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

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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

Review: The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

21853621Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres, and many of my most memorable reads fall into this category. That being said, it’s a genre that’s been hit or miss for me. A book is either at the top of my charts, such as The Book Thief, or it’s at the bottom. I’ll refrain from naming some of those bottom lurkers. This newest book from Kristin Hannah, however, suffers no such fate.

Vianne is living a happy, simple life with her husband and daughter in a small French village. And then the war becomes all too real as her husband is called to fight and her village is taken over by the Nazis. Vianne’s primary focus now becomes survival and escaping the attention of the occupying enemy. This is made more difficult when Nazi soldiers take over her home. And then there’s her strong-willed sister, Isabelle. Isabelle has always had a strong sense of right and wrong, and even the threat of imprisonment or even death isn’t enough to stop her. While Vianne tries to simply fly under the radar, Isabelle finds herself in the thick of it as a covert French Resistance fighter. Vianne constantly struggles with keeping herself and her daughter safe while at the same time doing what is right.

The story alternates between war-torn France and present-day America as the narrator relives this dark period in her past. Along the way we find out that nobody is who they seem, and you never really know everything about a person, even if they are a family member. An especially appealing part of this story is that the identity of the narrator isn’t revealed until the very end, leaving you guessing as to just whose story you’re hearing.

This book was a drastic departure from other stories I’ve read by this author. While all of her stories have been outstanding, previous ones I’ve read have had more of a romantic, women’s lit type feel to them. The Nightingale encompasses that as well as so much more. It’s a love story, but also a story of survival as well as family dynamics. It’s not just a book for women, but also a book for anybody interested in World War II and especially the role played by females. I look forward to hearing what others think about this outstanding story!

~Thalia

Buy It Now: The Nightingale

Review – Winter of the World by Ken Follett.

12959233What a tour de force! So far, I’ve spent around 2000 pages, and countless hours inside the world that Ken Follett has created for his Century Trilogy. I’ve just finished Winter of the World – book two of the Century Trilogy, and all I can say is wow!
Continuing on from where book one left us, Winter of the World explores the lives of our favourite characters, as well as their offspring. Just like in book one, we are treated to a snapshot of these characters daily interactions against some of the major occurrences of the 20th century. As we know, Follett is an expert at covering huge events, with a huge amount characters, in a way that doesn’t leave the reader confused or exasperated. Setting his story mainly within WWII, and masterfully managing to show all the different perspectives that helped to shape this period, Follett allows us to see life – both from the view of everyday citizens and government officials – unfold, and indeed the consequences that occur from the smallest action, to the biggest action.
I’m not going to lie to you: When reading a book of this magnitude, page length and content matter included, it can sometimes be a bit overwhelming. You get so invested in Follett’s world, that you begin to forget your own world, and then when you get sucked back into reality, it can be hard to get back into the alternate reality. I had to take a break for a week or two, but after that, I got straight back into it and thoroughly enjoyed myself.
Sequels are usually nowhere near as good as their predecessor; however, in this case, I actually enjoyed it slightly more. I think it was more to do with the time period rather than the actual writing or story, so do not let that put you off starting this trilogy. All in all, this is another 5 star result from Follett, and I cannot wait to get stuck into the final book!
~ Pegasus.
Winter of the World: Book Two of the Century Trilogy

Review – The Paris Architect by Charles Belfoure

17456328Would you put everything on the line to save innocent people from persecution? Would you hide someone in your apartment, knowing that in doing so, you’ve just signed the death warrant for yourself, your family, and even the rest of the tenants in the apartment building? Well, as tough as these conundrums may be, people in Nazi occupied France made these kinds of decisions every day. One of these people, Lucian Bernard finds himself wrestling with his conscience, sense of practicality, pride, and financial strain, when he accepts a commission to build a concealed hiding place for a friend who makes it his business to hide Jews, and at the same time, accepts a commission from the Germans to build a factory in Paris.
Charles Belfoure’s debut fiction novel, The Paris Architect, has been hailed as being exciting, exhilarating and nerve racking. Belfoure has even been called the next Ken Follet…. Yeah, that kind of put me off as well – I really hate plaudits like that, A) it is lazy writing, B) it is such a big comparison, that it is almost impossible to live up to, and C) every author should be individual…. Anyway, that’s for another musing post later on maybe.
I wanted to read something completely different to what I am currently struggling through (I may either have a really positive review or a really negative review in a few weeks!), and so I thought I’d give this one a go. Let me tell you, I am so glad that I put my initial reluctance aside because it turned out to be one of my favourite books that I’ve read this year!
The writing and pace follows that of a traditional thriller, however, instead of implementing 3 page chapters, Belfoure manages to keep the suspenseful tone and pace throughout decent sized chapters. This is a real telltale sign that an author knows how to write. The characters are very well fleshed out and no one in this novel is “perfect” – each person has their own prejudices and how they decide to prioritize these prejudices is interesting, and sometimes frustrating.
There are some negative points to this novel though: Sometimes the phrases used by certain characters seemed quite contemporary, or Americanized – but then, for all I know, they may have indeed used those phrases in 1941. Another issue with me was the fact that sometimes certain things tied a little too neatly together – however, at the same time, it did show realistic human nature, so I suppose that can’t be too much of a negative. I can’t really explain further as it would give away some major plot points.
Although entirely fictional, the happenings in this novel most likely did occur in Nazi occupied Europe. I love reading about the French Resistance and the dichotomy between the citizens of France that try to survive by joining the Resistance to destroy the German progression, and the other citizens who try to survive by “collaborating” with the Germans in many different aspects. It really does make you think about what it means to survive, what it would take, and how far you can stretch your moral compass. Do yourself a favour and pick up a copy of this brilliant read!

~ Pegasus.
The Paris Architect: A Novel