The Light After the War by Anita Abriel

Description

Inspired by an incredible true story of two Jewish friends who survived the Holocaust, this sweeping novel of love and friendship spans World War II from Budapest to Austria and the postwar years from Naples to Caracas, perfect for fans of The German Girl and We Were the Lucky Ones.

It is 1946 when Vera Frankel and her best friend Edith Ban arrive in Naples. Refugees from Hungary, they managed to escape from a train headed for Auschwitz and spent the rest of the war hiding on an Austrian farm. Now, the two young women must start new lives abroad. Armed with a letter of recommendation from an American officer, Vera finds work at the United States embassy where she falls in love with Captain Anton Wight.

But as Vera and Edith grapple with the aftermath of the war, so too does Anton, and when he suddenly disappears, Vera is forced to change course. Their quest for a better life takes Vera and Edith from Naples to Ellis Island to Caracas as they start careers, reunite with old friends, and rebuild their lives after terrible loss.

Moving, evocative, and compelling, this timely tale of true friendship, love, and survival will stay with you long after you turn the final page.

I should start this review by stating that I read an ARC e-galley from Atria Books through Net Galley. The final product may differ.

I need to be honest and say that I had mixed feelings on this book. I am a huge WWII genre fan and I really like true stories the best as I tend to find them inspiring and compelling. However, while this story is based on true events, I found it hard to believe. (But hey – truth can be stranger than fiction!). I struggled to connect to both of the main characters, preferring Vera over Edith as Edith seemed petulant and self-centered for most of the book. I found events hard to believe (e.g. one of the Rothschilds sees their picture in Time Magazine and sponsors them to come to the US but drops dead and can’t pick them up at Ellis Island so they go elsewhere; Vera falls in love with her boss and they truly love each other, but he leaves her as he can’t have children due to mumps as a child). I guess the thing that is hardest for me is that throughout this story, people want to help these two young women not because they have been through and survived the Holocaust and lost their families, but because they are beautiful.

I struggled a bit with the writing in parts, esp in the dialogues, but again, my copy was an ARC.

So – I did find the story really interesting of how they survived while hiding in a barn and helping with a farm, and how they went to Caracas as many Jewish refugees did and started over, and how they rebuilt their lives. And maybe all the amazing events are true — as I said truth can be stranger than fiction — there really was an Edith Ban who was a Hungarian Holocaust survivor who lived in Boston, was she the same Edith as in this book?

Overall I was left with mixed emotions. I don’t want this review to seem negative, I’m just being honest. I would have loved a bit at the end where the author says what’s true and what isn’t!

If you want a WWII read that is part romance and part survival and based on true events, then pick up a copy of The Light After the War! Let me know what you think.

The Girls with No Names by Serena Burdick

Years ago I watched a movie on a flight to Paris. It was “The Magdalene Sisters” and it was about three girls who lived and worked in a laundry run by nuns in Ireland. It was absolutely terrifying and horrific and based on the real Magdalene laundries of the mid-1900’s. In The Girls with No Names, the main character, Effie, gets herself put into one of these places as she seeks to find her sister who has run away. Effie also has a heart condition, which makes her situation all the worse. This story takes place in New York City around 1910, and apparently there really were Magdalene-type laundries here at that time.

All in all it was a heart-breaking read that told the sad story of a marriage gone wrong, a family that was destroyed, and the lasting effect of betrayal. But I couldn’t put it down until the last fulfilling page.

Thank you for my review copy through Net Galley, Harlequin Books!

Here’s the overview:

Description

INSTANT INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLER

A beautiful tale of hope, courage, and sisterhood—inspired by the real House of Mercy and the girls confined there for daring to break the rules.

Growing up in New York City in the 1910s, Luella and Effie Tildon realize that even as wealthy young women, their freedoms come with limits. But when the sisters discover a shocking secret about their father, Luella, the brazen elder sister, becomes emboldened to do as she pleases. Her rebellion comes with consequences, and one morning Luella is mysteriously gone.

Effie suspects her father has sent Luella to the House of Mercy and hatches a plan to get herself committed to save her sister. But she made a miscalculation, and with no one to believe her story, Effie’s own escape seems impossible—unless she can trust an enigmatic girl named Mable. As their fates entwine, Mable and Effie must rely on their tenuous friendship to survive.

Home for Unwanted Girls meets The Dollhouse in this atmospheric, heartwarming story that explores not only the historical House of Mercy, but the lives—and secrets—of the girls who stayed there.

“Burdick has spun a cautionary tale of struggle and survival, love and family — and above all, the strength of the heart, no matter how broken.” — New York Times Book Review

“Burdick reveals the perils of being a woman in 1913 and exposes the truths of their varying social circles.” — Chicago Tribune

Harper Collins Blog Tour for: The Grace Kelly Dress by Brenda Janowitz

I love, love, love Grace Kelly and recently read a book about her life. Now I’m thrilled to take part in the blog tour for Brenda Janowitz’ new novel THE GRACE KELLY DRESS which follows three brides in three generations, all with one wedding dress. This is a story of love and family, of women and relationships. I loved it and I loved how each character was unique and memorable.

Here’s an overview:

The Grace Kelly Dress : A Novel 

Brenda Janowitz

On Sale Date: March 3, 2020

9781525804595, 1525804596

Trade Paperback

$16.99 USD, $22.99 CAD

Fiction / Contemporary Women

336 pages

ABOUT THE BOOK

Two years after Grace Kelly’s royal wedding, her iconic dress is still all the rage in Paris—and one replica, and the secrets it carries, will inspire three generations of women to forge their own paths in life and in love.

Paris, 1958: Rose, a seamstress at a fashionable atelier, has been entrusted with sewing a Grace Kelly—look-alike gown for a wealthy bride-to-be. But when, against better judgment, she finds herself falling in love with the bride’s handsome brother, Rose must make an impossible choice, one that could put all she’s worked for at risk: love, security and of course, the dress.

Sixty years later, tech CEO Rachel, who goes by the childhood nickname “Rocky,” has inherited the dress for her upcoming wedding in New York City. But there’s just one problem: Rocky doesn’t want to wear it. A family heirloom dating back to the 1950s, the dress just isn’t her. Rocky knows this admission will break her mother Joan’s heart. But what she doesn’t know is why Joan insists on the dress—or the heartbreaking secret that changed her mother’s life decades before, as she herself prepared to wear it.

As the lives of these three women come together in surprising ways, the revelation of the dress’s history collides with long-buried family heartaches. And in the lead-up to Rocky’s wedding, they’ll have to confront the past before they can embrace the beautiful possibilities of the future.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brenda Janowitz is the author of five novels, including The Dinner Party and Recipe for a Happy Life. She is the Books Correspondent for PopSugar. Brenda’s work has also appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, Salon, Redbook, and the New York Post. She lives in New York.

SOCIAL LINKS:

Author website: http://www.brendajanowitz.com/

Facebook: @BrendaJanowitz

Thank you so much for my ARC e-galley and for making me part of the tour!

The Red Lotus by Chris Bohjalian

Description

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Midwives and The Flight Attendant comes a twisting story of love and deceit: an American man vanishes on a rural road in Vietnam, and his girlfriend, an emergency room doctor trained to ask questions, follows a path that leads her home to the very hospital where they met.

The first time Alexis saw Austin, it was a Saturday night. Not in a bar, but in the emergency room where Alexis sutured a bullet wound in Austin’s arm. Six months later, on the brink of falling in love, they travel to Vietnam on a bike tour so that Austin can show her his passion for cycling and he can pay his respects to the place where his father and uncle fought in the war. But as Alexis sips white wine and waits at the hotel for him to return from his solo ride, two men emerge from the tall grass and Austin vanishes into thin air. The only clue he leaves behind is a bright yellow energy gel dropped on the road. As Alexis grapples with this bewildering loss, and deals with the FBI, Austin’s prickly family, and her colleagues at the hospital, Alexis uncovers a series of strange lies that force her to wonder: Where did Austin go? Why did he really bring her to Vietnam? And how much danger has he left her in? Set amidst the adrenaline-fueled world of the emergency room, The Red Lotus is a global thriller about those who dedicate their lives to saving people, and those who peddle death to the highest bidder.

Chris Bohjalian is one of my very favorite authors. He writes wonderfully and yet is the most humble person in real life. I was excited to snag his latest from Net Galley. This was a suspenseful thriller and I think it would make an awesome movie. I couldn’t put it down. It was rather sad in parts, because one of Bohjalian’s gifts as a writer is to make the story realistic. The characters stayed with me long after I was done reading.

Thank you, Doubleday, for my ARC! This novel publishes on 3/17.

Just a note: I read this a few months back, well before the corona virus was headlining everywhere. This story involves what I’ll call “illness and epidemic”, so just putting that out there as a trigger given the current situation.

Buddies, Bullies, and Baseball by Phyllis J. Perry

I was offered a copy of this short (about 100 pages) middle grade fiction title and it was a fun and entertaining story about a 5th grader who has to deal with some bullies at school and who loves baseball. The story was very relatable and I think most kids would find this it appealing. It was a quick read and one that would appeal to reluctant readers.

I’m so glad that I got to read and review it, and I will be sharing it with my school library. Thank you for my copy!

Here’s the overview:

A cloud hangs over Jack as he begins fifth grade. Two boys from his class, Steve and Cliff, who began bullying him last spring, harass him again as soon as school starts. They take brownies and cookies from his lunch and call him “Mustard” because they think he’s a coward. When Jack walks a different route to school to avoid them, they find him anyway. When he doesn’t take a lunch but brings lunch money, they steal his money. When he rides his bike to school, they let the air out of the tires. Jack is miserable but he’s ashamed to ask for help and doesn’t want to tell anyone about his problem.

Lizabeth and C.J are Jack’s best friends. C.J. has his own problems. He needs help to learn reading, and Steve makes fun of him, calling him “Retardo.” A new boy in school, Hans Ollig from Germany, speaks only a little English and is trying hard to learn to talk like the other kids. Jack is assigned to show him around the school.

Members of Jack’s family are all baseball fans and tremendously excited that the Colorado Rockies are going to be in the World Series. Jack’s uncle has given him an old glove from his high school days. When Jack takes the glove to school, it disappears.

Jack and his fifth grade buddies welcome a new student, Hans, into their group. Hans speaks only a little English but is enthusiastic and a quick learner. All of them are baseball fans and thrilled that their Colorado Rockies team will be in the World Series.

Jack and his buddies must find a way to get his baseball glove back and celebrate at the World Series as a team.

Follow the links for more info (from the publisher):

Here is the link to the book:

Buddies, Bullies, and Baseball  

Here is the publisher’s website link:

http://www.tckpublishing.com

And here is the author’s website:

http://www.phyllisjperry.com/

The Forgotten Girls by Lizzie Page

Description

Elaine was typing out letters from POWs and reminding herself that she would not cry. Poor Sam in Burma doubted whether he would ever see his children again. ‘Tell them they mean the world to me.’ Come on, Sam. Elaine wanted to reach out into the letter, hold his hand. Hang in there. If only he knew that she was half a world away, reading, listening…

London, 1943. German bombs rain down on London, but Elaine Parker knows her job transcribing letters from far-away prisoners of war is more important than her own safety. As she pores over each tearful letter from a soldier to his family far away, she’s not only making sure the notes reach their destinations, but also looking for secret messages hidden between the lines to help the allies win the war.

At home, Elaine’s life isn’t so simple. What the other clerical girls don’t know is that Elaine’s family isn’t respectable, and with her parents long dead, it’s up to Elaine to make ends meet. But with one brother increasingly in trouble with the law, and the other suffering a violent breakdown, it doesn’t leave Elaine much time to consider her own future hopes and dreams. 

And then Elaine meets dark-haired and passionate Bobby – a wartime photographer on the dangerous front line – and her world shifts. The uncertainties of war feel more personal than ever. Will Elaine be forced to choose between her difficult family and her growing passion for Bobby? And how do you let yourself love someone with your whole heart when each moment could be their last? 

A heartbreaking World War Two novel – emotional and unforgettable. Perfect for fans of Orphan TrainSold on a Monday and Before We Were Yours.

I enjoyed this story of WWII, though it wasn’t what I was expecting. I thought that since the description highlighted the codes in POW letters that that would be a major point in the plot, but this was really a love story. Elaine is a working class young woman who falls in love with a famous war photographer, Robert Capa. This is the story of their relationship. It was an interesting read, but it was even more interesting after I finished it and discovered that these were all real people. I went online and found pictures of Robert and Elaine and some of the photos that are written about in the story. Their story is heart-breaking and memorable, and I highly recommend it if you like this genre.

Thank you for my ARC!

Minor Dramas & Other Catastrophes by Kathleen West

Description

Perfect for fans of Where’d You Go, Bernadette and Small Admissions, a wry and cleverly observed debut novel about the privileged bubble that is Liston Heights High—the micro-managing parents, the overworked teachers, and the students caught in the middle—and the fallout for each of them when the bubble finally bursts.

When a devoted teacher comes under pressure for her progressive curriculum and a helicopter mom goes viral on social media, two women at odds with each other find themselves in similar predicaments, having to battle back from certain social ruin.

Isobel Johnson has spent her career in Liston Heights sidestepping the community’s high-powered families. But when she receives a threatening voicemail accusing her of Anti-Americanism and a liberal agenda, she’s in the spotlight. Meanwhile, Julia Abbott, obsessed with the casting of the school’s winter musical, makes an error in judgment that has far-reaching consequences for her entire family.

Brought together by the sting of public humiliation, Isobel and Julia learn firsthand how entitlement and competition can go too far, thanks to a secret Facebook page created as an outlet for parent grievances. The Liston Heights High student body will need more than a strong sense of school spirit to move past these campus dramas in an engrossing debut novel that addresses parents behaving badly and teenagers speaking up, even against their own families.

So – I read this book MONTHS ago, and I’m thrilled that it is finally celebrating its Pub Day this week!

As an educator, I love reading books that take place in schools, especially private schools. This was an easy to read story, very believable and realistic, that would have you laughing at times and cringing at others as the characters go about their very self-centered lives. You can see the trajectory of where things are headed! I really liked the ending, as I’m a true fan of the theme of redemption.

Recommended to those who like this genre. It reminded me a bit of Big Little Lies, but not quite so “gaspy” if you know what I mean. No big reveals, etc.

Thank you for my ARC to review!