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Posts Tagged ‘historical fiction’

the-secret-language-of-stones

Source: Review copy from Atria
Rating: ★★★★★

In our war-torn world, no one believed in enchantments. They thought witches and spells and conjurers were the stuff of fairy tales. The only mystery anyone still believed in were ghosts.

(from The Secret Language of Stones)

Quick summary: M.J. Rose’s latest novel, The Secret Language of Stones, is set in Paris during World War I and is told through the point of view of Opaline Duplessi, a young jewelry maker who spends much of her time crafting talismans for women who lost loved ones in battle. Weighed down by guilt over the death of a friend, Opaline fled the life her parents planned for her in America to use her gifts to help these women in their grief. She can receive messages from beyond through the energy emanating from gemstones, which is haunting enough by itself, but then Jean Luc, a dead soldier whose mother has turned to Opaline’s magic for comfort, speaks to her directly. As she struggles to come to terms with her powers and her feelings for Jean Luc, her gift and her connection to the Orloffs, who own the shop where she works, take her to England — and to the exiled dowager empress anxious to learn the fate of the Romanovs.

Why I wanted to read it: I’ve been a huge fan of Rose’s for several years, and I certainly couldn’t pass up the chance to read a novel about World War I and the occult. How intriguing! Also, even though this is the second book in The Daughters of La Lune series, it’s a standalone novel; now I need to go back and read The Witch of Painted Sorrows, which is the story of Opaline’s mother.

What I liked: I was held captive by this novel from the very first sentence: “Every morning the pavement in front of our shop in the Palais Royal is washed clean by the tears of the mothers of dead soldiers, widowed wives, and heartsick lovers.” Right away it becomes obvious that Rose is truly a painter of words. Rose’s vivid descriptions bring Opaline, and Paris, to life. I was fascinated by the historical aspects of the novel, particularly how the massive losses during the war prompted grieving women to seek out people like Opaline and how an old ban on fortune telling was enforced because these women were being preyed upon by charlatans. Rose skillfully weaves together Opaline’s powers with the history of the war and the Bolshevik Revolution and even a ghostly love story.

What I disliked: Nothing! It was a beautifully written page-turner from start to finish, and one of my favorite books I’ve read this year.

Final thoughts: The Secret Language of Stones is M.J. Rose at her best. There are so many layers to this story, and the characters and descriptions are so well done that I wasn’t ready for it to end. The historical and supernatural elements are so well combined that I never once doubted them as I read. Rose is a fantastic storyteller, and The Secret Language of Stones is a definite on my Best of 2016 list.

Thanks to France Book Tours for having me on the tour for The Secret Language of Stones. To learn more about the book, follow the tour, and enter the giveaway, click the banner below.

the-secret-language-of-stones-banner

Disclosure: I received The Secret Language of Stones from Atria for review.

© 2016 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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Liebeslied-Final-Kindle

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

Why did I have to wait until marriage–until I was a mother–to be able to say I’d contributed to society in a meaningful way? I couldn’t fight on the front lines like my brother; I couldn’t work overnight like my mother since I was in school; I knew nothing about the construction of airplanes. I felt the sudden urge to ask my mother what she thought I could do before hearing her voice in my head say, “Make my life easier. That’s what you could do.”

(from Love Song (Liebeslied))

Quick summary: In 1944 Virginia, Cassie Wyndham is 16 years old and wants to matter to someone. The only one who seems to appreciate her is Lucy, her 2-year-old sister. Her father is always away from home running the family business, and her mother is constantly berating her. Her brother, Amos, the apple of her mother’s eye, was the only one who could redirect her mother’s bullying, but he’s gone off to fight, leaving Cassie to fend for herself. Between taking care of her sister and avoiding her mother, Cassie volunteers for a ministry program at a nearby POW camp, where she meets Friedrich Naumann. Despite their obvious differences in both beliefs and circumstances, the two are drawn to one another. Tensions run high amidst the losses of war and a fractured family, and Cassie and Friedrich must keep their relationship secret. But secrets in the wrong hands tend to be revealed, with dramatic consequences.

Why I wanted to read it: I’ve been a fan of Baumgartner’s writing since I started reading her Sophia’s War series. Her obvious love of World War II history and detailed research shine through in her novels.

What I liked: I loved how Baumgartner told the story in the first person through Cassie’s eyes. I really got to know Cassie, and I hadn’t read far before I’d grown to love her. She felt real to me, from the tumultuous emotions of adolescence to her desire to find a purpose. And given that she’s my daughter’s age, I had a hard time with how her mother treated her, and I just wanted to give her a hug. Baumgartner did a great job developing Cassie and Freidrich’s relationship, making it believable, and even though I didn’t like Cassie’s parents very much, Baumgartner skillfully crafted them into complicated and even sympathetic characters. I haven’t read much about the POW camps in the United States, so I found it fascinating that programs were established to talk to the German POWs about Christianity. (For more about Baumgartner’s research on this and the inspiration for Love Song (Liebeslied), check out her guest post here.) Cassie’s faith is important to her and the plot, but Baumgartner doesn’t make the Bible study meetings sound too preachy. In fact, the questions that Cassie and Friedrich are expected to discuss reveal a lot about their characters and further their friendship.

What I disliked: Although Love Song (Liebeslied) is the first book in the Captive Hearts Trilogy, the ending is satisfying. However, I wish I could immediately dive into the next installment!

Final thoughts: Love Song (Liebeslied)is a story about a young girl’s efforts to break free from the oppression of her family, to find herself and her purpose in life, and the love that helps her accomplish this. The impossible relationship at the core of the novel is one that readers can’t help but root for. Baumgartner has created a novel with many layers and complexities, and it is so much more than a romance. Love Song (Liebeslied) is Baumgartner’s best novel yet (and I’ve really enjoyed all of her novels so far), and I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next.

Disclosure: I received Love Song (Liebeslied) from the author for review.

© 2016 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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I’m really looking forward to reading The Munich Girl by Phyllis Edgerly Ring in a few months. Those who know me know how fascinated I am with stories about World War II, and I admit that I’ve always been curious about Eva Braun. In the meantime, I am delighted to welcome Phyllis to Diary of an Eccentric today to share her inspiration for The Munich Girl. She also is generously offering a giveaway to my readers. So please give Phyllis a warm welcome, and stay tuned for my review!

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munichgirl_card_frontAnna Dahlberg grew up eating dinner under her father’s war-trophy portrait of Eva Braun. Fifty years after the war, she discovers what he never did—that her mother and Hitler’s mistress were friends. The secret surfaces with a mysterious monogrammed handkerchief, and a man, Hannes Ritter, whose Third-Reich family history is entwined with her own.

As Anna learns more about the “ordinary” Munich girl who became a tyrant’s lover, and her mother’s confidante, she retraces a friendship that began when two lonely teenagers forged a bond that endured through the war, though the men they loved had opposing ambitions. Anna finds her every belief about right and wrong challenged as she realizes that she has suppressed her own life in much the way Hitler’s mistress did. Ultimately she and Hannes discover how the love in one friendship echoes on in two families until it unites them at last.

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Along the path of The Munich Girl, I’m repeatedly asked what led me to write a novel that includes Hitler’s mistress (and eventual wife) as a character. It reminds me of what so many asked after the war, after her death, when the role Eva Braun had played in his life came to light: “Why her, of all people? Just an ordinary Munich girl?”

Had people plumbed that question more deeply, they’d discover that she’s a key to understanding much more about the man who, despite the evil he represents (or perhaps because of it), has occupied collective consciousness for more than 70 years.

My husband and I were each military brats whose families lived in German when we were kids. German people were still recovering from the war, and were also some of the kindest people I knew. Quite naturally, as a writer, I inevitably wanted to understand more about Germany’s experience during the war.

1783274_eva-braun-adolf-hitlerMy trail began in an unexpected way with a biography of Eva Braun written by British-German writer Angela Lambert. I was struck by what an emblem Braun’s life seemed of what so many women do, and have done in a world still hobbled by inequality. Unable to enact their own potential in a direct way, they resort to doing so from the invisible sidelines and background. In Eva Braun’s case, that public invisibility lasted the entire 16 years she spent with Hitler.

Ironically, much of what was assumed and conveyed about her was based on presumed understanding about Hitler, when, in fact, more complete and accurate facts about her can help us better understand him. Because she was considered so insignificant in her time, she was allowed to film the visual evidence that proved — though he publicly denied it — that the Führer did, indeed, have a private life. One he never would have had without her. And without her films and photos, we’d know a lot less about him. As I watched those films and examined her photo albums in the U.S. National Archives, I felt an unmistakable lightness and joie de vivre in her that contrasted with the struggle and despair I heard in the pages of her diary.

In the course of my research I also encountered documents from testimony at the Nuremberg Trials that describe an action she took in the last week of her life that saved tens of thousands of Allied prisoners of war, something she likely did to protect Hitler’s reputation. I subsequently learned that among those who were saved were two members of my British mother’s family. That discovery was definitely a turning point for me.

crop Adolf-Hitler-und-Eva-BraunThe story of The Munich Girl is about many things beyond Eva Braun and the time of the war in Germany. It is a story of a woman’s quest to discover why there was a portrait of Hitler’s mistress hanging in her family’s dining room, and what connection Braun had with her family. It is also about how women share our lives with each other, the power of our friendships, and the way we protect each other’s vulnerabilities, perhaps as part of how we begin to gain compassion.

At its heart, it is a story about outlasting life’s chaos and confusion by valuing, and believing in, the ultimate triumph of the good that we are willing to contribute to building, together. Part of our ability to do that, I’ve come to believe, rests in being able to recognize that human beings aren’t usually all good, or all bad, but a complex mix of where our experience, understanding, and choices have led us. When we can begin to accept this, we can empower both others and ourselves. The Munich Girl is ultimately about the eventual homecoming we must all make to our truest self, and the role that others often mysteriously play in that process.

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Thanks, Phyllis! I’m very curious about what the Nuremberg documents revealed, and it must’ve been a shock to discover the connection to your own family. You’ve made me even more excited to read The Munich Girl!

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AUTHOR BIO

phyllis ringPhyllis Edgerly Ring lives in New England and returns as often as she can to her childhood home in Germany. She has studied plant sciences and ecology, worked as a nurse, been a magazine writer and editor, taught English to kindergartners in China, and frequently serves as workshop facilitator and coach for others’ writing projects. Her published work includes fiction and inspirational nonfiction.

Connect with Phyllis on her blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads. Check out her Amazon page.

To buy The Munich Girl, visit Amazon (U.S.), Amazon (Canada), Amazon (U.K.), and Amazon (Australia). Take advantage of the Kindle Solstice sale!

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GIVEAWAY

Phyllis is generously offering two copies of The Munich Girl to my readers, Kindle copies for international winners and a choice between the print or Kindle version for U.S. winners. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address, your desired book format, and what intrigues you most about Eva Braun and The Munich Girl. This giveaway will close on Wednesday, June 29. The winners will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck, and as always, thanks for stopping by!

© 2016 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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I’m delighted to welcome Cat Gardiner back to Diary of an Eccentric today to celebrate the release of her latest novel, A Moment Forever. Cat is here to share an excerpt from the novel and has a fantastic giveaway for my readers. Please give Cat a warm welcome, and stay tuned for my review of A Moment Forever later this summer!

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A Moment Forever Cover LARGE EBOOK

In the summer of 1992, a young writer is bequeathed the abandoned home of a great-uncle she never knew. The house has a romantic history and is unlike any home she has ever seen. Juliana Martel felt as though she stepped into a time capsule—a snapshot of 1942. The epic romance—and heartache—of the former occupant unfold through reading his wartime letters found in the attic, compelling her on a quest to construct the man. His life, as well as his sweetheart’s, during the Second World War were as mysterious as his disappearance in 1950.

Carrying her own pain inflicted by the abandonment of her mother and unexpected death of her father, Juliana embarks on a journalist’s dream to find her great-uncle and the woman he once loved. Inadvertently uncovering the carefully hidden events of his and others’ lives, she will ultimately change her own.

This story of undying love, born amidst the darkest era in modern history, unfolded on the breathtaking Gold Coast of Long Island in 1942. A Jewish, Army Air Forces pilot and an enchanting society debutante—young lovers—deception—and a moment in time that lasted forever.

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Where did yesterday go? It’s hard to imagine that my own past is considered 20th Century historical nonfiction! It’s true! Those early years that I spent as a secretary, when I had learned to type 60 wpm on an IBM Selectric and took Gregg Shorthand dictation, were blips on a timeline, replaced by word processors and memo recorders. E-mail had been only a thought, and mobile phones were so large that they were in bags.

In this excerpt, I’d like to take you to our 1992 heroine, Juliana Martel, a junior style writer for the new fashion magazine, Allure. Following the discoveries made within her newly inherited home, she visits her editor with a fascinating proposal—a human interest article. Let’s take a look and see if she makes a convincing argument why a romance in 1942 is worth a second look in 1992.

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“So, what brings you in to see me on this beautiful day?”

Juliana reached into her bag and removed the box, resting it at the edge of the desk. She noted Maxine’s piqued interest focusing at what was written along the sides of the pretty blue box in black, block letters that caused her to tilt her head to read, “William and Lizzy—My Dearest Darling.”

“William?”

Juliana nervously chuckled. “Yes, and he’s the story I’d like to tell, but I need your help.”

Maxine tapped her Sharpie marker upon the desk and the slick images of Claudia Schiffer and Cindy Crawford. “Do tell. Do tell.”

“It’s a World War Two love story.”

The editor dropped her marker, the creative wheels in her brain turned at the possibilities. “Oh yes, I can see it—in love with the clothing … the elegance even during the ration. Gloves, hats, half-moon manicures, no hosiery, and hand sewed garments. The return to the basics of beauty.”

Ten fisted fingers burst in punctuation. “Here’s your hook: How to obtain an effortless, stylish look on a shoestring budget! How to resemble an MGM starlet during the Golden Age of Hollywood and return to an era of feminine allure and mystique. Rita Hayworth, Veronica Lake, and Brooklyn’s own Gene Tierney—the young bride of Oleg Cassini, fashion designer to the stars!”

Maxine’s voice rose with passionate excitement at the idea. “The hair! Oh the hair! Victory Rolls! All leading up to the pinnacle of post-war change in fashion: ‘The New Look’ by Dior. Yes! Ushering in short hair, cinched waists, full skirts, and luxurious fabrics in a romantic French explosion of sophisticated style. Julie—you are brilliant!”

Disheartened, Juliana responded with a slight grimace of embarrassment. “No, it’s not a fashion love story—it’s a human interest love story—an honest to goodness wartime romantic relationship—sweethearts.”

Maxine’s reply fell flat, deflated with the wind completely knocked out of her sails. “Oh.”

“I know it isn’t something we normally feature, but I’m sure this piece I’m working on could very well be an excellent F.O.B. An article such as this at the front of the magazine could segue into the feature well, covering your idea. I believe in the power of this story between this young couple and … and I intend on finding out what happened to them at the end of my research, which could very well mean a follow up feature story in another issue. Maybe during November for Veteran’s Day or on the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Battle of Peleliu.”

“The battle of what? Julie, we’re a fashion magazine. The only battles we face are those of wrinkles and fat.” Maxine chuckled. “Well, so, I guess the Battle of the Bulge may well be an appropriate topic. Perhaps, we could compromise if you’re insistent on a World War Two hook.” She laughed at her joke. “Get it? Battle of the Bulge?”

Juliana shrugged a shoulder. She had never heard of the Battle of the Bulge.

Maxine slid June’s mock-up cover in front of her friend. “I’m sorry, hon, but see here … ‘Split-Second Beauty’, ‘Diet Doctor.’ Allure offers trends, cosmetics, fashion and hair, an insider’s guide to a woman’s image. That’s what we do. We try to make people feel good about themselves, and if they don’t we tell them how to do so. The closest we get to a love story is how to have an explosive orgasm or how to strip for your man in twelve easy to follow moves.”

Like her editor, Juliana simply replied, “Oh.”

Maxine opened the box and pulled out the thick stack of letters. “Is this your story?”

“Only the surface. The house I was given is at the heart of it. These are the wartime letters to my great-uncle from his girlfriend and his family. I’ve only read a couple, and they are starting to fill in tiny blanks. I’d like to travel to some of the places written on the pages and see if I can connect the dots about this fantastic, heartbreaking love affair. It’s a mystery of sorts.” Juliana swallowed hard. “I’d like to concentrate on this story, Max. It’s … it’s important to me.”

“Why do you assume it’s heartbreaking?”

“Because as far as I know, they never married, or … worse … she died. See why I have to know?”

Fanning the tied fifty-year old letters, the professional in Maxine couldn’t deny the appeal to uncover a good mystery not just for her magazine but for herself, too. Not to mention everyone loved a heart-tugging story about a veteran. She gazed up at Juliana’s stylish charcoal suit. “That pin you’re wearing, is it authentic?”

Juliana fingered the cool edge of William’s pilot wings secured below her shoulder. “Yes, they were William’s.” She raised an eyebrow. “Why? Are you interested? Is there something pulling you toward this story? You see it don’t you?”

“Perhaps.” Maxine slid a letter from the top of the stack and admired the fine penmanship. She ran her finger over the salutation. “This is lovely stationery. Expensive.” She thoughtfully sighed. “I fear the day when this ‘so called’ electronic mail Bill Gates talks about comes along. You’ll see, before long, no one will write letters or even pick up the telephone to say hello. I shudder at what we will become. Hmm … I shudder at what will become of the memory and stories of the Silent Generation.”

She held out the letter to her friend. “May I read it?”

A sly, knowing smile appeared on Juliana’s lips. “Sure, knock yourself out.”

“June 8, 1942

Dear William,

What a delightful surprise it was to receive your letter, especially since I was under the impression that you did not wish an acquaintance. I was sure you interpreted my letter as too forward, even—dare I say—pushy! I have been told, on occasion, that I can be quite relentless in getting my way, but in your case, I was prepared to accept that you weren’t interested. So, with a resounding YES, I would love to meet you at four o’clock, Saturday, June 13 beside the lion at the Public Library closest to 42nd Street! Just look for the girl with a beaming smile of anticipation, that’ll be me.

I am so excited about attending the New York at War Parade on the arm of such a dashing pilot. Are you sure your marching will have completed by then since the parade travels such a long way up Fifth Avenue? Rest assured, I will wait with bells on until your arrival downtown. My sister will be marching with the ARC. Perhaps, we can send your brother a snapshot should we get a glimpse of her. I am so proud of her, and I imagine you are just as proud of Louie. I’m looking forward to hearing any news you have about his destination. Oh, does that fall under ‘careless talk’? Never mind then.

My other sister, Kitty and I have embarked on quite the endeavor since we met you on Memorial Day. I bet you’ll be surprised to learn that we have officially begun a nylon stocking drive because you know how we debs just love our hosiery! Now if I can only get them to donate then I’ll really have something to boast about. However, I do think our other venture may be a bit more realistic. We have decided to volunteer for the Victory Book Campaign through our local library. These old homes around here must all have libraries filled with hundreds of unread, like-new books, and it is our hope to get our neighbors to part with them for the war effort. I plan on visiting our librarian, Mrs. Tinsdale to discuss our ideas. In a way, I feel as though it is my first real job interview, and I’m very excited!

I wonder, do you enjoy reading? I do. I find it a fantastic escape and now that the Zephyr is in the repair shop, I am thoroughly engrossed in an Agatha Christie novel. I simply adore crime, mystery, and suspense. Once, I stayed awake until the wee hours of the morning just to finish, “Murder on the Orient Express.” That was one of the most suspenseful books I have read.

Well, Lieutenant Ducky Shincracker, I look forward to a swell afternoon spent in your company. Thank you for your letter and the invitation for a date. Don’t worry about my travels into the city. I’ll be taking the 1:15 train from Glen Cove—see I do take public transportation! Ha! If you change your mind, which I sincerely hope you don’t but am sure you won’t (remember I’m an optimist,) my telephone number is ORiole-67126.

Sincerely,

Lizzy”

Maxine lowered the letter. “Ducky shincracker? Oh, I like her—a girl going after what she wants and she wants him. It sounds as though she’s trying to impress him. Any indication of his feelings for her? By the sound of it, he wasn’t too gung ho at first. Are any of his letters in this stack? It would be great if we can hear his voice.”

“I haven’t gone through them all. As far as I can see from the first few, they are mostly hers and placed in chronological order. I’d like to read them as such so I can experience the development of their relationship. I know how he felt about Lizzy. My uncle was head over heels in love. There is a shrine to her sitting on my fireplace mantle that I haven’t had the heart to remove.”

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Thank you, Anna for hosting me and A Moment Forever on its blog tour. I am, once again, honored to visit with your readers. I’d love to hear some of their reflections on how things have changed in just the short time of 24 years. Is Maxine correct in her prophesying about the lost art of letter writing and communication? Have we lost something or are we more connected than ever? And what of Lizzy’s volunteering for the Victory Book Drive? Certainly technology and modern advances have changed how we read books and their ready accessibility, but what about for our servicemembers today?

I’d like to offer a special swag for Diary of an Eccentric domestic (U.S.) entries.
• One e-Book A Moment Forever
• Decorative vintage-style picture frame
• Bath & Body Works Paris lotion and shower gel
• Paris Decorative soap and box
A Moment Forever bookmark
• Delft Blue swan

One A Moment Forever e-book for International entries

Giveaway details: To enter to win Cat’s generous giveaway, please leave a comment with your email address, let me know if you’re entering the U.S. or the international giveaway, and reflect on Cat’s questions about the lost art of letter writing. This giveaway will close on Sunday, June 26. The winners will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post. Good luck, and as always, thanks for stopping by!

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Check out A Moment Forever on Amazon and Goodreads. Visit Cat’s website and 1940s Pinterest board, as well as A Moment Forever‘s Spotify playlist and blog.

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June 15: Austenesque Reviews (Interview)
June 17: Of Pens & Pages (Review)
June 18: Romantasy Through the Ages (Guest Post)
June 20: Diary of an Eccentric (Excerpt)
June 24: Savvy Verse & Wit (Guest Post)
July 29:  Goodreads Sofa Chat w/ Sophia Rose
Aug. 3:  True Book Addict (Guest Post)
Aug. 9:  So Little Time… (Guest Post)
Aug. 11: Impressions in Ink (Review)
Aug. 16: The Calico Critic (Guest Post & Giveaway)
Aug. 23: Margie’s Must Reads (Review)
Aug. 29: Jorie Loves a Story (Review)
Aug. 30: Celticlady’s Book Reviews (Review)
Aug. 31: Jorie Loves a Story (Interview)

© 2016 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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the girl from the paradise ballroom

Source: Review copy from Broadway Books
Rating: ★★★★☆

For an instant, as he opened his throat, he feared the sound would be lost in the clatter of the ballroom. Then his own voice soared, swelling through the air like a sirocco. Slowly the faces turned toward him: not only the Italians but the stewards, the British soldiers, the refugees, the Nazis. Little by little the Hitler Youth anthem died away. Antonio was filled with hope, a sense of rightness. This is what I am for, he thought. This is what I was born to do.

(from The Girl from the Paradise Ballroom)

Quick summary: In The Girl from the Paradise Ballroom, a chance meeting between a struggling British dancer, Olivia, and an Italian singer, Antonio, changes their lives forever. When they meet again, Antonio has agreed to take singing lessons from an Austrian refugee, and he learns that his wealthy patron is Olivia’s new husband. They must navigate their attraction to one another as Olivia sees cracks in her marriage and Antonio deals with trouble at home, as his wife begins to mirror his brother’s strong support for Mussolini and the Fascist Party. Set in England before and after World War II, Alison Love paints a portrait of the immigrant experience as fear and chaos erupt during wartime.

Why I wanted to read it: I’m a sucker for a World War II novel with a striking cover!

What I liked: Before The Girl from the Paradise Ballroom, I had never read about the experiences of the Italian community in Britain and how many were swept up in the rise of fascism as an expression of pride in their nationality. Antonio works hard to support his family, helping at his father’s cigarette kiosk during the day and singing in clubs at night. He resists his brother’s push to join the Fascist Party, and he sees the way the refugees fleeing the Nazis are treated and is not surprised that after Mussolini joins the war, the British government begins arresting foreigners in droves. Love does a great job showing how the tensions related to the war built up and then exploded into riots and how this fear lead to the mistreatment of refugees and immigrants. I also liked her portrayal of the strong female characters, especially Filomena, Antonio’s sister, who falls in love with an Englishman despite her family’s plan for an arranged marriage. When everything seems to be going wrong for Filomena, she summons her strength and courage and moves forward.

What I disliked: I had a hard time buying into Antonio and Olivia’s relationship. I just didn’t feel the chemistry between them. There was so much going on in this novel that the historical aspects overshadowed the love story, and that was okay with me because I thought that part of the book was more interesting.

Final thoughts: The Girl from the Paradise Ballroom brings to life the Italian experience in England during World War II. Although I didn’t feel the passion between Antonio and Olivia, I thought they were interesting characters, and I enjoyed reading their stories. Even with their love story taking a back seat for me, there was more than enough depth to this novel to keep me entertained and invested in the characters.

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for having me on the blog tour for The Girl from the Paradise Ballroom.

Disclosure: I received The Girl from the Paradise Ballroom from Broadway Books for review.

© 2016 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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FRONT COVER The Seven Year Dress KINDLE(1) copyI am thrilled to announce the release of Paulette Mahurin’s latest novel, The Seven Year Dress. I became a fan of Mahurin’s in 2012 when I read The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap. I loved Mahurin’s strong characters and ability to set the scene, so I was excited to learn about The Seven Year Dress, which I will be reading and reviewing this summer.

In the meantime, I’d like to share with you a little about Paulette and her new release, and she is generously offering a giveaway to my readers.

BOOK BLURB

One of the darkest times in human history was the insane design and execution to rid the world of Jews and “undesirables.” At the hands of the powerful evil madman Adolf Hitler, families were ripped apart and millions were slaughtered. Persecution, torture, devastation, and enduring the unthinkable remained for those who lived. This is the story of one woman who lived to tell her story. This is a narrative of how a young beautiful teenager, Helen Stein, and her family were torn asunder, ultimately bringing her to Auschwitz. It was there she suffered heinous indignity at the hands of the SS. It was also there, in that death camp, she encountered compassion, selfless acts of kindness, and friendship. Written by the award winning, best selling author of His Name Was Ben, comes a story of the resilience of the human spirit that will leave you thinking about Helen Stein and The Seven Year Dress for years to come after the last page is shut.

“Mahurin skillfully intertwines fact into fiction in this story of death and survival, of hate and ultimately love. The brutality as Jews were isolated and persecuted; the horror of life in the concentration camps – all come into sharp focus rich with historical detail.” — Carol Bodensteiner author of Go Away Home

GIVEAWAY

Paulette is kindly offering one Kindle copy of The Seven Year Dress to my readers. To enter, please leave a comment with your email address telling me what intrigues you most about Paulette’s novels. This giveaway will close Wednesday, June 8. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the comments section of this post.

AUTHOR BIO

Paulette Mahurin lives with her husband Terry and two dogs, Max and Bella, in Ventura County, California. She grew up in West Los Angeles and attended UCLA, where she received a Master’s Degree in Science.

While in college, she won awards and was published for her short-story writing. One of these stories, Something Wonderful, was based on the couple presented in His Name Was Ben, which she expanded into a fictionalized novel in 2014. Her first novel, The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap, made it to Amazon bestseller lists and won awards, including best historical fiction of the year 2012 in Turning the Pages Magazine. Her third novel, To Live Out Loud, won international critical acclaim and made it to multiple sites as favorite read book of 2015.

Semi-retired, she continues to work part-time as a Nurse Practitioner in Ventura County. When she’s not writing, she does pro-bono consultation work with women with cancer, works in the Westminster Free Clinic as a volunteer provider, volunteers as a mediator in the Ventura County Courthouse for small claims cases, and involves herself, along with her husband, in dog rescue.

Profits from her books go to help rescue dogs from kill shelters.

You can learn more about Mahurin’s novels on her Amazon page.

© 2016 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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tasa's song

Source: Review copy from Caitlin Hamilton Marketing
Rating: ★★★★☆

As she drew out the deepest of notes and boldest of chords, from lightly melodic to sharp and unyielding, and the song asserted its melancholic voice, she felt her tears fall, unrestrained, down her cheeks.

(from Tasa’s Song)

Quick summary: Tasa’s Song spans the years 1933-1947 and follows Tasa Rosinski, whose peaceful life in Eastern Poland is torn apart by war. Linda Kass, inspired by her mother’s childhood, tells the tale of a young Jewish girl whose passion for music and the violin, the happy memories of her parents, and the love of her cousin, Danik, help her stay strong as the war leaves her without a home and forces her fractured family underground.

Why I wanted to read it: I have a weakness for World War II novels, especially those set in Europe and with a strong female character in the lead.

What I liked: Kass opens the novel with Tasa’s family having to run from the approaching Germans and then takes readers back in time, when Tasa’s father was so sure that the political turmoil following the rise of Hitler would leave their village and their lives unaffected. Kass does a fantastic job developing the characters of Tasa and Danik as they leave their small village for an education in Brody and the warm home of Frau Rothstein and then are brought back together by the war and find solace in their love for one another. Shortly after Germany declares war on Poland, Tasa’s village and the surrounding area become part of the Ukrainian Republic, and Kass shows the confusion and the chaos over the course of the war as control of the area frequently changes hands between the Germans and the Soviets.

What I disliked: The novel opens with a bang, but quickly backtracks to Tasa’s childhood and then moves forward chronologically, and that slowed the pace a bit. There also was a bit too much description in spots, particularly at the beginning, but somewhere around page 60-70, I finally felt invested in the characters, and the pace picked up. It didn’t prevent me from enjoying and appreciating the novel, especially since I really enjoyed Kass’ writing overall. It might’ve just been my mood at the time, so I’m so glad I kept on reading!

Final thoughts: Tasa’s Song shows the various changes that occurred in Europe in the years before the war and how signs of trouble brewing were visible but not always taken seriously. The novel emphasizes everyday life in wartime, how people became immune to the sounds of the fighting after a time, how they waited for months or years to receive letters from loved ones, and the moments of hope that shone through the dark clouds of loss. Despite all that Tasa endures, she never gives up, never stops fighting, and never stops hearing the music inside of her. She is definitely a character I won’t soon forget.

Disclosure: I received Tasa’s Song from Caitlin Hamilton Marketing for review.

© 2016 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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