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Reviews of what you should be reading next.

Category: Historical Fiction (page 2 of 3)

Silk Legacy by Richard Brawer

silk

In early twentieth century Paterson, New Jersey, dashing twenty-nine year old Abraham Bressler charms naïve nineteen year old Sarah Singer into marriage by making her believe he feels the same way she does about the new calling of a modern woman. He then turns around and gives her little more respect than he would a servant, demanding she stay home to care for “his” house and “his” children.

Feeling betrayed, Sarah defies him and joins women’s groups, actively participating in rallies for woman suffrage, child welfare and reproductive freedom. For a while she succeeds in treading delicately between the demands of her husband and her desire to be an independent woman. Her balancing act falters when a strike shuts down Paterson’s 300 silk mills. With many friends working in the mills, Sarah is forced to choose sides in the battle between her Capitalist husband and his Socialist brother, a union leader who happens to be her best friend’s husband.

Jealousy, infidelity, arrogance, greed—the characters’ titanic struggles will catapult you into the heights of their euphoria and the depths of their despair. Who will triumph and who will be humbled is not certain until the last page.

Thanks to the author for giving me this book in exchange for a review.

Excerpt:

Sarah pushed aside the muslin curtain on her bedroom window and stared at the sidewalk.  She was glad her father had invited him after dinner, rather than in the daytime.  The shops had closed.  The streets were empty of commercial traffic.  Most people had settled into their evening rituals of reading, sewing, playing a game of cards or checkers in their parlors, or sitting and gossiping on the building’s stoops enjoying this splendid May evening.  Even in the flickering light of the gas street lamps she would have no trouble spotting him coming down the sidewalk.
She first noticed him across the room at her best friend’s wedding.  When their eyes met and he smiled, her heart fluttered and she almost swooned.  He was so handsome, so distinguished with his sweeping handlebar mustache.  He carried himself straight and tall, sure of himself, not like the other men in the congregation who cowered when they walked, as if they were trying to draw themselves into a cocoon they thought would protect them from the outside world.
She ached to meet him right then and there, but women weren’t allowed to mix with men at weddings.  That Biblical edict did not stop her from discretely inquiring as to who he was.  When she learned he was the groom’s brother, she was overjoyed.  Her father had to know him.  He had taught all the Bresslers.  On their walk home from the wedding she asked her father about him.
Before her father could answer, her mother cut in and said, “He’s no one you are to concern yourself with, Sarah.”
“Why?  What’s wrong with him?”
“Nothing,” her father said.  “He was one of my best students.”  Looking quizzically at his wife, he said, “I invited him to our house Wednesday evening.”
Delight engulfed Sarah.  But her brief moment of ecstasy crashed into desolation when her mother shrieked, “You didn’t!”
Her father cowered at the rebuke, and offered his daughter no help when her mother told her, “You will be confined to your room.”
“Why?” Sarah cried.
“Because I said so.  That is all you have to know.”
Despite her mother’s forbidding, Sarah readied herself anyway in hopes her mother would have a last minute change of heart.  She put her hair up, and dressed in the white linen shirt-waist with flowing sleeves and ruffled cuffs trimmed in pink satin ribbon.
“Sarah, come away from the window.”
Startled by her mother’s voice, Sarah withdrew her hand from the curtain as if she had grabbed the hot handle of a skillet.  “Why won’t you let me meet him?” she asked.
Her mother crossed to the bed, sat down and patted a place next to her.  “Come, sit by me.”
Sarah obeyed and fidgeted with a strand of hair that had escaped from her bun.
Taking her daughter’s hand, her mother said, “He’s not right for you, my darling.  He’s too old.”
“But he’s only ten years older than I.  Father is twelve years older than you.”
“That’s true, but your father is a learned man—a scholar, a teacher.  He is counting on you to carry on for him.”
“And I will.”
“Not if you were to become attached to Mr. Bressler.”
“Why?  Mr. Bressler is an educated man.  He knows the value of learning.”
“Does he?”
“Father said he taught him.”
“But it does not mean he learned anything.”
Confused, Sarah stared at her mother.
“You know all the places you read about and are aching to see—the Eiffel Tower, Rome, the Great Wall of China?  You will never see them if you marry Mr. Bressler.”
“How do you know that?  My friend, Cecelia, Mr. Bressler’s sister-in-law, told me Mr. Bressler makes a wonderful living from his business.”
“Yes, a saloon.”
“He’s not a shiker?”
“His father is.”
“But he’s not a drunkard?”
“Not that I know.”
Sarah sighed with relief.  “Then why won’t you let me meet him?” 
“Sarah, please.  You knew the Bressler family back in Latvia.  The father is a carouser.  The uncle is an azes ponim—an arrogant man.  You are aware the uncle tried to get your father fired for teaching the writings of Karl Marx?”
Sarah didn’t answer, thinking, yes the father did neglect his family, and the uncle lorded his riches over everyone.  But that did not mean Abe was like them.  Her best friend, Cecelia—Abe’s new sister-in-law—said her husband was a wonderful man.
“You do know what a sow is?”  Sarah’s mother asked.
“Of course.  Trayf.  Not kosher.”
“There is a saying I picked up in this city of silk which fits Mr. Bressler very well. ‘You cannot make a silk purse from a sow’s ear.’  Let him go.  He will stifle you.”

SILK LEGACY is two stories in one–a romance and a Capitalist/Socialist struggle pitting brother against brother. The first part of the book goes by smoothly, as we are introduced to the Bressler family. As the years go by the struggles surface, and while I was firmly in Sarah’s corner (as she struggles against the mighty thumb of opppression wielded by her husband, Abe), I was not sure who to support regarding the labor wars, Abe or Solomon. Both sides are equally represented, and the author paints a wonderfully accurate picture of working class struggles in burgeoning Paterson, NJ.

This book was written so well, I had to stop to double check the author’s name on the front! It could have easily been composed by Ken Follett or Colleen McCullough. There is history, romance, intrigue, and the setting is authentic. I especially was moved during the suffragette’s parade in Washington, as I read about their high hopes and what actually took place.

It is always interesting to see how an author handles a roman a clef, and Brawer intersperses real and fictional characters seamlessly. The dialogue flows smooothly and there are no awkward transitions that are the hallmark of a less talented author.

The only caveat I have to note is that the plot is taken over by the politics and labor talk, to the exclusion of everything else as the story progresses. It started to seem a bit unbalanced and I found myself becoming less enthralled with the story. Just as things move away from the union struggles, the book comes to an abrupt ending. It was a bit hard for me to see how Solomon would have acted the way he did, given his previous behavior, but there it is. That was the only stutter in an otherwise wonderfully written novel.

There is a great deal of history in these pages—anyone with an interest in how the unions came to be will want to pick this up. You can get your own copy [easyazon_link identifier=”B003BVJFJW” locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]here[/easyazon_link].

 

Guest Post by Suzanne Burdon, author of ALMOST INVINCIBLE

We will be reading and reviewing Suzanne Burdon‘s book at a later date, but in the meanwhile the author was kind enough to write this guest post for us! It’s quite apropos for the holiday.

 

Halloween – ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggedy beasties and things that go bump in the night. Whatever the early pagan or Christian origins of All Hallows’ Eve, the creatures of the netherworld are now thoroughly celebrated or lampooned, depending on your perspective, on October 31st. These are the creatures of the ‘natural’ world, but on a stormy night in 1816, Mary Shelley conceived a man-made monster that was to capture the imagination of generations and spawn many ‘hideous progeny’.

On All Hallows’ Eve in 1831, the Frankenstein novel that most people read today, was reprinted and published in a one volume popular format instead of the three volumes usual for the time, which gave it an even wider audience. The novel had already had considerable success since it was originally released in 1818 and almost immediately captured the popular imagination. Its fame was boosted by stage adaptations, notably Presumption; or, the Fate of Frankenstein, which played at the Royal Opera House in London in 1823. Mary went to see the production and though she admitted that they had not followed the story closely, she thought it was well done. There were thunderstorms and a collapsing glacier and the monster was so suitably scary that women in the audience fainted.

franken

It is lucky that Mary was not precious about the representation of her work or she would surely be endlessly rotating in her grave. The themes and imagery from the novel have been recast into cartoons, music, plays, comedies, TV series and almost a hundred movies. The most iconic representation was of course Boris Karloff as the monster in the 1931 Hammer Horror movie adaption, with the monobrow and bolts through his neck. Frankenstein’s screen history started in 1910 in the first silent film from Edison studios and continues with new 2015 movie with James McAvoy and Daniel Radcliffe.

The story has been analysed and intellectualised endlessly, but the common, horror aspect of most incarnations has been the creation of an animated monster by human agency, and the failure to control it thereafter. Victor Frankenstein is a mad scientist who plays God and then refuses to take responsibility for his creation. The vulnerabilities of the characters and the moral and social implications of the original story are mostly marginalized. The abiding horror is contemplating human vanity and frailty.

Mary Shelley was only eighteen when she started her story and it was composed on a wild and stormy night in mid summer in Lord Byron’s villa on the lake at Geneva. That year, 1816, was known as The Year Without a Summer. Mount Tambora in Indonesia had erupted spectacularly – it was the largest volcanic eruption in recorded history – and Europe was blanketed in dust. People thought the end of the world had come. It was a suitable backdrop to the creation of a gothic story as Byron, Mary and her lover, Percy Bysshe Shelley, her stepsister Claire and Byron’s doctor, Polidori, huddled around the fire reading ghost stories. Byron then threw out the challenge for each of the company to try their hand at the creation of something frightening.

Mary had felt enormous pressure to validate her genes and produce a literary work of value, but until Frankenstein she had struggled to find the right outlet for her creativity. So Mary’s response to the challenge was inevitably more than a simple scary story. Her parents were both radical authors; her mother wrote A Vindication of the Rights of Woman and is considered an early feminist and her father, William Godwin, wrote a groundbreaking anti-establishment book called Political Justice. So writing something that had social meaning was not surprising.

The scientific context of Frankenstein is more unexpected but was a result of her relationship with Shelley, the poet. When she eloped with him, Mary hadn’t realised the depth of his passion for chemical experiments, nor the potentially lethal impact of his obsession on working papers, tabletops or cushion covers, as smoke rose and glasses full of foul-coloured liquid shattered. Wires and crucibles of liquids would appear on the parlour table alongside the solar microscope and the extremely thumbed and stained copy of The Elements of Chemical Philosophy by Humphrey Davy. It didn’t add to their acceptability to landladies, but it did add to her inspiration for the science in Frankenstein.

franken two

In the 1931 edition, published on October 31st 1831, Mary added a new preface where she explained the circumstances in which the novel had been conceived. By that time, Shelley was dead and she was largely supporting herself with her writing. Her other novels were ‘by the Author of Frankenstein’. Frankenstein and his monster have passed into popular culture and show no signs of diminishing impact. Indeed with current forays into gene modification and limb replacement, it is still, potentially, very much a modern horror story.

 

 Suzanne Burdon: Author of Almost Invincible, A Biographical Novel of Mary Shelley

invincible

 

Look for our review of ALMOST INVINCIBLE, coming soon! Many thanks to Ms Burdon for sharing her story.   

 

The Doctor’s Daughter by Vanessa Matthews

 

The Doctors Daughter

A prominent psychiatrist’s daughter realises insanity can be found much closer to home when she unlocks secrets from the past that threaten to destroy her future.

It’s 1927, women have the right to vote and morals are slackening, but 23 year old Marta Rosenblit is not a typical woman of her time. She has little connection with her elder sisters, her mother has been detained in an asylum since Marta was born and she has spent her life being shaped as her father Arnold’s protégé. She is lost, unsure of who she is and who she wants to be. Primarily set in Vienna, this dark tale follows her journey of self-discovery as she tries to step out of her father’s shadow and find her identity in a man’s world. Her father’s friend Dr Leopold Kaposi is keen to help her make her name, but his interest is not purely professional and his motivations pose greater risks than she could possibly know. Marta’s chance encounter in a café leads to a new friendship with young medical graduate Elise Saloman, but it soon turns out that Elise has some secrets of her own. When Marta’s shock discovery about her family story coincides with her mother’s apparent suicide, Marta can’t take any more. None of the people she has grown to love and trust are who they seem. Her professional plans unravel, her relationships are in tatters and her sanity is on the line – and one person is behind it all.

Thanks to the author for offering me this book for review!

Prepare to be immersed in a dark world of offbeat people, misogyny and emotion. Marta is a tortured soul struggling to become her own woman and out from under her father’s thumb. Matthews paints an eerie image of a sheltered and awkward heroine, someone the reader can cheer for and support.

As she hesitantly takes steps toward independence, Marta must learn about love, sex, trust, and the truth, no matter how much this knowledge hurts her. Her circumstances seem to sweep her along, regardless of her wishes, as Leopold initiates her in the way of the world — that world being 1920’s Vienna, where most women have yet to find their own voice. Marta’s confusion and vulnerability is described flawlessly, as well as her demons lurking within.

As her relationship with Leopold mutates into a joyless union, Marta finds a way to visit her mother (who has been locked away in an asylum since Marta’s birth). The scenes with her mother are heartrending and melancholic, yet full of love. Marta’s confusion about the woman she has thought about all her life looms large as she confronts the allegations made by Leopold, and there, her questions begin. Soon after, the plot twists start and the action picks up a great deal. The “secrets from the past” alluded to in the book’s blurb are grim and shocking–Marta has decisions to make and we see her maturing and taking control of her life.

Despite the book’s dreary countenance, THE DOCTOR’S DAUGHTER was riveting. The attitudes of the times were described perfectly, and the characters were believably evil and self centered. The character of Marta personifies someone who has inner demons, borne all her life on her own. Her sisters shun her and she is motherless, hence she finds solitude in the dark places of her mind, and with physical solutions that enhance her somber nature.

I found this book evocative and captivating. Want your own copy? You can pick it up [easyazon_link identifier=”B00Y165LRQ” locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]here[/easyazon_link].

 

 

Breaking the Silence – Guest Post by author Maria Nieto

breaking the silence

On a sweltering summer day, the streets of Old Madrid that once resonated with the laughter of children playing are empty and silent. But inside the apartment buildings there is life as families faithfully wait for updates about an army uprising in Spanish Morocco. Before long, their greatest fears come true. As rebel troops storm Madrid and chaos fills the streets, six-year-old Mari wonders why she cannot go outside to play. Unfortunately, she has no idea she is about to be trapped inside the abyss of what is rapidly becoming a ruthless civil war. Already emotionally wounded by the absence of her mother, Mari attempts to go about her fear-filled days living with her father’s family, which includes a grandfather who lovingly teaches her about the history leading up to the conflict. As she embarks on a coming-of-age journey submerged in the darkness of war, Mari somehow stays alive despite the decisions of an intimidating, ruthless dictator, starvation, and brainwashing by the new Fascist regime. But when circumstances lead her to inadvertently commit the ultimate betrayal, Mari must face the horrifying consequences of her actions. Breaking the Silence shares the compelling tale of a little girl’s experiences as she attempts to survive amid the horror and death surrounding the Spanish Civil War.

 

Gimmethatbook had the privilege of communicating with  author Maria Nieto and discussing her book BREAKING THE SILENCE. We are proud to present her guest post, as she discusses why she wrote the book and the meaning it holds for her. If you are interested in having your own copy, you can get it [easyazon_link identifier=”1491761016″ locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]here[/easyazon_link].

 

My name is Maria Nieto, and people have been questioning why, at the age of 85, I wrote  a book called Breaking the Silence.

It is a book describing the pain and the horrifying days of a small girl´s life during and after the Spanish Civil War. There are moments of humor in the book, but mostly it deals the devastating effects that war creates for children. The book goes a little further into Spain´s post war years under the yoke of a fascist dictatorship using ruthless  mind altering techniques on children in order to assure their total loyalty to the new order. Mari, the child in the book, ends with the terrible decision she must make to atone for an act of treason she innocently committed.

The book is written as a novel, a work of fiction, but fiction is often impregnated with truth.

Why did I write the book, and how did I write the book?

Please allow me to go back in time just a little.

I was born in New York City in the middle of the Great Depression.  Just a year later, the laws that rule the universes (I do not believe in coincidences), transported me to Madrid, Spain. Two years later,  the same universal laws took my mother away from me . I do not remember the days after she disappeared, but I do remember that even though I forgot how to speak English, at stressful times the sound of strange sounds would almost sing inside of my mind. Sounds like “mommy”, “daddy”, “Teddy the bear”, and sometimes I could hear the soft voice of a woman whisper something that sounded like, ”you are my princess”. Nothing more.

Three years passed and I suddenly found myself in the middle of falling bombs, crashing buildings and the passing of marching tanks in the night making cracking noises on the  street cobble stones  as they passed by the house.

Spain was at war. A war of brother against brother, and father against son: The Spanish Civil War. I lost most of my childhood friends  who died torn to pieces  under the explosions of bombs, the fire of machine guns, or the falling of mortar shells.  I survived day after day holding on to the image of a dark haired woman who held me in her arms in times of danger.

After the war, Spain fell under the tyrannical fascist dictatorship of Francisco Franco, the Spanish Army officer who initiated the revolt against the Spanish Republic.

People were imprisoned and killed by the thousands. All freedoms were forbidden. Children marched in the streets dressed in Nazi-like uniforms with extended arms in a Nazi salute singing fascist songs to the beating of drums and the waving of flags. Soon I too became one of those children.

Some years passed and during  my early teens, I was found reading a Reader’s Digest (in Spanish). That type of reading was forbidden. Nothing foreign was to be read in Spain, and no listening to radio stations from other countries was allowed. Because I was an American Citizen, I did not go to jail . Instead,  my father was ordered to have me out of the country within three days. An uncle in New York who had converted into Judaism arranged for a Jewish organization helping children out of Nazi Germany, to look over me in Portugal as I waited for a ship to take me to the United States.

Franco died and Spain’s new monarchy passed a law of silence, “a pact of silence”, as it was called. The people of Spain were not to talk or act on any issues that incurred during the war or during the dictatorship after the war. Franco’s murderers never went to trial for their crimes and continued to flourish and continued to use their money to hold on to power. After that, when  I visited Spain, neither my family nor my friends would talk about or mention the  terrible years. During a visit to my grandmother’s  village, I came upon  a group of older women in the town’s plaza seated in a circle  noisily and happily talking as they did their sewing. I introduced myself and told them that my grandmother  was born in the village. They recognized her name, but when I told them that I had lived in the village for a short time during the war, the women looked at me, and one of them clipping her words almost yelled, “ Ah, that was a long time ago.” All the other women went back to their sewing in silence.

That was the beginning of the heavy weight in my chest that made me write Breaking the Silence.

After four years in the Navy, the GI Bill helped me to finish nursing school  and after graduation I was able to work during  the day and go to school at night. It was years before I finally gathered enough diplomas to teach me how  to help emotionally wounded persons identify their pain, and hopefully resolve it.

When  my working days ended, the heavy weight in my chest returned, and strange rumblings again woke me at night. As time passed, the weight got worse, the rumblings got louder.

Finally, it became clear to me what was happening: I was choking on Spain’s silence denying me of my childhood, as well as my childhood friends not being recognized and remembered.

That is why, very slowly and in silence, I began to write Breaking the Silence and no one, friends or family, knew about the book until it was published. My family in Spain received it well, and now  the rumblings and the weight in my chest are gone, and  I can again sleep through the nights.

I hope people will read it. I hope that in some way it may help people throughout the world  and the United States reject any further war suggestions from their leaders.

I started another book. Maybe  I can finish it before the laws of the universes  take me away from this planet and I begin to use my experiences on earth elsewhere.

 

In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume

Unlikely Event

 

In 1987, Miri Ammerman returns to her hometown of Elizabeth, New Jersey, to attend a commemoration of the worst year of her life.

Thirty-five years earlier, when Miri was fifteen, and in love for the first time, a succession of airplanes fell from the sky, leaving a community reeling. Against this backdrop of actual events that Blume experienced in the early 1950s, when airline travel was new and exciting and everyone dreamed of going somewhere, she paints a vivid portrait of a particular time and place—Nat King Cole singing “Unforgettable,” Elizabeth Taylor haircuts, young (and not-so-young) love, explosive friendships, A-bomb hysteria, rumors of Communist threat. And a young journalist who makes his name reporting tragedy. Through it all, one generation reminds another that life goes on.

In the Unlikely Event is vintage Judy Blume, with all the hallmarks of Judy Blume’s unparalleled storytelling, and full of memorable characters who cope with loss, remember the good times and, finally, wonder at the joy that keeps them going.

 

Thanks to Penguin Random House for the ARC!

Judy Blume is such a beloved author that I’m almost reluctant to write this review. Let me just get it over with: I didn’t like this book.

There, I said it.

It wasn’t the anticipation that made the book such a letdown–it was the style and way the plot unfolded. Many other reviews will note the large cast of characters and the fact that each chapter is written about one character at at a time. For me, this didn’t work. (I’ve recently read other books constructed that way and once I got into the flow, enjoyed everything just fine. None of these characters actually grabbed me.)

The writing style wasn’t as Blume-esque as I recall, and the plot seemed to zig and zag, even though it was fairly linear. I read on and on, hoping I would get to that sweet spot where everything clicks and it becomes unputdownable.

It just never happened for me, and I grew annoyed. Yes, the work is epic. Yes, she winds the characters’ lives around and eventually it all makes sense. Yes, the hopes and dreams of everyone looms large as the plot unwinds, and the maturation of the characters, especially Miri Ammerman, provides a backdrop to keep the average reader turning the pages. I could say it’s like going to Disney World in the rain; the idea of it should be magical, but the weather just doesn’t cooperate.

One thing that was agreeable: the exact perfection in which Blume describes the 50’s. Little details like products, clothing, attitudes, home decor—this is done wonderfully and provided the only bright spots for me. Sad when you spend time reading a book just to pick out the background details.

Ms Blume will sell a lot of copies of IN THE UNLIKELY EVENT based on her status as a literature goddess. I’m still going to worship at her altar, but this book won’t have a place there.

 

Scent of Triumph by Jan Moran

 

scent

 

Scent of Triumph is the story of Danielle Bretancourt, a talented young French perfumer with a flair for fashion and a natural olfactory gift. In the language of perfumery, she is a Nose, with the rare ability to recognize thousands of essences by memory. The story opens on the day England declares war on Germany, and Danielle and her family are caught in the midst of a raging disaster sweeping across Europe.

Her life takes a tragic turn when her husband and son are lost behind enemy lines. She spies for the French resistance, determined to find them, but is forced to flee Europe with fragments of her family. Destitute, she mines her talents to create a magnificent perfume that captures the hearts of Hollywood’s top stars, then gambles again to win wealth and success as a couturier. Her intelligence and flair attracts the adoration of Jonathan Newell-Grey, of England’s top shipping conglomerate, and Cameron Murphy, Hollywood’s most charismatic star.

Danielle charts her course through devastating wartime losses and revenge; lustful lovers and loveless marriages; and valiant struggles to reunite her family. Set between privileged lifestyles and gritty realities, here is one woman’s story of courage, spirit, and resilience.

 

Thanks to NetGalley for providing this advance reader’s copy  in exchange for a review!

I have read other novels by Jan Moran (see my reviews on Flawless and Beauty Mark), but this by far is her most enthralling and multi layered work. The character development is deeper, the settings lusher, and the sweeping triumphs and tragedies make this book almost larger than life. Moran’s talent as a writer shows on every page and in each subplot. Moreover, her love and knowledge of perfume and its creation shines throughout SCENT OF TRIUMPH.  Scenes are not only described, but experienced with olfactory details: we smell the scent of Jon’s cologne, we breathe in the odor of sweat and salt air as Danielle travels on a crowded ship, and we become aware of not only the squalid appearance of a tenement–we live it as the food odors permate our consciousness.

Another plus is that Moran, as always, gives us a strong female presence. Danielle is master of her own destiny, always pushing forward, seeking the best life for her family first. Her natural ability to manipulate scent and create perfume helps her in her personal and financial growth; and perfume vials serve as weapons, messengers, and signs of hope for Danielle and her relatives. Moran’s treatment of the injustices of WWII are descriptive and hit hard–keep tissues close at hand, for this is not a soporific romance with a little history thrown in. SCENT pulls no punches as the character of Danielle experiences hardship and struggle.

I found it easy to identify with Danielle’s drive; her ambition flows naturally and she is not overbearing. Rather, she is painted as a woman of class and character, determined to make her way in the world. As the plot shifts, there is suspense in the form of missed opportunities. The author knows her audience and creates roadblocks for her characters accordingly.

Finally, this novel is unique due to the author’s affinity for perfume. Each chapter begins with a quote from the fictional Danielle that resonates with the action to follow; and also gives the reader some insight on what goes into creating a lasting and pleasant scent. I love a book where I can learn tidbits about familiar things, and understanding more about perfumes and their creation was what made this book so wonderful on another level. Our sense of smell can evoke many memories and emotions. Moran utilizes this knowledge to create a perfect blend of word, image, and essence.

Want your own copy? You can pick it up [easyazon_link identifier=”1250048907″ locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]here[/easyazon_link].

 

Back Behind Enemy Lines by Chris Bridge PLUS GIVEAWAY

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It is 1944 and Anna is parachuted into Normandy as a special agent working with Resistance Groups, spying on the Germans and wiring the information back to the Special Operations Executive, escaping capture and the inevitable torture that would follow.

She falls in love with Pierre, another SOE agent but finds he is not what he purports to be. Then there is the little matter of the Gestapo officer who has guessed her secret. Alone, Anna has to make some terrifying decisions to survive and to ensure the impending invasion remains secret.

It is 2006 in England, where her husband has died and Anna lives alone. Her children are spying on her and plot to put her in a home so that they can sell her house for their own ends. Anna is determined to retain her independence. She falls back on her wartime skills, recruiting Nathan and his girl friend Gemma to help her and becomes close to them as she never was with her own children.

But it is only when she returns to Normandy and confronts the ghosts of her past that she realises how the war had taken its toll on her loveless marriage and her children. She makes the ultimate sacrifice and finally finds the peace and redemption that had evaded her all these years.

 

Many thanks to Publishing Push for offering this book in exchange for this honest review. At the end of the review there’s a link to enter our contest for a FREE ePub version of this book!!

BACK BEHIND ENEMY LINES is two stories in one. The first part of the book follows Anna as she fights in WWII as a spy: her triumphs, her fears, her growth as a person, and ultimately, her tragedies that shape the rest of her life. The wartime details were gritty and captured the sense of despair and hardship throughout France at that time. The story is completely plausible, and paints Anna as a steady and hard working woman, with perhaps too tight a hold on her emotions.  When her situation develops a twist, she has no one to rely upon except herself. I found a good deal of suspense in this part kept me reading, wondering what would happen next.

The second part of the story takes place in 2006; Anna is home and suffering the expected health and mental issues of a 90 year old woman. Her children are hateful, greedy, and loathsome, gathering together to see how quickly they can put her in a home and take her house and money for themselves. Anna, decrepit as she is, digs deep inside herself to regain the mental strength she once possessed and thwart her offspring. Purely by chance she develops a friendship with two teenagers, who help her in her final quest to return to France and put answers to questions that have plagued her all her life.

This part also held suspense for me; I liked elderly Anna much better and felt she was a very sympathetic character. Unfortunately this situation is all too true in today’s world, and people forget that seniors have memories dear to them and were accomplished people in their younger days, they should not be viewed as a burden or problem. It was heartening to see how Anna grew interested in life again, and the reader will feel her getting stronger as the book progresses. Each scene with one of the horrid children is appropriately enraging–there was plenty of times I wanted to smack each one of the ingrates over and over again.

Finally Anna is able to lay down the burden she has been carrying for years as she shares her memories with Nathan and Gemma. Their dialogue is realistic, and the author does a great job of contrasting the elderly Anna and youthful Gemma, by accurate physical descriptions and also by both characters’ internal monologues. The ending is thought provoking, wistful, and triumphant at turns. There could have been many ways the story would come to a close, and Bridge brings everything together in a satisfying and real way. Anna is strong and maintains her sense of self throughout, right up to the ending, which will not be obvious until the book is almost over.  I spent some time thinking about Anna and her motivations; the author has created a masterpiece with this fictitious woman who will warm your heart and make you think about how your own life will be when you get old. BACK BEHIND ENEMY LINES is one of the most unique books I’ve read this year so far. I look forward to more by Chris Bridge.

Want your own copy? Click [easyazon_link asin=”B00PQO85RK” locale=”US” new_window=”default” nofollow=”default” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″ add_to_cart=”yes” cloaking=”default” localization=”yes” popups=”yes”]here[/easyazon_link].

 

 

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Inspector of the Dead by David Morrell

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Many thanks to NetGalley for providing this Advance Readers’ Copy  for review.

The year is 1855. The Crimean War is raging. The incompetence of British commanders causes the fall of the English government. The Empire teeters. Amid this crisis comes opium-eater Thomas De Quincey, one of the most notorious and brilliant personalities of Victorian England. Along with his irrepressible daughter, Emily, and their Scotland Yard companions, Ryan and Becker, De Quincey finds himself confronted by an adversary who threatens the heart of the nation.

This killer targets members of the upper echelons of British society, leaving with each corpse the name of someone who previously attempted to kill Queen Victoria. The evidence indicates that the ultimate victim will be Victoria herself.

 

Once again author David Morrell has produced a winner. INSPECTOR OF THE DEAD has the wonderfully grim De Quincey as a main character,  wintry Victorian England as a backdrop, and a plot full of double and triple crosses that will delight and confound the reader.

I’ll admit, this book started off slow. Truly slow. Morrell’s writing style took a bit to get used to–but as I progressed I noticed his sly use of sarcasm in the dialogue, the fatalistic attitude of De Quincey (which endeared me to the character quickly; no overly macho man here), and the on-point description of gaslight England, down to the terrors lurking in the Seven Dials district.

More on the style of writing: Morrell uses the third party omniscient narrator for the bulk of the book–but includes a first person narrative under the guise of  De Quincey’s daughter Emily’s journal. There are also flashbacks contributing to the unsettling way the story is told. As you get drawn into the plot, it gets easier to roll with the narration switches and flashbacks.

The plot is taken from true events and embellished. Wherever he goes, De Quincey is simultaneously self deprecating and larger than life, openly drinking from his omnipresent laudanum bottle and quoting Emmanuel Kant. Emily keeps him quietly in check most of the time, but there are instances where the Opium-Eater runs off at the mouth, confounding his audience. Some of the best dialogue came from De Quincey’s talks with Lord Palmerston, the British statesman who becomes Prime Minister. Morrell also captures the class differences quite well, contrasting the stiff upper lips of Mayfair with the street urchins of the London slums.

INSPECTOR OF THE DEAD was such a joy, it made me want to read the first De Quincey book, [easyazon_link asin=”0316216798″ locale=”US” new_window=”default” nofollow=”default” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″ add_to_cart=”yes” cloaking=”default” localization=”yes” popups=”yes”]MURDER AS A FINE ART[/easyazon_link]. When I finally get to it, I’m sure I’ll be delighted.

Want your own copy of INSPECTOR? You can pick it up [easyazon_link asin=”0316323934″ locale=”US” new_window=”default” nofollow=”default” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″ add_to_cart=”yes” cloaking=”default” localization=”yes” popups=”yes”]here[/easyazon_link].

 

 

Angels At The Gate by T.K. Thorne PLUS GIVEAWAY!

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Little is known about Lot’s wife, the unnamed biblical figure who was turned into a pillar of salt as she fled the destruction of Sodom. But for writer T.K. Thorne, just one reference was enough to ignite her imagination and form the basis for her dazzling new novel, ANGELS AT THE GATE (Cappuccino Books, March 2015). Like Noah’s Wife, Thorne’s highly praised debut, this book brings the ancient world to life through the eyes of an extraordinary woman.

Based on historical, biblical, and archaeological research, visits to the Middle East, and a large measure of creativity, ANGELS AT THE GATE is the story of Adira, destined to become Lot’s wife. A daughter of Abram’s tribe, Adira is an impetuous young girl whose mother died in childbirth. Secretly raised as a boy in her father’s caravan and schooled in languages and the art of negotiation, Adira rejects the looming changes of womanhood that threaten her nomadic life and independence.

But with the arrival of two mysterious strangers – Northmen rumored to be holy or possibly even “Angels” – Adira’s world unravels. Raiders invade the caravan, and she loses everything she values most – her father, her freedom, and even the “Angels.”

Caught between her oath to her father to return to her tribe and the “proper life for a woman” and tormented by an impossible love, she abandons all she has known in a dangerous quest to seek revenge and find her kidnapped “Angel.” With only her beloved dog, Nami, at her side, Adira must use the skills she learned in the caravan to survive the perils of the desert, Sodom, and her own heart.

ANGELS AT THE GATE is a story of adventure and the power of love, exploring themes about choice – the importance of asking the right questions and walking the fine edge between duty and personal freedom.

Many thanks to Felicia at Jane Wesman Public Relations for offering me this book in exchange for an honest review. Even more thanks for working with us to do this book giveaway! Click the link, or enter at the bottom of the page. Both are fine!
I will admit I was a little hesitant going into this book because I don’t care to  read things with a religious slant. However, I was delightfully surprised to realize though there was a strong undercurrent of religion in the book, it consisted of the character’s beliefs and how those beliefs affect their actions.

There is so much goodness in this book I’m not sure where to start. The character of Adira is wonderfully written: a strong and impetuous girl on the cusp of womanhood, torn between her own yearnings and her devotion to her father and the promises he made when she was born. I felt her passion on every page, and suffered along with her as the cruel desert showed its ugliness.

The amount of research the author did was staggering, and it’s evidenced in the exquisite description of the nomads and their existence. The constant quest for water, the undying Sahara sun, and the beautiful Saluki named Nami come to life as the story unfolds. We learn about honor, promises, the fragility of life, and the unforgiving nature of the desert.

To take an unnamed character and create a book around her is a daunting undertaking, and Thorne does Adira true justice. I loved that she was a girl who wasn’t afraid to take risks, who defended her caravan, and loved her dog Nami with every bone in her body. For me, the book took on an extra dimension as Nami was an essential character.

Not everything is beauty and pleasure, however. Adira runs afoul of desert marauders and this affects the rest of her existence. My heart broke as this injustice was done, thanks to the author’s skill in showing, not telling. At that point she becomes Lot’s wife and enters the city of Sodom to live, which brings the book towards its conclusion. I so wanted Adira to be happy and loved…and I was hanging on every word at the end when she had a choice to make.

ANGELS AT THE GATE is phenomenally, hauntingly, fantastically written. Adira is a character not soon forgotten, and the images of the nomads and the blistering hot city of Sodom will stay with you long after you close the book. Even if you have no knowledge or interest in the Bible or the characters–pick this up. The story is wonderful all by itself. You can get your own copy [easyazon_link asin=”390619602X” locale=”US” new_window=”default” nofollow=”default” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″ add_to_cart=”yes” cloaking=”default” localization=”yes” popups=”yes”]here[/easyazon_link].

 

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The Shadow Queen by Sandra Gulland

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From the author of the beloved Josephine B. Trilogy, comes a spellbinding novel inspired by the true story of a young woman who rises from poverty to become confidante to the most powerful, provocative and dangerous woman in the 17th century French court: the mistress of the charismatic Sun King.

1660, Paris

Claudette’s life is like an ever-revolving stage set.  From an impoverished childhood wandering the French countryside with her family’s acting troupe, Claudette finally witnesses her mother’s astonishing rise to stardom in Parisian theaters. Working with playwrights Corneille, Molière and Racine, Claudette’s life is culturally rich, but like all in the theatrical world at the time, she’s socially scorned.

A series of chance encounters gradually pull Claudette into the alluring orbit of Athénaïs de Montespan, mistress to Louis XIV and reigning “Shadow Queen.” Needing someone to safeguard her secrets, Athénaïs offers to hire Claudette as her personal attendant.

Enticed by the promise of riches and respectability, Claudette leaves the world of the theater only to find that court is very much like a stage, with outward shows of loyalty masking more devious intentions. This parallel is not lost on Athénaïs, who fears political enemies are plotting her ruin as young courtesans angle to take the coveted spot in the king’s bed.

Indeed, Claudette’s “reputable” new position is marked by spying, illicit trysts and titanic power struggles. As Athénaïs, becomes ever more desperate to hold onto the King’s favor, innocent love charms move into the realm of deadly Black Magic, and Claudette is forced to consider a move that will put her own life—and the family she loves so dearly—at risk.

Set against the gilded opulence of a newly-constructed Versailles and the War of Theaters, THE SHADOW QUEEN is a seductive, gripping novel about the lure of wealth, the illusion of power, and the increasingly uneasy relationship between two strong-willed women whose actions could shape the future of France.

This book was on my “want to read” list, and I picked it up from my local library. As soon as I started reading, I was transported into France in the 1600’s–with all the sights, sounds, and smells of the period. Claudette was an easy heroine to like, and her desire to make her family’s life better will resonate with many readers.

One of the best things about THE SHADOW QUEEN is that the author Sandra Gulland didn’t bury the plot in a lot of politics. Rather, she spends her description on the trials and triumphs of stage actors, and later, the sumptuous trappings of Louis the XIV’s Court. Her characters come alive: Moliere, Corneille, and Athenais are alternately drawn to scale and then appear larger than life at times. Gulland keeps the story true to life, for the most part, as she takes historical fact and makes it sing. She brings the hopes and fears of Athenais to the forefront, and helps the reader to see who she was and who she turned into: a cunning and manipulative woman who fears the loss of her youth and vitality, and resorts to black magic to keep the affections of her beloved Sun King. It seemed hard to understand if that affection was true, or just opportunistic.

Claudette stayed true to herself throughout the book, continuing to care for her mother and brother even as her innocence is slowly pulled from her; and she made a stand against her beloved Athenais, which comes back to haunt her and threatens to ruin her life. I was on the edge of my seat, wondering how it would end for Claudette.

I enjoyed this book a great deal, and intend to read other novels of Gulland’s. Her research is thorough and her writing is clean. Want your own copy? You can pick it up [easyazon_link asin=”0345805607″ locale=”US” new_window=”default” nofollow=”default” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″ add_to_cart=”yes” cloaking=”default” localization=”yes” popups=”yes”]here[/easyazon_link].

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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