Street Publishing
  • Published:  (November 22, 2016)
  • Pages:  293
  • Genre:  Historical Fiction

Book Description:

Two young doctors form a profound and loving bond in Nazi Germany; a bond that will stretch them to the very limits of human endurance. Catholic Max – whose religious and moral beliefs are in conflict, has been conscripted to join the war effort as a medic, despite his hatred of Hitler’s regime. His beloved Erika, a privileged young woman, is herself a product of the Hitler Youth. In spite of their stark differences, Max and Erika defy convention and marry.

But when Max is stationed at the fortress city of Breslau, their worst nightmares are realized; his hospital is bombed, he is captured by the Soviet Army and taken to a POW camp in Siberia. Max experiences untold horrors, his one comfort the letters he is allowed to send home: messages that can only contain Fifteen Words. Back in Germany, Erika is struggling to survive and protect their young daughter, finding comfort in the arms of a local carpenter. Worlds apart and with only sparse words for comfort, will they ever find their way back to one another, and will Germany ever find peace?
Fifteen Words is a vivid and intimate portrayal of human love and perseverance, one which illuminates the German experience of the war, which has often been overshadowed by history.

Buy the book:  Amazon UK

unnamedAbout Monike Jephcott Thomas

Monika Jephcott Thomas grew up in Dortmund Mengede, north-west Germany. She moved to the UK in 1966, enjoying a thirty year career in education before retraining as a therapist. Along with her partner Jeff she established the Academy of Play & Child Psychotherapy in order to support the twenty per cent of children who have emotional, behavioural, social and mental health problems by using play and the creative Arts. A founder member of Play Therapy UK, Jephcott Thomas was elected President of Play Therapy International in 2002.

REVIEW:

A riveting and raw account of life during WWII when Germany was on the verge of losing the war.  We see how, despite coming from very different backgrounds, Erika and Max choose to make a life together.  Both are doctors.

While Erika remains behind, Max goes is conscripted to work for the Nazis as a doctor.  He detests Nazi ideology but is determined to help as many of the wounded as he can.  A timid man by nature, an early boyhood experience helping his aunt rescue the wounded as a result of a bomb blast targeting civilians gives him the courage to put his life at risk to save others.  He is aware that, if he survives the war, he will always carry the emotional scars of the war with him.

Intense, nail-biting and thought-provoking, this novel reveals what every-day Germans who did not agree with Hitler felt as the war raged on.

The author’s writing style is unique, lyrical and poetic.  It helps temper the rawness of the atrocities perpetrated by so many of those who, due to abuse of power, rendered the lives of so many to sheer misery.

For both Erika and Max, fifteen words of dialogue continue to link them together.  But they may not be enough.

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Book review: The Other Einstein: A Novel by Marie Benedict

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  • Name:  The Other Einstein by Marie Benedict
  • Publisher:  Sourcebooks Landmark
  • Publication date:  Oct. 18 2016
  • Pages: 304
  • Genre:  Historical fiction / literary fiction

DESCRIPTION:

In the tradition of The Paris Wife and Mrs. Poe, The Other Einstein offers us a window into a brilliant, fascinating woman whose light was lost in Einstein’s enormous shadow. It is the story of Einstein’s wife, a brilliant physicist in her own right, whose contribution to the special theory of relativity is hotly debated and may have been inspired by her own profound and very personal insight.

Mitza Maric has always been a little different from other girls. Most twenty-year-olds are wives by now, not studying physics at an elite Zurich university with only male students trying to outdo her clever calculations. But Mitza is smart enough to know that, for her, math is an easier path than marriage. And then fellow student Albert Einstein takes an interest in her, and the world turns sideways. Theirs becomes a partnership of the mind and of the heart, but there might not be room for more than one genius in a marriage.

Buy the book:   Amazon   Barnes & Noble   Penquin

1280105About the author:  Marie Benedict is a lawyer with more than ten years’ experience as a litigator at two of the country’s premier law firms. She is a magna cum laude graduate of Boston College with a focus in History and Art History, and a cum laude graduate of the Boston University School of Law.

While practicing as a lawyer, Marie dreamed of a fantastical job unearthing the hidden historical stories of women — and finally found it when she tried her hand at writing. She embarked on a new, narratively connected series of historical novels with THE OTHER EINSTEIN, which tells the tale of Albert Einstein’s first wife, a physicist herself, and the role she might have played in his theories. Writing as Heather Terrell, Marie also published the historical novels The Chrysalis, The Map Thief, and Brigid of Kildare.

Connect with the author:   Website   Facebook   goodreads

REVIEW:

This book recounts the fictional life of the real historical figure of Mitza Maric. Her story begins as a young gifted girl who is expected to stay at home and never marry.  Born with a limp but a brilliant mind, she travels from Zagreb, Croatia to Zurich to be the only female physics student at the Swiss Polytechnic.  Her gift in the field of mathematics and her grasp of physics attracts the attention of young Albert Einstein, a fellow student. After several years of persistent courtship,  she falls in love with him and they eventually marry.

At first all is well as they partner several projects together.  Mitza’s strength in mathematics and abstract thinking give her an edge.  As partners, she expects equal recognition on the papers they submit.  In this fictional account, Albert claims the ideas are his alone and this infuriates Mitza.  As their personal life spirals out of control, we see her frustration and malcontent as she puts her ambitions to be a physicist aside to raise their children.

The author’s description of the way educated women were viewed at the time was quite revealing. This book was a fairly light read, and did not really expound on themes of a scientific nature as much as I thought it would. Despite the the artistic license the author took to fictionalize this character and the possible inaccuracies regarding the life of Albert Einstein, I did enjoy reading this account.

 

 

Book review: The Girl in the Castle by Santa Montefiore

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  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Reprint edition
  • Publication date:  (September 27, 2016)
  • Genre:  Historical Fiction
  • Pages:  576 pages

ABOUT THE BOOK:

International sensation Santa Montefiore presents the first book in a trilogy that follows three Irish women through the decades of the twentieth century—perfect for fans of Kate Morton and Hazel Gaynor.

Born on the ninth day of the ninth month in the year 1900, Kitty Deverill is special as her grandmother has always told her. Built on the stunning green hills of West Cork, Ireland, Castle Deverill is Kitty’s beloved home, where many generations of Deverills have also resided. Although she’s Anglo-Irish, Kitty’s heart completely belongs to the wild countryside of the Emerald Isle, and her devotion to her Irish-Catholic friends Bridie Doyle, the daughter of the castle’s cook, and Jack O’Leary, the vet’s son, is unmatched—even if Jack is always reminding her that she isn’t fully Irish. Still, Jack and Kitty can’t help falling in love although they both know their union faces the greatest obstacles since they are from different worlds.

Bridie cherishes her friendship with Kitty, who makes her feel more like her equal than a servant. Yet she can’t help dreaming of someday having all the wealth and glamour Kitty’s station in life affords her. But when she discovers a secret that Kitty has been keeping from her, Bridie finds herself growing resentful toward the girl in the castle who seems to have it all.

When the Irish revolt to throw over British rule in Southern Ireland, Jack enlists to fight. Worried for her safety, Jack warns Kitty to keep her distance, but she refuses and throws herself into the cause for Irish liberty, running messages and ammunition between the rebels. But as Kitty soon discovers, her allegiance to her family and her friends will be tested—and when Castle Deverill comes under attack, the only home and life she’s ever known are threatened.

A powerful story of love, loyalty, and friendship, The Girl in the Castle is an exquisitely written novel set against the magical, captivating landscape of Ireland.

BUY THE BOOK:   Amazon   Barnes & Noble

Santa-Montefiore_SMEET THE AUTHOR:  Born in England in 1970 Santa Montefiore grew up on a farm in Hampshire and was educated at Sherborne School for Girls. She read Spanish and Italian at Exeter University and spent much of the 90s in Buenos Aires, where her mother grew up.

She converted to Judaism in 1998 and married historian Simon Sebag Montefiore in the Liberal Jewish Synagogue in London. They live with their two children, Lily and Sasha in London.

Website   Twitter   Facebook

REVIEW: 

For all you fans of Downton Abbey, this Irish family saga will be your next big addiction. You’ve got drama, scandal, romance, fantasy and plenty of nail-biting action.

Kitty comes from an Anglo-Irish family.  Her mother rejected her when she was young and despite being raised by a harsh Scottish governess, Kitty is allowed to “run free” with her best friend Birdie, the cook’s daughter.  Their friend Jack, an aspiring vet, is their protector and companion. Kitty’s grandmother is indulgent and loving and together they annoy Kitty’s mother whose goal is have all her children marry into the English aristocracy.

As the three young people grow, their lives are thrown into turmoil as the Irish revolt in an attempt to claim their independence from Britain.  Kitty loves Ireland and Jack with equal intensity and puts herself in danger when she actively participates in the protests and underground activities.  Plenty of unexpected turns of event and plot twists will keep you reading until the wee hours.

Lyrical and beautifully written, The Girl in the Castle is the first in a series of three novels.  I look forward to the next chapter.

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Book review: Naapiikoan Winter by Alethea Williams

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  • Publication Date: May 9, 2016
  • Publisher: C.A. Williams
  • eBook & Paperback; 295 Pages
  • Genre: Historical Fiction

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

At the turn of a new century, changes unimagined are about to unfold.

THE WOMAN: Kidnapped by the Apaches, a Mexican woman learns the healing arts. Stolen by the Utes, she is sold and traded until she ends up with the Piikáni. All she has left are her skills—and her honor. What price will she pay to ensure a lasting place among the People?

THE MAN: Raised in a London charitable school, a young man at the end of the third of a seven year term of indenture to the Hudson’s Bay Company is sent to the Rocky Mountains to live among the Piikáni for the winter to learn their language and to foster trade. He dreams of his advancement in the company, but he doesn’t reckon the price for becoming entangled in the passions of the Piikáni.

THE LAND: After centuries of conflict, Náápiikoan traders approach the Piikáni, powerful members of the Blackfoot Confederation. The Piikáni already have horses and weapons, but they are promised they will become rich if they agree to trap beaver for Náápiikoan. Will the People trade their beliefs for the White Man’s bargains?

Partially based on the works of Canadian trader, explorer, and mapmaker David Thompson, Náápiikoan Winter spans a continent, examining the cultures in flux at the passing of an era and the painful birth of another.

“When we read NAAPIIKOAN WINTER our hearts were swept back in time. Alethea Williams writes with the same authority and beauty that A. B Guthrie, Bernard de Voto, Wallace Stegner, and Conrad Richter imparted to the page. We marveled at the quality of her research, and the precision with which Williams recreated the world of the Blackfeet at the time of white contact. Find the first page, dear reader, and you’ll fall effortlessly into a long-gone world filled with both the noblest of humans, and the dross that always follows. This is no Western romance, but the nitty-gritty reality of the Northern Plains. We call NAAPIIKOAN WINTER masterful!” -W. Michael Gear and Kathleen O’Neal Gear, authors of PEOPLE OF THE MORNING STAR

Buy the book:   Amazon   Barnes & Noble

photoAbout the author:  Alethea Williams grew up in southwest Wyoming. Willow Vale is her first novel of the immigrant experience, dealing with the Tyroleans after WWI. Willow Vale won a 2012 Wyoming State Historical Society Publications Award. Her second novel details the Irish immigrant experience and the Orphan Train movement in Walls for the Wind. Walls for the Wind is a WILLA Literary Award finalist, a gold Will Rogers Medallion winner, and placed first at the Laramie Awards in the Prairie Fiction category. Her third book, a Western American pre-history spanning the North American continent, entitled Náápiikoan Winter is now available. She also has a collection of newspaper columns in print:Boomer Blues Book: Staying Alive and Sane in the Modern American West. Twice president of Wyoming Writers, Inc. she lives in her native state with long-time friend, Amazon parrot Bob.

Connect with the author:  Website   Twitter   Facebook

REVIEW:

Naapiikoan Winter is a novel written from the perspective of several very different characters during the time the Hudson’s Bay Company was forging trading routes into the western part of North America.

The novel begins with Isobel Ochoa, the kidnapped daughter of a Mexican hacienda-owner.  We witness her capture by the Apaches and subsequent trade to other tribes.  In the beginning of the book, her personal voice is strong and we follow with interest as she survives her capture.  The novel branches off to include the stories of several other characters including Donal Thomas from the Hudson’s Bay Company as well as persons  from the different Amerindian tribes during her lifetime.

I was expecting to hear more abut Isobel but her voice fades and she becomes a secondary character with little more written about her as the story progresses. Although the other characters were interesting, I found that their inclusion watered down Isobel’s own part in the book.

This novel was an ambitious undertaking considering the time period and the range of characters involved.  Each story kept me engaged and wanting to read more.  I look forward to reading more of Alethea’s work.

 

Book review:The Fifth Avenue Artists Society by Joy Callaway

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  • ISBN: 9780062391612
  • ISBN 10: 0062391615
  • Imprint: Harper Paperbacks
  • On Sale: 05/31/2016
  • Pages: 384
  • List Price: 19.99 CAD
  • BISAC1: FICTION / Historical

About the Book

The Bronx, 1891. Virginia Loftin, the boldest of four artistic sisters in a family living in genteel poverty, knows what she wants most: to become a celebrated novelist despite her gender, and to marry Charlie, the boy next door and her first love.

When Charlie proposes instead to a woman from a wealthy family, Ginny is devastated; shutting out her family, she holes up and turns their story into fiction, obsessively rewriting a better ending. Though she works with newfound intensity, literary success eludes her—until she attends a salon hosted in her brother’s writer friend John Hopper’s Fifth Avenue mansion. Among painters, musicians, actors, and writers, Ginny returns to herself, even blooming under the handsome, enigmatic John’s increasingly romantic attentions.

Just as she and her siblings have become swept up in the society, though, Charlie throws himself back into her path, and Ginny learns that the salon’s bright lights may be obscuring some dark shadows. Torn between two worlds that aren’t quite as she’d imagined them, Ginny will realize how high the stakes are for her family, her writing, and her chance at love.

Buy the book:  Amazon   Barnes & Noble  Chapters/Indigo   
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24-200x300Meet the author:
Joy Callaway’s love of storytelling is a direct result of her parents’ insistence that she read books or write stories instead of watching TV. Her interest in family history was fostered by her relatives’ habit of recounting tales of ancestors’ lives. Joy is a full-time mom and writer. She formerly served as a marketing director for a wealth management company. She holds a B.A. in Journalism and Public Relations from Marshall University and an M.M.C. in Mass Communication from the University of South Carolina. She resides in Charlotte, NC with her husband, John, and her children, Alevia and John.
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Connect with the author:  Website   Twitter   Facebook   Instagram
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REVIEW:
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My first impression upon reading this novel was that it resembled a stage play, with the characters and set changing  with each new chapter.  I felt like I was a “fly on the wall”, observing all the intimate details of the Loftin family as they came to grips with a series of events that could ultimately tear apart the family.
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Virginia (or Ginny) is an ambitious, passionate young writer who is intent on making a celebrated name for herself.  Her genteel family is living in severely reduced circumstances.  Her best friend and confidante Charlie is always there for her.  She dreams that together they can write and somehow provide for their families.  However, when Charlie suddenly  and unexpectedly marries another woman to improve his financial situation, Ginny’s world falls apart.  She seeks solace with fellow authors and artists at the home of another writer, John Hopper.  The world she so desperately seeks to satisfy her intellectual cravings inspire her.  She begins to make new friends and connections.  But things aren’t always as they seem.   Then Charlie re-enters the picture.
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I really enjoyed reading about the historical aspects of the 1890’s.   Any woman trying to change her circumstances needed a good deal of courage and fortitude to counteract prejudice against women and the unchangeable norms of society at the time.
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I found the first part of the book to be a bit slow, but that generally happens when there are so many characters to develop.  At the halfway point, things really started to “heat up” and I had a hard time putting the book down.  Anyone who enjoys reading about authors (both men and men) of the late 19th century will appreciate Joy Callaway’s novel.

Book review: The Summer Guest by Alison Anderson

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  • The Summer Guest by Alison Anderson
  • Publisher:  Harper Collins
  • Pages:  400
  • Genre:  Literary fiction / historical fiction / biographical
  • Published:  March 8, 2016

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

During the long, hot summer of 1888, an extraordinary friendship blossoms between Anton Chekhov and Zinaida Lintvaryova, a young doctor. Recently blinded by illness, Zinaida has retreated to her family’s estate in the lush countryside of Eastern Ukraine, where she is keeping a diary to record her memories of her earlier life. But when the Chekhov family arrives to spend the summer at a dacha on the estate, and she meets the middle son Anton Pavlovich, her quiet existence is transformed by the connection they share. What begins as a journal kept simply to pass the time becomes an intimate, introspective narrative of Zinaida’s singular relationship with this doctor and writer of growing fame.

More than a century later, in 2014, the unexpected discovery of this diary represents Katya Kendall’s last chance to save her struggling London publishing house. Zinaida’s description of a gifted young man still coming to terms with his talent offers profound insight into a literary legend, but it also raises a tantalizing question: Did Chekhov, known only as a short story writer and playwright, write a novel over the course of their friendship that has since disappeared? The answer could change history, and finding it proves an irresistible challenge for Ana Harding, the translator Katya hires. Increasingly drawn into Zinaida and Chekhov’s world, Ana is consumed by her desire to find the “lost” book. As she delves deeper into the moving account of two lives changed by a meeting on a warm May night, she discovers that the manuscript is not the only mystery contained within the diary’s pages.

Inspired by the real friendship between Chekhov and the Lintvaryov family, landowners in the Ukraine, The Summer Guest is a masterful and utterly compelling literary novel that breathes life into a vanished world, while exploring the transformative power of art and the complexity of love and friendship.

Buy the book:  Harper Collins   Amazon   Barnes & Noble

9d1d2272-3ed4-45bf-ad2f-1d6891930112Meet the author:  Alison Anderson spent many years in California; she now lives in a Swiss village and works as a literary translator. Her translations include Europa Editions’ The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery, and works by Nobel laureate J. M. G. Le Clézio. She has also written two previous novels and is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Literary Translation Fellowship. She has lived in Greece and Croatia, and speaks several European languages, including Russian.

Connect with the author:   Website   

REVIEW:

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A testament to friendship, this novel encompasses the lives of three women, a young woman doctor from the 1880’s living in the Ukraine, a Russian émigré living in modern day London and a translator living in France.

The diary of doctor Zinaida Lintvaryova captivates Ana. She  is requested by Katya of Pollyana Press  to translate Zinaida’s diary from Russian into English.  The presence of Anton Pavlovich, a renowned Russian writer and playwright in Zinaida’s diary piques Ana’s curiosity as she continues to translate conversations held between the two.

The gentle prose and Zinaida’s reflections about her own short future and her friendship with Anton Pavlovich draw you into their intimate and sometimes frustrating relationship.

Three different stories with a common thread throughout and a surprising ending will keep you turning the pages until the end of the book.  A lovely combination historical fiction, memoir and literary fiction.

Tour schedule:

Tuesday, May 24th: BookNAround
Wednesday, May 25th: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Thursday, May 26th: A Bookish Way of Life
Friday, May 27th: Curling Up by the Fire
Monday, May 30th: Books on the Table
Wednesday, June 1st: Just One More Chapter
Thursday, June 2nd: Hopelessly Devoted Bibliophile
Monday, June 6th: Reading Reality
Tuesday, June 7th: A Literary Vacation
Wednesday, June 8th: #redhead.with.book
Wednesday, June 8th: Emerald City Book Review
Thursday, June 9th: Olduvai Reads
Monday, June 13th: A Book Geek
Monday, June 13th: Reading to Distraction
Wednesday, June 15th: Queen of All She Reads
Thursday, June 16th: Worth Getting in Bed For
Friday, June 17th: I’m Shelf-ish

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Book review: The Rivals of Versailles (The Mistresses of Versailles Trilogy #2) by Sally Christie

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  • Publication date:  April 5, 2016
  • Publisher:  Atria Books
  • 448 pages
  • Genre:  Historical fiction

Description:

And you thought sisters were a thing to fear! In this compelling follow-up to Sally Christie’s clever and absorbing debut, we meet none other than the Marquise de Pompadour, one of the greatest beauties of her generation and the first bourgeois mistress ever to grace the hallowed halls of Versailles.

The year is 1745 and Louis XV’s bed is once again empty. Enter Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson, a beautiful girl from the middle classes. As a child, a fortune teller had mapped out Jeanne’s destiny: she would become the lover of a king and the most powerful woman in the land. Eventually connections, luck, and a little scheming pave her way to Versailles and into the King’s arms.

All too soon, conniving politicians and hopeful beauties seek to replace the bourgeoise interloper with a more suitable mistress. As Jeanne, now the Marquise de Pompadour, takes on her many rivals—including a lustful lady-in-waiting, a precocious 14-year-old prostitute, and even a cousin of the notorious Nesle sisters—she helps the king give himself over to a life of luxury and depravity. Around them, war rages, discontent grows, and France inches ever closer to the Revolution.

Enigmatic beauty, social climber, actress, trendsetter, patron of the arts, spendthrift, whoremonger, friend, lover, foe: history books say many things about the famous Marquise de Pompadour. Alongside Catherine the Great of Russia and Maria Theresa of Austria, she is considered one of the three most powerful women of the 18th century, and one of the most influential royal mistresses of all time.

In The Rivals of Versailles, Christie gets to the heart of Pompadour’s legendary relationship with Louis XV, France’s most “well-beloved” king. Pompadour was not only his mistress, but his confidante and influential political adviser for close to twenty years. Full of historical insight, decadence, wit and scandal, The Rivals of Versailles is about one woman’s trials and triumphs, her love for a king, and her role in shaping a nation.

Buy the book:   Amazon   Barnes & Noble

unnamed-5Meet the author:

I’m a life-long history buff – and I mean life-long. One of the first adult books I read was Antonia Fraser’s masterful Mary, Queen of Scots. Wow! That book just blew my little ten year old mind: something about the way it brought the past right back to life, made it live again on the page. I date my obsession with history to that time, but I’d been writing (“writing”) ever since I was able to hold a pencil.

If you’d told my 12-year old self that I’d not be a writer when I grew up, I would have laughed you out of the tree house. With a few detours along the way, to work overseas in consulting and development, as well as to go to business school, I’ve finally come full circle to where I think I should be.

I currently live in Toronto and when I’m not writing, I’m playing lots of tennis; doing random historical research (old census records are my favorite); playing Scrabble, and squirrel-watching (the room where I write has French doors leading out to a deck; I avidly follow, and feed, a scruffy gang).

For more information please visit Sally Christie’s website. You can also find her on Goodreads and Pinterest.

REVIEW:

This second book of the Mistresses of Versailles series picks up where book one left off, with the death of the youngest of the Nestle sisters.  All of the royal court is agog with anticipation as to who would fill the role of the next royal mistress.

I looked forward with interest to see how the author would portray Madame de Pompadour in this second book in the Mistresses of Versailles series.  I love French history and have studied the portraits of Madame de Pompadour. Formerly known as Jeanne Antoinette Poisson, this beautiful young, bourgeoise girl is cleverly maneuvered to catch the eye of Louis XV.  As she rises in Louis’ affections, and attains status and power, she cultivates friendships with learned men and writers (such as Voltaire) and reads voraciously.  Voltaire wrote that “She had read more at her age than any old woman in the country where she is going to reign and where it is proper to wish that she reign”.

Her love of and encouragement of the arts were one of her greatest achievements.  She instituted the Manufacture de Vincennes which was the precursor to the Manufacture de Sevres.

Madame de Pompadour’s achievements were alluded to in Sally Christie’s book however, what went on behind closed doors was the dominant theme of the novel.  Louis XV was a man of excess and Pompadour always needed to be one step ahead of him, both politically and privately to ensure her position at Versailles.  Theirs was apparently a love match, as Louis felt he could be himself with Pompadour.  His respect for her keen intelligence placed on her shoulders much of demands and decision making for the government and it was generally accepted the Pompadour was the real ruler at the time

The court intrigues, factions and enemies of the royal favourite would continue until Pompadour (or the Marquise’s) death in 1764.

The novel is heavy with dialogue and characters, however, I never felt that I was confused.  At 428 pages it is a very long novel, however the suspense and plot twists kept my attention to the end.  

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