Book Review: An American in Paris by Siobhan Curham

A very Happy Publication Day to author Siobhan Curham for the release of An American In Paris today, 04.01.2021

About the Book:

An American in Paris

Walking through Montmartre that morning was like the eerie calm right before a storm. The roads were deserted. We carried on, arm in arm, and then finally, we saw them. Columns and columns of soldiers, spreading through the streets like a toxic grey vapour. ‘You must write about this,’ he whispered to me. ‘You must write about the day freedom left Paris.’

1937: Florence has dreamed her whole life of coming to Paris. She arrives on a sweltering summer day and, lost on the steep streets of Montmartre, asks for directions from Otto, a young artist with paint-spattered clothes and the most beautiful smile she has ever seen.

Otto becomes her guide to Paris, taking her to visit paintings in the Louvre and bookshops by the Seine. And when Otto returns home to finish his studies, they vow to reunite on the same spot they met, one year to the day.

Still dreaming of their parting kiss, Florence starts writing for an American newspaper and throws herself into becoming truly Parisian. All too soon, heady days of parties and champagne are replaced by rumours of war. When Otto finally returns to her, it is as an exile, fleeing Nazi persecution.

Soon, not even Paris is safe. Florence’s articles now document life under occupation and hide coded messages from the Resistance. But with the man she loves in terrible danger, her words feel hollow and powerless. If Florence risks everything by accepting a dangerous mission, can she rescue their dreams from that sunny day before the war?

A sweeping wartime story that will capture your heart and never let it go. Fans of The Alice NetworkThe Lost Girls of Paris and My Name is Eva will be absolutely gripped from the very first page.

My Thoughts:

Note: I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

An American in Paris is a sweeping tale of love and loss, the impacts of WWII on people and the resilience of some to take a stand. The book is written from two perspectives, following dual timelines, on set in the time from 1937 – 1945 and the other in the present day which in the book is the year 2018.

In the present day part we are introduced to Sage who is on an emotional spiral and messes up her public persona while trying to deal with the grief of her mother’s passing. As she tries to deal with the aftermath of her scandalous viral videos, she receives an email that may just change her life and give her the answers that her mother may have once searched for.

As the story progresses, the reader is also introduced to Florence, an American dancer who comes to Paris in 1937. The author treats us to two different stories, one of Florence who finds love and laughter, a purpose in life until the war begins and starts to affect France, and that of Sage who embarks on a journey of discovery.

Though Sage is featured in the book, I feel that her character and that of Sam were just to provide perspective and a connection to the past. The main focus is on Florence and her story. It is one of strength, bravery and the will to fight back as well as of enduing love and faith. It is both heart warming and heart-breaking to read, but will draw the reader in completely until the very end. The author does a wonderful job in painting a picture of war torn France, the impact it had on the people and how they were treated. A lot of research has definitely gone into the historical facts as many of them could be verified as well.

The plot flows well starting from the beginning and going on until the end of the war and the aftermath. The characters are relatable and their experiences harrowing to say the least. Since I have visited Paris many times, it was wonderful for me to read about Florence’s emotions while discovering Montmartre and Musée du Louvre as well as my personal favourite, the bookstore Shakespeare and Company.

Be prepared for an emotional roller-coaster and a story that will cause the reader to pause and think. This book is well worth the read and I highly recommend it!

Round-up 2020 – Books with a lasting impact!

Hey guys!

As you might have observed, I have been doing round-up posts with a focus on genres read this year.

However, in this post, I wanted to focus on books that left an impact on me that lasted well after finishing the book. This year, I discovered a lot of new books spread across various genres, but a few were just amazing! These books gave me something to think about, brought out a lot of emotions or just sent me on a wonderful adventure filled with fun and learning!

Click on the book image to read my review of the book

  —————————————————————————————————————-

Historical Fiction

The Violinist of Auschwitz The Lost Village

Fantasy Fiction

A Heart So Fierce and Broken (The Cursebreaker Series) Finale (Caraval, #3) A ​Sky Beyond the Storm (An Ember in the Ashes, #4)

Middle Grade Fiction

 Sol Invictus (The Eye of Ra, #2)

General/Contemporary Fiction

337

 

Do share your thoughts in case you have read the above books. If you have recommendations for such reads, please leave a comment so that I can add the book to my ever growing TBR pile!

Book Review: The Lost Village by Daniela Sacerdoti

About the Book:

The Lost Village

1945: Two sisters give birth to two little girls on the same night, huddled under blankets, deep in the black woods that surround their village. They hold their babies close as footsteps approach. If they make even the slightest sound, the German soldiers will find them…

2006: Luce Nardini clutches a plane ticket to Italy in her trembling hands. Since her only child left home, and with her estranged husband more distant than ever, she’s been overwhelmed with loneliness. She never knew her father, or the reason why her mother cut all contact with her family in the little village of Bosconero. Lost and unravelling fast, uncovering her roots feels like Luce’s last and only hope.

As Luce searches the maze of cobbled streets, a house with a faded blue door draped in perfect white roses stops her in her tracks. Inside is the grandmother she never knew, who – with a longing look at an ornate wooden box on her nightstand – begins to tell the heart-wrenching story of a little village ravaged by war, and why Luce’s mother fled home and swore never to return.

Surrounded by new friends and faded frescoes of saints, Luce is just starting to feel like she belongs when the unthinkable happens: an earth-shattering disaster that shakes the little village of Bosconero to its core. Could it be that the secrets of Luce’s past have been buried forever?

Frightened, hopeless and feeling more alone than ever before, will the surprise arrival of the husband she thought she’d lost help sew Luce’s family back together, or tear it apart for good? One thing is certain: she must find the little wooden box amongst the rubble of the village and return it to her grandmother. But nothing will have prepared Luce for the devastating betrayal she finds inside…

An unputdownable historical romance about the secrets we keep to protect the ones we love by the author of million-copy Amazon No 1. bestseller, Watch Over Me. Perfect for anyone who loves Fiona Valpy, Lily Graham or The Letter by Kathryn Hughes.

My Thoughts:

I received a copy of the book via NetGalley and am truly happy that I found it!

The Lost Village by Daniela Sacerdoti is a brilliant tale of love, loss, betrayal and the effect of secrets. Set in today’s world, we meet Luce Nardini who travels to Italy to find out more about her mother’s side of the family. Her mother refused to talk about her family and hints at secrets buried deep.

The author weaves a classic tale that is unputdownlable and gripping until the very end. Modern day is interspersed with the narration of times past. Luce’s grandmother talks of her life during WWII and the impact it had on their lives, on Italy and the people. She talks of finding love, marriage, children, her love and hate for her sister Nora and more. As secrets once buried come to the surface, Luce has the choice to stop or hear it all as she tries to find her place and bring her family together.

Dealing with her own problems, Luce seeks to immerse herself in finding out the truth behind her family and as the story unravels, the reader feels all the emotions along with the various characters. I loved reading about Luce’s cousin and her fiancé, Luce’s relationship with her son and the bonds she forms with the people she meets in Italy.

This story is mind-blowing and so well-written that all incidents that happen seem to be happening to the reader as well. There is not one moment when you will feel like stopping as the story flows seamlessly merging past with present and so on.

I truly loved this book and recommend this to all fans of historical fiction. This story is not just about the war, it is about the people who experienced it and the things they did to survive. But, secrets have a way of coming out in the end and the impacts are tremendous as can be seen from this book.

Book Review: Midnight Train to Prague by Carol Windley

About the Book:

Midnight Train to Prague

An unforgettable tale of what we owe to those we love, and those we have left behind

In 1927, as Natalia Faber travels from Berlin to Prague with her mother, their train is delayed in Saxon Switzerland. In the brief time the train is idle, Natalia learns the truth about her father and meets a remarkable woman named Dr. Magdalena Schaefferová, whose family will become a significant part of her future.

Shaken by these events, Natalia arrives at a spa on the shore of Lake Hevíz in Hungary. Here, she meets the journalist and writer Miklós Count Andorján. In time, they will marry, and Natalia will devote herself to life on a rural estate in Hungary.

When war breaks out in Europe, Natalia loses contact with Miklós. She believes they are to meet in Prague, a city under Nazi occupation. She sets up shop as a fortune teller with a pack of Tarot cards. In this guise, she meets Magdalena Schaefferová’s young daughter, Anna. Accused by the Nazis of spying, Natalia is sent to a concentration camp. In April 1945, Natalia and Anna are reunited, and with courage and determination, find the strength to begin again in a changed world.

My Thoughts:

I found this book on NetGalley and am grateful to have been approved a copy. I know that my review is quite late considering that the book was released in April, but then again, better late than never.

Starting with the title, the book intrigued me and I was curious to know what happens. The synopsis also added to growing interest I had in the book. Set in the times before, during and after the WWII, the story follows Natalia as she first travels with her mother to Prague and then later as she navigates life under the Nazi rule. The first half of the story focuses on her, her family and the people they meet on the way including Miklós. The second half of the story introduces us to Anna, the daughter of Magdalena Schaefferová, a doctor whom Natalia had very briefly met many years ago. As the story progresses, their stories intertwine and diverge based on the situations they end up in.

The historical aspect of the story is spot on and I enjoyed reading about how Europe changed. The author also touches upon the horrors during WWII, families being torn apart and the loss that people dealt with. This was quite sad but very well portrayed. At some points the story became confusing for me as it jumped from location to location and character to character.

Also, I read this in many reviews and I agree that it was odd how most of the dialogues were maintained in passive voice. Though it did not bother me as much, it was a new style of writing which I had not encountered much before. In retrospect, I feel that this worked for the way the book was written and still conveyed the points across. I was also not able to correlate the title of the book with the story completely as the focus was on the lives of the people and their experiences during the war.

The characters went through a lot in this story dealing with love, loss, friendship, empathy and so many other things. The author does a good job in pulling the reader into the narrative. This book is a good read for the historical depictions with a focus on Eastern Europe and the enduring nature of the characters in the book!

Book Review: Wedding Bells on Victory Street (The Bryant Sisters #2) by Pam Howes

About the Book:

Wedding Bells on Victory Street (The Bryant Sisters #2)

From Amazon bestseller Pam Howes comes a heartbreaking World War Two novel about a young woman trying to make the best of history’s darkest hour. Is a happy ever after impossible?

Liverpool, 1943. For Bella Rogers, life is looking up. She loves performing with The Bryant Sisters, the singing trio who have become the country’s sweethearts, putting a smile on the faces of the brave boys fighting the Nazis. But then tragedy strikes when a telegram arrives: Bella’s beloved father has been killed in France.

Unlike her poor Mam, Bella has someone to share her grief with. Her childhood love Bobby is home from the war. He lost a leg but she counts her blessings every day that he’s alive when so many young men haven’t made it back. Bella longs to give her heart to Bobby but she is hiding a secret that may change their lives forever. Will he still love her if she reveals the truth?

But when bombs screech down on Victory Street in the middle of the night, blowing houses apart, Bella may lose both the home she loves and the family who mean everything to her. With so much loss around her, will Bella be brave enough to snatch her chance of happiness? And when the war is finally over, will wedding bells ring out on Victory Street again?

An utterly unputdownable, heart-wrenching historical novel that will have you completely hooked from page one. You’ll lose yourself in this gorgeous wartime story of love, loss and family secrets. Perfect for fans of Wives of War, Nadine Dorries and Nancy Revell.

My Thoughts:

Wedding Bells on Victory Street is Book 2 in The Bryant Sisters series. I am glad that I was approved a copy of the book via NetGalley.

The story follows the Bryant Sisters as they travel the country during WWII, providing entertainment for the troops. I directly read this book without having read the first one, but it did affect the story for me. I was able to easily connect with the main characters and follow their journey in this book. The story revolves primarily around Bella and her family, her relationships with the other girls who form the Bryant Sisters as well as Bobby, her childhood love. The story is well-written and flows so well that I finished the book in one sitting.

The setting of the story is heart-wrenching with death and uncertainty looming over all the characters. I loved how Bella’s Mother and sister stepped up to help her and how the entire community who lived in and around Victory Street band together to support each other. As the war progresses, the characters learn to rely on themselves and one another to move forward. The author has done a great job with the story, the settings and the characters are adorable.

This is a love story set in the time of WWII and it brings to us a feeling of hope for the characters and a feeling of joy in spite of all the sadness. I thoroughly enjoyed this story and would recommend it to everyone!

Travel 200 years into the past with Cross Stitch (Outlander #1) by Diana Gabaldon

About the Book:

Cross Stitch (Outlander, #1)

The year is 1945. Claire Randall, a former combat nurse, is just back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon when she walks through a standing stone in one of the ancient circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is a Sassenach—an “outlander”—in a Scotland torn by war and raiding border clans in the year of Our Lord…1743.

Hurled back in time by forces she cannot understand, Claire is catapulted into the intrigues of lairds and spies that may threaten her life, and shatter her heart. For here James Fraser, a gallant young Scots warrior, shows her a love so absolute that Claire becomes a woman torn between fidelity and desire—and between two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives.

My Thoughts:

I picked up this book after watching Season 1 of the TV show Outlander on Netflix. The series caught my attention and kept me hooked and yearning for more. Once my interest was piqued, I had to give the book a try more out of curiosity to see how close to the story the series was.

The story itself interested me to some extent. The concept of traveling back into the past and getting caught up in a time much different and more primitive compared to the one you live in is indeed an adventure. For Clarie however, it started off as a nightmare. The moment she stepped through the stones at Craigh na Dun, she found herself 200 years in the past, and in the sight of her husband’s ancestor, Captain Jonathan “Black Jack” Randall. Thus starts a story of discovery, love and friendship set in the time of the Jacobite rising. Armed with knowledge from the future, Claire is forced to bide her time until she can return to the stones and find her way home. In an ideal world, things should have worked out that way, but her encounter with Jack Randall also brings her in contact with Scottish Highlanders and Jamie Fraser.

What do you do when you have to marry a handsome highlander to save your life from the English soldiers? How do you reconcile with the fact that you are already married, 200 years in the future? Is it alright to make a life in the time where you are now? What do you do with the knowledge you have of the past when you end up in the past?

With the above questions arising, Claire is faced with a much bigger challenge, starting with acceptance from the Highlander Clans as well as  the fact that she might not go back to see Frank. She is forced to accept her fate and in time falls in love with Jamie, thus further tearing her apart, torn between her vows to Frank and her current marriage to Jamie. Not one to be very superstitious or believe in magic, Claire finds herself in an unimaginable situation, where her skills as a nurse come into action to help.

A well-written story, this first book in the series will keep the reader hooked until the very end and leave them yearning for more. The characters are well crafted and wonderfully portrayed with the plot moving at a steady pace. It is possible to believe in love and magic and this is made more evident through the love that blossoms between Jamie and Claire as they understand and accept each other. The decisions Claire makes, and the path she takes, the people she meets, all seek to set the course of this story!

The book is well worth a read and the series is equally worth watching!

Book Review: A Kind of Woman by Helen Burko

About the Book:

A Kind of Woman

He is married to the Devil, but can he be her advocate?

Jacob Barder, a successful New York attorney, returns home to New York after being trapped in Europe during the Second World War and miraculously surviving the Holocaust. Barder does not return alone: with him is his new wife, Rachel, a beautiful blonde woman whom he met in Warsaw shortly after the war – a Jewish survivor who lost her entire family and remained alone in the world. Jacob fell in love with her and brought her to the states. Now he will defend her in the biggest battle of her life.

A Jewish lawyer’s wife is accused of committing Nazi war crimes

One evening, in a Broadway theater, Rachel is attacked by a woman who accuses her of being Matilda Krause – a German SS officer who served at the Nazi concentration camps. Rachel’s arrest and police investigation open the way to a sensational trial that will be written in the pages of history. With no one willing to protect a Nazi officer, Barder decides to defend his wife himself. Why would a Jewish survivor speak for a Nazi in the court of law? Barder is called to make an impossible case in the name of his beloved wife, and that of humanity altogether. The jury, the judge, and the readers will be astounded by what he has to say.

My Thoughts:

 A Kind of Woman is set in post WWII Europe, following the aftermath of the Holocaust. An American lawyer, Jacob, having traveled to Europe with his wife and child for a vacation, ends up a prisoner in one of the camps and manages to emerge alive. He however loses his family to the war and while trying to find his way back to America, he encounters Rachel, a beautiful woman with an intriguing mind. They are drawn to each other and become inseparable. As the story unfolds, the author holds off on sharing too much with the reader about Rachel, who ends up being an enigma until the last few chapters when all is revealed.

The author brings out the devastation the war caused, the effect it had on the lives of people and the world. The reader is drawn into a world that is mistrusting, skeptical and where emotions rule the mind instead of intellect. The description of the post war scenario is detailed and ensures that the reader will be affected just as much the people were.

I was not very taken by Rachel character. She seemed too flighty and like a spoilt child who cannot make up her mind. Her way of talking and antics were in no way endearing. Jacob on the other hand was interesting with a strong and pleasing personality. Also, the author uses a lot of repetition throughout numerous paragraphs to emphasize the same point over and over which made me want to stop reading.

Moreover, the first half of the story did not hold my attention much and made me question the point of the story. The second half of the story, after the couple reaches America takes a turn for the better. The plot starts moving at a fast pace, and though there is a lot of repetition and some unnecessary things, the court case is rather well explained. It forms the crux of the story and the author has highlighted some points that I believe should be noted by all and thought about.

Jacob’s ideas and beliefs and in the end, his decision to defend his wife, who was a German SS officer is questioned by the world. However, his defense and the way he handles it make this story worth the read. He raises many relevant questions and puts forth intellectual ideas rather appealing to the emotions of the people as the prosecution does. In the end, the story is not about whether the two characters end up together, it is more about how the war affected the lives of people and their ideas.

Overall, this is a decent read and may appeal to History buffs and those who are fans of the genre.

Book Review: Under the Pong Pong Tree by Hal Levey

I was provided with a free copy of the book by Publishing Push in exchange for an honest review.

About the Book:

Under the Pong Pong Tree

“Nothing can prepare the Chinese residents of Singapore for the tyranny that is ahead when the Japanese invade Singapore during World War II.

They get a sense of their new reality when Col. Kosaka stands in the shade of a Pong Pong tree—a tree that bears poisonous fruit—and orders the beheading of Mr. Tan, owner of a rubber plantation.

Li Lian Goh, a beautiful, sixteen-year-old girl, survives the carnage that follows, but her family is torn apart—like so many others that come under the iron fist of the Japanese.

She’s consigned to a military brothel where she is impregnated by a cruel Japanese officer. Desperate to survive and protect her unborn daughter, she manages to escape and gives birth in a Malay village to a baby girl she names Maimunah.

Capt. Mike Cagle, an American fighter pilot in Vietnam, meets Maimunah in her home village many years later, and he’s dazzled by her beauty. But their blossoming romance seems doomed when a missile locks onto Cagle’s F-4.

Love and the brutality of war are woven together in a beautiful, heart-wrenching tapestry in Under the Pong Pong Tree.”

My thoughts:

The story brings out the truth behind what people faced during the WWII when the Japanese invaded Singapore. It is  both horrifying and brutally honest. The author does not hesitate describe the events in great detail with no sugar coating to make it seem less horrific.

The story told from the perspective of a female protagonist is strong and highlights her life and what she has faced. the story is phased out in two parts; the first from Li Lian’s childhood until she takes over the rubber plantations and the second is when her daughter Maimunah comes back into her life along with the introduction of Mike Cagle, an american who only seems to add to the charm of the various characters present.

There are a lot of characters involved in the story, but the beauty lies in the way they all come together at the end. Each one has a specific role to play and they each bring with them a part of the story. The strength of the story lies in the plot and the style of narration.

The author intersperses the deeper relationships of friendship and family along with the more superficial ones. He brings out the feelings of misery, hatred as well as love amidst the backdrop of the war. The underlying message is that of trust and loyalty as well as to stick to one’s beliefs.

Li Lian may have been through a lot in the story as well as done a lot, however we are shown that she was human. She was not always right and even she accepted it. She meets a lot of people in her journey, many who help her and many who don’t and she forms bonds that remain for life. This is the beauty of the narration and character sketches. The characters are very well developed and have various shades to them some even coming across as vibrant. A peep into our history in a fresh way is a good way to describe this book.

If I continue typing I may just give away the entire story as it is still fresh in my mind. To prevent that, I will stop with my raving and say that I strongly recommend this book to all bookworms out there. This is a refreshing read and a breath taking, heart  stopping account of life faced during the WWII, and a look at a smaller war that most would not comment on.

Buy links to the book on Amazon: