#Book Review: A Peculiar Combination

A Peculiar Combination was one of my favorites of all the books I read for the May edition of Historical Novels Review. They also made this book an “Editor’s Choice.” It’s a great read and the start of a new series.

A Peculiar Combination by Ashley Weaver is the first book in the new Electra McDonnell series, which is set in World War II England. Electra (Ellie) belongs to a family of thieves.   Her Uncle Mick is a master safecracker, and she and her cousins, Toby and Colm, have learned everything they know from him. With Toby and Colm off fighting in the war, it is up to Ellie and Uncle Mick to keep supporting the family. When a house robbery goes bad, Ellie finds herself working for a government official, Major Ramsey, in order to keep herself and Uncle Mick out of jail. Their first mission leads to more as it becomes clear a traitor is at work and German spies are involved.

This is an engaging and addictive historical thriller with a touch of romance. I immediately connected with these characters, especially Ellie and Uncle Mick. Ellie is an intriguing and complex individual. She is a thief and safecracker, but has also been to finishing school. She can operate in any level of society, which makes her a perfect thief and a perfect spy. Uncle Mick is a locksmith by day and safecracker by night, but he has a moral code, even as a thief, that he will not break. He has passed that code onto Ellie.    Ellie’s missions into high society with the Major are thrilling and fun to watch. They are a reminder that World War II was also fought silently by spies on both sides.   Fans of historical thrillers and strong female characters are going to love this World War II spy adventure.  Highly recommend.

I received a free copy of this book from Minotaur Books for review in Historical Novels Review Magazine. My opinions are voluntary and are my own.

Ashley Weaver

ASHLEY WEAVER is the Technical Services Coordinator for the Allen Parish Libraries in Louisiana. Weaver has worked in libraries since she was 14; she was a page and then a clerk before obtaining her MLIS from Louisiana State University. She lives in Oakdale, Louisiana. She is the author of the Amory Ames series and the new Electra McDonnell series.

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The Girl From Berlin

BOOK DESCRIPTION: (My review is further down below)

From her beautiful new home in Berlin, a young woman named Liesel Scholz barely notices the changes to the city around her. Her life is one of privilege and safety thanks to her father’s job working for the new government.

But a chance encounter with Rosa, the daughter of their Jewish housekeeper, confirms Liesel’s fears that something isn’t right. That the Nazi government’s brutal rules are cruel and dangerous, and that others aren’t as safe as she is. When Rosa begs Liesel to help—pressing her grandfather’s gold pocket watch into Liesel’s hand—Liesel recklessly agrees.

She will help hide Rosa and her loved ones—in the dusty, unused rooms at the top of their house—even if it means putting everyone she loves in danger. Even if it means risking her own life.

Frankfurt, 1946: An idealistic American captain, Sam Houghton, arrives in Germany to interrogate prominent Nazis on trial and to help rebuild a battered country. When he hires an enigmatic, damaged interpreter named Anna, he doesn’t expect sparks to fly between them. Perhaps there is a chance of love for both of them. But then the question of what happened to Anna in the war raises its head.

Because Anna has secrets—ones that link her to Berlin, the Nazi party, and the story of one gold pocket watch and two young women who became friends, even when they were told it was impossible…

REVIEW: BONNIE READS AND WRITES


Oh what a beautiful and heart-rending novel! There is so much World War II fiction out right now and this one absolutely stands apart as a must-read. The character development–where should I begin–it’s a master class. The sharp awakening of the sheltered young Liesl is so well done, and you will cheer on her determination to protect the innocent, even from her own father. The relationship between Anna and Sam is touching and bittersweet as Anna fights off demons from her past and Sam tries to help her live again. Ambition and its possible pitfalls is examined in detail through the life of Leisl’s father. The purest bravery and innocence abound in the lovely character of Friedy. A lifelong friendship between Rosa and Leisl is born out of great peril. Kate Hewitt has penned a novel that will capture your heart and keep you thinking, long after you are done. This is highly recommended for all, because it’s a story that will touch every heart.

I received a free copy of this book from Bookouture. I also purchased a copy of this splendid novel. My review is voluntary and my opinions are my own.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR



Kate Hewitt is the author of many romance and women’s fiction novels. A former New Yorker and now an American ex-pat, she lives in a small town on the Welsh border with her husband, five children, and their overly affectionate Golden Retriever. Whatever the genre, she enjoys telling stories that tackle real issues and touch people’s lives.

https://www.kate-hewitt.com/
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The Kitchen Front

BOOK REVIEW

The Kitchen Front is a wonderful book which feels like a World War II based combination of Downton Abbey and the Great British Baking Show. In Fenley Village, England, 1942, Ambrose Hart is reluctantly looking for a radio cohost. His bosses have decided they want a local woman who can help listeners find the best uses for their food rations. A cooking contest begins, and the winner will be Ambrose’s co-host on The Kitchen Front radio show. The four contestants are Audrey, who is trying to raise three sons and wallowing in a mountain of debt, Nell, a kitchen maid who is tired of her poor treatment, Lady Gwendoline Strickland, the haughty grand lady of the manor, who is both Nell’s boss and Audrey’s sister, and Zelda Dupont, an English girl turned London-based French chef who has been forced to cook in a British factory and is not happy about it. As the show progresses, each woman’s life begins to change forever.

I immediately connected with the characters and the story. The “upstairs/downstairs,” “Downton Abbey” type relationship is demonstrated by Lady Gwendoline, Sir Strickland, and their cooks and other staff. The radio show cooking contest reminds me of a World War II radio version of the Great British Baking Show. For the contest, each contestant has to provide a starter, a main dish, and a dessert, all on different episodes of the show. All of the recipes for the contest, plus others mentioned in the story, are included in the book. We are given a window into each contestant’s life, both before and during the contest. Audrey is a grieving war widow. Gwendoline is a neglected wife of a strict and domineering nobleman. Zelda is pregnant and abandoned by the child’s father, and Nell is a young girl who wants to get out of the bonds of service. Interesting tidbits about food and history are included, such as why British sausages are called “bangers,” and how some villagers would run to “Anderson shelters,” to escape the bombings. We even get a little education on World War II era planes. I enjoyed every minute of this book, read it in one day, and will read it again. 

If you love cooking and cooking shows, World War II fiction, and strong female characters, you will enjoy this book.

The Kitchen Front will be released on February 23, 2021. I highly recommend it.

I received a free copy of this book from Random House Publishing Group via Netgalley. My review is voluntary.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jennifer Ryan

Jennifer Ryan is the author of National Bestseller THE CHILBURY LADIES’ CHOIR, THE SPIES OF SHILLING LANE, and THE KITCHEN FRONT. Her writing has featured in Literary Hub, Moms Don’t Have Time to Write, The Daily Mail, The Irish Times, The Express, BBC Online, YOU Magazine, The Simple Things Magazine, and Good Reading Magazine. Previously a book editor with The Economist, DK, and the BBC, she moved from London to Washington, DC after marrying, and she now lives in Northern Virginia with her husband and two children. Her novels are inspired by her grandmother’s tales of the war in Britain.

JENNIFER RYAN’S WEBSITE

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(Released February 23, 2021)

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Poppy Redfern and the Fatal Flyers

Poppy Redfern and the Fatal Flyers is the second  book  in  the  “A  Woman  of  World  War  II”  mystery series by Tessa Arlen. Although it is the second in a series, it can be read as a standalone. It is 1942 and Poppy, employed by the London Crown Film Unit as  a scriptwriter during the war, is sent to work on location at an airfield.   The film she is working on is about       the  Air   Transport Auxiliary   pilots,   or   “Attagirls.”   This   amazing   group   of   female   pilots    flew  many   different types   of   planes   and   transported   them    to    airfields    all over Britain during    World War II. Sometimes  these  transports  occurred  during  severe  weather  conditions.  Poppy begins to work on the film and starts to get to know this intriguing group of talented and professional female pilots. When two “Attagirls”  are  killed  in  accidents  during  seemingly  routine  flights,  Poppy  and  her boyfriend Griff begin to investigate.

This was such an interesting read, especially since I had never heard of the “Attagirls.” The history of these brave  women  is  fascinating, and the author provides more facts about them in a historical note at the  end of the book.  The  murder  mystery  is  well  done,  with  many  twists,  turns,  and  red herrings.  The  villain is not easy to figure out, so the reader is surprised at the end. The characters are compelling and well developed. Our heroine, Poppy, proves to be a witty and clever sleuth. Her relationship with her boyfriend Griff is complicated at times, but that just makes it more interesting. This is a great combination of World War II historical fiction and cozy mystery. I would recommend this book to fans of both genres.

The first book in the series is Poppy Redfern and the Midnight Murders.

I received a free copy of this book from Berkley Publishing via Netgalley for Historical Novels Review. My review is voluntary.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tessa Arlen is the author of the critically acclaimed Lady Montfort mystery series—Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman was a finalist for the 2016 Agatha Award Best First Novel. She is also the author of Poppy Redfern: A Woman of World War II mystery series. And the author of the historical fiction: In Royal Service to the Queen.

Tessa lives in the Southwest with her family and two corgis where she gardens in summer and writes in winter.

Comes The War

Comes The War by Ed Ruggero is Book 2 in the Eddie Harkins series. It is April 1944, and the allies are preparing to invade France. Lieutenant Eddie Harkins is in England  and  is  on  orders  to  join  the  Office  of  Strategic Services  (OSS)   when   an American   civilian   employee   is   murdered.   Eddie   finds   himself    in  charge  of  the investigation,   but   his superiors   settle on   a   suspect   very   quickly.  Ordered  to  close  the  case,  but doubting the guilt of the  accused,  Eddie  continues  his  investigation.  He  is  aided  by  his  driver,  Private Pamela Lowell, a smart and resourceful ally.

This was a fascinating look at the Allied forces in WWII England in 1944 prior to D-Day.  It combines a   fictional murder investigation with actual World  War  II  history  in  a  compelling  way.  The  political  fights  between    the    commanding   generals    and   the    “air”     vs.”ground”     war     philosophy are    intriguing. It contradicts  some  of   the   history books    on    the effectiveness  of  the  air  campaign  during  the  war.    It  speaks of Major  General  James  Doolittle, whose  bombing raids  may  have  caused thousands of unnecessary deaths with  no real strategic wins. I also learned that General Dwight D. Eisenhower was so upset by the  pushback  from  the Army Air Force and Royal Air Force generals against his plans that  he  threatened  to  quit  his  command and return  to the United States just a few months before D-Day. I have read many books set in World War II, but this one really made me want to read more about the strategic military history of the day.

The characters are well developed, and the  murder  mystery  and  investigation  are  interesting  and  engaging, with  many  twists  and  turns.  I  would recommend  this  book  both  to  fans  of  World  War  II  history  and fans of crime/thriller fiction.

I received a free copy of this book from MacMillan/Tor-Forge via Netgalley for Historical Novels Review Magazine. My review is voluntary.

Comes The War was released February 9th, 2021. The link to buy is below.

ED RUGGERO’S WEBSITE

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Things We Didn’t Say

Diamond Level Read

This was #2 on my list of My Top 7 Books of 2020. Again, Historical Novels Review must have agreed with me because this book was another of their Editor’s Choices. It is the writing debut of the talented Amy Lynn Green, who managed to create a compelling story and vivid characters in a 100% epistolary novel. It is a work of art.

REVIEW

It is 1944, and Johanna Berglund has been accused of treason. She submits in her defense a collection of letters that will prove her innocence. The letters begin with Johanna as a linguistics student at the University of Minnesota. Fluent in German and several other languages, she is recommended to work as a translator at an Army POW camp near her home. She flatly refuses because she has other plans and dreams of going to Oxford. Pressure from the government and her parents eventually forces her to go. She begins her work as a translator and starts to enjoy it, despite criticism from some of the local populace about “aiding the enemy.” She is given more responsibility and asked to teach an English class, and she starts to feel compassion for the prisoners. When a nefarious plot causes untrue accusations against Johanna, she learns to truly lean on God.

This is an epistolary novel, comprised completely of letters, articles, and other written communication. We watch Johanna’s character develop from a rather vain and secluded student to to a woman of faith, although it takes some hard times to get her there. We meet her friends, family, and community, and we watch her grow as a person. And we learn that there were, in fact, German POW camps in the United States during World War II. I was captivated by this book, which was so well written that the personalities of the characters shone, and their individual nuances were conveyed expertly through their letters. I don’t think many writers can share such an amazing story and well developed characters in epistolary style, so I was surprised that this is Amy Lynn Green’s debut novel. I cannot wait to see what she writes next.

I received a free copy of this book from Bethany House via Netgalley for Historical Novels Review Magazine. My review is voluntary.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Amy Lynn Green

Amy Lynn Green is a lifelong lover of books, history, and library cards. She worked in publishing for six years before writing her first historical fiction novel, based on the WWII home front of Minnesota, the state where she lives, works, and survives long winters. Because of her day job in publicity, she has taught classes on marketing at writer’s conferences and regularly encourages established and aspiring authors in their publication journeys. In her novels (and her daily life), she loves exploring the intersection of faith and fiction and searches for answers to present-day questions by looking to the past.

If she had lived in the 1940s, you would have found her writing long letters to friends and family, listening to jazz music, daydreaming about creating an original radio drama, and drinking copious amounts of non-rationed tea. (Actually, these things are fairly accurate for her modern life as well.)

Be sure to interact with her on Facebook and Instagram, and sign up for her newsletter to stay up-to-date on her latest releases.

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The Book of Uriel

The Book of Uriel begins in World War II Poland, when a Jewish village is destroyed and its people slaughtered. A little boy, Uriel, finds himself on his own. Unable to speak, Uriel has always written stories in his golden notebook, stories of angels and demons. Taken in by Uwe, a linguist for the Nazis, Uriel sees his stories coming alive. He begins an amazing mission to find the missing Archangel Michael and strikes a bargain with the Angel of Death.

This is an intricately woven tale that shows the cruelty of the Nazis and the horrors of the holocaust while at the same time portraying the spiritual war that is being fought alongside the physical war. Hoffman weaves together historical facts, the Bible, and Jewish folklore to create a written tapestry that you won’t want to put down. Her ability to combine historical fiction with a rich spiritual world is awe-inspiring. As a Christian, I don’t know anything about Jewish folklore, but I do know the Bible. The prophet Elijah, the Archangel Michael, and more familiar Biblical characters are also part of this story. It is a fascinating read, and I definitely believe that the actual battle of good vs. evil is both physical and spiritual.

Fans of the Book Thief will love The Book of Uriel. I also see just a tiny bit of a reminder of Christian author Frank Peretti’s writing, as he too shows the spiritual world alongside the physical world in some of his books.

I downloaded this book on Kindle Unlimited. I also received a free copy from the publishers via Reads and Reels. My review is voluntary.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Elyse Hoffman strives to tell historical tales with new twists: she loves to meld WWII and Jewish history with fantasy, folklore, and the paranormal. She has written three books in The Barracks of the Holocaust series, with more on the way. Her first full-length novel, The Book of Uriel, is set to be published on January 26th. If you love history and want to read some completely unique stories, follow Elyse at Project613Publishing.com. 

LINK TO MY GOODREADS REVIEW