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Archive for the ‘read in 2018’ Category

Source: Borrowed from library
Rating: ★★★★☆

Hitler’s Forgotten Children is the heartbreaking story of Ingrid von Oelhafen’s decades-long journey to uncover her true identity. Ingrid grew up in Germany with German parents, but she was only a young girl when she learned that she might be Erika Matko, who was born in Nazi-occupied Yugoslavia in 1942, stolen from her parents, brought to Germany, and placed with “politically vetted foster parents.”

In a first person narrative, von Oelhafen explains in great detail her earliest memories, her cold treatment by her foster parents, how she first learned about Erika Matko and the Lebensborn program, her research into Lebensborn, and all the steps she took over the years to find out the truth.

Von Oelhafen’s story is hard to read at times, from the way her foster parents treated her to the part of her life that was taken away and irrevocably changed by the Nazis. I vacillated between sadness and anger, and there were several times I had to put the book down for a day or two. It’s hard to wrap your mind around the evil of the Nazi regime and how one can live nearly their whole life without knowing who they truly are.

Hitler’s Forgotten Children provides much food for thought, particularly about identity, what makes you who you are, and how to build a life for yourself when you don’t know where you came from or who you belong to. Von Oelhafen was forced to consider what she knew, what she didn’t know, and what she will never know, and the book explains how this affected her opportunities and her decisions over the course of her life. Fortunately, there are moments of hope and light in her story as well, but it definitely is one that will pull at your heart.

Unfortunately, Hitler’s Forgotten Children is a relevant read these days with the migrant children in detention who are separated from their families and may never be reunited with them. It will definitely make you think long and hard about the impact on those children, especially knowing that some of them could very well find themselves in von Oelhafen’s shoes in the coming years, questioning their origin and identity. If you are fascinated with stories about World War II and want to think deeper about its impact, Hitler’s Forgotten Children should be on your list.

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Source: Borrowed from library
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Niklas Frank was seven years old when his father, Hans Frank, governor general of Nazi-occupied Poland, was hanged after the Nuremberg war crimes trials in 1946. In the Shadow of the Reich reads like a conversation with his dead father, in which Niklas Frank pours out his hatred and rage. He details his father’s career as a lawyer for the Nazi party and his rise to the governor general position, his theft from the Jewish ghetto, his groveling at Hitler’s feet, his hatred for Himmler, and, mostly, his cowardice.

In the Shadow of the Reich is the most bizarre book I’ve ever read about the Nazis. Niklas Frank imagines he is speaking to his father in hell. He interrupts excerpts from his father’s diary, letters, and testimony with his own thoughts. He imagines how his father acted in certain situations or what his father should have done, calls his father names, and basically goes on and on (and on and on) about how much he hates his father and his crimes.

This was a hard book to read, both for the content and its rambling. There was a lack of focus in its structure, like the only purpose of the book was to denounce his father. Niklas Frank had a lot of things to get off his chest, a lot of things to say to his father that he wasn’t able to say as a child seeing his father for the last time, and it feels like this book served as a kind of therapy to his tortured soul.

On the one hand, it was nice to see that he distanced himself from his father’s beliefs, but on the other hand, it felt way too personal. It’s hard to describe the book to people who haven’t read it before, but as someone who has read dozens and dozens of books about Nazi Germany, I must say this is the most unique and yet most disappointing in terms of the writing. Niklas Frank has an interesting story to tell, but I got more out of watching various YouTube interviews with him and other books about the children of Nazis in which he was featured (such as My Father’s Keeper) than from his own book. However, I think it would be worth giving a try if you are fascinated with firsthand accounts from World War II. In the Shadow of the Reich is definitely something different.

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Source: Borrowed from library
Rating: ★★★★☆

My Father’s Keeper is based mainly on the extensive 1959 interviews of children of high-ranking Nazis by Norbert Lebert (who died in 1993). These interviews detail what happened to the children of Nazi war criminals right when the war ended and in the 15 years after. Norbert Lebert’s son, Stephan, then follows up (or attempts to) with the “Nazi children” in 1999-2000 to learn about their lives in the subsequent decades.

The book focuses on Wolf Rüdiger Hess, son of Rudolf Hess; Martin Bormann, Jr., son of Martin Bormann; Niklas and Norman Frank, sons of Hans Frank; Gudrun Himmler, daughter of Heinrich Himmler; Edda Göring, daughter of Hermann Göring; Robert and Klaus von Schirach, sons of Baldur von Schirach; and Karl-Otto Saur Jr., son of Karl-Otto Saur.

Some of these “Nazi children” forged a different path and distanced themselves from their fathers’ crimes; some embraced the ideology of their fathers and defended them even decades later. Most loved their fathers still. Some found their fathers’ names to be a detriment; others still reaped the benefits of their Nazi connections. But none can be held guilty for their fathers’ war crimes.

The narrative is a bit disjointed, shifting from the 1959 manuscripts by Norbert Lebert to the later interviews by Stephan Lebert. Stephan Lebert also attempts to discuss the psychological aspects of being a child of a high-ranking Nazi, and how that shaped their early years and contributed to the paths they took later in life. There are quotes from researchers on the subject, some comparisons to the psychological trauma of the children of Holocaust survivors, and even how the German mentality in the 1950s was to sweep the horrors of the war under the rug, rebuild, and move on. But mostly My Father’s Keeper is merely a collection of biographical stories about the “Nazi children.”

There is much to ponder within these stories — like how much guilt, if any, should they bear; whether they should have been allowed to just pick up their lives, albeit without the money and comforts they enjoyed as children during the Third Reich, when so many lives were lost at their fathers’ hands; how to separate their suffering as the children of the perpetrators from the suffering of the victims and their children; whether one should feel sorry for their harsh treatment based on their parentage (they were children, after all); and how they could possibly feel love for their fathers after learning the full extent of their crimes. How could some turn a blind eye to that as they grew into adults? There is no clear answer to any of these questions, but they certainly provide much food for thought.

I had a hard time reading these stories, especially the ones where the children continued to adore their fathers long after the war. But I was fascinated with the psychology behind their stories and felt like I learned a lot from these “case studies.” If you are like me and read as much as you can about World War II, this book is not to be missed.

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Source: Review copy from author

Reunited is the second book in Rose Fairbanks’ Loving Elizabeth trilogy of novellas that reimagine the events of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. It takes place five years after the first book, Pledged.

It has been five years since Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy parted ways, having pledged themselves to one another before he was to leave on a summer trip to Ireland with his father, Elizabeth’s father and brother Sam, and Mr. Bingley and his father. They were just 16 and 22 when they first met, and despite knowing each other only a matter of days, they forged a connection that they were sure would last.

However, tragedy befell the Bennet, Darcy, and Bingley families on that trip, and the effects linger years later. Still grieving her family’s loss, Elizabeth also mourns the loss of her relationship with Will, as he had written only once to her family and never went to Longbourn to claim her hand. Since their betrothal was secret, she must hide her feelings from the rest of the world, but everything is pushed to the surface when Darcy and Bingley arrive at Netherfield.

It’s not long before Elizabeth and Darcy realize that someone has been conspiring to keep them apart, but despite learning their feelings had never changed, Elizabeth must fight her insecurities and the opposition of her mother and her best friend to their relationship.

Fairbanks has me on the edge of my seat with this trilogy. There is a sense of danger as Elizabeth and Darcy seek to determine who attempted to sabotage their relationship, and there is so much passion between them. I love how they have known each other since Elizabeth was a young woman, and Fairbanks does a great job showing how they and their feelings for one another have matured. I plan to read the last installment, Treasured, soon, so stay tuned for my review.

Disclosure: I received Reunited from the author for review.

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Source: Review copy from author

The Colonel’s Son is the second book in April Floyd’s Lost Heir series that began with Mrs. Fitzwilliam. A retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, the series imagines that Elizabeth Bennet met and married Mr. Darcy’s cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam, after the Netherfield party leaves Hertfordshire. About four years have passed since Elizabeth gave birth to Richard, who is destined to be the Earl of Matlock. When the late colonel’s family learns of Richard’s existence, Elizabeth is thrust into London society and forges a bond with Mr. Darcy.

In The Colonel’s Son, Darcy has become a big part of young Richard’s life, and his feelings for Elizabeth and hers for him have slowly blossomed. However, one thing on which they disagree is the presence of Major Wickham at Fitzwilliam House, but Darcy can’t bring himself to tell Elizabeth the exact reasons for his stern warnings against the man. With Wickham and Darcy at odds and Elizabeth still worried about losing her son to the Matlocks, there is a lot at stake and numerous obstacles in Darcy and Elizabeth’s path to happily ever after.

I love that Floyd took a chance in giving Elizabeth a previous marriage, a dead husband, AND a child, and for those of you who commented on my review of Mrs. Fitzwilliam that you were reluctant to read it because of the colonel’s death, please be assured that his death is known from the beginning of the first book, and readers never officially “meet” him but only hear about him in conversation. That definitely softens the blow. And by taking such a chance, Darcy and Elizabeth have much in common — namely their love for the colonel — but also different challenges to overcome.

The story is perfectly paced, and with all three installments having been released, readers don’t have to wait to finish the story. The first two books each feature a major obstacle that Elizabeth and Darcy must overcome and hint at the challenges to come in the next book, but I didn’t feel as though there were any major cliffhangers, which was a real relief to me.

I do hope you will give this trilogy a chance. Floyd shakes things up while staying true to Austen’s characters, and there is plenty of romance and light moments interspersed with the drama. I will be reading the last installment, Mrs. Darcy, soon, so stay tuned for my review.

Giveaway: April is generously offering 5 ebook copies of The Colonel’s Son to my readers. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address. This giveaway will be open through Sunday, February 10, 2019. The winners will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck!

Disclosure: I received The Colonel’s Son from the author for review.

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

Please note: This review is for the 5th book in the Tradd Street series. There are no spoilers for this book, but there might be spoilers from the previous four installments.

The Guests on South Battery is the fifth book in Karen White’s Tradd Street series, one of the few series that I believe continues to get better and better as the main characters evolve and new characters enter their lives. Centered on psychic Realtor Melanie Middleton, now married to Jack Trenholm with 10-month-old twins, the novel begins as Melanie prepares to go back to work for the first time since the babies were born.

As she laments losing some clients in her specialty area of historic homes, she meets Jayne Smith, who recently inherited a home belonging to a childhood friend of Melanie’s mother. Jayne is a shy, skittish young woman, and she wants nothing more than to sell the home as fast as possible. Having grown up in the foster care system, no one is quite sure why the home was left to her in the first place, but knowing from personal experience the troubles that accompany historic homes, Melanie has no qualms about helping Jayne sell. However, she wants her to see the home before making any snap decisions, and on the first tour of the property, Melanie knows something isn’t quite right. Her “gift” of seeing spirits is slowly coming back to her after having the twins, and she senses an evil spirit in the house.

Being new to Charleston, the whole process of renovating and selling a historic home is a bit overwhelming, and Jayne has no job or home. This, coupled with her experience with children and glowing references, works out perfectly for Melanie, who is in desperate need of a nanny, especially since Jack is trying to work on a new book, dealing with the fallout from a previous failed book deal, and playing stay-at-home dad all at the same time. In Jayne, Melanie finds a lifesaver, but Jayne’s youth and beauty, coupled with Melanie’s insecurities about her post-pregnancy body, make Melanie concerned about her marriage. Meanwhile, Melanie also must deal with a cistern discovered in the backyard of her Tradd Street home, weird phone calls in the night, and her mother’s desire to use their psychic abilities to help solve a cold case, as well as navigate her mother’s difficult past and what it means for her own future.

There was a lot going on in The Guests on South Battery, but none of it is confusing or overwhelming. White paces the novel perfectly, and Melanie’s first person narrative is always entertaining. It was nice to see Melanie coming into her own as a wife and a mother, juggling the various tasks that those roles and a full-time job entail, and realizing that she can no longer control and schedule literally every aspect or detail of her children’s lives. Sometimes you just have to go with the flow and recognize that you can’t do it all, and perfectly at that.

As always, White does a great job making the ghostly aspects of the story seem believable and adding a bit of creepiness to balance out Melanie’s humorous antics. It also was nice to see more of Melanie’s best friend, Sophie, an historic homes expert who is in charge of the South Battery renovation, and Jayne was an interesting character to try to figure out. Despite piecing together the big twist before it was revealed, I loved the story, and I can’t wait for the next installment, The Christmas Spirits on Tradd Street, which will be released in October.

Other reviews:

The House on Tradd Street

The Girl on Legare Street

The Strangers on Montagu Street

Return to Tradd Street

Disclosure: I received The Guests on South Battery from NAL for review.

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

Now that I’ve caught up with reviews of the holiday books I read over the last couple of months, the rest of this week and all of next week will be reviews of books I read since last summer that I hadn’t had a chance to review until now.

First up is Return to Tradd Street, the fourth book in Karen White’s Tradd Street series.

Please note: This review is for the 4th book in the Tradd Street series. There are no spoilers for this book, but there might be spoilers from the previous three installments.

Karen White has long been on my list of favorite authors, and I don’t know why I waited so long to continue this series. Return to Tradd Street, book four in the Tradd Street series, continues to follow psychic Realtor Melanie Middleton as she struggles with her feelings for writer Jack Trenholm and the renovations on her historic home in Charleston, South Carolina. When the novel opens, Melanie is still angry with Jack and determined to take on parenthood alone. However, Jack is equally determined to be in his child’s life, and when he hires Melanie to help him find a bigger house, she finds that she can’t get rid of him.

Meanwhile, the ongoing renovations at 55 Tradd Street unearth the remains of a newborn buried in the foundation, which explains why she has been hearing a baby cry throughout the house. But soon a more sinister presence reveals itself, and Melanie must uncover the source of its unrest despite her psychic abilities being dulled by pregnancy. As if her relationship troubles, pregnancy at 40, and ghosts aren’t stressful enough, Melanie’s inheritance of the Tradd Street property is called into questions just as it is finally starting to feel like home.

I love the way White brings together romance, humor, and a suspenseful ghost story in the Tradd Street series, and Return to Tradd Street didn’t disappoint. As soon as I started the book, I realized how much I’d missed Melanie, Jack, his teenage daughter Nola, and even Melanie’s inherited dog General Lee. After having visited Charleston — and, of course, Tradd Street — on vacation two years ago, I was better able to picture the setting, and that made reading it even more enjoyable.

I’ve always found Melanie a bit over the top when it comes to her need to control everything, but it’s endearing and funny, especially when she expects that she will be able to control every aspect of a baby’s feeding and sleeping schedule. And of course, I loved Jack, especially when he refuses to give up and accepts Melanie, flaws and all. As always, the secondary characters, especially Nola and Melanie’s best friend Sophie, are a breath of fresh air (and a much needed dose of reality for Melanie), and the ghost story was clever and believably written.

I immediately started book five, The Guests on South Battery, after finishing this book (stay tuned for my review tomorrow), and I can’t wait for the next book in this series.

Other reviews:

The House on Tradd Street

The Girl on Legare Street

The Strangers on Montagu Street

Disclosure: I received Return to Tradd Street from NAL for review.

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