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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Death and the Singing Birds

This is Book 3 in the Nell Drury mystery series.   It can be read as a standalone. It is 1926 in Kent, which is still adjusting to post-war life. The book opens with Chef Nell Drury preparing for Lady Ansley’s luncheon to welcome their new neighbors, Sir Gilbert and Lady Lisette Saddler. As they attempt to entertain the eccentric pair,   they learn Sir Gilbert is organizing a Summer African Art Festival at his home, Spitalfrith    Manor.  The  festival would feature the “Artistes de Cler.”   The festival is the talk of the town and everyone is invited. When a murder occurs at the festival, Lord Ansley’s valet is arrested. Can Nell clear his name?

This is a nice historical cozy mystery. The characters are well developed. I loved the author’s description of Lady Saddler “…She smiled, but it wasn’t the kind of smile that warmed the cockles of one’s heart. It was more the smile of a crocodile….” The members of the “Artistes de Cler” are an interesting group of characters as well. The story is told from several points of view, but it works well and is not confusing. In fact, it gives us more knowledge of some of the characters. The author also provides a helpful cast of characters list at the beginning of the book. I was hoping to read more about food since Nell is a chef, but the story centered more along the lines of art and investigation with just passing references to food. The mystery is well done, with plenty of red herrings thrown in. Recommended for fans of historical mysteries.

AMY MYERS’ WEBSITE

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A Class Forsaken

This is Book 3 in the “A Matter of Class” series, set in 1800s Ireland. It would be beneficial to read the first two books in the series before reading Book 3, as there will be major spoilers for the first two books. This was also a book I reviewed for Historical Novels Review Magazine. They chose this book as another “Editor’s Choice.”

Escaping authorities in England, Bridget and Cormac flee home to Carlow, Ireland , with their daughter Emily. They return to Cormac’s former cottage, but his mother and siblings are gone, forced out years ago by Bridget’s embittered mother, who is lady of the manor. Many changes have occurred at Oakleigh manor and Bridget must face off with her mother in an attempt to save the tenants from her harsh management. At the same time, Cormac is determined to find his family. The saga follows Bridget, Cormac, and Emily to Dublin, where they encounter evil people of all classes as they attempt to find Cormac’s mother and sisters.

I found this to be a well-written and entertaining love story. While it is a love story, it is also a scathing look back at the treatment of the so-called lower classes by the rich and entitled of the era. At the same time, the author brings forth a thread of hope in the form of Bridget. Although Bridget was born in privilege, she can see the humanity of every person and has already cast her title aside for love. The characters are all well developed and the desperation of the time is well conveyed. The novel is fast paced and full of obstacles and adventure.

Highly recommended for fans of historical romance and Irish history.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Susie Murphy

Susie Murphy is an Irish historical fiction author. She loves historical fiction so much that she often wishes she had been born two hundred years ago. Still, she remains grateful for many aspects of the modern age, including women’s suffrage, electric showers and pizza. Susie’s published novels, A Class Apart, A Class Entwined and A Class Forsaken, are the first three instalments in her seven-part series A Matter of Class, a sweeping saga which begins in Ireland in 1828.

To find out more, visit http://www.susiemurphywrites.com, where you can join Susie’s Readers’ Club and receive a collection of five free short stories which are prequels to the whole series.

I received a free copy of this book via Historical Novels Review Magazine. My opinions are my own.

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The Children’s Blizzard

The Children’s Blizzard is the story of the devastating blizzard of 1888, which swept across the Great Plains with no warning and killed hundreds of people, many of them children on their way home from school. This is a fictionalized account of that devastating storm, but is based upon actual events and oral histories of the survivors.

This book is exquisitely written. Melanie Benjamin does an incredible job of connecting the reader with the characters. She shares the backstories and inner thoughts and feelings of pretty much every character in the book. Even the animals have something to say. And her stories delve deeply into the characters’ lives.

The main characters are two sisters who are both schoolteachers. Although they have so much in common, they experience very different outcomes during the storm simply based on last minute decisions. There is also an immigrant family led by a stressed out mother and a dallying, irresponsible father, and a young girl who has been sold to them by her mother for next to nothing. We meet an African American bar owner, who gives us the perspective of how people of color were treated in the late 1880’s. After the storm, a great newspaperman arrives. He comes to the area in search of the next big story, but instead experiences a life-changing connection with one of the victims.

Benjamin’s account of the harrowing experiences of the young people struggling though hazardous conditions, blinding snow, and freezing weather to try and find their way home, sometimes in vain, leaves us on the edge of our seat, feeling as if we are traveling with them.

Benjamin has written a book based on true events that cannot be missed, and I recommend everyone read this story, which is both heartbreaking and inspiring.

I received a free copy of this book from the publishers via Netgalley, and originally reviewed it for Historical Novels Review Magazine. My opinions are my own.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Melanie Benjamin is the author of the New York Times and USA Today bestselling historical novels The Swans of Fifth Avenue, about Truman Capote and his society swans, and The Aviator’s Wife, a novel about Anne Morrow Lindbergh. Her novel, Mistress of the Ritz, is a taut tale of suspense wrapped up in a love story for the ages, the inspiring story of a woman and a man who discover the best in each other amid the turbulence of war.Melanie Benjamin
Photo by Deborah Feingold

Previous historical novels include the national bestseller Alice I Have Been, about Alice Liddell, the inspiration for Alice in Wonderland; The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb, the story of 32-inch-tall Lavinia Warren Stratton, a star during the Gilded Age; and The Girls in the Picture, about the friendship and creative partnership between two of Hollywood’s earliest female legends—screenwriter Frances Marion and superstar Mary Pickford.

Her novels have been translated in over fifteen languages, featured in national magazines such as Good HousekeepingPeople, and Entertainment Weekly, and optioned for film. 

Melanie is a native of the Midwest, having grown up in Indianapolis, Indiana, where she pursued her first love, theater. After raising her two sons, Melanie, a life-long reader (including being the proud winner, two years in a row, of her hometown library’s summer reading program!), decided to pursue a writing career. After writing her own parenting column for a local magazine, and winning a short story contest, Melanie published two contemporary novels under her real name, Melanie Hauser, before turning to historical fiction. 

Melanie lives in Virginia with her husband. In addition to writing, she puts her theatrical training to good use by being a member of the Authors Unbound speakers bureau. When she isn’t writing or speaking, she’s reading. And always looking for new stories to tell.

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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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VISIT AMY LYNN GREEN’S WEBSITE

The Wonder Boy of Whistle Stop

The Sequel to Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe

Since I reviewed this book for Historical Novels Review, I could not post the review until now. It was actually published last year. This is a treat for Fannie Flagg fans who always wondered what happened to the characters from Whistle Stop!

REVIEW

The Wonder Boy of Whistle Stop is the sequel to Fannie Flagg’s novel Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe. It is a delightful novel that jumps back and forth in different time periods between the 1930s and present day, and tells us the further adventures of Buddy Threadgoode Jr. and others. This book is not a standalone. Readers will greatly benefit from reading the first book, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe.

This was a joy to read. It takes us back to the 1930s when Ruth Jamison and Idgie Threadgoode were running their cafe in Whistle Stop, Alabama. It shows the present day where Bud Threadgoode is an old man, and his daughter Ruthie has grown children. And it tells us tales of a younger Bud in different periods of his life. All the popular characters from the first book make an appearance. I especially enjoyed the role of Evelyn Couch in this story. As in the first book, news reports from Dot Weems pop up in between chapters, from all different time periods. It is a story of family, friends, love, and loss, and the weaving together of the time periods shows how friends and family never really leave us.

I truly feel that Fannie Flagg wrote this book for her fans, those of us who have read all of her books, as a way of tying everything together. She catches us up on all the popular characters from Fried Green Tomatoes, and I may have shrieked in delight when a character from Flagg’s other best selling series, the Elmwood Springs books, shows up in Whistle Stop!

Every little nugget and every piece of news about a beloved character felt like a gift from Fannie Flagg to her readers.

I received a free copy of this book from Random House via Historical Novels Review Magazine. My opinions are my own.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Fannie Flagg

Fannie Flagg’s career started in the fifth grade when she wrote, directed, and starred in her first play, titled The Whoopee Girls, and she has not stopped since. At age nineteen she began writing and producing television specials, and later wrote for and appeared on Candid Camera. She then went on to distinguish herself as an actress and a writer in television, films, and the theater. She is the bestselling author of Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man; Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe; Welcome to the World, Baby Girl!; Standing in the Rainbow; A Redbird Christmas; Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven; I Still Dream About You; The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion; and The Whole Town’s Talking. Flagg’s script for the movie Fried Green Tomatoes was nominated for an Academy Award and the Writers Guild of America Award and won the highly regarded Scripter Award for best screenplay of the year. Fannie Flagg is the winner of the Harper Lee Prize. She lives happily in California and Alabama.

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FANNIE FLAGG’S FACEBOOK PAGE

Historical Novel Society

I have been doing reviews for Historical Novels Review, the quarterly magazine of the Historial Novel Society, for about 6 months now. They have just published the February reviews online, which means I can now put all or some of the 20 reviews I did for them last quarter on my blog. I’ll be posting one or two every day, starting with the ones they chose as “Editor’s Choice” this time.

If you are interested in the Historical Novel Society as a writer or as a reader, you can find them at the link below. They take submissions from authors and publishers of historical novels who would like their books reviewed in the magazine. They accept historical novels with many sub-genres, such as Historical Romance, Historical Fantasy, Historical Time Travel, etc. For readers, their magazine provides hundreds of reviews of historical novels published in the past year so you can choose which books you might want to read. You can ask about doing member reviews, as I did. The reviews are published on their website as well as in the magazine. Their membership includes a year of the quarterly magazine. I highly recommend you check it out.

The first link below will take you to all of the reviews I have done for historical novel society. The second link is to the website’s main page. The most recent reviews I have done for them indicate they have been published in issue 95 (Feb 2021).

LINK TO MY REVIEWS FOR HISTORICAL NOVEL SOCIETY

LINK TO THE HISTORICAL NOVEL SOCIETY PAGE

Telling Sonny

Faby Gauthier lives in a small town in Vermont in the 1920’s. She is bored with small town living and fascinated by Vaudeville and the showbiz life. When she meets Slim White, a dancer in a traveling Vaudeville show, she quickly gets pregnant and caught up in a marriage that happens before she knows it. We follow Faby on the Vaudeville circuit, travel with her on uncomfortable train trips, and stay with her in cheap hotels as we learn about the less glamorous side of showbiz. 

This is a beautifully written novel by Elizabeth Gaffreau that starts in small-town Vermont and takes us all over the Vaudeville circuit in the Eastern United States in the 1920’s. We learn a lot about Vaudeville life, sacrifice, and the loss of innocence. We are shown through Faby’s sister the life she could have had. We are also reminded of the priceless gift of family and the care of those who love us.

Gaffreau has an amazing ability to show us the reality of life behind the facade. For example, her descriptions of 1920’s telephone operators: “…where, inside, pale young women plugged and unplugged the telephone conversations of the village with bony fingers while they waited for someone to marry them.”

I would recommend this well-crafted novel to everyone who enjoys historical novels or anyone who wants to read a moving family story.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Elizabeth Gauffreau holds a BA in English/Writing from Old Dominion University and an MA in English/Fiction Writing from the University of New Hampshire. Her fiction publications include short stories in Adelaide Literary Magazine, The Long Story, Soundings East, Ad Hoc Monadnock, Rio Grande Review, Blueline, Slow Trains, Hospital Drive, and Serving House Journal, among others. Her poetry has appeared in The Writing On The Wall, The Larcom Review, and Natural Bridge.

Liz grew up a child of the 1960s in northern New England before spending twenty years in the South as a Navy wife. After working for Granite State College in Concord, New Hampshire for eighteen years, she recently accepted a faculty position as Assistant Dean of Curriculum and Assessment at Champlain College Online in Burlington, Vermont. In addition to academic advising, teaching, and higher education administration, her professional background includes assessment of prior experiential learning for college credit.

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MY REVIEW ON GOODREADS

Village Teacher

Village Teacher by Neihtn, who also writes as Nguyen Trong Hien, is a well-written novel set in Vietnam in the late 19th or early 20th century while Vietnam was under French colonization. Teacher Tâm has traveled to the Imperial City of Hue to take the national examinations, challenging tests that help the country choose its leaders. He meets Giang, the daughter of a powerful Frenchman and a wealthy Vietnamese woman. The teacher becomes the student as Giang begins teaching him to write Vietnamese in Romanized script without using the Chinese characters. Outside forces begin to intervene in Tâm’s life in many ways, and the reader is taken on a journey through Vietnamese history, language, and customs as the Village Teacher and those who love him fight for his life and his rights.

This is such a beautiful historical love story. The author is an expert in Vietnamese history and I learned so much in this book. The struggles of Teacher Tâm are struggles that are being repeated even today as the wealthy and powerful try to hold down those of lesser means, especially the smart and talented. Over and over again we see in this book how some of the rich and powerful will use any means to try and destroy anyone who they believe threatens their total control. The love story is beautiful, and the reader gets a master class in Vietnamese history, language, and culture. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in learning more about the history of Vietnam or anyone who just wants to read a well-written historical love story.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nguyễn Trọng Hiền is originally from Vietnam. In the United States, he is known as Hien Nguyen, or Hien T. Nguyen.  neihtn is his Vietnamese first name (Hien)  and initials, spelled backward. Why backward? One reason is to indicate that he now lives on the opposite side of the world from where he was born and spent over two decades of his life.

Hein wrote Village Teacher at night and on weekends over four years while he worked a full-time job. He is now retired and spends his time writing and taking photographs of birds, wildlife, flowers and landscapes. He posts the photos on his blog, Village Teacher. He also published another novel, The Siege of An Loc, in 2020.

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Buy The Siege of An Loc on Amazon

MY AMAZON REVIEW OF VILLAGE TEACHER

My Review of The Siege of An Loc

The Ring of Truth

The Ring of Truth by Robert B. Sloan is the third book in the Hamelin Stoop Series. This is not a standalone. The books must be read in order or you will be lost when you read Book 3. Book 1 is The Eagle, The Cave, and the Footbridge and Book 2 is The Lost Princess and the Jewel of Periluna.

In Book 3, Hamelin has come back to the orphanage in order to return a lost princess back to her land. He has a definite idea of who this princess might be. There are a lot of delays and betrayals, and the people in his life continue to hide information from him, but Hamelin is determined to finish his mission and ultimately find his parents. 

This is a great young adult series with memorable characters that people of all ages will love. There are definite nods to Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, as well as the Bible, in this series. I continue to enjoy the adventures of these characters, especially the trio of Hamlin, Lars, and Eraina. Each of our heroes are aided by their special magical objects as they travel the Land of Gloaming on an important mission to stop the evil Chimera and his sons. They continue to receive guidance and help from SueSue and The Talking Eagle. Hamelin’s Earth friends, Bryan and Layla, also figure prominently in this story. 

I gave this five stars because of how much I love the overall series, but this one did move too slowly for about the first 25% of the book. There was too much time at the orphanage before attempting to return to the Land of Gloaming and not much happened during this time. At the orphanage, the core characters’ continual refusal to share information with each other started getting ridiculous. However, the last two thirds of this 580 page book were much more action filled. But again, even in the Land of Gloaming, there was the constant problem of people keeping secrets from each other. I feel this book would have been even better if it had been cut down to about 400 pages.

That being said, I continue to love these characters and look forward to their next adventures. There are six books planned in this series and I cannot wait until the next one.

I received a copy of this book from the publishers via BookSirens. My review is voluntary. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dr. Robert B. Sloan is president of Houston Baptist University in Houston, Texas. Dr. Sloan and his wife Sue have seven adult children and more than 20 young grandchildren. He is an author, communicator, educator, and leader—all hats he has worn many times for a variety of reasons. These four areas represent life experiences that have provided him and his family with many memories. It is in the experiences of life that memories are made and lives are shaped.

Robert Sloan has a passion for Christian higher education and the spiritual formation of young people for the glory of God, which can be seen in both his professional and personal life.

Robert B. Sloan’s Website

Buy Book 1: The Eagle, The Cave, and The Footbridge

Buy Book 2: The Lost Princess and the Jewel of Periluna

Buy Book 3: The Ring of Truth

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