Book Review: The Secretary

The Secretary is another book I reviewed for the August edition of Historical Novels Review, the magazine of the Historical Novel Society.

In Germany in 1940, Magda has become Heinrich Himmler’s secretary. But all is not as it seems. By day she organizes glamorous and decadent parties for Nazi officials, and by night she smuggles secrets out of the office and helps others get to safety. Risking her life every day, she places her trust in very few people. However, an unsuspected source of betrayal is lurking in the background. In East Berlin in 1988, Nina finally gets her grandmother to talk about a beautiful drawing of a house that she found hidden away as a child. With her grandmother as a new ally, Nina attempts escape from East Berlin for both of them.

This is a heartrending dual-timeline novel that shows us the horrors in Germany in both Hitler’s 1940 and the Cold War years in late 1980s East Berlin. Two women, grandmother and granddaughter, risk themselves to help others. What ties it all together is a house and the secrets it holds. Your heart will race, and you will weep as you are swept back and forth from Heinrich Himmler’s office in the 1940s to an East Berlin prison in 1989. You will see the downfall of the Third Reich and watch the Berlin Wall come down. This is a sad but thrilling novel full of danger, love, and loss that will keep you enthralled. I was especially entranced as I watched the Berlin Wall open up from the perspective of someone inside East Berlin. The descriptions of the differences between East Berlin and West Berlin at the time were fascinating. Fans of World War II fiction, Cold War fiction, and German history will not want to miss this one.

I received a free copy of this book via Bookouture for Historical Novels Review Magazine. My review is voluntary and my opinions are my own.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Catherine Hokin

(In Her Own Words)

I seem to have followed a rather meandering career, including marketing and teaching and politics (don’t try and join the dots), to get where I have always wanted to be, which is writing historical fiction. I am a story lover as well as a story writer and nothing fascinates me more than a strong female protagonist and a quest. Hopefully those are what you will encounter when you pick up my books.

I am from the North of England but now live very happily in Glasgow with my American husband. Both my children have left home (one to London and one to Berlin) which may explain why I am finally writing. If I’m not at my desk you’ll most probably find me in the cinema, or just follow the sound of very loud music.

I’d love to hear from you and there are lots of ways you can find me, so jump in via my website https://www.catherinehokin.com/ or on my Cat Hokin FB page or on twitter @cathokinRead less

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Blog Tour and Book Review: The Rainbow

BOOK DESCRIPTION

There, on the dusty floorboards, was a piece of paper, folded neatly. A newspaper article from 1941, written in German, alongside a faded picture of two men in Nazi uniforms staring at the camera. I was about to place it back in the box of forgotten things when something in the text jumped out at me. My breath caught in my chest. I know that name.

London, present day. Isla has grown up hearing her beloved grandad’s stories about his life as a child in pre-war Poland and as a young soldier bravely fighting the Germans to protect his people. So she is shocked and heartbroken to find, while collecting photos for his 95th birthday celebration, a picture of her dear grandfather wearing a Nazi uniform. Is everything she thought she knew about him a lie?

Unable to question him due to his advanced dementia, Isla wraps herself in her rainbow-coloured scarf, a memento of his from the war, and begins to hunt for the truth behind the photograph. What she uncovers is more shocking than she could have ever anticipated – a tale of childhood sweethearts torn apart by family duty, and how one young man risked his life, his love and the respect of his own people, to secretly fight for justice from inside the heart of the enemy itself…

An heartbreaking novel of love, betrayal and a secret passed down through a familyInspired by an incredible true story. Perfect for fans of The Tattooist of AuschwitzWe Were the Lucky Ones and The Alice Network.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Carly Schabowski


Carly Schabowski worked as a journalist in both North Cyprus and Australia before returning to Oxford, where she studied for an MA and then a PhD in creative writing at Oxford Brookes University. Carly now teaches at Oxford Brookes University as an associate lecturer in Creative Writing for first and second-year English literature students.

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BOOK REVIEW

This is a complex dual-timeline novel that will break your heart, while at the same time giving you hope. We are transported to the devastation of World War II, and all its horror and secrets, and then to England 2015, as a granddaughter is dealing with the heartbreak of her grandfather’s dementia, and then even more pain upon learning certain truths. We are shown a compelling story of love, sacrifice, secrets, and betrayal, and left in awe at how love can overcome hate. I felt a connection to the dementia aspects of this story, as I personally watched dementia slowly take my Dad’s memory, and the heartbreak of that is portrayed in a real way in this novel. The fact that this is based on a true story makes it even more compelling. Carly Schabowski has woven together a complex, beautiful, and painful tale that will keep you attuned to each turning page until the last secret is revealed.

I received a free copy of this book via Bookouture. My opinions are my own.

BOOKOUTURE BLOG TOUR SCHEDULE

Blog Tour and Book Review: Those I Have Lost

*Review in the Middle of the Page

BOOK DESCRIPTION

1940 When Rosie loses her mother and is sent to Sri Lanka to live with her mother’s friend Silvia and her three sons, her world changes in a heartbeat. As she is absorbed into the bosom of a noisy family, with boys she loves like brothers, she begins to feel at home.

But the war in Europe is heading for Asia. Searching for comfort from the bleak news and the bombings, Rosie meets a heroic soldier on leave, and falls in love for the first time. Yet the war will not stop for passion; he must move on, and she must say goodbye, knowing she might never see him again. She is left with just a memory.

Meanwhile, one by one, the men she considers brothers leave to fight for their island paradise. As she waits in anguish for letters that never come, tortured by stories of torpedoed ships and massacres of innocent families, she realises that she, too, must do her bit. Rosie volunteers to work in military intelligence, keeping secrets that will help those she loves and protect her island home. But then two telegrams arrive with the chilling words ‘missing believed captured’ and ‘missing believed dead’. Who of those that she loves will survive the devastating war, and who will she lose?

BONNIE READS AND WRITES (REVIEW)

Those I have Lost is a captivating coming of age journey set mostly in the area now known as Sri Lanka before, during, and after World War II.  Sharon Maas once again portrays characters and settings that will leave the reader spellbound. We travel through Rosie’s life, from the loss of her mother to her new life with her mother’s wealthy friend Silvie,  her joy and heartbreak, and the travesty of war.  Rosie longs to be a doctor above all else, and faces strong pushback against a woman becoming more than a wife at that time.  We also see how love and war can change our best laid plans. 

Sharon Maas once again introduces us to an unforgettable story that will sweep us away to a time of war and a place of beauty, loss, and danger.   Maas conveys landscapes we can see and feel, emotions that sweep us away, and characters who show us their very souls. This  description of Rosie playing her flute by a waterfall sweeps the reader into all of these at once:  “It was a small pool, a narrow waterfall, but the sound made by water entering water was simply delicious; so soothing, so fresh and clear and pure, the constant splash pleasing to the ear and to the heart, seeming to wash away all cares.  That sound formed a backdrop to my playing. Like an unbroken flow of oil, it provided a steady baseline upon which I could improvise a thousand tunes, each one as new and original as the dawning day.”  This is just one example of a book  filled with beautiful imagery combined with vibrant characters that will take the reader on a journey into life and war that will be unforgettable.

This is a unique take on a World War II novel, as we see it from the perspective of a girl in Ceylon (Sri Lanka), watching as Japan devastates Southeast Asia and then arrives on her shores.  I learned so much from this perspective that I hadn’t known before.  I highly recommend this book to others who want to see sides of World War II that expand us to different horizons that were also devastated by war, but not as well publicized.  

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Upcoming #Book Reviews Historical Novels Review

Some of you may have noticed I haven’t been posting as much lately. That’s because it was deadline time for my most recent reviews for Historical Novels Review, the magazine of the Historical Novel Society. These reviews were for the August edition, and I reviewed 13 books this time. I cannot share them online until after they are published on August 1st, but I wanted to share with you the covers, links, and Amazon book descriptions for some of the books I’ve been reviewing. I cannot give my opinion at all at this time on these particular books, but I will definitely be sharing them on August 1st.

AMAZON BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Germany 1940. As secretary to Himmler, the leader of the SS, Magda spends her days sending party invitations to high-ranking Nazis, and her evenings distributing pamphlets for the resistance. But Magda is leading a dangerous double life, smuggling secrets out of the office. It’s a deadly game, and eventual exposure is a certainty, but Magda is driven by a need to keep the man she secretly loves safe as he fights against the Nazis…

Forty years later.Nina’s heart pounds as she steps into an uncertain future carrying a forged passport, a few bank notes, and a scribbled address for The Tower House taken from an intricate drawing she found hidden in her grandmother’s wardrobe. Separated from her family and betrayed by her country, Nina’s last hope is to trace her family’s history in the ruins of the past her grandmother ran from. But, when she finally finds the abandoned house, she opens the door to a forgotten story, and to secrets which will change everything: past, present, and future…

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AMAZON BOOK DESCRIPTION

Trudy can’t escape the Bickerstaffs. One by one they invade the Avalon until death intervenes.

Old Mr Bickerstaff, recovering slowly from a stroke, moves into Miss Harriet’s old room at the Avalon hotel. His family, inheritance in mind, demands his immediate return home. His grandson Jeremy is not prepared to wait – he wants his money now. His accident – was it an accident? Or did one of Mr Bickerstaff’s closest associates give him a push? And why is it so important that old Mr B should return home?

Mr B’s decision to move into the care of Alice and Trudy puts him in the middle of the Avalon crew – especially Mrs Shand, whose obsession with the aristocracy hides her secret. But his family can’t leave him to settle in peacefully. His wife, his sons, his daughter-in-law demand his return with tears, threats, hysteria. His grandsons, future lawyers all according to Grandmamma, confront him with their own drama. But then Perry arrives, not interested in the Bickerstaffs, their money or in becoming a lawyer. But he looks so much like the young Bickerstaff men…

LINK TO BUY THE PROBABLE SON

AMAZON BOOK DESCRIPTION

Restless with the familiarity of her Alabama home, Ellie Fields accepts a teaching job in a tiny Louisiana town deep in bayou country. Though rightfully suspicious of outsiders, who have threatened both their language and their culture, most of the people in tiny Bernadette, Louisiana, come to appreciate the young and idealistic schoolteacher as a boon to the town. She’s soon teaching just about everyone–and coming up against opposition from both the school board and a politician with ulterior motives.

Acclimating to a whole new world, Ellie meets a lonely but intriguing Cajun fisherman named Raphe who introduces her to the legendary white alligator that haunts these waters. Raphe and Ellie have barely found their way to each other when a huge bounty is offered for the elusive gator, bringing about a shocking turn of events that will test their love and their will to right a terrible wrong.

LINK TO BUY UNDER THE BAYOU MOON

I can’t wait to share my reviews of these books and more! Now that that’s done, back to my huge TBR pile and more reviews to come tomorrow.

#Book Review: Keeping The Lights On For Ike

Rebecca Daniels shares the letters, thoughts, and memories of her parents, Alec and Mary Daniels, mostly during the time when her father was serving in Europe during World War II. Accompanying each letter or story from her parents, Daniels provides the rich history of what was going on in the war, the country, and/or the military at that time. The history is well researched, and the letters of her parents are an interesting look at what it was like to write letters that they knew were going to go through a censor. 

The importance of letters and the post office in general really resonated with me as well. In this day of smartphones, Facetime, and quick emails, few people really think about hand-written letters, but they were the lifeline of families during WWII. Both the soldiers and the families waited hopefully for the post, and when it finally came, drank in the only communication with their loved ones they may have had in weeks or even months.

One of the most poignant quotes for me came from Daniels’ father about the nature of war. I myself have never been in a war zone and would not presume to know what it is like, but his words rang true for me. When talking about a Christmas celebration during the war in December 1942, he said: “…The dinner was a great success and everyone forgot their trouble for a moment and had a grand old time. You see, Mary, a war isn’t all that you think it might be. You just have to be in one to understand how people live almost as they would if no war existed, except for short periods of extreme activity.” Of course, he couldn’t put anything more descriptive than “extreme activity,” or it likely would have been censored.

The letters and snippets of stories from Mary Daniels showed a woman of deep thought with real writing talent. I am the spouse of a retired military member, and when Mary described what it was like living near a Navy yard, that instantly brought me back to my own time living on military bases, and my own visits to Navy shipyards. Mary’s writings that were provided show she had a talent for connecting with the reader.

This is a well-researched and interesting memoir, and really provides a window of what things were like for World War II era couples, separated for so long but trying to keep the lines of communication open.

This is a great tribute from Rebecca Daniels to her parents, and a thoughtful history of what life was like at that time.

I downloaded the book on Kindle Unlimited, where subscribers can borrow it for free. I also received a PDF from the author. My review is voluntary and my opinions are my own.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rebecca Daniels

Rebecca Daniels (MFA, PhD) Rebecca Daniels taught performance, writing, and speaking in liberal arts universities for over 25 years, including St. Lawrence University in Canton, NY, from 1992-2015. She was the founding producing director of Artists Repertory Theatre in Portland, OR, and directed with many professional Portland theatre companies in the 1980s. She is the author of the groundbreaking Women Stage Directors Speak (McFarland, 1996) and has been published in multiple professional theatre journals. In 2015, she retired from teaching and moved to the Pioneer Valley in western Massachusetts where, in 2018, she completed the manuscript for Keeping the Lights on for Ike, a book based on her father’s letter home from Europe during WWII, which was published in 2019 by Sunbury Press. In 2019, she also served as literary manager and co-producer for Silverthorne Theater Company in Greenfield, MA. Lately, she has been working on two full-length plays and recently completed a memoir called Finding Sisters (to be published by Sunbury Press in 2021) that explores how DNA testing helped her find her genetic parents and other relatives in spite of being given up for a closed adoption at birth. 

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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/
https://www.facebook.com/KateHewittAuthor/
https://twitter.com/author_kate

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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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The Skylark’s Secret

This is one of 12 reviews I did last quarter for Historical Novels Review Magazine/Historical Novel Society website. I will be doing a feature on all of them this week.

In the late 1970s, Lexie Gordon returns home with her daughter, Daisy, to Aultbea, a small fishing village on Loch Ewe in the Scottish Highlands. She has come to live in her family’s cottage after a vocal cord injury ended her singing career in London. Embarrassed at first that the town gossipers might judge her for her lost career or single parenthood, Lexie slowly begins to reconnect with her town. She also begins to discover, through the townspeople, secrets of her family’s past.

In 1939, Flora Gordon lives with her family in the Keeper’s Cottage in Aultbea. Her father is the gamekeeper for the Laird, a surly and imposing man. Aultbea is suddenly tapped as the location for the Royal Navy’s Arctic convoys and is turned into a military base virtually overnight. At the same time, Flora finds herself falling in love with the Laird’s son.

Valpy paints a gorgeous word picture of the beauty of Scotland, both before and after the war, as well as the scars left behind in Loch Ewe when the war is over. I also enjoyed the description of everyday life in a fishing village and how that is suddenly changed by a military presence. The characters are well developed. The love between Flora and her family, and the love Lexie has for her daughter, is palpable. I was often furious at the cruel tactics of the well-crafted and despicable Laird. The town comes alive through its people and their connection to each other. This is a well written novel involving WWII fiction, Scottish history, and family dynamics with a touch of romance. 

I received a free copy from Amazon Publishing UK and Historical Novels Review Magazine via Netgalley. This appeared on The Historical Novel Society Website/Historical Novels Review Magazine.

This amazing book is available free to Kindle Unlimited members on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Skylarks-Secret-Fiona-Valpy-ebook/dp/B07X3NMHXJ/ref=sr_1_1?crid=1XI4CM0CGKKUQ&dchild=1&keywords=the+skylark%27s+secret&qid=1604320819&sprefix=the+skylark%27s+%2Caps%2C187&sr=8-1

Link to the author’s Amazon Page: https://www.amazon.com/Fiona-Valpy/e/B005U0HXIC?ref_=dbs_p_ebk_r00_abau_000000

Link to my reviews on the Historical Novel Society website: https://historicalnovelsociety.org/?s=bonnie+demoss