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liesl's ocean rescue

Source: Review copy from Gihon River Press
Rating: ★★★★☆

On the ship, Liesl could eat whatever she wanted.  She could walk freely around the ship and see movies in the recreation room whenever they played.  Back in Germany, she could only eat rationed bread and eggs.  And Jews like Liesl and her family weren’t allowed to stroll in the park, walk on the sidewalk, or go to the movies.

(from Liesl’s Ocean Rescue)

Quick summary: Liesl’s Ocean Rescue is a picture book based on the true story of Liesl Joseph, who was one of around 900 Jews to escape Germany on the MS St. Louis.  The ship left Hamburg in May 1939 bound for Havana, Cuba, but the fate of the passengers hung in the balance when they were denied entry to Cuba and the United States, generating chaos and fear when they learned they were ordered to return to Germany.  The captain and a committee comprised of some passengers scrambled to find other countries that would take them.

Why I wanted to read it: I was curious how the subject would be handled in a children’s book.

What I liked: Barbara Krasner tells the story through the eyes of a young girl who doesn’t understand why her freedoms have been taken away and why her family must leave their home in Germany forever.  Readers see how the voyage to Cuba was a carefree one for Liesl, with so much promise, and how the fear returned when they were not allowed to leave the ship.  Avi Katz’s illustrations are fantastic in that they capture the myriad emotions on the character’s faces, from hope to fear to joy.  At the end of the story, there is an author’s note that lets readers know what happened to Liesl and her family after the MS St. Louis, and there is a bibliography with a list of books and DVDs to learn more.

What I disliked: There was nothing to dislike.  Krasner and Katz did a wonderful job adapting such a heavy story for a younger audience.

Final thoughts: Liesl’s Ocean Rescue is a gentle introduction to the Holocaust for children.  Of course, the book doesn’t touch upon reports that around 227 of the 915 refugees perished in the Holocaust after being given refuge in European countries that eventually were occupied by the Nazis.  But it does explain why Liesl’s family had to leave Germany and what happened on the ship in a way that children can begin to understand the history of the time, even if it really is impossible to truly comprehend why these things happened.  Parents can use the book as an introduction to the events leading up to World War II and the horrors of the Holocaust, providing an opportunity for deeper discussions later.

war challenge with a twist

Book 24 for the War Challenge With a Twist (WWII)

Disclosure: I received Liesl’s Ocean Rescue from Gihon River Press for review.

© 2014 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

At Home With Mr. Darcy

Source: Review copy from author
Rating: ★★★★☆

‘Shall I tackle her now?’ Warwick asked Katherine.

‘I don’t like your use of the word tackle,’ Katherine said.  ‘It sounds like you’re going to get her in some sort of head lock.’

‘I wish I could,’ he said, ‘then maybe I could make her see reason.’

‘You haven’t got to make her see reason,’ Katherine said, ‘only the joys of Jane Austen.’

‘Isn’t that the same thing?’ Warwick asked with a lopsided smile that still melted Katherine.  ‘Leave her to me.  You go and buy yourself a book or something in the shop.’

Katherine laughed.  ‘I don’t need any encouragement to buy books.’

(from At Home With Mr. Darcy)

Quick summary: In the 6th installment of Victoria Connelly’s Austen Addicts series, At Home With Mr. Darcy, Dame Pamela Harcourt of Purley Hall is hosting a Jane Austen Holiday in Derbyshire, the home of Mr. Darcy.  Connelly brings back characters from her previous novels and novellas — newlyweds Warwick and Katherine, Robyn, sisters Roberta and Rose, the moody Mrs. Soames (who brings along her daughter, Annie), and the endearing Doris Norris — for a trip to Chatsworth House and Lyme Park, which became Mr. Darcy’s grand estate, Pemberley, in the movie adaptations of Pride and Prejudice.  But the Janeites are in for some trouble in the form of journalist Melissa Berry, who knows nothing about Jane Austen and doesn’t understand why people remain so interested in her novels today.  The gang sets out to show Melissa the relevance of Austen’s work in the present day and to make her fall in love with Austen herself.

Why I wanted to read it: I’m a big fan of the Austen Addicts series.  (Check out my reviews: A Weekend With Mr. Darcy, Dreaming of Mr. Darcy, Mr. Darcy Forever, Christmas With Mr. Darcy, and Happy Birthday, Mr. Darcy)

What I liked: I love that Connelly has continued this series.  I love these characters, and every time I read a new installment, it feels like I’m catching up with old friends.  Connelly made me feel like I was on holiday with the Janeites and actually visiting the homes with them.  There was a hint of romance for one of the characters, and I couldn’t help but laugh at what happened to another character.  I loved the side stories about Katherine and Warwick settling into their Georgian manor and Robyn’s husband, Dan, trying to take care of their cottage, their toddler, and his horse riding center on his own for a few days.  But most of all, I loved all the talk about books and all-things-Austen, especially the conversation between Robyn and Katherine, a doctor of English literature, about whether Chatsworth was Austen’s inspiration for Pemberley:

‘You think it foolish to try and find the real Pemberley?’ Robyn asked.

‘Not foolish, exactly,’ Katherine said.  ‘I think we all carry it inside us, don’t we?  We each have our own individual version that no film director can really create for us.’

What I disliked:  This novella was delightful and entertaining, and the only thing I disliked was that I finished it so quickly.

Final thoughts: At Home With Mr. Darcy (and the entire Austen Addicts series) is a pure delight for Jane Austen fans.  Readers will want to start from the beginning to fully appreciate these characters and their Austen obsession, but it won’t take long to catch up because only the first three installments are full-length novels.  I may not own any Mr. Darcy trinkets or be able to quote extensively from the novels, but I connect with these characters through a shared love of reading.  Connelly shows that Janeites are proud of their love of Austen but also are able to poke fun at their obsession, and she highlights the sense of community among the Janeites.  At Home With Mr. Darcy is lighthearted and fun, and I really hope Connelly plans on continuing the series.

Disclosure: I received At Home With Mr. Darcy from the author for review.

© 2014 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

Mailbox Monday — October 27

Welcome to Mailbox Monday, the weekly meme where book lovers share the titles they received for review, purchased, or otherwise obtained over the past week. It is now being hosted at the Mailbox Monday blog.

Here’s what I added to the shelves over the past week:

For review:

mr. darcy's christmas calendarMr. Darcy’s Christmas Calendar by Jane Odiwe — from the author

Lizzy Benson visits Jane Austen’s house in Chawton and buys a special advent calendar in the gift shop, but strange things start to happen when she opens up the first door and finds herself back in time with all the beloved characters from her favourite book, Pride and Prejudice. As she finds herself increasingly drawn into an alternate reality, Lizzy discovers not only is Mr Darcy missing from the plot, but Jane Austen has never heard of him. All Lizzy can hope is that she can help to get the story and her own complicated love life back on track before Christmas is over! (publisher’s summary)

to refine like silverTo Refine Like Silver by Jeanna Ellsworth — from the author

If Mr. Darcy had met Elizabeth Bennet in his beloved Derbyshire, would he have recognized her as the love of his life instead of dismissing her as someone “not handsome enough to tempt” him?  This alteration of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice adds a little spirit, flirtation, and charm to everyone’s favorite characters.

Early in the summer of 1811, Elizabeth Bennet travels to Derbyshire to help her aunt and uncle settle in as new owners of Saphrinbrooke.  Elizabeth is soon introduced to the estate’s nearest neighbors: Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy and his sister, Georgiana, who is suffering the results of a fateful trip to Ramsgate.  Having endured several life tragedies herself, Elizabeth reaches out to the young lady of Pemberley.  Under her radiant influence, both Darcy and Georgiana begin to look for help outside of themselves.

To Refine Like Silver is a romantic and spiritual journey where more than one of our favorite Regency characters must learn to fully rely on God.  Their trials bring depth to the beloved story, and Mr. Darcy ultimately learns that our trials do not define us; rather, they refine us.  (publisher’s summary)

rudolphRudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (Special Edition Pop-Up Book) by Lisa Marsoli — from Media Masters Publicity

The most beloved holiday television special of all time comes alive in this special edition pop-up book.  Dash away with Rudolph on his adventures as he meets an unforgettable cast of characters: the elf/aspiring dentist Hermey, the affable miner Yukon Cornelius, the Abominable Snow Monster, and a legion of misfit toys.  This heartfelt Christmas classic has been enjoyed for generations.  Delight young readers with the magic of the holiday season and the tale of how one remarkable reindeer saved Christmas on one foggy night.  (publisher’s summary)

What books did you add to your shelves recently?

© 2014 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

Print

Source: Review copy from author
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Lady Catherine, now purple about the gills, opened and closed her mouth like the trout he fished in the Pemberley streams, but before she could utter another word, Fitzwilliam Darcy spoke.  ‘There is no more to discuss, except to say that I am willing to forgive and forget, there will be no further reference to the interview that has taken place or to your past misdemeanours if you abide by my rules.’

Without waiting for a further reaction, Mr. Darcy turned on his heel and marched out of the room, aware that his aunt was left flabbergasted, stunned, and for once, quite speechless.

(from Mrs. Darcy’s Diamonds)

Quick summary: Mrs. Darcy’s Diamonds is a sequel to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and a Jane Austen Jewel Box Novella by Jane Odiwe.  Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth Darcy have only been married for a few weeks when they invite the Bingleys, the Bennets, and Lady Catherine to Pemberley for Christmas.  Their happiness is interrupted when Elizabeth loses a diamond ring that is a Darcy family heirloom, and the Wickhams come around with news of a scandal that could tarnish the Darcy name.  With Lydia prancing around the ballroom saying things she shouldn’t, Lady Catherine and Caroline Bingley united in their dislike of the Bennets, and Darcy’s distant and mysterious French cousins Antoine and Louise de Valois becoming fast friends of Georgiana’s, it’s not surprising that Pemberley is in a state of chaos.

Why I wanted to read it: Odiwe is one of my favorite authors of Austen-inspired fiction.  I’ve enjoyed every book of hers I’ve read so far: Lydia Bennet’s Story, Mr. Darcy’s Secret, Searching for Captain Wentworth, and Project Darcy.

What I liked: Mrs. Darcy’s Diamonds gives readers a peek into Darcy and Elizabeth’s happily ever after, showing the depths of their passion without getting too steamy and how the strength of their love will enable them to conquer any challenge thrown at them.  Odiwe does a great job packing a lot into such a short story so that I was never bored, nor did I feel overwhelmed.  I loved that there was a bit of mystery and scandal — and especially that I didn’t figure it out right away.  I also enjoyed the original characters, Antoine and Louise, and how secondary characters like Georgiana Darcy and Anne de Bourgh are fleshed out a little more.

What I disliked: I wish the story had been longer, but I was happy to read at the end that another Jewel Box Novella is coming soon!

Final thoughts: Mrs. Darcy’s Diamonds is the perfect short read for a brisk afternoon, with a cup of tea and Christmas on the horizon.  Odiwe is one of those authors whose books always make my wish list as soon as I hear about them, and I’ve never been disappointed.  I enjoyed watching Elizabeth come into her own as the mistress of Pemberley, forging close bonds with the tenants and softening Darcy’s rough edges.  Most of all, I enjoyed Georgiana’s story, seeing her come out of her shell and become more confident in the months since the ordeal with Wickham, and I can’t wait for Odiwe to continue her story.

Disclosure: I received Mrs. Darcy’s Diamonds from the author for review.

© 2014 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

don't want to miss a thing

Source: Personal library
Rating: ★★★★☆

It was unbelievable.  You could actually see it happening.  One minute he was completely and utterly entranced.  Before long, as if the momentousness of the occasion had made its presence felt, the newest addition to the family stirred and opened her eyes.

“Her name is Delphi,” said Laura.

“Oh my God.”  Dex exhaled slowly.  “Look at her.”

(from Don’t Want to Miss a Thing, page 4)

Quick summary: Dexter Yates is a player, and despite all girlfriends he has had, the only women he has ever loved are his sister, Laura, and his baby niece, Delphi.  When Laura dies suddenly and tragically, he faces a life without them both.  His fast-paced London lifestyle leaves no room for a baby, but Molly Hayes, a cartoonist and his neighbor in the Cotswolds village where he recently bought a house, encourages him to follow his heart where Delphi is concerned.  Meanwhile, Frankie, the owner of a popular café in the village, and her daughter, Amber, learn that their seemingly perfect family life is far from it.  But while Frankie sees it as an opportunity for freedom, Amber feels lost and doesn’t know who to trust.

Why I wanted to read it: Jill Mansell’s novels are pure comfort reads.  I don’t read too much women’s fiction, but Mansell’s British romantic comedies are always fantastic.

What I liked: Mansell always creates such well-developed and interesting characters.  In Don’t Want to Miss a Thing, I was happy to see her put a man in the lead role, and watching Dexter evolve from ladies’ man to family man was heartwarming.  As with her other novels, I found all of the plot lines equally entertaining.  As a wife and mother with a teenage daughter, I warmed up easily to Frankie.  And of course, the characters find themselves in ridiculously funny situations and misunderstandings.  Mansell tackles some pretty heavy themes, but she does a great job keeping things from getting too serious.

What I disliked: There really wasn’t anything to dislike.  I enjoyed the book, but it wasn’t my favorite of Mansell’s novels.

Final thoughts: Mansell has a knack for creating endearingly flawed characters who feel like old friends, and she never fails to make me laugh.  Don’t Want to Miss a Thing is a story about the many kinds of love, new-found love, enduring love, and the love between a parent and child, and how finding real love can turn your life upside down.  It’s about making the right decisions, even when few of the people in your life believe in you, and the freedom that comes from acceptance.  Once again, Mansell showed me exactly why I have been recommending her books to family, friends, and my dear blog readers for years!

Disclosure: Don’t Want to Miss a Thing is from my personal library.

© 2014 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

Mailbox Monday — October 20

Welcome to Mailbox Monday, the weekly meme where book lovers share the titles they received for review, purchased, or otherwise obtained over the past week. It is now being hosted at the Mailbox Monday blog.

Here’s what I added to the shelves over the past week:

For Review:

jane austen cover to coverJane Austen Cover to Cover by Margaret C. Sullivan — from Quirk Books

Jane Austen Never Goes Out of Style

Since the first publication of her six novels in the 19th century, she has delighted generations of fans with classic stories that have never changed — and countless covers that have.  Jane Austen Cover to Cover compiles two centuries of design showcasing one of the world’s most beloved and celebrated novelists.  With over 200 images, plus historical commentary, Austen trivia, and a little bit of wit, this fascinating and visually intriguing look back is a must for Janeites, design enthusiasts, and book lovers of every age.  (publisher’s summary)

botticelli's bastardBotticelli’s Bastard by Stephen Maitland-Lewis — from the author

Art restorer Giovanni Fabrizzi is haunted by an unsigned renaissance portrait.  Obsessed to learn the truth of its origin, he becomes increasingly convinced the painting could be the work of one of history’s greatest artists, which if true, would catapult its value to the stratosphere.  But in learning of the painting’s past, he is faced with a dilemma.  He believes the portrait was stolen during the greatest art heist in history — the Nazi plunder of European artwork.  If true and a surviving relative of the painting’s rightful owner were still alive, Giovanni, in all good conscience, would have to give up the potential masterpiece.  His obsession with the portrait puts a strain on his new marriage, and his son thinks his father has lost his mind for believing an unremarkable, unsigned painting could be worth anyone’s attention.  Regardless, Giovanni persists in his quest of discovery and exposes far more truth than he ever wanted to know.  (publisher’s summary)

What books did you add to your shelves recently?

© 2014 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

land of dreams

Source: Review copy from William Morrow
Rating: ★★★★☆

I couldn’t paint.  I had nothing to say.  My art had left me and all I could do was capture the story behind the eyes of a pretty girl.  Somehow, in the past few weeks, I had become silenced.  My voice was gone and I was becoming ever less certain that it would return.

(from Land of Dreams, page 165)

Quick summary: Land of Dreams is the last installment in Kate Kerrigan’s Ellis Island trilogy that follows headstrong Ellie Hogan, who has left Ireland for good to forge a new life in New York City.  Set in 1942, Ellie has become a well-known artist and is raising her adopted sons, Leo and Tom, on Fire Island off the Long Island shore.  She has settled into the quiet life of an artist, but all that changes when 16-year-old Leo runs away from his boarding school to Hollywood to become an actor.  It’s not long before Ellie, Tom, and her old friend Bridie have forged a new life in Los Angeles.  Ellie has lost her creativity, and after the loss of two husbands, she thinks her desire to love and be loved has left her as well.  Amidst the fame and greed of Hollywood, the Japanese internment camps, and memories of the life she left behind, Ellie embarks on a friendship with a Polish composer, Stan, and puts her dreams on the sidelines to give her son a chance to live his own.

Why I wanted to read it: I really enjoyed the first two books in the trilogy, Ellis Island and City of Hope, and I wanted to find out how Kerrigan concludes Ellie’s story.

What I liked: Land of Dreams can be read as a standalone novel.  Of course, you’ll care more about Ellie if you read all three books in order, but Kerrigan provides enough back story so you won’t feel too lost — which was good for me since it’s been a year since I read the previous books, and I needed a quick update.  I love the character of Ellie.  She has gone through so much in her 42 years, but she has always managed to pull herself up, adapt, and move forward.  Having long wanted to be a mother, Ellie would do anything for Tom and Leo, putting them first in all things.  The first-person narrative helps emphasize how much she has endured and how much she has sacrificed, and Kerrigan does a great job ensuring that readers understand Ellie, even when they don’t agree with her.  Hollywood in the 1940s is an intriguing setting, but Kerrigan doesn’t let readers forget that there is a war going on.  The fighting may be happening elsewhere, but the tensions and the animosity toward anyone with a connection to Germany and Japan, however slight, is very real and very dangerous.  However, Kerrigan also doesn’t let the war take center stage.

What I disliked: The only thing I didn’t like was having to say goodbye to Ellie when I turned the last page.

Final thoughts: Ellie’s fierce love for her children shines through, and the same take-charge attitude and adaptability that enabled her to survive hunger, build successful businesses, and keep going after tough losses help her see through the glitz and glamor of Hollywood.  Even while stepping aside to let her son shine, Ellie cannot completely hide in the shadows, and the relationships she forges in Hollywood make her realize she still has much to learn about life, love, and creativity.  Land of Dreams is a satisfying conclusion to the Ellis Island trilogy, which centers on love and loss, family, the immigrant experience, and the American Dream.  The trilogy spans the years of the Irish War of Independence, the Great Depression, and World War II and follows a woman who was truly ahead of her time.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for having me on the tour for Land of Dreams.  To follow the tour, click here.

war challenge with a twist

Book 23 for the War Challenge With a Twist (WWII)

historical fiction challenge

Book 23 for the Historical Fiction Challenge

Disclosure: I received Land of Dreams from William Morrow for review.

© 2014 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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