When I picked up Warm Bodies I wasn't quite sure what I would get. I tend to stay away from YA novels, especially those that involve paranormal romanc...moreWhen I picked up Warm Bodies I wasn't quite sure what I would get. I tend to stay away from YA novels, especially those that involve paranormal romances that so often seem cheesy to me. But with the movie coming out I thought I would give the book a try. I'm really happy I did because Warm Bodies turned out to be wholly unique and a thought provoking look at what makes us human.
Warm Bodies looks at "R", a zombie that begins to change when he meets Julie Grigio, a girl he initially saves from becoming zombie food and who soon becomes someone he cannot "live" without. While I have always enjoyed movies dealing with zombies, especially this time of year, I have never heard of a movie or book that takes on the perspective of the zombie. This was just such a unique way to look at things and had me sympathizing with the zombies' plight even as I cringed with the more violent and gory aspects of their existence. Some parts of the story were even funny, something I wasn't expecting at all!
What I enjoyed most about the book was the way it really dug into what makes someone human. While "R" wasn't technically alive he brought more emotion, compassion and fight to the world than many of the still breathing humans running around. He and Julie were both ready to really live and fight for a world worth fighting for and weren't content to just survive until the inevitable end of civilization. And that is when things really began to change!
I'm really excited I gave this book a try. I think I might need to expand my reading a little more and see what other surprises are out there!(less)
From the very first page, The Tulip Eaters takes off like a shot of adrenaline and instantly draws the...moreI reviewed this book for www.luxuryreading.com.
From the very first page, The Tulip Eaters takes off like a shot of adrenaline and instantly draws the reader in with the anticipation of a twisting mystery that hints at deep historical secrets. Then by page fifty the reader is told everything: who killed Anneke and why, who the dead mystery man is, who took Rose….and just like that the climax is over with 300 more pages to go in the story. I was so disappointed that the great mystery was over so quickly and kept waiting for some new twist to excite me again. That great new twist, unfortunately, never came. Instead we, the reader, are witnessing Nora searching for the information we already know while also witnessing the people who took Rose do everything to keep Nora from finding her.
The remainder of the book seems to just repeat the same basic series of information: a desperate mother cannot rest until she finds her daughter; the people who took Rose will do anything to keep her; Nora’s mother and father were not who she thought they were and were hiding secrets regarding what they did during those dark days of World War II. The story just kept dragging along without any new information seeming to be given. Even the romance between Nora and her old love seemed predictable. I just kept waiting for more.
What was fascinating about The Tulip Eaters was the historical information given regarding the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands during World War II, the Dutch Nazi party as well as the resistance fighters and the horrible treatment of the Jews during that time. Unfortunately this was only presented in small bits and pieces and left me wanting more real history and less of Nora running around. Even the title is barely referenced in the story.
Overall this story just fell flat for me. It has such a fascinating premise and taught me a bit about World War II that I had never heard of before. In the end, however, that just wasn’t enough to keep me entertained. (less)
I am always intrigued to discover the inspirations that lead an author to write a book. It seems there...moreI reviewed this book for www.luxuryreading.com.
I am always intrigued to discover the inspirations that lead an author to write a book. It seems there are nearly unlimited sources to draw from – conversations, research, accidental occurrences – but my favorites happen to be personal experiences and family history. When I decided to read The Aftermath I had no idea the author drew on his grandfather’s experiences in war torn Germany after World War II or even the complicated dynamics men like his grandfather faced trying to rebuild this decimated land and its equally affected people while also trying to find justice for the crimes done to those countries tasked with the reconstruction. Amongst other acts of humanitarianism, the author’s grandfather, a British Colonel in charge of reconstructing part of Hamburg, Germany, decided to have the German family whose house was being requisitioned for the Colonel’s family stay and live with them. He refused to find fault with this family simply because they were Germans and this act of kindness opened up the door for the brilliant story that would become The Aftermath.
In 1946 Hamburg, Colonel Lewis Morgan is placed in charge of beginning the process of rebuilding the devastated city as well as the rehabilitation and training of its battered and displaced people. When a beautiful house on the River Elbe is requisitioned for Colonel Morgan and his family – his wife, Rachael, and their son, Edmund – the Colonel makes the radical decision to let the owners of the home – Herr Lubert, architect and widower, and his teenage daughter, Freda – stay and live with them. In the beginning this merging of two opposing worlds is anything but easy. Rachael is still mourning the loss of her eldest son, killed during bombings in England, and fights with her feelings of loss and her strained love for the husband who has become little more than a stranger to her. Herr Lubert is mourning his own loss, that of his wife, as well as the loss of control over most aspects of his life. Freda is angry against these intruders of her country and her home and seeks redemption in dangerous ways. Edmund, young and largely unaware of the hatred and fear of those around him, seeks his parents love and admiration in the wake of his brother lost too soon. And Colonel Morgan, fighting everyday with the ever tipping balance between justice and revenge, must now also find a way to balance his difficult and all consuming job with the needs and responsibilities of his family.
As the families continue to live and interact with each other they will be forced to look beyond their own feelings of prejudice, guilt and sorrow and seek some truce and solace in the new world remaining amongst the rubble. By the end of the bitterest winter on record, each person living at Villa Lubert will have faced their own demons, made mistakes and come out the other side bruised yet sure of the person they want to be and the world they want to live in.
The Aftermath is so beautifully written that at times I found myself reading passages over and over again just to enjoy the lyrical language. The majority of the story is stark and heartbreaking but underlying it all is a feeling of hope for a better future. I had personally never heard of the feral children left homeless and parent-less, just roaming around the city digging for scraps to eat or cigarettes to sell, but these damaged children really helped bring home the idea of the battered and innocent people forced to pay for the evil done by some of their German countrymen. This was a side of history I had never learned before and in the skilled hands of Rhidian Brook it is something I will never forget.(less)
While Layla was born under an unlucky star her grandfather raised her to be educated and progressive, d...moreI reviewed this book for www.luxuryreading.com.
While Layla was born under an unlucky star her grandfather raised her to be educated and progressive, determined to try and give her the freedom to make her own destiny in a traditional Indian world that saw her as having very few choices. And with her independent and intelligent spirit, Layla does just that. Marrying a man previously betrothed to another and leaving behind everything she has ever known to follow her new husband to his job as an assistant manager of a British tea plantation in Assam, Layla and Manik set off on the adventure of a lifetime to chart their own course in a world previously clearly mapped out. But with the freedom of choice comes consequences neither envisioned.
Almost completely isolated in a strictly regimented colonial world, Layla must learn how to interact with the English men and women who have their own preconceived notions of her, the Indian servants she is now in charge of as well as the wild and often dangerous animals in her very own backyard. Even when Layla and Manik find deep love and contentment in the world they have chosen the ground shifts again as India in the late 1940s begins to fight for its own independence against British rule. In an insecure world that places the Debs on the knifes edge of an ever changing social, political and cultural divide, Layla will have to use every bit of ingenuity and bravery her grandfather instilled in her to survive the world crumbling around her and keep this life she has worked so hard for intact.
Teatime for the Firefly is absolutely mesmerizing. The writing provokes such vivid and beautiful imagery that it is easy to get lost in the language and lose track of time. From the brightness of the fireflies and the colorful saris to the stark savagery of the vicious environment that surrounds the tea planters I couldn’t tear myself away.
Knowing very little about India during this time, I also loved getting a peek into traditional Indian culture, the English influences on that culture and the various shifts and changes that occurred as the country was driven into the modern world. Both Layla and Manik refused to let tradition determine their futures and it was such a treat getting to see the good and the bad that resulted from going against tradition. Top all of this with unexpected humor and a tender yet powerful love story and Teatime for the Firefly is the full package. (less)
I decided to pick up Help for the Haunted after hearing the author do an online chat with another author, long time favorite Jodi Picoult, and hearing...moreI decided to pick up Help for the Haunted after hearing the author do an online chat with another author, long time favorite Jodi Picoult, and hearing that this book was a combination of ghost story, mystery and coming of age. Now having finished the book I realize that it is indeed all of those things and so much more, most noticeably a look at what makes a person "haunted" and how someone's perception of that characteristic can influence their actions, sometimes in devastating ways.
Growing up the children of parents dedicated to helping "haunted" people find peace, Sylvie Mason and her older sister, Rose, have never had lives that most would find normal. Their home is one that is not only open to the various paranormal possibilities but one that is also intensely devout, leading many outside their small family to either keep their distant or strike out against what they don't understand. Sylvie, the "good daughter" has gone along with their parents' unusual practices with little complaint while Rose, the wilder one, has bucked against the constraints her parents placed on them. Then one night their parents are murdered and everything changes in a flash.
Sylvie, the only witness to what happened that night, is left to not only attempt to pick up the shattered pieces of her life but to figure out what really happened. Left with a distant, secretive and angry Rose as her guardian, Sylvie will have to learn to trust in her own inner strength and abilities and to let go of everything she thought she knew about her parents, her sister and the greater world they lived in if she will ever be able to discover the facts of their lives and move on to create a new life from the rubble.
My first impression after finishing Help for the Haunted is that it isn't quite as scary as I thought it would be, at least not in the sense I anticipated. Like so many other factors within the book, once the truth is discovered and the deceptions laid aside the reality of the spookier aspects seem much more rational. What makes it truly frightening is the realization that believing in something and wanting it to be true can lead people to do some devastating things. When it comes to love, hate, jealousy, revenge and a laundry list of other intense motivators, sometimes these feelings can lead someone to do heinous things all while they justify the actions as necessary. When all the pieces finally came together at the end of the book, these facts are what caused the lasting chills for me.
Sylvie is a remarkable heroine and one I think most people will be able to sympathize with. So much pressure is on her small shoulders to do and say what others expect of her, to be the "good" one all the time. On the flip side, Rose at first came across as completely unlikeable, earning her place as the "bad" one. However, once I discovered what was really going on in her life and what she has had to put up with, I couldn't help but feel for her as well. What I come away with is the realization that every single character is influenced and motivated by external sources that shape and distort who they become, leaving everyone a little "haunted".
I don't want to give too much away as part of the excitement of this book is discovering the facts from the perceptions. However, I think most people will find various aspects of this book fascinating and quite a surprise. I am always happy to find myself completely shocked when the final page is turned and I discover I had no idea what was really going on. Help for the Haunted is one of those books and I am now really excited to go read more by John Searles. (less)
Reading books set during times of war never seem to fail to point out either the horrors experienced by those brave men fighting for their countries o...moreReading books set during times of war never seem to fail to point out either the horrors experienced by those brave men fighting for their countries or the sacrifices and activities of the women left home to worry for their loved ones. Unravelled is the first book I can think of that combines both a husband's experiences and inner workings and that of his wife, with all the loneliness, hurt and healing that is sure to happen with the continual ebb and flow of uncertainty.
When Edward Jamieson received an invitation to travel from Canada to France for the dedication of a monument to those brave men who served and died fighting during WWI he isn't sure whether he and his wife, Ann, should go or not. Edward has never fully recovered from the trauma and horror he experienced and doesn't see what good going back to the scene and letting himself remember those events will do. He has never fully told Ann about what he went through and isn't sure he will be able to keep himself sane. Beyond that, he isn't sure he is ready to see if the woman he loved, and later lost, will be there at the dedication. What will he do if he sees the woman who got away?
When Edward comes face to face with Helene, the woman who helped him heal after the war, he makes some series mistakes that put his own marriage in jeopardy. Working tirelessly to put his marriage back on track both he and Ann begin to experience some of the trust and intimacy they experienced in the early years of their marriage. That is until WWII hits.
When Edward is enlisted to be a part of some very top secret spy training for the Allies, he is forced to tell no one of his actions and to once again close part of himself off from Ann. With secrecy once again swirling around their marriage and a wall of lies between them, Ann seeks a companion and confidante in another man, a man who is willing to make her feel desirable and wanted instead of neglected like Edward. As war continues to rage on and Edward and Ann continue drifting farther and farther apart, will they ever be able to find themselves again in a marriage that seems doomed to continue to unravel?
I was continually impressed with the obvious research that went into writing Unravelled. The descriptions of war - both the planning and training aspects as well as the actual fighting - were fascinating and incredibly vivid. M.K. Tod did a fantastic job of balancing both this raw physicality with the emotional and mental goings on of the characters. Getting inside the head of both Edward and Ann you can completely understand why each made some of the decisions they did while you still see how their actions could have devastating consequences for their lives. This, if nothing else, really helped me see how the utter chaos of war can influence people to make some incredibly severe and rash decisions just to try and survive with their hearts and minds intact.
If I had any complaint about Unravelled it would be that I wish it was broken into two (or maybe three) books. I think it would have been wonderful to have the first half of the book - dealing with Edward's experiences in WWI, he and Ann's trip to France and the horrible consequences of Edward meeting up again with Helene - as its own book and the second half - dealing with Edward's secret work during WWII, Ann's affair and their attempt to find a way back to each other after WWII ended - as a completely separate book. I think this would have allowed for even more development of an already wonderful and intriguing storyline and leave it open (if I had my own way of course) for a third book that dealt with whether or not the two are able to find a way back to each other for good.
Anyone who enjoys books set during both world wars as well as books that show the difficult and often ugly give and take of a marriage falling apart and coming back together again should give Unravelled a try. I am definitely glad I did and now have my interest piqued to read more about both wars and the affects it has on those left standing when the rubble settles. (less)
A few years ago I remember reading an article about a rich old woman whose family suspected the people...moreI reviewed this book for www.luxuryreading.com.
A few years ago I remember reading an article about a rich old woman whose family suspected the people surrounding her – her medical staff, lawyers, etc. – were keeping her removed from the outside world and working to get her to give them all of her money. While I don’t remember much else about the article I do remember thinking, “How is that even possible?”, and feeling horrible for this used elderly woman and her family. Then I started reading Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune and realized that Huguette was the woman from the article and that there was a lot more to her story than I could ever have imagined. As the authors put it, her story is a fairy tale in reverse, a woman born into great wealth and privilege that eventually hid herself away from the opulent life she was born into and all but the bare minimum of human contact.
The first part of Empty Mansions deals with Huguette’s father, W.A. Clark, a man that seemed to personify the American dream: coming from humble beginnings and building a vast empire using good old fashioned hard work, intelligence and a heavy dash of luck.After his first wife died, sixty-two year old W.A. Clark married twenty-three year old Anna LaChapelle, a shy woman who would become mother to Huguette and her older sister, Andree.
Growing up in unimaginable splendor, Huguette’s life wasn’t all glamour and gold. Losing her sister and closest friend Andree and her beloved, exuberant father at a young age, Huguette seemed to get stuck in a childlike state, one she never really grew out of. After a very short and seemingly unromantic marriage she lived with her mother until her mother’s death, never venturing far and choosing to spend the majority of her time with either her paintings or her intricate, expensive dolls.It wasn’t until her face became riddled with cancer and she had no other choice but to reach out to a friend for help that Huguette left her home for medical care at the hospital. She would never go back to her home – or any of the lavish properties she owned – or leave the hospital again even though she would continue to live in relatively good health for a number of decades.
Huguette’s years in the hospital are probably the hardest part of this peculiar and excessively eccentric woman’s life for me to understand. From most accounts she seemed content to live in a small, sparse room with few luxuries and give lavish and expensive gifts to the few people she came into contact with. Even with the authors’ clearly balanced and well researched information I could not wrap my head around anyone giving millions upon millions in gifts to her nurses, doctors, lawyers, etc. while refusing to even see the people who had been her friends and family her whole life, even if the family members weren’t exactly close. The resulting fight over her $300 million fortune after her death was not surprising but something I just found extremely sad. It seemed that most people were more interested, at least in the end, in Huguette’s money then in what was best for her or what she wanted her inheritance to be.
Empty Mansions is a fascinating true story of a life of extremes: excessive wealth, intense shyness and obsessive behavior that few can relate to but most will find intriguing. It reads like fiction and is highly entertaining even as it presents a unique woman and an in-depth look at the growth of America from the mid 1800s through to the present. I highly recommend this to anyone who enjoys a true story about the epitome of an eccentric millionaire and the good and the bad that comes with all that entails. (less)
A sad yet universal truth seems to be that, as humans age and interact and grow, they inevitably face t...moreI reviewed this book for www.luxuryreading.com.
A sad yet universal truth seems to be that, as humans age and interact and grow, they inevitably face the sadness and loneliness of losing someone they love. We lose friends, parents, spouses, children, sometimes under devastating circumstances and nearly always before we are ready to let go. Many of these losses leave us completely bereft or riddled with guilt of one kind or another. But what if we were able to see those loved ones again, given the chance to make different choices or simply appreciate them in a way we didn’t the first time around? Would we be able to finally find the closure denied us in the past, even as we struggled with how long we might have these loved ones in the present? In The Returned, Jason Mott presents a story where this incredibly alluring premise becomes a reality, with actions and consequences both delightful and devastating.
When Harold and Lucille Hargrave’s only son Jacob drowned at his eighth birthday party in 1966 they were utterly heartbroken. Harold blamed himself for telling his young son wild stories about treasures found near the water and turned his back on the God that would allow his son to be taken. Lucille turned even further into her Baptist beliefs in search of an answer that never quite came. However, as decades past and they continued their lives in the small town of Arcadia, North Carolina, their sorrows receded and they moved on, even if they never forgot. Then the dead started popping back up all around the world, looking and acting exactly as they did the last time they were alive, and their sweet and precocious eight year old Jacob arrives at their door, scared but happy to be home.
Interspersed with the Hargraves’ story are small snippets into the lives of some of the Returned struggling like everyone else to figure out why they are there and to try and resume the lives they had before they died, something that proves harder than they would imagine. Between these glimpses into the lives of the Returned, those that have had their loved ones returned to them and those that find the Returned frightening and a sign of the end of the world as they know it, the reader is forced to understand and appreciate each side even as they struggle to determine exactly how they would feel if thrust into the same situations. Would you embrace this previously dead person and try to resume the life you had with them or would you turn them into the government that is quickly rounding up these Returned people into little better than prison camps? Would you work to try and protect these previously dead people who are just trying to move on or would you turn your back on them in fear? So many of these questions will touch the heart of the reader and will make for intense and excitable book group discussions.
While faith and religion do play a part in The Returned it is anything but preachy. The story is much more about the emotional and psychological journey than about the particular devoutness of the characters or the reader. I found myself heartbroken at the sometimes heinous actions taken against these strange people even as I could understand why someone would be so scared by their very presence. I tend to be someone who feels pretty strongly about most situations, and I was continually surprised by how emotional I got at the various responses to these characters. The Returned is tender and violent in turns and completely unlike anything I have read before, nor a story I will soon forget. (less)
The Wild Roses is a fun, quirky sort of story that finds three beautiful women in the role of Musketeer...moreI reviewed this book for www.luxuryreading.com.
The Wild Roses is a fun, quirky sort of story that finds three beautiful women in the role of Musketeers. As I don’t know very much about this time period in France and no author’s notes were given detailing what is factual and what is fiction, I am hesitant to say how true to life the story really is. There were many times when I had to turn off my instinct to second guess the accuracy of the history and just enjoy the story for what it was. I had to do this with the language style as well, as it seemed to be very modern at times before transitioning back to what I would think better fit the setting. This being said, the adventures of Charlotte, Racine and Gabrielle were quite funny at times and I enjoyed their story line more than any other part of the book.
My biggest complaint with The Wild Roses would have to be that there were quite a few editing errors that kept pulling me out of the story and made for a disjointed and awkward reading experience at times. Missing words, double words and odd word placement kept throwing me off and making me reread the sentences to figure out what was going on. This might not be a problem for all readers but has always been a pet peeve of mine.
Overall The Wild Roses is a fast, exciting adventure that pits three remarkable and entertaining women at the forefront of what most would consider a male-dominated world. It was unconventional and thrilling and is sure to be enjoyed by anyone interested in a female Three Musketeer sort of story. (less)
As the foreword to Cherokee Talisman states, "History is written by the victorious". Nothing was more plainly clear to me as I read this book and comp...moreAs the foreword to Cherokee Talisman states, "History is written by the victorious". Nothing was more plainly clear to me as I read this book and compared what I had learned in my history classes about the burgeoning United States of America and its influence and interactions with the Native American people already living on the land and what I was reading in this book. It's a story of a proud, respectful culture being slowly extinguished and the brave members continuing to fight the inevitable outcome. This story is vicious, violent and exceedingly compelling.
Cherokee Talisman follows the changing world of the Cherokee Nation and some of its brethren nations such as the Shawnee, Creek and Seminole from 1775 through 1821. Seen mainly through the eyes of Totsuhwa, a Cherokee warrior and shaman, and his extended family members I was absolutely stunned at the various evils done against the Native American people. We see so called "American heros" like Daniel Boone and Andrew Jackson try to trick the leaders of the Indian tribes into signing away the land they had lived on since human feet touched it and, if that didn't get them what they wanted, see them slaughter at will every Native American man, woman and child they came into contact with. I was stunned at the continued attempt by the Native Americans to adapt and change in the best possible attempt to survive and retain the history and culture of their ancestors. They switched allegiances when necessary and did their own slaughtering of innocent settlers if they stepped foot on their land, but while I didn't find this to be something they should have done none of their atrocities seemed to even come close to the horror done to them.
With all the war and fighting I found my favorite parts of the story dealt with the portions within the Indian villages and the family interactions between Totsuhwa, his wife Galegi and his son Chancellor. These portions gave some much needed sweet to the tang of the rest of the story and was how I learned the most about the Native American history and folklore as well as how tender and kind these Indian warriors could be when not fighting for their rights.
Readers should be warned that Cherokee Talisman is quite graphic and violent at times, but given what is being described I think it would be a travesty against the story if it wasn't raw and vicious as was the truth. I will never look at the plight of the American Indian the same way again and look forward to seeing where the next book in this series might take them.(less)
There is just something about a Kate Morton novel that allows the reader to become completely immersed in her twisting, multi-layered story lines and...moreThere is just something about a Kate Morton novel that allows the reader to become completely immersed in her twisting, multi-layered story lines and to feel slightly sad when the story is over (I always wish it wouldn't end!)but also fully satisfied that everything came together by the last page. This is my second novel by Ms. Morton and I am once again just so impressed with the way she carefully drops small tidbits of the truth as the involved stories unfold and how these little clues come together so neatly to smack me over the head with the full revelation towards the end. As hard as I try I never can quite guess where the story is leading and that, along with her wonderful character and setting development, is why I love reading her books.
In The Secret Keeper, famous actress Laurel Nicolson is coming home to her family's farm in the waning days of her aging mother's life. While she has always loved the bustling, hectic memories of her childhood on the farm with her siblings and the magical quality her mother imparted on their life, a brutal and violent incident Laurel witnessed between her mother and a strange man when Laurel was a teenager has always left a shadow on her recollections. As her mother slowly drifts away from them all, Laurel sets out to discover what really happened all those years ago.
Weaving back and forth in time, from the present to WWII London, Laurel and the reader both learn the secrets that her mother has kept all these years and what her mother has sacrificed to try and make amends for her past.
One of the aspects I loved most about The Secret Keeper was the attention played to the ignorance of youth and the impetuous and selfish nature that seems to be inherent in the young. Like the characters in the book I remember thinking that my parents could not possibly understand my emotions or my need to break away and see what the world might hold, and I imagine my son will feel the same way some day. It just seems to be a stage of life and one that can have some severe consequences, depending on how that untouchable attitude is carried out.
The depictions of bombed out WWII London were incredible as well and really helped set the stage for the devastating actions that occurred between Laurel's mother and the people in her life at the time. The sense of urgency and unpredictability caused the deepest passions and emotions of the characters to bubble to the surface and this combined with the constant fear, hunger and loss provided the backdrop that allowed the story to unfold in a way that might have seemed overdone or melodramatic under other circumstances.
Kate Morton has fast become one of those authors that I get a little giddy when I see a new book is coming out from. She is a remarkable story teller (or story weaver might be more appropriate) and I only hope she continues to release more intricately woven stories out to her many fans.(less)
When I saw the movie version of The Book Thief was coming out I thought it was the perfect time to finally read my copy of the book that has been sitt...moreWhen I saw the movie version of The Book Thief was coming out I thought it was the perfect time to finally read my copy of the book that has been sitting on my shelf for some time. With all the lovely reviews I have read I was sure I would love it as well and I was definitely not disappointed. While I cannot say that it is a feel good read in any way it is an incredibly beautiful story and one who's characters I will never forget.
First and foremost the narrator of this incredible story is death himself. He's not the usual scythe and darkness death we have seen before but a death who is just doing his job and trying not to get too distracted by the strange lives of the living he passes by. There is a heart beating in that cold chest, one that cannot turn away from our main character, Liesel Meminger, a girl who refuses to let this horrid life she has been born into break her spirit. It might sound strange but, with all the war stories I have read in my lifetime, it is this book narrated by death that presents the most humane and heartbreaking story yet.
Liesel is another wholly unique character. Made to go live with foster parents when the Communist label attached to her family becomes too dangerous, Liesel's younger brother dies on the way to their new home. Finding a book in the snow by her brother's grave, Liesel steals the book and resolves to learn how to read it. It is with this first theft that Liesel resolves to steal words when the world takes things from her. However words become so much more to our young heroine: a bridge connecting her to her foster Papa, Hans Hubermann; a way to escape the horrors happening around her, both figuratively and literally; a way to emotionally relate and communicate to the young Jewish man the Hubermanns hide in their basement. For someone who love words as well I became very attached to Liesel and her various ways of dealing with the unpredictable, often hypocritical world she had to try and navigate. How else might a young German girl, a member of the local Hitler Young group, deal with the unwarranted hatred she sees being thrown at Jewish people like the young man in their basement she has come to love like family?
I couldn't end this review without mentioning the other unforgettable characters that saturate this story. By far my favorite character is Liesel's best friend, Rudy Steiner, a young boy always willing to do what his heart feels is right, regardless of the danger it might present for himself, and a boy who wants nothing more than a kiss from Liesel. I don't want to give too much away regarding their sweet, innocent relationship but I will advise you prepare and have some tissues when you begin reading the last 50 pages or so of the story. Another unforgettable character is Papa, a man who seems to have unlimited amounts of kindness and another character who refuses to let the propaganda of the Fuhrer dement what he knows to be the right way to be. There are so many more remarkable characters - Max, the young Jew in the basement, Liesel's harsh yet caring Mama, Rosa, the many colorful characters inhabiting Himmel Street - and this collection of humanity makes the ending of the book that much more poignant. I've never quite read anything like it.
Anyone who loves reading history from an alternative viewpoint, especially history dealing with WWII, would be remise not to read this book. This is a powerful, beautiful, bittersweet story. It's the kind of story that you will not only never forget but one that, once you have read it, will make you forget what it was like to have not known and loved these characters. Truly a life changing story. (less)
When Sophie Lefevre’s artist husband, Edouard, goes off to fight for France during WWI she decides to l...moreI reviewed this book for www.luxuryreading.com.
When Sophie Lefevre’s artist husband, Edouard, goes off to fight for France during WWI she decides to leave Paris and return to her family’s hotel in the small town of St. Peronne in Northern France and assist her sister in running it. When the town falls to the Germans their occupation leads to increasing restrictions and depleted rations as well as suspicions and gossip amongst neighbors. When the German Kommandant becomes enraptured with one of Edouard’s paintings of Sophie called The Girl You Left Behind, and Sophie learns Edouard has been captured and is being imprisoned in one of their camps, she decides to risk everything – the love of her family, her good name in St. Peronne, her very integrity – for the chance to be with Edouard again.
Nearly a century later, Liv Halston is still struggling with her husband’s sudden death four years previously. His death has left her bereft and lonely, with a designer house she cannot afford and the painting of Sophie that her husband bought for her during their honeymoon. With her life now stagnant, The Girl You Left Behind makes Liv feel connected to the love she has lost. Then she meets Paul and Liv begins to think she can live again. That is until Paul reveals he is working for the Lefevre family who believes The Girl You Left Behind was stolen by the Kommandant during the war and that they deserve it back. As The Girl You Left Behind has become so much more than a painting to Liv she refuses to let this happen.
As the court case surrounding the ownership of the painting heats up, Liv continues to learn more about the fate of the enigmatic Sophie and, in turn, more about what she wants for her own life. But as the world begins to collapse around her, Liv will have to stay as strong as Sophie did against the often negative opinions of others in order to stay true to what she feels is right and to try and give Sophie the honor she deserves.
I absolutely loved The Girl You Left Behind! The first part of the book is exclusively Sophie’s story and it is intense. I had no idea that northern parts of France were occupied by the Germans during WWI or that such atrocities, many that were replicated not that far in the future during WWII, were happening during that time. Sophie is presented as such a strong, determined woman, ready to do anything and take any abuse just for the chance to see the love of her life again. While we don’t get to see too much of Edouard, their love story is one for the ages. I think what surprised me the most during this part of the book was the quick hatred of Sophie’s neighbors when they believed anyone could even possibly be collaborating with the enemy. The fact that someone could be doing nothing wrong and find themselves without any kindness from supposed friend or foe is just heartbreaking to me.
The second part of the book mainly deals with Liv’s struggles with some smatterings of Sophie’s story as more and more is learned about her fate. It was quite interesting to see Liv experience some of the same general issues – although admittedly on a much smaller scale – as Sophie and to see how she continued to change as she came closer and closer to the truth. Everyone seemed to turn on Liv when she decided to fight for the painting, assuming they knew her reasons for doing so, and Liv has to also decide how far she is willing to go for love. While the love between Liv and Paul wasn’t quite as earth shattering for me as Sophie and Edouard it was still quite touching.
There are just so many wonderful things going on in this book that it is hard for me to even classify it – it’s got WWI history, two romances, a courtroom drama and two incredibly compelling heroines that are hard to forget. Everyone should read this book, it was just that amazing. (less)
The first book in C.W. Gortner's Spymaster Chronicles, The Tudor Secret introduces the reader to Brendan Prescott, a foundling raised in the Dudley ho...moreThe first book in C.W. Gortner's Spymaster Chronicles, The Tudor Secret introduces the reader to Brendan Prescott, a foundling raised in the Dudley household and one who's very blood hides a secret many would do anything, even kill, to keep hidden.
When Brendan arrives at court in the summer of 1553 to be squire to Robert Dudley, he finds his life instantly turned on its head when he begins working as a spy for William Cecil, Princess Elizabeth's most trusted advisor. He is charged with finding out what has happened to King Edward VI, who is apparently very ill but who has not been seen for some time, and what the despicable Dudleys are plotting as the head of the family, the Duke of Northumberland, spins his web to keep control over England. They are plotting something that might bring down both the Princesses Mary and Elizabeth and Brendan must help Cecil discover what. In exchange Cecil will help Brendan discover who he really is, information he might wish he had left hidden away.
The Tudor Secret really sets up a wonderful cast of characters for this series, ones that meld real history with fiction in a combination that is just fascinating. There is never-ending action that goes from gilded rooms of the palaces to slimy walled dungeons. And Brendan, our seemingly fearless guide, is ready to face any foe or fight that comes his way to protect the Princess Elizabeth who he comes to love very much by the end of the book.
What I found the most interesting was how menacing and loathesome some of the real life people were depicted...just eerily evil, especially The Duchess of Northumberland and Lady Dudley. This really helped showcase how power and corruption can eat away at someone who seeks only the highest echelons at a place that is teeming with envy.
I have also read the second book in the series, The Tudor Conspiracy, and I cannot wait to see where the story heads next! I only hope that Brendan finds some real happiness and contentment by the end! (less)
Twelve year old Alek Dunahew is sent to spend the summer of 1965 with his grandmother Alma in West Tabl...moreI reviewed this book for www.luxuryreading.com.
Twelve year old Alek Dunahew is sent to spend the summer of 1965 with his grandmother Alma in West Table, Missouri and hopefully begin to mend the long standing hurt between Alma and Alek’s father, John Paul. During this visit Alma tells Alek about the devastating Arbor Dance Hall explosion of 1929 that claimed forty-two people, including Alma’s beloved sister, Ruby, as well as her suspicions and beliefs as to what caused the devastation that would continue to haunt this small town for generations.
The Maid’s Version is one of those novels that draws you in with its languid and conversational language and keeps you reading to see what secrets will be revealed between the banter. The narrator, Alek, is such a delightful storyteller that I sometimes forgot he was relaying a story about cruel, severe poverty, violence, war and injustice. The dialect and writing style can be hard to process at times – I found myself occasionally having to go back and read long passages again to better grasp their meaning – but once I began to ease into the manner I found it fit with the rough and tumble story perfectly.
While the book is quite short the various characters are all developed well enough to give you a good feel for not only each individually but them as a whole community trying to eke out an existence together. The peeks into each of their lives not only showcased the secrets inherent in a small town but the devastation and loss these sorts of secrets can render.
The Maid’s Version is my first novel by Daniel Woodrell but I’m excited to read more from him. His way of depicting very real and very relatable characters in such a harsh and unforgiving background is something I won’t soon forget. (less)
It’s 1492 and young, beautiful Giulia Farnese is preparing for the adventure of her life. She is excite...moreI reviewed this book for www.luxuryreading.com.
It’s 1492 and young, beautiful Giulia Farnese is preparing for the adventure of her life. She is excited to become the wife of the handsome and rich Orsino Orsini and is ready to live the luxuriant life of one of her status. Imagine her surprise when she discovers her marriage was a sham and orchestrated solely so she could become the mistress to the powerful, charismatic Cardinal Borgia. Without consent, Giulia finds herself living in the home of Orisino’s mother, cousin to the wolfish Cardinal, and separated from her would-be husband while being actively courted and pursued by the man who would be Pope. Try as she might, it is only a matter of time before Giulia relents under the passion and constant attention from such a powerful, charming man. Giulia soon becomes Rodrigo Borgia’s willing concubine and, when he becomes Pope Alexander VI, the Venus of the Vatican.
Being the Pope’s mistress isn’t all opulent splendor, however, and Giulia discovers there are many who think of her as nothing more than a glorified whore while others seek to use her for her connection to her keeper, all while realizing her position is anything but certain. Finding unlikely confidantes in a select few servants, including a sharp tongued cook named Carmelina and a vindictive dwarf bodyguard named Leonello, both of which are hiding plenty of secrets themselves, Giulia and her entourage will have to learn the rules in this viper’s nest if they plan on surviving this twisted, sinful world of the Borgias.
Memorable characters, exciting, twisting plots and true to life situations are attributes of historical fiction that keep me coming back time and time again and The Serpent and the Pearl has all of this and more. It is impossible not to feel compassion for Giulia as she finds herself married to a man she cannot have and pursued by a powerful one she never expected to love. Somehow Giulia keeps her sense of humor and kindness through it all and I genuinely enjoyed seeing her grow into a woman and a mother navigating a glittery, dangerous world few could imagine.
The secondary story lines presented by both Carmelina and Leonello were even more entertaining, especially given the intelligent, snarky commentary and the slow unraveling secrets and mysteries they presented. Their perspectives helped flesh out the underbelly of this seemingly opulent time and place and gave a well-rounded viewpoint of not only the seedier side of Italy during this time but of the extended Borgia children, including sweet yet spoiled Lucrezia and the dark, exceedingly dangerous Cesare.
While The Serpent and the Pearl did not have as much conflict or danger as I imagined it would have, this is the first book in a series and leaves off on quite the uncertain cliff hanger for all three characters, leaving me to believe there is much more excitement to come. I, for one, am impatiently twiddling my thumbs in anticipation of what will befall this motley crew next. (less)
Royal Inheritance presents a unique viewpoint of the ever shifting Tudor world as well as the politics...moreI reviewed this book for www.luxuryreading.com.
Royal Inheritance presents a unique viewpoint of the ever shifting Tudor world as well as the politics and schemes that swirl around those with the potential to have even a drop of royal blood. Using the real life circumstances of a laundress’s daughter rumored to have potentially been the bastard offspring of Henry VIII, Kate Emerson spins a remarkable tale of a young woman kept guessing as to her true identity and her dangerous fight to not only find the truth but to determine her own future in a world where women have little say in the course of their lives.
Weakened by a fever she contracted in the summer of 1556, Audrey Harington sets out to tell her young daughter, Hester, the truth about Audrey’s parentage, upbringing and marriage to her husband, Jack. Not knowing how much longer she might have, Audrey is determined to make sure her own daughter doesn’t remain ignorant to the facts of her heritage as she herself spent much of her life being.
Born the daughter of a poor laundress working in Windsor Castle, Audrey is removed from her abusive home at the age of four and placed in the home of John Malte, Henry VIII’s tailor, who claims to be her father. However, after accompanying her father to court and coming face to face with the King, his attentions seem odd to young Audrey. She is further confused when he demands she continue to accompany her father to court, presents her with various gifts and orders she receive lessons not extended to her other sisters, all very unusual for a simple merchant’s daughter. Furthermore, her father is given gifts beyond his station, land and properties given jointly to John Malte and Audrey. After meeting the King’s youngest daughter, the Princess Elizabeth, and noting the remarkable likeness to herself, Audrey begins to suspect that John Malte might not be her biological father after all.
I admittedly cannot get enough of reading about the Tudors from various vantage points. While the greater goings on of Henry VIII, his wives and his children do play a part in Royal Inheritance, Audrey’s attempts to navigate through life and find her true place in the world takes center stage. I found this particularly interesting as novels dealing with the Tudors tend to focus on the glitz and glamour of the court and not the day to day goings on of those outside the realm of the nobility. I enjoyed seeing London from the viewpoint of someone raised in the bustle of normal life there.
What I enjoyed most, however, would be the fact that most of the people and events seemed to be true to history. The back of Royal Inheritance includes a “Who Was Who at the English Court: 1532 – 56” and this helped flesh out the facts from the fiction used to advance to story. Even my least favorite part of Royal Inheritance, the somewhat unrequited love between Audrey and Jack, appears to be supported by known facts. While this relationship made for a rather bitter sweet tone to the end of Audrey’s story, I appreciate the fact that Kate Emerson stayed as true to history as she could.
Anyone interested in viewing the Tudors from a slight distance and learning more about those on the fringes of the court will really enjoy Royal Inheritance. I plan on looking further into these real life characters to see what else I can learn. (less)
When Elsie Porter asked her new husband, Ben Ross, to pick her up some Fruity Pebbles at the store she had no idea what would happen next. Flushed wit...moreWhen Elsie Porter asked her new husband, Ben Ross, to pick her up some Fruity Pebbles at the store she had no idea what would happen next. Flushed with the love of their whirlwind romance, her life is instantly devastated seemingly beyond repair when her husband is hit by a truck and killed on impact. While trying to process this agonizing news at the hospital she comes face to face with Ben's mother, Susan, a woman who didn't even know Elsie existed.
As both women attempt to cope with the day to day life without Ben they begin to find that having each other might be the only way to get through this loss and find a life for themselves on the other side of heartbreak.
There is no other word for what Elsie and Susan go through in Forever, Interrupted then heartbreaking. I found myself breaking down numerous times in the beginning of the book just reading what these characters were going through. Elsie is beyond comfort in the beginning and can't see how she can possibly continue without Ben, even as she feels embarrassed that they were together such a short time that neither of their families even knew about it. Susan is angry - angry at Ben for not telling her about Elsie, angry at Elsie for just being there - but soon realises that Elsie isn't the enemy. It was really informative and cathartic to see how the two women worked through their recurring grief (or, in some instances, didn't) and I could completely relate to both women's anger at the world and there confusion at why this had to happen to them. There are even some relatively humorous moments when Elsie's grief manifests in less than ideal ways and her outbursts are directed at the wrong person!
Alternating with Elsie and Susan's present story is the story of Ben and Elsie's developing relationship. Starting on New Year's Day we see them come together with a quick and endearing passion that results in them eloping in May. Nine days after they elope is the accident that ends it all. This storyline not only helped firm up the real deep rooted love between Ben and Elsie, which otherwise would be hard to define since they had been together a short amount of time, but helped hightlight the fact that we never know when the ones we love will be taken away from us and that we should make the most of it while we have them.
Anyone who has ever loved someone so much that they cannot imagine their life without them or someone who has actually lost that love and survived the torrential grief that lose illicited will be able to appreciate Elsie and Susan's story. The underlining theme that, with the love and support of those closest to us, we can survive something so devastating really touched a nerve with me. I can't wait to see what Taylor Jenkins Reid writes next!
When Emilie de la Martinieres’s mother dies she is left with a very difficult decision to make. As she...moreI reviewed this book for www.luxuryreading.com.
When Emilie de la Martinieres’s mother dies she is left with a very difficult decision to make. As she is the only heir to the great de la Martinieres fortune, her mother’s death leaves her rich and in the possession of her family’s historic chateau and vineyard which are in need of much time and repair to bring them back to the grandeur they deserve. Now she must decide between the relatively solitary but safe life she has established for herself and a new life that, while secure monetarily, will demand of Emilie her time, heart and openness to discover the truth of her family’s past and to make the best decisions for what remains of her legacy. With all of this now suddenly on her plate she isn’t even sure where to begin.
Her prayers seem to be answered when she meets a charming art dealer from England named Sebastian Carruthers and he not only helps begin the process of setting her life on track and getting the work begun on restoring the chateau but thoroughly steals her heart. When Sebastian relates that his late grandmother, Constance Carruthers, actually lived at the chateau for a time during WWII but never really discussed how or why, Emilie’s interest is peaked by this seeming coincidence and she sets out to discover the details of the two families’ connections.
Interspersed with Emilie’s story is that of Constance, a British office clerk turned Special Operations Executive sent undercover into France to aid the Resistance during WWII, and how she ended up living in the home of Edouard de la Martinieres, Emilie’s father, a prominent Frenchman who is also working to thwart the German enemy who has occupied his beloved country. As both story lines progress both women will have to use their hearts and their heads to determine who to trust and what they must do as life’s endless difficulties continue to assault them, sometimes with devastating consequences.
The Lavender Garden is a perfect example of the kind of novel I have come to love in the last few years, one that blends the past and the present together, slowly revealing shocking information and the various connections between story lines until the final revelations and resolutions are neatly laid before the reader. Both Emilie and Constance’s stories are exciting, shocking and touching in turns and don’t fail to twist around and keep the reader guessing. While certain aspects where somewhat predictable, the big secrets remained just that until the end and the author artfully left integral plot points hanging at the switch between story lines, keeping me unable to stop turning the pages so I could finally figure out what was really going on. I don’t want to give too much away because the characters and their struggles are captivating and quite sad at times but I will say that the ending was wrapped up very well and left me feeling satisfied and happy for the journey.
Just about anyone can find something to enjoy in The Lavender Garden. There’s history, war, love, loss and even a modern story line full of mystery and conflict. I am now a firm fan of Lucinda Riley. (less)
Nicola Marter has created quite a life for herself, working in a Russian art gallery in London and work...moreI reviewed this book for www.luxuryreading.com.
Nicola Marter has created quite a life for herself, working in a Russian art gallery in London and working very hard to appear, and be, as normal as possible. But Nicola is hiding a secret: when she touches an object she can catch glimpses into the lives of the people who touched it before. Having been devastated and shamed by people that didn't understand her gifts she decided years before to hide that part of herself and to distance herself from anyone who knew.
When a lonely and desperate woman comes into the gallery to try and sell a small carving of a Firebird, one she claims was given to her descendant by Empress Catherine of Russia, Nicola touches the carving and sees instantly that she’s telling the truth. But when the woman cannot produce any evidence to prove her story, Nicola knows she must do whatever she can to help this woman prove her claim. And she’s going to need to use her powers, and those of Rob, the man she has tried unsuccessfully to forget, to make that happen.
Weaving back and forth between time and place, Nicola and Rob’s story is interspersed with that of Anna Moray, the woman who received the Firebird carving from the Empress. As Nicola and Rob continue to track Anna in the hopes of finding some way to prove her connection to the Empress Catherine, Rob patiently yet adamantly pushes Nicola to use her gifts and accept and be happy with the woman she really is, one he clearly cares for. And as they continue to track Anna from Scotland to Russia they see her grow from a brave small girl who must be hidden away from her own family for safety into a strong, determined young woman who would do anything for what she believes to be right and to protect those she loves. Both these women must learn that, to be truly happy, they will need to not only accept themselves completely for who they really are but will need to put down their defenses and open up their hearts to let true love in.
The Firebird is the second book by Susanna Kearsley I have read and, if it is even possible, I loved this book more than the last. Her ability to effortlessly go back and forth between timelines and to describe the settings, whether historic or modern, so that the reader is right there along for the joyride is just amazing. Her characters are so real and raw that you can almost imagine that you have a little bit of Nicola’s gift and are actually seeing them through the pages. It takes quite a lot of skill to have a reader turn the last page of an over 500 page book and only wish that there were 500 more pages to go, and that is exactly how I felt when I finished The Firebird.
Any reader not familiar with the history behind Empress Catherine or the Jacobite movement that is predominant in Anna’s story need not worry because Ms. Kearsley does an exceptional job of bringing the reader up to snuff on the history in an easily understandable way throughout the story as well as in the highly informative “About the Characters” section at the back of the book. I can’t find a reason why anyone would not enjoy this book, as long as they are prepared to put everything else aside to read it as they won’t want to put it down and do anything else once they start. (less)
In 1907 Paris, Edith Wharton appears to have a perfect life. She is a wealthy woman and an accomplished...moreI reviewed this book for www.luxuryreading.com.
In 1907 Paris, Edith Wharton appears to have a perfect life. She is a wealthy woman and an accomplished writer. She is able to travel to her heart’s content and divides her time between New York, Paris and a large summer home in Massachusetts. She is constantly surrounded by cultured people and accomplished friends. But a closer look behind the glamour shows an unhappy woman.
At the age of forty six, bookish, prim and somewhat prudish Edith finally experiences the deep flush and electricity of pure passion in arms of a charasmatic journalist named Morton Fullerton and, for the first time in her life, feels truly happy. However this untoward love affair does not sit well with everyone and begins to drive a wedge between Edith and her governess turned secretary/confidante Anna Bahlmann as well as begins to drive her husband, Teddy Wharton, even further into his own personal madness. How much is Edith willing to risk for a love affair, and a man, that doesn’t turn out to be all she hoped for?
The Age of Desire is the first novel I can think of that is beautifully written and that I enjoyed but that presents a main character that I cannot help but dislike. Edith is spoiled, prideful, over dramatic and impatient with anyone that does not do what she wants when she wants it. Her disgust for her poor husband, Teddy, is quite sad as he seems to really love her and allowed her to set the rules of their marriage, which basically meant she put up with him only when she was required to. The loving and loyal Anna, who is by far the most sympathetic and enjoyable character, even experiences Edith’s cruelty when Anna cannot bring herself to condone Edith’s harsh treatment of Teddy and her affair with the equally selfish Morton Fullerton. Anna’s reward for her concern for Edith is to be sent away from the one place she has always felt at home: by Edith’s side. Even when Edith makes an effort to make amends for her past wrongdoings at the end of the book it doesn’t seem to be wholly unselfish and doesn’t really do much to change my opinion of her.
With all this said about Edith, The Age of Desire is still remarkably entertaining. The writing is lyrical and quite beautiful and it is easy to dip into the glitz and glamour of the time and places described. All of the characters, regardless of their importance, feel very real and true to the time period. Whether you like them or not, they are nothing if they are not entertaining!
Never having read any of Edith Wharton’s books and knowing nothing of her life or circumstances, it was very interesting getting a peak into the mind of the woman behind classics like The Age of Innocence and The House of Mirth and definitely prompts me to want to read her novels now. The author does not provide an author’s note explaining what is fact and what is fiction in The Age of Desire, but it would still be intriguing to read Ms. Wharton’s books and try to decipher what parts of her life she included in these stories. (less)
Confessions of Marie Antoinette, the final book in Juliet Grey’s trilogy about the life of the famed Qu...moreI reviewed this book for www.luxuryreading.com.
Confessions of Marie Antoinette, the final book in Juliet Grey’s trilogy about the life of the famed Queen consort of France, begins with the storming of Versailles on October 5th, 1789 and concludes with Marie Antoinette’s execution on October 16th, 1793. Told mainly through Marie’s point of view, the novel highlights a few of the underlying reasons for the French Revolution, the numerous governmental changes that occurred and the horrifying and inhumane treatment of the royal family, many members of the nobility and those deemed royalists.
While it is entirely possible to read Confessions of Marie Antoinette without reading the first two books in the trilogy, as I did, I would recommend reading the series in order. Not knowing that much about Marie Antoinette’s history, starting with this final book made me feel slightly lost as to what had transpired before the storming of Versailles and why the people felt so vehemently that all their issues were a result of Marie Antoinette’s actions. To see the utter hatred towards the royal family and the all consuming need to destroy them, it was hard to justify that against the royal family’s humanity as seen through Marie’s story.
The Marie that is presented in Confessions of Marie Antoinette is not perfect but is a loving and devoted mother, a wife that is determined to stand by her husband even when his indecision might put her own life in danger and a Queen that genuinely cares about her people. There were times when the constant bombardment and the various failed escapes began to feel redundant, but the fact is this is more an issue with the history and not the writing at all. There is a lot of information discussed throughout the book and it can be hard to keep all the people and changes in check but it is easy to see the vast amount of research that went into the story and that Ms. Grey did an extraordinary job staying true to the facts of this much maligned woman. Included in the back of the book is an extensive reader’s guide that gave more insight into the history and the people who lived after Marie Antoinette, which I found very enjoyable.
All this being said, I will definitely go back and read the first two books in this series. Marie Antoinette is a fascinating true character from history and Ms. Grey does an exceptional job of bringing her story to life.
When Emma Temple's life seems to hit rock bottom the perfect opportunity to heal and start over present...moreI reviewed this book for www.luxuryreading.com.
When Emma Temple's life seems to hit rock bottom the perfect opportunity to heal and start over presents itself when her mother bequeaths her a rundown villa in Valencia, Spain. Emma sets out to repair the home and her heart and possibly begin a new fragrance company using the local exotic scents, a skill and love she acquired from her mother. But Emma’s grandmother, Freya, and great-uncle, Charles, caution her not to go. Both are hiding secrets connected to their time serving in the Spanish Civil War and are terrified that Emma will uncover the truth of what happened in Valencia almost seventy years before, information that will change everything Emma thought she knew about who she is and where she belongs.
Weaving back and forth between the early 2000s and the late 1930s, The Perfume Garden shows the horror and brutality of a world at war but also the strength and courage of those that will fight for the truth even when everything else has been lost. It also highlights the devastation that can come from secrets and fear and the need for honesty and love to repair the damage life can cause.
Loving stories that mesh together the past and present I was very excited to read The Perfume Garden. The descriptions and story lines centered around the Spanish Civil War were vibrant and compelling. The horror and savagery of war was made even more poignant by humanizing it through Freya and Charles’s perspectives. These scenes are very realistic and hard to read at times but made so touching by the beauty – in butterflies and babies – the characters seem to find through the haze of horror. These portions were beautifully done.
I found Emma’s modern story line to be less interesting. While I understand that Emma remodeling the villa and meeting the people she does helped bring about the secrets Freya and Charles have been keeping for so long, I kept waiting for more from her, especially more dealing with her garden and the business of making perfume. I didn’t really connect with the romantic aspect of her story and the story ended rather strangely to me. I found myself hurrying through the modern story line to try and get back to the 1930s.
While I love history, I knew very little about the Spanish Civil War and The Perfume Garden did an excellent job of bringing that portion of history to life and making me want to read more. Even with the issues I had with Emma’s story line, I still enjoyed the story very much and would be interested in reading more from this author. (less)