Inspiring story of human spirit in the face of evil

  Stephen P.Kiernan has written a story of World War II that takes place in a small Normandy village.  The people in this village live a simple life until the Nazis occupy their village and change their lives forever.

The story focused on Emmanuelle who has worked hard as an apprentice to the town baker known as Uncle Ezra.  The two become as close as family and are known for their expertly made bread.   After the occupation, Kommandant is passing by their shop and smells the fresh baking bread.   He immediately announces that he will provide Emma will enough for rations to make 12 loaves for himself and his men.  Emma does this, but she also has a secret.  A secret plan that will help keep her village alive.

Kiernan has created remarkable characters set in a place and time in our history that is unbelievable…unforgivable…tragic.  He has written how people have this amazing strength to overcome and cope with the unthinkable horrors around them…and in the end  – survive.

(On a side note….I need a break from WWII literature….I need something light-hearted.  I need a potato chip book.)

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The women of WWII

  This historical novel is written by Jessica Shattuck, and it is set over many years from pre-Work War II era up to the year 1991.  The story focuses on three women caught in the horrors of World War II in Nazi Germany:  Marianne, Benita, and Ania.  The three women along with their children are thrown together though the events of the war.  Marianne is the strong one.  She has three of her own children, and both her and her husband are resisters.  They reside in a castle and life seems happy…safe.  And then it isn’t.

All three of these women are German and experience the war from different perspectives.  Benita is the meek and naive one who finds her son taken from her and is sent to a horrible place.  Ania and her two sons have been surviving on their own.  Ania is quite resourceful and is able to keep them safe.  Marianne is the savior of them both and brings them to the castle.  Shattuck looks at the choices they made and how they survived…what they did to survive.  They find themselves together towards the end of the war trying to rebuild their lives together.  They all have secrets that they have kept from each other…secrets that must be kept if they want to protect their children and they want to live.

The characters in this story are so well-developed and so real.  I loved reading all their stories and heart-breaking experiences.  This is a must read for fans of historical fiction especially the World War II era.

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Lovely and hilarious memoir of living in France

  I was contacted recently by author Keith Van Sickle about his memoir of his experiences living in Provence, France.   I was immediately interested in reading his book.  You may not know, but I have minor in French and was on my way to being a certified French teacher through the University of Pittsburgh.  Unfortunately, despite my ability to read and write French, my conversational French left little to be desired.  As a poor college student, I could not afford to travel abroad to become immersed in the language as all my fellow students were doing.  I abandoned my dream of becoming a French teacher (though not my love for all things French….Chocolat de pan, especially.)  I changed my major(s) to English Literature and Library Sciences, and here I am.

However, this review is not about me.  It is about Keith Van Sickle and his delightful wife, Val.  (I call her delightful even though I have not met her because Keith describes her as someone I would want to be friends with).  Keith and Val have had a love for travel and the French culture, so they decide to quit their jobs in Silicon Valley to move to France along with their dog, Lucca.   This is Keith’s account of their time there.  Each “chapter” is more of a anecdotal snapshot of  their experiences.  They are fun to read and made my mouth water with the description of the bread, butter, croissants, roast chicken, fresh vegetables….you get the idea.   I loved reading about the cultural and political differences they encountered as they learned the language as they went along.  It is a quick, entertaining read.  If you are looking to read something that will make you feel cozy and happy…read this.  Warning:  you may be tempted to quit you job and follow in their footsteps.  I know I am.

 

Follow this link to purchase:  https://www.amazon.com/One-Sip-Time-Learning-Provence/dp/0998312002/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1491747535&sr=8-1&keywords=one+sip+at+a+time

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Disturbing, fast-pace, and addicting crime novel

  Karin Slaughter has crafted a mind-blowing novel of unspeakable violence and murder.  The story spans decades and focuses on a family with three sisters:  Julia, Lydia, and Claire.   Julia goes missing when she is 19 years-old and has not been found.   Her family is splintered.  Her dad becomes obsessed with finding her and he begins to fall apart which leads to a break in his once picture perfect marriage,  Lydia starts down a path of self-destructive while Claire is left behind to figure things out as a 13 year-old.

Forward 20 year,  another 19 year-old girl has vanished, and the community is desperate for answers.  Lydia and Claire have not spoken in these 20 years, and their father is dead and their mom is remarried.  Claire is married to a millionaire architect, Paul Scott.  While Lydia has cleaned herself up and owns her business.  She has a 17 year-old daughter and is in a good relationship with a man named Rick.   Lydia and Claire are “reunited” and begin to piece together the events of the past that tore their family apart years before.  What they discover is horrifying and beyond their worst nightmares.   They both find themselves in danger with no way of knowing who they can trust.  Will they discover the truth and make things right?  Are they able to repair the damage done to their family those 20 years ago and move on?

This book is full of action and suspense and really, really creepy and disturbing violence…truly unspeakable.  If a scene became too much for me….I would skim through it and move on.  This is reason #42 that I love books over watching movies….I can control the images in my head.  I get to decide what I see and how much I see….though I do admit there are many times that my mind takes over and I see more than I thought and these images stay with me far longer than I had anticipated.  Karin Slaughter knows how to weave a story of not only psychologically chilling scenes and emotions, but she knows how to target the worst and the best of human beings and put it down on paper.

 

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Psychological thriller

img_0584   Grace and Charlie have been friends since they were 9 years old.  They are polar opposites and found comfort in their friendship.   Both of these girls have experienced tragedy in their young lives and have felt abandoned by a parent….it explains their closeness.

Suddenly, at the age of 24, Charlie dies.  Grace blames herself and cannot get over her death.  Charlie’s last words to her were I did something terrible, Grace, I hope that you can forgive me.  Grace is left wondering what Charlie did and why she died so suddenly…was it truly her fault?

Grace has been living with her high school boyfriend for a few years, and their relationship becomes quite unstable after Charlie’s death.  Grace begins to hide-away from everyone and everything while Dan copes in other negative ways.  Grace tries to make sense of everything and in the process befriends Anna.  Immediately, the two begin a friendship….yet there is something odd about Anna…something dangerous.  Can Grace put the pieces together of what has been happening in her small circle of friends before it is too late?

This is the debut novel of Louise Jensen, and it is definitely a page-turner.  I read it in a few hours.  Do yourself a favor and pick it up.

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Revenge and the modern world

img_0451  I have read several of Holly Brown’s books, and they have offered some fresh…something original.  This is Not Over does not disappoint.  It is the story about how the ever-present Internet can truly mess with our lives.  The story goes between two women:  Miranda, an older woman who is married to a doctor and has an estranged son who is a meth addict, and Dawn who is a 25 year-old newly married woman who has a troubled past.  The two become involved through getaway.com….think airbnb.com.   Miranda has a multimillion dollar home that she rents in Santa Monica, and Dawn and her husband rent it short-term.  After they have rented it, Miranda emails and informs Dawn that she will only receive half of the deposit money because of damage to the rental.  Dawn is shocked and confused…what damage?  What follows is an angry review on getaway.com by Dawn followed by rebuttal after rebuttal.   Soon Miranda fears for her life and her son’s life while Dawn’s marriage begins to crumble….all because of one bad review.

The story moves quickly  and as it is unfolds, the reader begins to unravel the truth.  Things aren’t always what they seem, and one never knows who to trust.

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Can betrayal lead to murder?

screen-shot-2017-01-09-at-8-33-53-am  This is the second novel that I have read by Susan Crawford.  It is called The Other Widow, and it is another fascinating story of love, murder, and betrayal.  She writes about characters that are authentic .  The characters that she creates could be our next-door,  neighbors, our friends,  or our co-workers. The choices they make lead to mistakes which is what we all do in real life.  Especially, when it is driven by emotions.

Joe Lindsey is having an affair with his co-worker who is also married….Dorrie.  It is during one of their trysts that Joe is killed.  They are driving together during a snow storm when Joe loses control and crashes into a tree, but not before telling Dorrie that she is in danger.  He is killed, and Dorrie escapes unharmed.  She flees the accident in fear that her affair will be discovered.

However, when Maggie Brennan, ex-cop, begins to process the life insurance claim….it appears that this may not have been an accident.  Dorrie is   danger….who knew about Joe and Dorrie….and what are they after?

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