Tuesday, January 16, 2018

TLC BOOK TOURS and REVIEW: The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck

Synopsis

Three women, haunted by the past and the secrets they hold

Set at the end of World War II, in a crumbling Bavarian castle that once played host to all of German high society, a powerful and propulsive story of three widows whose lives and fates become intertwined—an affecting, shocking, and ultimately redemptive novel from the author of the New York Times Notable Book The Hazards of Good Breeding.

 Amid the ashes of Nazi Germany’s defeat, Marianne von Lingenfels returns to the once-grand castle of her husband’s ancestors, an imposing stone fortress now fallen into ruin following years of war. The widow of a resister murdered in the failed July 20, 1944, plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler, Marianne plans to uphold the promise she made to her husband’s brave conspirators: to find and protect their wives, her fellow resistance widows.

First Marianne rescues six-year-old Martin, the son of her dearest childhood friend, from a Nazi reeducation home. Together, they make their way across the smoldering wreckage of their homeland to Berlin, where Martin’s mother, the beautiful and naive Benita, has fallen into the hands of occupying Red Army soldiers. Then she locates Ania, another resister’s wife, and her two boys, now refugees languishing in one of the many camps that house the millions displaced by the war.

As Marianne assembles this makeshift family from the ruins of her husband’s resistance movement, she is certain their shared pain and circumstances will hold them together. But she quickly discovers that the black-and-white, highly principled world of her privileged past has become infinitely more complicated, filled with secrets and dark passions that threaten to tear them apart. Eventually, all three women must come to terms with the choices that have defined their lives before, during, and after the war—each with their own unique share of challenges.

Written with the devastating emotional power of The Nightingale, Sarah’s Key, and The Light Between Oceans, Jessica Shattuck’s evocative and utterly enthralling novel offers a fresh perspective on one of the most tumultuous periods in history. Combining piercing social insight and vivid historical atmosphere, The Women in the Castle is a dramatic yet nuanced portrait of war and its repercussions that explores what it means to survive, love, and, ultimately, to forgive in the wake of unimaginable hardship.


Paperback, 368 pages
Published March 28th 2017 by William Morrow
ISBN 0062663453 (ISBN13: 9780062663450)


About the Author


Jessica Shattuck is the New York Times bestselling author of The Women in the Castle, The Hazards of Good Breeding, a New York Times Notable Book and finalist for the PEN/Winship Award, and Perfect Life. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, The New Yorker, Glamour, Mother Jones, and Wired, among other publications.

Check out the author's website

Connect with the author on Facebook






My Thoughts
The day of the countess's famous harvest party began with a driving rain that hammered down on all the ancient von Lingenfels castle's sore spots-- springing leaks, dampening floors, and turning its yellow facade a slick, beetle-like black.
Marianne is the widow of a "resister"-- a member of the German Resistance that fought against the rise of Hitler and attempted to assassinate him. Marianne's childhood friend Connie is a fellow resister, and he promises him that if anything should happen to him, she will watch over his fiance and the child she is carrying.

Fast forward about seven years to find Marianne taking in Benita and her son after the war, and later joining with another woman Ania and her children. They all live together in the old abandoned castle at Burg Lingenfels. Left damaged and unsure by the war, they have come together to build themselves up once again.

Marianne is a strong woman, perhaps even controlling at times. She can be meddlesome and will happily put others to work, doling out assignments and orders. But she has good intentions, and beneath the tough exterior there is a kindness and generosity.

Benita is pretty and delicate-- too pretty for the life of an uneducated peasant in a small village. and she was the little girl who dreamed of being a princess. And one day she met her prince in Connie Fledermann, longtime friend of Marianne's. Marianne is a bit bristled over Connie's engagement to the beautiful and delicate flower and doesn't understand what he sees in her. But he makes her promise to take care of Benita and their child if anything should happen to him. Which, of course, it does, as this story is about the widows of the resisters.

However Marianne was something of a resister herself. She played her part, if not as large a part as her husband Albrecht and Connie. But she is, after all, just a woman. And that is why she lives to be a widow.

Later after she and Benita are settled in at the castle, Marianne learns of another widow Ania Grabarek and sets out to locate her and bring her to the castle for shelter and safety as well. Ania is serious and matter-of-fact. She tends to be obedient and diligent. As a young girl she had dreams of something more, but conscribed herself to a life of drudgery and compliance.

And there in that old drafty castle the three women lived with their six children, raising them together, and becoming a family.

I would like to thank TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour. Check out the website for the full tour schedule:

Tuesday, January 9th: A Bookish Way of Life
Monday, January 15th: 100 Pages a Day…Stephanie’s Book Reviews
Tuesday, January 16th: Cerebral Girl in a Redneck World
Friday, January 19th: History from a Woman’s Perspective
Monday, January 22nd: BookNAround
Wednesday, January 31st: Lit.Wit.Wine.Dine.
Wednesday, January 31st: A Literary Vacation
Monday, February 5th: Instagram: @_literary_dreamer_
Wednesday, February 7th: Instagram: @Novelmombooks and Novel Mom
Thursday, February 8th: Write – Read – Life
Monday, February 12th: Jessicamap Reviews
TBD: 5 Minutes For Books


My final word: I did like this book! I liked the characters, seeing the different aspects of the events surrounding the rise of Hitler, and the different types of people that played a part-- the Nazis, the resisters, the apathetic and self-absorbed, the cowards, the heroes. They all played a part. I enjoyed the author's writing style, the  history lesson wrapped up in a story about humanity. The attempt to explain how it happened, as we who are part of the post-WWII world with hindsight at hand are left to wonder how they could have ever let this happen. I think this story is a pretty good example of how it happened.

The characters are hit-and-miss. With the widows, there were times in their lives when I liked them and others when I didn't. This story bookends the war and the years following the war with glimpses into what these widows came from and where they ended up at the end of their lives.

There have been a lot of books about Hitler and the Holocaust, but I like the unique look this one takes at how the Holocaust was ever allowed to happen, and the contrast of the compliance and resistance. Definitely recommended!

Buy Now:

HarperCollins
Barnes & Noble
Amazon

Cover: A-
Writing Style: A
Characters: A+
Storyline/Plot: A
Interest/Uniqueness: A

My Rating:









The Cerebral Girl is a forty-something blogger just digging her way out from under a mountain of books in the deep south of Florida.

I received a copy of this book to review through TLC Book Tours and the publisher, in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not financially compensated in any way, and the opinions expressed are my own and based on my observations while reading this novel. The book that I received was an uncorrected proof, and quotes could differ from the final release.  

Monday, January 15, 2018

Mailbox Monday (1/15/18 edition)

 Image licensed from bigstockphoto.com
Copyright stands

Mailbox Monday is hosted here. I've received a few new books recently:


Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Caroline Fraser

 The first comprehensive historical biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder, the beloved author of the Little House on the Prairie books

One of The New York Times Book Review's 10 Best Books of the Year

Millions of readers of Little House on the Prairie believe they know Laura Ingalls—the pioneer girl who survived blizzards and near-starvation on the Great Plains, and the woman who wrote the famous autobiographical books. But the true saga of her life has never been fully told. Now, drawing on unpublished manuscripts, letters, diaries, and land and financial records, Caroline Fraser—the editor of the Library of America edition of the Little House series—masterfully fills in the gaps in Wilder’s biography. Revealing the grown-up story behind the most influential childhood epic of pioneer life, she also chronicles Wilder's tumultuous relationship with her journalist daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, setting the record straight regarding charges of ghostwriting that have swirled around the books.

The Little House books, for all the hardships they describe, are paeans to the pioneer spirit, portraying it as triumphant against all odds. But Wilder’s real life was harder and grittier than that, a story of relentless struggle, rootlessness, and poverty. It was only in her sixties, after losing nearly everything in the Great Depression, that she turned to children’s books, recasting her hardscrabble childhood as a celebratory vision of homesteading—and achieving fame and fortune in the process, in one of the most astonishing rags-to-riches episodes in American letters.

Spanning nearly a century of epochal change, from the Indian Wars to the Dust Bowl, Wilder’s dramatic life provides a unique perspective on American history and our national mythology of self-reliance. With fresh insights and new discoveries, Prairie Fires reveals the complex woman whose classic stories grip us to this day.


Hardcover, 640 pages
Published November 21st 2017 by Metropolitan Books (first published November 14th 2017)
ISBN 1627792767 (ISBN13: 9781627792769)





I Was Told to Come Alone: My Journey Behind the Lines of Jihad by Souad Mekhennet

“I was told to come alone. I was not to carry any identification, and would have to leave my cell phone, audio recorder, watch, and purse at my hotel. . . .”

For her whole life, Souad Mekhennet, a reporter for The Washington Post who was born and educated in Germany, has had to balance the two sides of her upbringing – Muslim and Western. She has also sought to provide a mediating voice between these cultures, which too often misunderstand each other.

In this compelling and evocative memoir, we accompany Mekhennet as she journeys behind the lines of jihad, starting in the German neighborhoods where the 9/11 plotters were radicalized and the Iraqi neighborhoods where Sunnis and Shia turned against one another, and culminating on the Turkish/Syrian border region where ISIS is a daily presence. In her travels across the Middle East and North Africa, she documents her chilling run-ins with various intelligence services and shows why the Arab Spring never lived up to its promise. She then returns to Europe, first in London, where she uncovers the identity of the notorious ISIS executioner “Jihadi John,” and then in France, Belgium, and her native Germany, where terror has come to the heart of Western civilization.

Mekhennet’s background has given her unique access to some of the world’s most wanted men, who generally refuse to speak to Western journalists. She is not afraid to face personal danger to reach out to individuals in the inner circles of Al Qaeda, the Taliban, ISIS, and their affiliates; when she is told to come alone to an interview, she never knows what awaits at her destination.

Souad Mekhennet is an ideal guide to introduce us to the human beings behind the ominous headlines, as she shares her transformative journey with us. Hers is a story you will not soon forget.


Hardcover, 368 pages
Published June 13th 2017 by Henry Holt and Co.
ISBN 1627798978 (ISBN13: 9781627798976) 



Secrecy World: Inside the Panama Papers Investigation of Illicit Money Networks and the Global Elite by Jake Bernstein

A two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist takes us inside the world revealed by the Panama Papers, a landscape of illicit money, political corruption, and fraud on a global scale.

A hidden circulatory system flows beneath the surface of global finance, carrying trillions of dollars from drug trafficking, tax evasion, bribery, and other illegal enterprises. This network masks the identities of the individuals who benefit from these activities, aided by bankers, lawyers, and auditors who get paid to look the other way.

In Secrecy World, the Pulitzer Prize winning investigative reporter Jake Bernstein explores this shadow economy and how it evolved, drawing on millions of leaked documents from the files of the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca--a trove now known as the Panama Papers--as well as other journalistic and government investigations. Bernstein shows how shell companies operate, how they allow the superwealthy and celebrities to escape taxes, and how they provide cover for illicit activities on a massive scale by crime bosses and corrupt politicians across the globe.

Bernstein traveled to the Caribbean, Latin America, Europe, and within the United States to uncover how these strands fit together--who is involved, how they operate, and the real-world impact. He recounts how Mossack Fonseca was exposed and what lies ahead for the corporations, banks, law firms, individuals, and governments that are implicated.

Secrecy World offers a disturbing and sobering view of how the world really works and raises critical questions about financial and legal institutions we may once have trusted.
 


Hardcover, 352 pages
Published November 21st 2017 by Henry Holt & Company
ISBN 1250126681 (ISBN13: 9781250126689)



The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

A novel of suspense that explores the complexities of marriage and the dangerous truths we ignore in the name of love.
 
When you read this book, you will make many assumptions.


You will assume you are reading about a jealous wife and her obsession with her replacement.


You will assume you are reading about a woman about to enter a new marriage with the man she loves.


You will assume the first wife was a disaster and that the husband was well rid of her.


You will assume you know the motives, the history, the anatomy of the relationships.
Assume nothing.

Discover the next blockbuster novel of suspense, and get ready for the read of your life.

THE WIFE BETWEEN US is the debut novel of co-authors Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen. Hendricks, a former book editor with a major New York publishing house, lives in Manhattan with her family. Pekkanen, the author of seven bestselling solo novels, lives in Maryland with her three sons. THE WIFE BETWEEN US has been sold in 30 countries and optioned for film by Steven Spielberg's Amblin Partners. It is a Book of the Month Club Pick, an Amazon Best Book of the Month, and an Indie Next Pick. Hendricks and Pekkanen are currently at work on their next novel, also a psychological thriller.


Hardcover, 352 pages
Published January 9th 2018 by St. Martin's Press
ISBN 1250130921 (ISBN13: 9781250130921)



The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck

Set at the end of World War II, in a crumbling Bavarian castle that once played host to all of German high society, a powerful and propulsive story of three widows whose lives and fates become intertwined.

Amid the ashes of Nazi Germany’s defeat, Marianne von Lingenfels returns to the once grand castle of her husband’s ancestors, an imposing stone fortress now fallen into ruin following years of war. The widow of a resistor murdered in the failed July, 20, 1944, plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler, Marianne plans to uphold the promise she made to her husband’s brave conspirators: to find and protect their wives, her fellow resistance widows.

First, Marianne rescues six-year-old Martin, the son of her dearest childhood friend, from a Nazi reeducation home. Together, they make their way across the smoldering wreckage of their homeland to Berlin, where Martin’s mother, the beautiful and naïve Benita, has fallen into the hands of occupying Red Army soldiers. Then she locates Ania, another resistor’s wife, and her two boys, now refugees languishing in one of the many camps that house the millions displaced by the war.

As Marianne assembles this makeshift family from the ruins of her husband’s resistance movement, she is certain their shared pain and circumstances will hold them together. But she quickly discovers that the black-and-white, highly principled world of her privileged past has become infinitely more complicated, filled with secrets and dark passions that threaten to tear them apart. Eventually, all three women must come to terms with the choices that have defined their lives before, during, and after the war—each with their own unique share of challenges.


Paperback, 368 pages
Published March 28th 2017 by William Morrow
ISBN 0062663453 (ISBN13: 9780062663450)

Friday, January 12, 2018

ON MY RADAR (1/12/18 edition): Books that have hit my radar...

Here are some books that have recently hit my radar and set off my alarm bells...

My Last Love Story by Falguni Kothari

Promise me you'll learn to cuss, learn to love again. Live again. Promise me you won't give up on each other.

Simi Desai is thirty years old and her husband is dying of cancer. He has two last wishes in his final months: first, that she'll have his baby so that a piece of him lives on, and second, that she'll reconcile with her old flame, who just happens to be their mutual best friend. And so over the course of their last summer together, Simi's husband plans a series of big and small adventures for this unlikely trio, designed to help them say goodbye to each other and prove to Simi that it's okay to move on without him--and even find love again.

Beautiful and poignant, Falguni Kothari's My Last Love Story will pull your heartstrings as only unforgettable love stories can.


Paperback
Expected publication: January 23rd 2018 by Graydon House (first published 2016)
ISBN 1525811398 (ISBN13: 9781525811395) 



The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan

A charming, clever, and quietly moving debut novel of of endless possibilities and joyful discoveries that explores the promises we make and break, losing and finding ourselves, the objects that hold magic and meaning for our lives, and the surprising connections that bind us.

Lime green plastic flower-shaped hair bobbles—Found, on the playing field, Derrywood Park, 2nd September.

Bone china cup and saucer-Found, on a bench in Riveria Public Gardens, 31st October.

Anthony Peardew is the keeper of lost things. Forty years ago, he carelessly lost a keepsake from his beloved fiancée, Therese. That very same day, she died unexpectedly. Brokenhearted, Anthony sought consolation in rescuing lost objects—the things others have dropped, misplaced, or accidentally left behind—and writing stories about them. Now, in the twilight of his life, Anthony worries that he has not fully discharged his duty to reconcile all the lost things with their owners. As the end nears, he bequeaths his secret life’s mission to his unsuspecting assistant, Laura, leaving her his house and and all its lost treasures, including an irritable ghost.

Recovering from a bad divorce, Laura, in some ways, is one of Anthony’s lost things. But when the lonely woman moves into his mansion, her life begins to change. She finds a new friend in the neighbor’s quirky daughter, Sunshine, and a welcome distraction in Freddy, the rugged gardener. As the dark cloud engulfing her lifts, Laura, accompanied by her new companions, sets out to realize Anthony’s last wish: reuniting his cherished lost objects with their owners.

Long ago, Eunice found a trinket on the London pavement and kept it through the years. Now, with her own end drawing near, she has lost something precious—a tragic twist of fate that forces her to break a promise she once made.

As the Keeper of Lost Objects, Laura holds the key to Anthony and Eunice’s redemption. But can she unlock the past and make the connections that will lay their spirits to rest?

Full of character, wit, and wisdom, The Keeper of Lost Things is a heartwarming tale that will enchant fans of The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, Garden Spells, Mrs. Queen Takes the Train, and The Silver Linings Playbook.


Paperback, 288 pages
Published November 28th 2017 by William Morrow Paperbacks (first published February 21st 2017)
ISBN 0062473557 (ISBN13: 9780062473554) 



The Chalk Man by CJ Tudor

In 1986, Eddie and his friends are just kids on the verge of adolescence. They spend their days biking around their sleepy English village and looking for any taste of excitement they can get. The chalk men are their secret code: little chalk stick figures they leave for one another as messages only they can understand. But then a mysterious chalk man leads them right to a dismembered body, and nothing is ever the same.

In 2016, Eddie is fully grown and thinks he's put his past behind him, but then he gets a letter in the mail containing a single chalk stick figure. When it turns out that his friends got the same message, they think it could be a prank--until one of them turns up dead. That's when Eddie realizes that saving himself means finally figuring out what really happened all those years ago.
 


Hardcover, 280 pages
Expected publication: January 9th 2018 by Crown Publishing Group (NY)
ISBN 1524760986 (ISBN13: 9781524760984)

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Introducing... The Heart's Invisible Furies by John Boyne

Introducing books through the first chapter or so...

Long before we discovered that he had fathered two children by two different women, one in Drimoleague and one in Clonakilty, Father James Monroe stood on the altar of the Church of Our Lady, Star of the Sea, in the parish of Goleen, West Cork, and denounced my mother as a whore.

-- The Heart's Invisible Furies by John Boyne

Monday, January 8, 2018

TLC BOOK TOURS and REVIEW: The Crows of Beara by Julie Christine Johnson

Synopsis

Along the windswept coast of Ireland, a woman discovers the landscape of her own heart

When Annie Crowe travels from Seattle to a small Irish village to promote a new copper mine, her public relations career is hanging in the balance. Struggling to overcome her troubled past and a failing marriage, Annie is eager for a chance to rebuild her life.

Yet when she arrives on the remote Beara Peninsula, Annie learns that the mine would encroach on the nesting ground of an endangered bird, the Red-billed Chough, and many in the community are fiercely protective of this wild place. Among them is Daniel Savage, a local artist battling demons of his own, who has been recruited to help block the mine.

Despite their differences, Annie and Daniel find themselves drawn toward each other, and, inexplicably, they begin to hear the same voice--a strange, distant whisper of Gaelic, like sorrow blowing in the wind.

Guided by ancient mythology and challenged by modern problems, Annie must confront the half-truths she has been sent to spread and the lies she has been telling herself. Most of all, she must open her heart to the healing power of this rugged land and its people.

Beautifully crafted with environmental themes, a lyrical Irish setting, and a touch of magical realism, The Crows of Beara is a breathtaking novel of how the nature of place encompasses everything that we are.


Paperback
Published September 1st 2017 by Ashland Creek Press
ISBN 1618220470 (ISBN13: 9781618220479)


About the Author
 
Julie Christine Johnson’s short stories and essays have appeared in journals including Emerge Literary Journal; Mud Season Review; Cirque: A Literary Journal of the North Pacific Rim; Cobalt; and River Poets Journal. Her work has also appeared in the print anthologies Stories for Sendai; Up, Do: Flash Fiction by Women Writers; and Three Minus One: Stories of Love and Loss. She holds undergraduate degrees in French and psychology and a master’s in international affairs. Julie leads writing workshops and seminars and offers story/developmental editing and writer coaching services. 

Named a “standout debut” by Library Journal, “very highly recommended” by Historical Novels Review, and “delicate and haunting, romantic and mystical” by bestselling author Greer Macallister, Julie’s debut novel In Another Life (Sourcebooks) went into a second printing three days after its February 2016 release. A hiker, yogi, and swimmer, Julie makes her home in northwest Washington state. 

Check out the author's website
Connect with the author on Facebook
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My Thoughts
Annie turned off the engine and rested her forehead on the steering wheel, gathering strength.
Annie's gone through a bad stretch. After the loss of her younger brother, she drowned herself in drink, and now finds herself attempting to get her life back on track, but finds that her marriage has been completely derailed and irreparable. She is sent to Ireland for work, and while there she finds her life shifting tracks and a new love taking root when she meets local artist Daniel Savage.

This book presented itself to me at an opportune time. I was uncertain whether I should accept it for review, as romance is not generally my thing and historical fiction is hit and miss, but it just so happens that it came around just as I was immersed in an Ireland lovefest, and in particular a West Cork lovefest of Bantry and the surrounding area. Add to that the fact that the novel begins in Seattle and the author lives near the Kitsap Peninsula (the area where I used to live and now consider my second home), and it seemed almost fortuitous that this book came into my life.

The characters and storyline are both well developed, and the fictional town of Ballycarog and surrounding areas thoroughly drawn. You can almost smell the salt air and feel the damp chilled breeze and hear the cries of the Red-Billed Choughs. The story is narrated alternately by Annie and Daniel, and these dual narrators are both sympathetic and reliable characters, and their transitions are handled masterfully by the author.

This story is at its heart a romance, but there is a fantastical almost mystical bent that crosses into mythology. I found myself having the movie The Lake House continually popping into my mind. That was the feel of this book. A love story that surmounts all boundaries and restrictions; a love that is destined to be.

I would like to thank TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour. Check out the website for the full tour schedule:

Monday, October 2nd: Books and Bindings
Tuesday, October 3rd: BookNAround
Wednesday, October 4th: Sapphire Ng
Thursday, October 5th: Kahakai Kitchen
Monday, October 9th: The Sketchy Reader
Wednesday, October 11th: The Desert Bibliophile
Tuesday, October 17th: Openly Bookish
Wednesday, October 18th: Jathan & Heather
Friday, October 20th: Literary Quicksand
Monday, October 23rd: Girl Who Reads
Tuesday, October 24th: 100 Pages a Day…Stephanie’s Book Reviews
Wednesday, October 25th: Based on a True Story
Thursday, October 26th: StephTheBookworm
Friday, October 27th: Broken Teepee
Monday, January 8th: Cerebral Girl in a Redneck World
Wednesday, January 10th: Read. Write. Repeat.
TBD: Beth Fish Reads
TBD: Unabridged Chick

My final word: I was pleased to find that I really liked this story! The author is a gifted writer able to draw you into the story and allows you to lose yourself in it. Annie is a strong woman who can "fake it til she makes it" when she needs to. Daniel is the tortured artist, immersed in self-condemnation for past sins until Annie reaches a part he'd buried long ago. The Irish people of West Cork will charm you and win you over. The author took what could have been just another fluff romance story and gave it form with solid characters and a topical theme. If you enjoy a story like The Lake House, a love story with an almost magical bent, then pick up this book. You won't be sorry!

Buy Now:

Barnes and Noble
Amazon

Cover: C+
Writing Style: A-
Characters: A-
Storyline/Plot: B+
Interest/Uniqueness: A-

My Rating:







The Cerebral Girl is a near-fifty blogger just digging her way out from under a mountain of books in the deep south of Florida.

I received a copy of this book to review through TLC Book Tours and the publisher, in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not financially compensated in any way, and the opinions expressed are my own and based on my observations while reading this novel. The book that I received was an uncorrected proof, and quotes could differ from the final release.