Beth's Book-Nook Blog

Reviews of What I've Been Reading….

The Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner

I loved Susan Meissner’s As Bright as Heaven: https://drbethnolan.com/2018/07/11/as-bright-as-heaven-by-susan-meissner/

so I was excited to get her new novel, The Last Year of the War. This story was so interesting to me, because while I knew about the relocation of Japanese Americans into war camps, I had no idea that our government also rounded up and interred German nationals and German American citizens, too. This touching novel tells the story of two girls, one German and one Japanese, who become friends in the camp during 1944.

Description via NG

From the acclaimed author of Secrets of a Charmed Life and As Bright as Heaven comes a novel about a German American teenager whose life changes forever when her immigrant family is sent to an internment camp during World War II.

Elise Sontag is a typical Iowa fourteen-year-old in 1943–aware of the war but distanced from its reach. Then her father, a legal U.S. resident for nearly two decades, is suddenly arrested on suspicion of being a Nazi sympathizer. The family is sent to an internment camp in Texas, where, behind the armed guards and barbed wire, Elise feels stripped of everything beloved and familiar, including her own identity.

The only thing that makes the camp bearable is meeting fellow internee Mariko Inoue, a Japanese-American teen from Los Angeles, whose friendship empowers Elise to believe the life she knew before the war will again be hers. Together in the desert wilderness, Elise and Mariko hold tight the dream of being young American women with a future beyond the fences.

But when the Sontag family is exchanged for American prisoners behind enemy lines in Germany, Elise will face head-on the person the war desires to make of her. In that devastating crucible she must discover if she has the will to rise above prejudice and hatred and re-claim her own destiny, or disappear into the image others have cast upon her.

The Last Year of the War tells a little-known story of World War II with great resonance for our own times and challenges the very notion of who we are when who we’ve always been is called into question.

Highly recommended for those who enjoy WWII novels! Thank you for my review copy!

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The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See

Publishing in March, 2019

If you know me, you know that I LOVE the novels of Lisa See and that I have read them all! Her writing is so evocative and beautiful, and her stories often focus on the power of family, love, and friendship. I also always learn something new! This novel was no different. I loved it and couldn’t put it down. From the interesting facts about the Korean women divers, to the tragedies that befell their families and villages, to the storyline of Mi-Ja and Young-Sook’s friendship, this novel was pure Lisa See goodness!

Description via Net Galley (thank you for my review copy!)

A new novel from Lisa See, the New York Times bestselling author of The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane, about female friendship and family secrets on a small Korean island.

Mi-ja and Young-sook, two girls living on the Korean island of Jeju, are best friends that come from very different backgrounds. When they are old enough, they begin working in the sea with their village’s all-female diving collective, led by Young-sook’s mother. As the girls take up their positions as baby divers, they know they are beginning a life of excitement and responsibility but also danger.

Despite their love for each other, Mi-ja and Young-sook’s differences are impossible to ignore. The Island of Sea Women is an epoch set over many decades, beginning during a period of Japanese colonialism in the 1930s and 1940s, followed by World War II, the Korean War and its aftermath, through the era of cell phones and wet suits for the women divers. Throughout this time, the residents of Jeju find themselves caught between warring empires. Mi-ja is the daughter of a Japanese collaborator, and she will forever be marked by this association. Young-sook was born into a long line of haenyeo and will inherit her mother’s position leading the divers in their village. Little do the two friends know that after surviving hundreds of dives and developing the closest of bonds, forces outside their control will push their friendship to the breaking point.

This beautiful, thoughtful novel illuminates a world turned upside down, one where the women are in charge, engaging in dangerous physical work, and the men take care of the children. A classic Lisa See story—one of women’s friendships and the larger forces that shape them—The Island of Sea Women introduces readers to the fierce and unforgettable female divers of Jeju Island and the dramatic history that shaped their lives.

But wait! There’s more! I get Lisa See’s newsletter and her website has wonderful resources, information, and in depth looks at the stories behind her novels. I highly recommend you check it out! Additionally, Lisa has information on tea you can serve at your book club and how to Skype with her, too. It’s all at http://www.lisasee.com

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The Victory Garden by Rhys Bowen

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Description (via Net Galley)

A Note From the Publisher

If you read me, you know I LOVE Rhys Bowen’s books — Molly Murphy Mysteries, Royal Spyness mysteries, Tuscan Child, In Farleigh Field, etc. etc. This novel is a stand alone, historical fiction piece, that reminded me a bit of In Farleigh Field, as it was a war story. I loved Emily’s character and found the historical piece so interesting — young women volunteering to work on farms in the British countryside as “land girls’. She is quite resourceful and plucky, though when she becomes pregnant she certainly has to make some decisions as to where her future will lie. There is a bit of mystery, too, as to the history of the cottage where she lives and its former inhabitant. All in all it was a great read and I hope Ms. Bowen continues to writes historical stand alones!
Thank you for my review e-copy!
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Blog Tour for The Perilous Adventures of the Cowboy King by Jerome Charyn

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I’m happy today to be part of Over the River PR’s blog tour for Jerome Charyn’s The Perilous Adventures of the Cowboy King A Noveld of Teddy Roosevelt and his Times. I’ve never read Charyn before, though I’ve heard of him, and I have to say that his writing makes the characters just come alive and jump right off the page!

Here’s the overview via Amazon:

Raising the literary bar to a new level, Jerome Charyn re-creates the voice of Theodore Roosevelt, the New York City police commissioner, Rough Rider, and soon- to-be twenty-sixth president through his derring-do adventures, effortlessly combining superhero dialogue with haunting pathos. Beginning with his sickly childhood and concluding with McKinley’s assassination, the novel positions Roosevelt as a “perfect bull in a china shop,” a fearless crime fighter and pioneering environmentalist who would grow up to be our greatest peacetime president.

With an operatic cast, including “Bamie,” his handicapped older sister; Eleanor, his gawky little niece; as well as the devoted Rough Riders, the novel memorably features the lovable mountain lion Josephine, who helped train Roosevelt for his “crowded hour,” the charge up San Juan Hill. Lauded by Jonathan Lethem for his “polymorphous imagination and crack comic timing,” Charyn has created a classic of historical fiction, confirming his place as “one of the most important writers in American literature” (Michael Chabon).

I have to say that Roosevelt was a far more interesting man that I’ve ever given him credit for! In fact, this novel is filled with interesting characters and events.

Thank you for my e-copy and for inviting me to be part of your tour!

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The Wartime Sisters by Lynda Cohen Loigman

I discovered this title on Net Galley and was excited to read it as I’m a huge WWII HF fan!

Ruth and Millie are two very different sisters and their paths separate and then cross in this novel. Each one is holding a secret, and Millie, a war widow, risks everything to start her new life in Springfield, MA, where her older sister Ruth is an officer’s wife. Strength, forgiveness, fortitude, and self-acceptance are all themes in this wonderful novel. It was a compelling read, and one where you feel like the characters are real people. I couldn’t put it down. This is my first title by this author and I loved her writing!

Thank you for my e-copy to review!

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Conrad Monk and the Great Heathen Army by Edoardo Albert

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I received an electronic copy of CONRAD MONK AND THE GREAT HEATHEN ARMY from the publisher, and it was an entertaining read. Conrad is not the most scrupulous of people, and he’s pretty funny as he makes his way around, keeping his own needs first and manipulating others at will. The time period was one I don’t read too often, and I found it well done and interesting.

Definitely entertaining, Conrad Monk is a protagonist you won’t soon forget!

Thank you for my review copy!

MEET THE NINTH CENTURY CAD, REWRITING HISTORY (from the publisher)

Conrad is a monk, but he has become a monk through trickery and against his will. So, it is fair to say that his heart isn’t really in it.
Conrad is also clever, charming, entirely self-serving, self-absorbed and almost completely without scruple — but in Anglo-Saxon England, when the Danish invaders come calling, those are very helpful attributes to have.
And so it comes to pass that Conrad finds himself constantly dodging death by various
means, some reasonable, some… less so. His tricks include selling his brother monks into
slavery, witnessing the death of a king, juggling his loyalties between his own people and the Danes, robbing corpses and impersonating a bishop.
By his side throughout is the gentle and honourable Brother Odo, a man so naturally and
completely good that even animals sense it. He is no match of wits for the cunning Conrad, but can he, perhaps, at least encourage the wayward monk to behave a little better?

Conrad and the Great Heathen Army takes the reader on a hugely entertaining and highly informative trip through the Anglo-Saxon world, in the company of a persuasive and likeable — if frequently despicable — tour guide. It is a story that combines painstakingly accurate depictions of history with a fast-moving and often hilarious plot, and as such is bound to appeal to lovers of history, historical fiction and character-driven fiction alike.

MEET THE AUTHOR
Edoardo Albert is a writer of Sri Lankan and Italian descent based in London. He has written a number of full length novels, as well as shorter stories for publications ranging from Daily Science Fiction to Ancient Paths.

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HFVBTour for A Hangman for Ghosts by Andrei Baltakmens

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I’m happy today to be part of the virtual tour for Andrei Baltakmens’ A HANGMAN FOR GHOSTS through Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours.

This is a lively tale, which is part mystery/part adventure. It’s chock full of interesting characters and excitement and it makes the world of Sydney in the early 1800’s come alive.

Well-written and paced, I enjoyed my review e-copy.

Thank you – and thank you for making me part of the tour!

A HANGMAN FOR GHOSTS BY ANDREI BALTAKMENS
 
Publication Date: July 1, 2018
Top Five Books
Paperback & eBook; 288 Pages
 
Genre: Historical Mystery
 
“We are transported. We are consigned to the ends of the Earth. And we are therefore as good as dead to the realm and its judges. There can be no hope of reprieve…”
 
Gabriel Carver, the convict hangman of Sydney Prison, knows that none of his kind may depart Australia’s penal colony without the system’s leave. Then three people are murdered, seemingly to protect the “Rats’ Line,” an illicit path to freedom that exists only in the fevered imaginations of transported felons. But why kill to protect something that doesn’t exist?
 
When an innocent woman from Carver’s past is charged with one of the murders and faces execution at his hands, she threatens to reveal an incriminating secret of his own unless he helps her. So Carver must try to unmask the killer among the convicts, soldiers, sailors, and fallen women roaming 1829 Sydney. If he can find the murderer, he may discover who is defying the system under its very nose. His search will take him back to the scene of his ruin—to London and a past he can never remake nor ever escape, not even at the edge of the world.
 

About the Author

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Andrei Baltakmens was born in Christchurch, New Zealand, of Latvian descent. He has a Ph.D. in English literature, focused on Charles Dickens and Victorian urban mysteries.
 
His first novel, The Battleship Regal, was published in New Zealand in 1996. His short fiction has appeared in various literary journals, and his first historical mystery, The Raven’s Seal, was published in 2012.
 
Since 2004, he has lived in Ithaca, New York and Brisbane, Australia, where he recently completed a doctorate in Creative Writing at The University of Queensland. He now lives in Palo Alto, California, with his wife and son, and works for Stanford University as an instructional designer.
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Spotlight on: A Cobbler’s Tale by Neil Perry Gordon

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I’m giving a shout out today for Neil Perry Gordon’s historical story, based on his family’s experience, which I am reading now: A Cobbler’s Tale.

Here’s the overview via Amazon:

A Cobbler’s Tale is an adventure story about Pincus Potasznik, a second-generation Jewish cobbler, born in a small shtetl in the province of Galicia, part of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire. In 1910, at the historic height of the massive Eastern European immigration wave to the New World, Pincus decides to leave behind his pregnant wife, and three small children, in order to seek a new life for his family in the burgeoning Lower East Side of Manhattan. On his traumatic voyage across the Atlantic Ocean on the SS Amerika steamship, Pincus meets Jakob Adler, a young man running from an accidental murder of a notorious crime boss in Warsaw. The story also explores the challenges of pregnant Clara Potasznik as she does her best to protect her family, while the bloodiest battles of World War I explode within miles of her family home, a small village called Krzywcza. Moshe, the young son of Pincus and Clara Potasznik, discovers his divine ability to foretell dire events, and to offer real comfort those in pain, taking the reader into the wisdom and mystery surrounding the ancient Jewish mysticism, known as Kabbalah. A Cobbler’s Tale is a story of a family’s survival against tremendous odds.

Here’s some info about Mr. Gordon:

Biography

Born in the Bronx, Neil Perry Gordon is the eldest son to Elaine and Walter Gordon. At the age of seven years old, Neil’s family moved from the Bronx, to the suburban community of Rockland County. Neil graduated as the first high school class from the Green Meadow Waldorf School in 1976. Shortly after graduating in 1980 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing from Pace University, he moved to south Florida and started a drapery business. In 1990, he relocated back to New York and still operates his business, Decorating with Fabric. He has two adult sons, Samuel and Maximilian. Neil has written two professional trade books, The Designer’s Coach, and An Architect’s Guide to Engineered Shading Solutions.
https://www.neilperrygordon.com/

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Thank you for my copy of A Cobbler’s Tale! I always enjoy a historical story!

Here’s a link to it on Amazon (where I am an affiliate):

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A Holiday by Gaslight by Mimi Matthews

 

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Description

A Note From the Publisher

Advance Praise

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Audiobook Pick: The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris; Narrated by Richard Armitage

 

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I had heard a bit about this book, so I chose it with my Audible credit this month. What a story! First of all, it held my attention during my lengthy commute (no easy feat) and it was wonderfully narrated by Richard Armitage. The story was truly remarkable and at one point I thought that this could not possibly be true. Some of the things that happened seemed fantastic to the point of being too incredible to believe (SPOILER! for example, their finding each other after the war, or how Lale seemed to be able to get the things he needed to get by and to help others). Yet, this is a true story. While it is a story of the horrors of Auschwitz, it’s an amazing story of bravery and resistance and resiliency that makes you feel connected to these characters and wanting more of them. The last chapter and epilogue of the book could have been a whole other novel in itself. (Just a note, from a cursory glance online, most people seem to enjoy the audiobook more than the novel itself).

Here’s the overview:

This beautiful, illuminating tale of hope and courage is based on interviews that were conducted with Holocaust survivor and Auschwitz-Birkenau tattooist Ludwig (Lale) Sokolov – an unforgettable love story in the midst of atrocity.

In April 1942, Lale Sokolov, a Slovakian Jew, is forcibly transported to the concentration camps at Auschwitz-Birkenau. When his captors discover he speaks several languages, he is put to work as a Tätowierer (the German word for “tattooist”), tasked with permanently marking his fellow prisoners.

Imprisoned for more than two and a half years, Lale witnesses horrific atrocities and barbarism – but also incredible acts of bravery and compassion. Risking his own life, he uses his privileged position to exchange jewels and money from murdered Jews for food to keep his fellow prisoners alive.

One day in July 1942, Lale, prisoner 32407, comforts a trembling young woman waiting in line to have the number 34902 tattooed onto her arm. Her name is Gita, and in that first encounter, Lale vows to somehow survive the camp and marry her.

A vivid, harrowing, and ultimately hopeful recreation of Lale Sokolov’s experiences as the man who tattooed the arms of thousands of prisoners with what would become one of the most potent symbols of the Holocaust, The Tattooist of Auschwitz is also a testament to the endurance of love and humanity under the darkest possible conditions.

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