Review: The Nazi’s Daughter by Tim Murgatroyd

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Books like this one are right up my alley.  Historical fiction, World War II era, a bit of suspense thrown in…these are the stories that stick with me.

Elise has a promising career as a ballerina.  She lives to dance, allowing herself to escape from the fact that her father is a high-ranking Nazi.  She’s somewhat of a disappointment to her family as she chooses to immerse herself in her career rather than fall in line with their Nazi beliefs.  When an injury forces her to take a break from dancing, she finds refuge on a small island.

It’s here that she meets Pieter.  Instantly attracted to him, she resists for as long as possible.  But when their chemistry becomes impossible to ignore, she finds herself in a precarious position as the daughter of a Nazi.  Pieter, the man she loves, is part of the Resistance.  Will it be possible to keep her two worlds separate?

This is, to me, the best and most compelling part of this story.  There’s more, though.  Fast forward to present day New York City.  Jenni is suddenly and unexpectedly the benefactor of her deceased grandmother’s estate.  Because she didn’t know much about her, and because her own life is in shambles, she immerses herself in grandma Elise’s past.  What secrets will she uncover?

A great story for fans of historical fiction with some romance and a bit of mystery as well.

~Thalia

Buy It Now:  The Nazi’s Daughter

Review: The German Girl by Armando Lucas Correa

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I love historical fiction, especially World War II era stories.  I’ve read many, ranging from exceptionally good to just so-so to absolutely dreadful.  But I’ve learned from each one of them, a bit of something from history that I was unaware of.  And isn’t that, after all, the point of historical fiction?

Young Hannah’s family isn’t particularly concerned in the year 1939.  Her German family is well to do, after all.  They move in all the best circles and want for nothing.  But things quickly begin to change in Berlin as the Nazis quickly move in and begin to take over.  They find themselves being shunned by those who once welcomed them.  Their possessions no longer belong to them.  And they no longer feel safe.  All because they’re Jewish.

So when her father discovers a possible escape route, he jumps on it.  After much struggle, the family finds themselves aboard the St. Louis, bound for Cuba.  The country has promised safe haven to those escaping Hitler’s Germany.  As the family pulls away from the shores of their homeland, they begin to relax a bit and hope for a happy future.  But things take an unfortunate turn when Cuba suddenly refuses to admit them.  An entire ship full of passengers is stuck in limbo as they await word of their fate.

This is an outstanding debut novel.  It’s clear that the author put much thought and research into this story.  We hear the story from two generations, that of young Hannah and that of her great niece, Anna.  As Anna discovers her past, she helps us to fill in the gaps as well.  An excellent story for fans of historical fiction!

~Thalia

Buy It Now:  The German Girl

Review: Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly

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With every new piece of historical fiction I read, I gain something.  Knowledge about a previously unheard of occurrence, deeper understanding of an event, compassion for a character that I never imagined…these things are all possible with a good story.  Lilac Girls  takes a horrible time most are familiar with, the Holocaust, and introduces the reader to an aspect that many have never heard of.

The year is 1939.  Hitler has just invaded Poland.  France is next.  With her work at the French consulate, Caroline feels the tragedy more than most New Yorkers.  Her job takes her into the lives of those most affected, finding homes for children orphaned by the war and arranging care packages for families.

Across the sea, Kasia witnesses her childhood stripped away as her town is taken over. Not satisfied just sitting by and watching everything she loves destroyed, she begins working for the underground resistance movement.  Never in her wildest dreams does she imagine that not only will this endanger her life, but the lives of her mother and sister as well.  When her secret life is discovered, they’re all rounded up and shipped off to Ravensbruck, a concentration camp for women.

It’s here that they cross paths with Herta.  Her path in life has been changed as well, although surely in not as tragic a way as Kasia’s.  Before the invasion, Herta was well on her way to becoming a respected German doctor.  Now she’s deep into war crimes and horrible experiments at Ravensbruck.

This is yet another story that reminds the reader of one of the darkest times in our world’s history, a time when people were persecuted and killed simply for who they were.  It’s heartbreaking and thought-provoking at the same time, especially in today’s tumultuous climate.  It’s also a story of love and survival and hope, things that can get people through some of the darkest times.

~Thalia

Buy It Now:  Lilac Girls

 

Review: Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

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What can I say about Ruta Sepetys other than she’s amazing?  She has this amazing ability to take a piece of history and weave a complex, compelling piece of fiction around it.  Her latest masterpiece is no exception.

The year is 1945, the place is Prussia.  The war is winding down, but the horrors of it are not.  As thousands of refugees attempt to make their way to safety, we are introduced to several of them.  They each have a story to tell, and secrets to keep.  Their paths converge as one in an attempt to survive.

There’s Joana, a selfless nurse whose only goal is to save people.  There’s young Emilia, harboring a secret far beyond what we are led to believe. And Florian, the knight in shining armor who saves her.  And Alfred Frick…what can I say about him?  He’s shady and secretive and more than a bit unstable.  Is he really going to help save the others from sure death?

Time and again, tragedy strikes in one form or another.  Until finally, towards the very end, the biggest tragedy of all befalls Joana and Emilia and Florian and the others.  And yes, even Alfred Frick.  Some will survive, some will not.

Yet again, historical fiction written by a gifted author has given me new knowledge while telling an outstandingly brilliant story.  The tragedy of the Wilhelm Gustloff  was a real thing, while the tragedy of our characters was not.  But the author makes us feel as if the entire story truly happened.  And that’s exactly what exceptional books do…

~Thalia

Buy It Now:  Salt to the Sea

 

Review: The One I Was by Eliza Graham

25059957I’m a sucker for epic stories, pieces of historical fiction that not only provide factual information but also spin a marvelous tale. Some of my very favorite books ever read fall under this category. This book by Eliza Graham did not disappoint.

The time is the late 1930s, the place is England. Young Benny has come to England to escape Nazi Germany. He’s part of a group of young boys taken in by a well-to-do family. They have a chance at a new beginning, a new life away from the horrors back at home.

Fast forward to modern times. Rosamund has taken on a nursing job with ulterior motives, a chance to return to her childhood home and confront her past. Benny is now on his deathbed and requires round the clock care. He doesn’t know Rosamund, and he doesn’t know anything about her past. But he did know her grandmother, for she was the one who took him in as a young child. As Benny and Rosamund become closer, they begin to confide in each other. Turns out, Rosamund isn’t the only one hiding secrets.

This is a very well told story. The author seamlessly transitions between past and present as she writes. The storyline is well-thought-out, and the characters are described fully. It’s historically accurate as far as the culture and attitudes of that time period. The mystery and suspense aspect is drawn-out enough to keep you guessing until almost the very end. As far as historical fiction goes, it’s one of the better books I’ve read from that genre.

~Thalia

Buy It Now: The One I Was

Review: China Dolls by Lisa See

ChinaOh. My. Great. Goodness….and breathe….

Lisa See has really outdone herself with this one. I’m not at sure if she shouldn’t just put up her pen and call it a day…..this book was just so wonderful! I seriously wonder how she can ever top it….Most people if asked what this book was about would automatic reply with it’s about some Chinese and Japanese girls in San Francisco at the time leading up to, during and after WWII….But it’s not. To me, that’s the whole point. This is a story about 3 Americans from Chinese and Japanese descent. These ladies are every bit as American as any one else born and raised in the USA. Although your ancestry might help shape you, it does not define you. This is also the story of how people are judged and sometimes defined by their looks. This is the story of a great friendship. One that is true to life….but only if we are lucky. Yes, perhaps there will be parts that make you mad and wonder how anyone could call someone like that a friend, but this book broke my heart. It made me….no….it DEMANDED that I set my judgements aside….to leave them at the door and try to view the situation from someone else’s eyes. It made me seriously try to put myself in that time period. To imagine what it was like around me. The paranoia. The resentment. The sense of survival. Trying to maintain trust whilst everyone around you is pointing fingers. It reminds me that for some, trying to make peace with what you know, what is expected of you, what you want, and your own past…well, sometimes these things will never be reconciled. Sometimes the battles we fight in silence, within ourselves….well they are the bravest….and often the ones that are never celebrated.

When will any of us be judged solely on their own merits? By only their own actions? I know that’s a Pollyanna view and an unrealistic desire….but why? Why must we judge on the colour of skin? On our family? On our ancestors? On our Country? On all of the very things that we are powerless to change? Yet, the things within our power….those are the last things to come to be judged by…..

Yes, I won’t say that parts of this book didn’t just break my heart. That it didn’t depress me. It did. However, these characters were so rich to me. I fell in love with so many of them. I understood so many of them. I admired so many of them. I could sympathize with so many of them….even the ones I was angry with. By the way Lisa See presented them to me, well, even though I knew they were unyielding in their actions, even though I was angry and upset by this….I understood why they were that way….even if I didn’t agree or like it. However, the main characters of this book….wow…just wow….I can’t imagine going through what any one of them endured. Let alone coming out like they did. The courage they displayed. At their tenaciousness. How easy would it have been for any one of them to just throw in the towel and to despair at life. How easy it would be to just look at the actions of others and to toss them aside and never give them another thought….instead of looking at only actions, each one found it within themselves to try to understand the reason for the actions…Some would argue that this makes them too soft-hearted and gullible. I disagree. It is, in fact, much harder to set aside our own feelings and try to understand another’s…..

We should all be so lucky to have people around us like this….

No one ever does something without a reason…..nothing ever happens just “out of the blue”. Our past does define our future…..This doesn’t forgive anyone of any wrong doing…..but if we are to be judged by circumstances that are completely out of our control, shouldn’t we at least be forgiven for those within our control that we try to set right?

Read this book. Please. But leave your preconceived ideas of “china dolls” at the door. For me, this was not a novel about some night club dancers. That couldn’t be further from the truth….

I realise that my review might not convey how much I loved this book….

Let me set the record straight….right here….right now….

I LOVED LOVED LOVED this book…..I already miss Grace, Ruby, Helen and Eddie…..because they are no longer in my current read, I will gladly just keep them in my heart and hope they continue to encourage me to look deeper….

Until next time….

Urania xx

Buy it now China Dolls by Lisa See