I came across this series quite by accident while browsing Amazon one day. I preordered the first of them. I THOUGHT it was a series about 7 different...moreI came across this series quite by accident while browsing Amazon one day. I preordered the first of them. I THOUGHT it was a series about 7 different women, from different backgrounds, ethnicities, etc, with different skills that served during WWII, each one of the stories inspired by a real woman. ***but a commenter on Amazon has informed me that this is all one big serialized novel. Had I known that, I would not have purchased this. I'm not into being left hanging for an indeterminate amount of time. Anyway, this explains my disappointment that I mention below.***
This one, about a wireless operator behind enemy lines, is based on Eileen Mary "Didi" Nearne, who like the heroine of this book, served in Occupied France. Also like the heroine, she and her brother (and a sister, not in the book) escaped France immediately upon German occupation and made their way to England where they all entered service with the SOE.
The real Eileen, according to the author notes, was one of only 39 women to parachute into Occupied France and she transmitted 105 messages during her operation.
I wondered while reading this story why the heroine does something so stupid--takes the wireless back to her room instead of doing her transmitting from the tomb and leaving the device with the code book--and it turns out the real Eileen actually did this and was arrested too
The author def stayed very true to original events. We follow Temperance as she escapes France, head back in the dark of night on a plane (flown by a woman pilot!), her wireless rig in tow, and pretends to be a seamstress while secretly sending data back to England and thus, aiding the Resistance. Meanwhile, an SS agent attempts to court her...and things just end up going so wrong.
And here is where I get upset....the story--and I knew this was a novella--ends at 75% with us having no idea what becomes of Temperance. I expected (since I can't acquire book two yet and have no idea when I can) that each woman's story would end before the next woman's story began, that they would satisfactorily concluded, but that wasn't the case.
I didn't really like this book. I thought I would. It's about a woman reporter trying to make it in a male-dominated field--not only reporting but rep...moreI didn't really like this book. I thought I would. It's about a woman reporter trying to make it in a male-dominated field--not only reporting but reporting the war. It's nearing the end of WWII and she wants to go to the front, but frankly, the same thing I admire about her--her desire to prove women can perform just fine as reporters at the front line, also irritated me. She was too excited about seeing war. She went so far as to heartlessly say things like, "I hope it isn't over before I get there!" Not a direct quote, but you know what I mean.
Kinda reminded me of the beginning of the recent Iraq war. They showed all these fresh-out-of-highschool girls about to go to war, and they were gushing with excitement. Um, this is war. People are going to die. This is not a fun trip to Paris where you can paint your toenails.
I also didn't care for the fact half of it's from a male POV, her mob lover, Johnny, even though his stuff was actually more interesting. (Maggie seems to just complain and have sex.) I don't doubt for a minute the U.S. gov't recruited mob men at some point in the war and gave them special covert assignments. Anything is possible. He gets into some nitty, gritty war escapades too.
I appreciate one thing for sure: how it showed us the end of the war may not have been all we thought it was, that perhaps there was some loss of control on our side. It's sad, but it happens. It's something to think about.
But Maggie...she never grew on me, just annoyed the heck out of me. At one point she even opens a gate to a concentration camp, struts inside, and just randomly kisses a man? Huh? That was told from the dude's POV and I feel like I totally missed something. Who was she diddling this time?
You see, Maggie doesn't make it by her brains or wits alone. She has to sleep with men or give hand jobs under tables. I'm all for women's liberation and sexual freedom but to just screw a handsome reporter you met not two minutes before? Seriously? Glad it worked out for them, but it was at this point...at 62% ,with the war over, and Maggie just jumping into bed with another man, that I just decided I'd had it.
The Poppy Factory is a powerful tale about shell shock and how no matter which war, no matter which branch of the military, no matter what your sex, i...moreThe Poppy Factory is a powerful tale about shell shock and how no matter which war, no matter which branch of the military, no matter what your sex, it can affect anyone. Shell shock or PTSD does not discriminate.
The story goes back and forth between a modern-day heroine who has just returned from the Afghan war and is struggling in her relationships and the day-to-day life of being a paramedic. She's overtaken with rage, drowns herself in an alcoholic haze, and can't stop the nightmares and flashbacks. Could her great-great grandmother's diary, detailing the days after WWI and her husband's own struggles with PTSD be just what Jess needs to get back on track?
I think I preferred Rose's story and character more than Jess's. I am not overly fond of the diary method though. I would def have enjoyed the book more had Rose's story been a story (like Jess's) and not a diary. I still became completely immersed in it though. What I really liked the most about Rose's tale is how we see England right after WWI, the rationing, the emergence of the flapper era, the two-minute silence, the tomb of the unknown soldier, the spiritualists taking advantage of grieving women, discrimination against pregnant women in the work field, the origins and purpose of the poppy factor... Rose's tale, despite the diary telling of it, is so emotional. Rose herself is also just amazing, as she carries her husband and herself through bad times, gets work as a machinist, and unlike the love interest of the modern story, stands by her husband in bad times as well as good.
Meanwhile, Jess's tale is self-pity and not much else. She has a flashback, cries, drinks, worries about her boyfriend, repeat. I'm not saying what she is feeling/going through isn't important--it is. But the historical story has so much more going on than just the issue of shell shock. It not only contains everything I mentioned above, but also a side drama involving a criminal/black marketeer. The modern story is strictly Jess's trauma. And her beau...honestly...if he can't stand with you during the bad times, then he's not worth keeping around for the good. "Go straighten yourself out first..." Whatever, dude. Jess's pining for him didn't win points with me. At the first sign of trouble, he dumped her. I say move on, girl.
This is book four in the Louise Pearlie series. (I only read book three before reading this one and I haven't been one bit lost.) Louise is a woman wh...moreThis is book four in the Louise Pearlie series. (I only read book three before reading this one and I haven't been one bit lost.) Louise is a woman who works for the OSS during WWII, in D.C. What's the OSS? I can't remember what exactly it stands for, but think of it as an early version of the NSA. Louise's official task: filing clerk, but what she really does is decipher and translate and record mysterious data and notes and whatnot from spies overseas and searches for spies here at home.
What I really enjoy about this series, besides a heroine who knows her own mind, sticks up for others, and is intensely independent, is the historical setting. Through her we see the housing situation/rules in D.C. during that time, learn of all the political tension and how one must watch what they say, and meet a variety of characters. In this one we meet a returning war vet missing his arm and though it's a small side story, find out why he's so angry and tired of being asked about his Purple Heart.
Side stories such as his really happened and make for thought-evoking reading.
Ms. Shaber even managed to put bits of the racial tension/situation in the States in this installment. I applaud the author for keeping Louise at the homefront. Her series shows that there was a LOT going on here too during the war.
And as usual, Louise's file clerk duties get set to the side when a higher up asks her for some discreet help. A little blunder lands her on the case of a murdered man. Was he murdered? Or was it an accident? But if he wasn't murdered, where is his wallet? And why was he being investigated by the OSS?
Page by page, secrets are revealed, but never enough to make me solve the case. I love it when I have no clue whodunnit or am proved wrong. I like a good surprise. The case/story is topped off with a very intense storm, more bloodshed, and a fearful night during which I wasn't sure the Louise was going to get out of the mess this time...
I rarely waste too much time on books I don't like, but I was curious enough about what was going to happen to Sam and Helena in this book, that even...moreI rarely waste too much time on books I don't like, but I was curious enough about what was going to happen to Sam and Helena in this book, that even though I disliked it already at 17%, I kept chugging along, only to come to regret that decision.
Having read and enjoyed for the most part Ms. Jenoff's work before (see my review of the Ambassador's Daughter), I am surprised to be saying this, but I hated this book. Been a while since I disliked a book as much as I dislike this one, especially one I read all the way through. That being said, however, the fact I feel so strongly about it and what the characters do within its pages is actually a point in the author's favor. At least it evoked strong emotion in me.
I enjoyed Helena and her romance with Sam and this being a Harlequin book, I expected a nice romance, but something happens in the story that makes what starts beautiful turn into ugliness. I couldn't stomach it. There's a lot of things I can handle, but this was a sick twist I seriously disliked to the point it ruined the story for me. It was also utterly ridiculous. What woman is overtaken by lust at the sight of a man she doesn't know, who's hairy, stinky, and starved?
That being said, there's a war on, all right. It's Poland and the Germans/Nazis have taken over, the Jewish community is disbanded, trains are roaring past full of Jews on their way to the camps, there's very little food to be had, but in the middle of all this trauma and war, the book focuses on a stupid sibling rivalry and loads of resentment between two twin sisters. Sadly, that's where all the emotion of the story is: resentment between sisters. Helena resents that Ruth has been coddled, favored, considered prettier, etc. Ruth resents Helena having a romance while she's stuck at home raising three kids due their being orphaned. And it goes on and on.
I loathed, with an extreme passion, Ruth. What a horrid woman. I wanted to gouge her eyes out and sadly, she's half the story.
There are bad things happening and Helena witnesses them, yet there's so little emotion here that even things that should have been frightening just fell flat. Example: the hospital. You hide under the bed while a nurse is raped on top of it and it warrants a mere three or four sentences? Then it's never mentioned again? I would think the trauma of that would evoke a lot more reaction. As I said above, there's a lot more emotion when it comes to the sisters hating on each other or blabbering about their family history than actual traumatic events.
And Helena just traipses around all this danger unscathed. That was also a killer. I was like, seriously? Nobody stops to check your papers? You just waltz around the Jewish hospital, the ghetto, the blackmarket, and nothing happens? It's WWII, lady...and you're occupied.
I've heard of the Nazi T4 program before, in a small children's book in which a deaf girl placed in a concentration camp wrote poetry about her strugg...moreI've heard of the Nazi T4 program before, in a small children's book in which a deaf girl placed in a concentration camp wrote poetry about her struggles.
What I did not know and this book showed me was the whole genetics research that led to the mass murders of the deaf, "slow", blind, etc.
I did not know that the Nazi scientists were sterilizing women without their consent or knowledge, declaring them unfit to breed. I did not know that they were gathering the deaf and blind and otherwise "unfit for German society" children into black vans with painted windows and then driving around while gassing the unsuspecting and frightened children in the back.
As a deaf woman, this frightens me, that this mentality and way of thinking ever existed, even for a moment. I don't consider myself a blight on society...but that's a rant for another day and time. It was hard for me to read about this disgust for people like me, but as I've said before, "If you forget history, you risk repeating it," and thus I appreciated learning about this.
It's what drew me to this story in the first place. However, there's a lot more going on in this book than the Tiergarten 4 program and the people who attempted to escape it (I loved those bits and found my heart beating rapidly many times as Amelie, Rachel, and Lea tried to leave town or something and here comes the SS...) and it's the other plotlines I didn't care for and caused me to skim at times.
I didn't care for the sibling rivalry between Lea and Rachel. It was childish and out of place given the situation they were facing. I didn't like Lea. In the author's defense, I very recently read a novel called The Winter Guest that had enough sibling rivalry to last me ten years. I disliked that book so much that as soon as Lea looked at Rachel in a hateful, jealous way, my hackles rose.
I couldn't care less about the Passion Play. Or the children in it.
There were too many people and POVs. Some could have been eliminated--perhaps not their existence but their story bits. Like Frederick or even the Jewish girl and her tale. It's as if too many stories were being crammed into one. Amelie, Rache's friend, the Nazi's obsession for Rachel, genetics, the reporter, religion in Germany, Lea, Fred, even biblical Jacob, Lea, and Rachel.....
And in all this there was so little of Amelie, I question the title of this story....
Lately, I've been picking up a lot of books featuring women pilots and have found myself disappointed at the lack of aviation/flying. Though SS is abo...moreLately, I've been picking up a lot of books featuring women pilots and have found myself disappointed at the lack of aviation/flying. Though SS is about a woman pilot, inspired by Lydia Litvyak, the aviation scenes are few, but the story is not lacking in any way. There's never a dull moment and there is so much going on...and I have set this book down more knowledgeable about Russian history, about Stalin, about the arctic prisons, than ever before. And while there is more of this other stuff than actual aviation, the aviation is well done and exciting and I have no complaints.
Basically, it just worked.
We have not one, but two incredible heroines--actually three. We have the modern-day Lily who is recovering from a tragic loss and has this thing for saving stray cats. But what is really remarkable about her is her compassion for others. Despite the grief afflicting her, she has room in her heart and enough love in her soul to help an old lady, a perfect stranger. The historical story is about Natalia, how she grows up in Stalin's Russia and becomes a fighter pilot during the Great Patriotic War. (We call it WWII). Through her eyes we see what everyday life was like during this time--the fear, the arrests, the paranoia, the backstabbing, the subway tunnels, the brainwashing, the scarcity of supplies. This was probably my favorite thing and I learned so much from this story.
There's a lot of political corruption, a lot of lies, and we get to visit those arctic prisons I mentioned above, something that I've only heard about vaguely yet now know so much more about.
The third remarkable woman is Sveltana, Natalia's aircraft mechanic. She's loyal and wishes to atone for a sin. She goes above and beyond...
There's also a romance, but while it's passionate and paced wonderfully--not too fast, not too slow--it does not overshadow the importance of the issues within the story. We don't have a heroine here whose sole goal in life is just to find a man and fall in love. There is SO MUCH MORE. I can't stress that enough. (I want to thank my blogging partner Shomeret for coming up with that line in italics. It's something she said to me this last week regarding a different book altogether and the line stuck in my head.)
Now, the writing itself...it flows seamlessly from past to present to past, from POV to POV without issues. I had no difficulty telling who was who or even what time period I was in. The writing itself also transported me to another time and place. I couldn't even sleep while reading this book. I'd turn off my kindle and say, "Okay. Bed time," and twenty minutes later, I'd say, "Screw it. I'm gonna read some more."
I really liked the historical story in this. The daughter of a prominent member of the Third Reich, an Austrian violinist—so good that the orchestra,...moreI really liked the historical story in this. The daughter of a prominent member of the Third Reich, an Austrian violinist—so good that the orchestra, which doesn’t allow females, invites her to play with them—is caught smuggling Jews out of the city and as a result is thrown into a camp: Auschwitz. In there, the key to her survival is to play music for the Nazis, at their functions, while they send people to the crematoriums, where and whenever they will it. Can’t play? You die. Get sick. You die.
She’s also been torn from her partner in “crime” and the man she loves. Is he dead? Is he in a camp?
And every day as she plays for the enemy, as others go to their deaths, as the atrocities against Jews around her worse or continue, Adele dies a little more inside.
In the present day, an art collector wants a painting of Adele. A rich man holds the key, but if they find the owner of the painting, he means to sue… There’s supposed to be a romance here, but I didn’t find it as passionate or interesting as the historical one. I didn’t care either way. This heroine didn’t hold much interest for me either. She disappointed me, didn’t even find the painting or seem to do much in that respect. The man did it all.
To be honest, while this was a decent read, I must confess I didn’t garner anything from it. I’ve read about all the atrocities and life in Auschwitz before. I also knew they had the prisoners play music. The only thing new to me was the revolt. I think what saved this book for me is Omara. She’s a strong character and shows great bravery. She somewhat steals the show. I kept reading for her and to find out what happened to Adele, while I began skimming the present-day story, which was too predictable and mundane for my tastes. For some reason I never became engrossed or invested in the present-day heroine.
A decent read. Sometimes I like a quickie, something I can read in an hour, a break from that longer book that is taking a week.
What I appreciate the...moreA decent read. Sometimes I like a quickie, something I can read in an hour, a break from that longer book that is taking a week.
What I appreciate the most about this story is the look at flight operations during WWII. I'm just assuming the author did her research--even though I've never heard of a yoke called a wheel. Regardless, it's kinda neat to see what all could go wrong in the days before computers. Trying to safely get planes in the air in a timely manner during a war is no easy task. I also liked that we have a female control tower operator. Like I said, NOT an easy job.
Also appreciated the moral: It's better to have some happy memories, to have loved and lost, than to have nothing at all.
I felt the romance was awful quick and it didn't wow me. I got that they knew each other from before but it's not like that went well. But I expected that with the word count being what it is and I didn't pick it up for romance/sex anyway, but the war-time story.
It's well-written and edited as well. I believe there were only two typos in the entire tale. I've grown weary of small-press books and normally expect a hot mess, but this did not have those issues.
This novel somewhat reminds me of those British television dramas I’m so fond of. Lots of drama. It’s a good story full of (mostly) good people, peopl...moreThis novel somewhat reminds me of those British television dramas I’m so fond of. Lots of drama. It’s a good story full of (mostly) good people, people you come to care about as the story continues. The problem for me is it’s awful long and it’s nothing but drama and everyday life. Every story should have some of that, but I like a little something more in my books. I like to walk away with a good laugh or some new bit of knowledge. Though the story takes place during the war and the heroine works in a factory, there’s not a whole lot of detail about that stuff. Next to none, to be honest. Oh, they sit in shelters and they have rationing coupons, but I’m especially disappointed in the lack of factory life as that bit is what drew me to this story to begin with.
This is part of a series, but except for some references to Rosie and her problems, I never felt I was lost.
It’s a tad predictable. That has to be the second biggest downside, but it’s enjoyable enough that that’s not overly bothersome.
I was very easily able to get “lost” in the tale for four days. The heroines are Ruby and Peggy. Ruby is young and at first, I thought, “Oh no…a woman who lets herself get smacked around..ugh.” But she finds her backbone and then some. I think my favorite scene is when she stands up to Doris, but I digress. I appreciate Ruby’s story—battered wife trying to make it on her own, growing braver with each day, taking risks by up and moving from all she’s known and finding a job and a new home and opening up to people. Peggy is a strong older lady whose husband is off to war and has her own battles as her health declines and her home is bombed…but nothing…and I mean nothing stops this incredible woman from opening her home and her heart to other people, especially young girls in trouble, like Ruby.
Peggy is a fabulous role model.
We get brief looks at the other girls, such as Rita, who rides a motorbike and works as a firegirl, but you have to read their books to get their stories. This just offers teasers of sorts.
“Courage doesn’t mean you stop being afraid. It means you continue to fight, even when you’re terrified.”
This is a story that reminds us not to take p...more“Courage doesn’t mean you stop being afraid. It means you continue to fight, even when you’re terrified.”
This is a story that reminds us not to take people at face value. What you see on the surface is not always the same as what’s going on beneath. I was reminded of this as I read both the contemporary and the historical story. Each story line transported me to another place or time or place and time. From modern-day Virginia to WWII France…
I love the historical heroine in this. She’s so very brave and compassionate and her story made me ask myself, “What would I do?” There are so many instances in which she can’t win, really. And she’s faced with so many choices and each time, she makes a choice to benefit not herself, but those she cares for or wishes to help, such as children.
Every day they had to make choices. In order to survive, she and Josef and other like them had to choose the least of the evils to do the most good.
From the Jew in the German Army to the French translator in bed with German officers to a journalist who once loved to party to a lying politician wannabe, we are reminded about not being quick to judge. We not only don’t know the full story, but we often make the wrong assumptions.
While I preferred the historical story—a young woman in France hiding Resistance members and children right under her chateau while serving the Germans dinner in her dining room—I also like the modern story, though I didn’t care for the heroine quite as much. My only quibble, matter of fact, is the modern heroine’s story and issues were far too predictable. I saw it all coming from very early in the book. I'd also have liked Lisette's actions explained a bit better. I seriously doubted she did what she did just to get mascara...
I also learned some new things about how the French citizens behaved during their occupation and about the gendarmes.
Once upon a time there was a girl who loved to read. She grew up to become a book reviewer in her spare time. One very sad month in her life, every si...moreOnce upon a time there was a girl who loved to read. She grew up to become a book reviewer in her spare time. One very sad month in her life, every single book she picked up sucked. The woman seriously contemplated giving up reading forever and ever.
And then she picked up The Secret of Raven Point and she was riveted, and she learned things, and she laughed and cried.
Her faith in literature was restored.
That's my story and it's true.
I loved this book. It has so many incredible things going on: a girl growing up and growing comfortable with herself, developing confidence; a woman helping others at a great loss to herself (nobody is coming out of this war unscathed); a doctor trying desperately to help people understand battle fatigue; and most of all, it was about how war changes people, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse.
I felt as though I were there. I chuckled a few times in the first half of the tale. The heroine meets some awesome people who in a time of bleakness still manage to have a sense of humor (Glenda). I grew with Juliet and felt as though I was with her as she tended all this patients and shared these heart-wrenching stories with us. I sympathized with her as she grew a numb detachment.
There's a soldier facing court-marital for attempted suicide. That's considered desertion. But the story behind the WHY is shocking and sad. So much bad behavior on all sides in a war. There's a romance, or two, sorta, as much as one can have during a turbulent era such as this, when people are desperate for love, affection, a sign that humanity still exists. Does anything come of it? I won't say, but I will say this book doesn't have that cheesy HEA. It's not a romance. It's a story of life, of life during the second world war in Italy, of a nurse, a doctor, of soldiers.
All this time, through all these wartime struggles and losses, Juliet grows from a girl to a woman. Her priorities change. Her shallowness disappears. She matures and the book does this so subtlety you don't notice it at first. The author did a superb job with characterizations. The descriptions were excellent--not too much, not too little. The suspense def kept me on the edge of my seat. What happened to her brother? Is he dead? Is the patient going to die? Wake up? Escape? Is the doctor going to do something?
As I read, I picked up more little facts about WWII I didn't know before, such as how the gov't apparently wanted to sacrifice men instead of tanks due to the cost of the tanks. Lives were cheaper. Shocking little things kept popping up.
The story also gave me a deep moment of reflection or two, points to ponder...
Was there an obligation that came with living? With each adversity you suffered, with each disappointment, did you have to recognize that someone else hadn't even had the chance?
You look at this cover and you think it's about a woman flying and thus will have lots of flying scenes and such... In that aspect, this is a very dis...moreYou look at this cover and you think it's about a woman flying and thus will have lots of flying scenes and such... In that aspect, this is a very disappointing read. The heroine of the story only flies four times and each time it warrants a mere paragraph or two (except the last one). She doesn't join the ATA until the last 50 pages.
I thought perhaps her being a mechanic in WAAF would offer some interesting aviation stuff. No, it doesn't. There are no details about her training, testing, the planes, nothing mechanical whatsoever. What could have been incredibly interesting and insightful was just hardly mentioned. We know she's in training and did bad or good on some test or another...and that's it.
It's mostly just a girl coming of age during WWII in a small town, and then on the bases, meeting people, dealing with grief and friends dying, worrying about her brothers fighting overseas, falling in love--though you couldn't really tell--and just managing to free herself from a very clingy mother
It's about a town in England and how they get bombed constantly by the Germans on their way to London. Blackouts, fires, death. Rationing.
To be frank, there's nothing to distinguish this novel from any other WWII story out there, and I've read way more detailed novels about the ATA.
It's entertaining though and the heroine is likable, but the writing falls a tad flat. It's missing emotion. It's not a narrative that made me feel one with the characters--like I'm in their heads. I could get into the story and curious about what happened next, but I didn't think about the story or people in it when I set the book down. It doesn't stay with me.
There was also lots of odd parts where I think I was supposed to laugh, but I honestly didn't get the joke. Charlie and his daughter Charlie...Charlie says if he shouts, he won't know who's going to answer him??? HUH? If he and his daughter are both named Charlie and he shouts "Charlie", then she'd answer. Why would he answer himself? I'm sorry, but this went way over my head.
So... I think this is a good novel for anyone who wants to read about England during WWII and doesn't want to get bogged down in historical details. But it's more life on the homefront than what the ATA was like.
Funny moment I did understand and laugh at:
Heroine: "I can drive, and strip an engine and I've worked on an aeroplane." WAAF recruiter: "'An me and Princess Elizabeth went riding our 'orses at the weekend. Frightfully lovely it was, an' all."(less)