Review: The Reckoning by John Grisham

It’s been a very long time since I’d read a John Grisham novel. His stories used to be a staple of my TBR list but then for some reason they dropped off my radar. Too many books, too little time I guess. The description of this one greatly intrigued me, though…

It starts with a murder, seemingly pointless. When Pete Banning, a local war hero and town icon, murders a local preacher the town is shocked. Loyalties are divided as the trial nears and eventually concludes. Of course, nothing is ever as it seems. But there are secrets that Pete is not willing to tell, even if those secrets save his life.

Lots of pros and a few cons with this one for me. It’s a great story, full of fascinating characters. And it’s historical fiction set in the WWII era which is one of my favorite genres. Grisham is a master story teller, weaving a story so deep and complex that you just feel yourself being drawn in. There were a few “not so positives” for me. The wartime scenes were more drawn out and detailed than I would have liked, and I didn’t feel they added much to the primary story. And a couple of unanswered questions at the end which always bugs me. Still, this one was a strong four stars for me.

~Thalia

Buy It Now: The Reckoning

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Review: The German Midwife by Mandy Robotham

Just when I think I’ve read every possible historical fiction angle on the WWII era, that there can’t possibly be another tale to tell, a new one comes along and knocks my socks off.

Labeled a traitor, young Anke has been placed in one of Nazi Germany’s camps. She uses her skills as a midwife to help women around her, providing what comfort she can. But when word of her skill reaches higher up, she finds herself being placed in a most unlikely situation. Her services are needed to serve the cause and the Fuhrer himself. You see, there’s a baby on the way. And this baby is very important to the Nazi future.

Of course she doesn’t want to do it, but her survival instincts kick in not only for herself but for her family back in the camps. And at the heart of it all, she’s a midwife. So this is what she does.

This book…is so many things. It’s historical and a love story and a story of friendship and hope and so much more. If you’re a fan of the genre, don’t pass this one up!

~Thalia

Buy It Now: The German Midwife

Review: Auschwitz Lullaby by Mario Escobar

Just when I think I’ve read all of the best historical fiction novels, a new one comes along.

In this case it’s the story of Helene, a young mother who finds the horrors of war at her doorstep when she and her family are thrown into a concentration camp. Separated from her husband, she focuses on keeping her children safe. As a nurse she earns herself a bit of an advantage and is able to secure work along with a few extra, although slight, privileges. The doctor she’s enlisted to work for, however, is none other than Josef Mengele. Even as she struggles to help those around her, she still must bear witness to his evilness at work.

This is a heartbreaking story, as are all tales about this time in history. This one is even more so as it’s based on a true story. Helene was a real person, and how she chose to live her life even in the face of the greatest hardships imaginable will inspire you while making you weep at the same time.

~Thalia

Buy It Now: Auschwitz Lullaby

Review: The Orphan’s Tale by Pam Jenoff

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I must admit, I don’t read many books with a circus as the setting.  So I guess you could say this one was a bit of a stretch for me.  Still, it’s historical fiction which is my favorite genre so…

Two women thrown together in the unlikeliest of circumstances.  Young Noa finds herself cast out and alone after a one night stand with a Nazi solder leaves her pregnant and a disgrace to her family.  Astrid finds herself in the same situation after her marriage ends.  They both find their way to the circus.  Astrid has been here before.  She did, after all, grow up as the child of circus performers.  For Noa, it’s all strange and scary.  But she has to protect not only herself but the young baby she’s caring for.  Both women have much to lose.

This is a story of friendship, of love and loss.  It’s a story of hardship and resilience.  But most of all, it’s a story you won’t soon forget.

~Thalia

Buy It Now:  The Orphan’s Tale

Review: The Stolen Marriage by Diane Chamberlain

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Diane Chamberlain does it to me every time.  She writes stories that are so amazingly compelling that I find myself rushing through them while at the same time savoring the brilliance of the story.  Her latest is even better than that.

Tess has everything she’s ever wanted.  She’s surrounded by family and friends, close to graduating from nursing school, and engaged to the love of her life.  Then one mistake, one night, changes everything.  A drunken encounter with a strange man leaves her pregnant.  Suddenly her entire life is in upheaval.  Having a child out of wedlock in 1944 is out of the question.  So she does the only thing she knows to do.  She leaves the life she knows behind without much of an explanation to anyone.

When she settles in North Carolina with the father of her child, things definitely don’t go as expected.  She’s seen as an outsider by almost everyone in the small town.  Her new mother-in-law doesn’t care for her, and neither does her sister-in-law Lucy. Although Henry’s kind to her and she wants for nothing, he doesn’t really act like a husband.  And then there’s the accident.  Lucy’s dead, and everybody blames Tess.

But as her outsider status grows, so does her suspicion that something’s going on with Henry.  Not only is he increasingly distant, he’s gone for long periods of time during the night.  Oh and there’s that stash of hidden money she comes across…

I loved this book.  That’s not really surprising because I love this author.  But this one’s a bit different.  The historical fiction element was wonderfully written and made for one heck of a story.   This story will likely go down as one of my favorites from Diane Chamberlain.

~Thalia

Buy It Now:  The Stolen Marriage

 

Review ~ The Alice Network, by Kate Quinn.

img_0335Wow, where do I even start?   You know that moment where you have a genre, or even an idea of a genre, that you really fancy reading?  Well, you finally find it and hope that it delivers, even if it is just a fluffy entertaining read… and it does… In fact, it more than delivers, it smacks you and brings you back for another smack!   This is a bit like how I felt when I recently finished reading The Alice Network.

For a while now, I’ve wanted to read some good French Resistance/WWI/WWII fiction, and after many a “wasted” hour spent trawling Amazon, GoodReads, et al, I found this title and thought I’ll give it a go.  I didn’t read any reviews (no, that’s not a hint that you should stop reading this one!), and I delved straight in.

Now, I am going to warn you that this story is split/dual narrative and timeline/setting.  I know some people find that really jarring, but here, it seems to work well.  We have Charlie in 1947, looking for her cousin who disappeared in WWII, and then we have Eve, in 1915, who is approached to become a spy for the French Resistance in German occupied France.

Charlie is given Eve’s name as someone who may be able to help her, and therefore goes to find the now older spy.  From there begins a journey that neither character, or reader, could have predicted.

Now, I haven’t read any of Quinn’s previous novels (from what I’ve seen, Quinn seems to stick to Roman and medieval style Historical Fiction), so I had no expectations of her writing style, characterization, pace, etc etc…  The writing in The Alice Network is stark, to the point and realistic.  There is little unnecessary flowery language that tends to get used as filler.  The characters, for the most part, are three dimensional, believable, and not cliched.  I even really enjoyed the side characters, and each one could have easily warranted their own story in another book.

What I liked best about this book is that Quinn doesn’t patronize the reader; the actions of the characters are genuine and realistic.  While there were a couple of times that I would have taken a particular story thread in a different direction, overall I was really satisfied with the eventual traveled path.

I would have no hesitation is giving this novel 5 stars, and/or recommending it (as I have been) to anyone that likes to read.   See for yourself and pick up a copy!

~ Pegasus.

The Alice Network

Review: The Nightingale (revisited) by Kristin Hannah

21853621So are you a fan of Kristin Hannah? Read this book! Wait! You’re not a fan of Kristin Hannah? Oh well, read this book!!!! This is a book worth reading. From start to finish it had me completely captivated.

A few weeks ago I was talking to a customer about the War. I now live in England and of course the War still has a presence here. Sometimes you run into people who remember what it was like. Having to take in strangers that were forced from their homes…and their lives….This customer was one such lady…It was just a random conversation that comes up unexpectedly…but leaves you pondering the entirety of the conversation…voicing my thoughts about what people had to go through…well, it has left me to wonder about life for long hours after the conversation ended. See here’s the thing I pointed out to her….it’s not Hitler I wonder about….it’s the every day people….we are so quick to judge….so quick to say, “I would NEVER do that.”…however…..how can you ever know? If your child is near death and hasn’t a drop of milk and you only have to nod your head when a neighbor’s name is mentioned…what would you do? If you only had to pretend to not hear the knock at your door of a person in need of hiding to protect your family….would you turn a deaf ear? If you were starving and there were five bites of sawdust bread for your entire family, would you be tempted to eat two bits of the bread? How easy would it be to walk away and close your eyes to Jews being marched down the street to their deaths? How hard would it be to take a step forward and show your support knowing you might be forced to join them?

Here is that story that attempts to give you some insight to these hard questions. Here you have two sisters and a father…a father that has already come home from one war and now finds himself watching another….two sisters that each have different views of how to get through this war…Even though all three might have different ways of “living” during this time….who is to say which is the right way? As they perhaps judge one another for the choices they are making it is soon apparent to them all that there is no black and white in such circumstances.

The only clear truth one can surmise is that even though the three all take different courses of action to survive….that there isn’t a right or a wrong choice…

I don’t know what else to say….I love books like this…..because they make me realise how your life can change in an instance….it makes you realise just how bad and just how evil people can be….and just how pure people can be…it makes you realise that everyone has reasons why they make the choices that they do….it makes you realise that no matter how simple it is to judge someone by their actions that in reality you have no idea what is powering those choices…

Such a wonderful read…..not a comfortable read….but a wonderful one…

Until next time…
Urania xx

ARC provided by Netgalley for an honest review

Buy it now The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah