Book Review – WHEN WE WERE BRAVE

WHEN WE WERE BRAVE

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When We Were Brave by Karla M. Jay weaves three narratives together, revealing how individual lives were affected by the Nazis during WWII. An SS officer risks his life as well as his families to expose Hitler’s atrocities. A German family confronts hostility from their American neighbors. An eight-year-old Jewish boy imprisoned within the war camps.

Personally, I am not a fan of perspective jumping. This style of writing, for me, at least, prevents the immersive reading experience that provides a deeper connection with the main character or characters. However, for educational purposes, the content is exceptional and should be mandatory reading for every high school across the world. Jay provides discussion questions along with authentic connections with her characters. It is easy to read ‘facts’ from history books but is incomparable to the tragedies and emotions experienced through the eyes of those affected. The naivety of the eight-year-old Jewish boy is the most palpable. His innocence clings to a family reunion despite the horrors he faces each day. Jay portrays, with remarkable precision, the psychological and physical turmoil experienced by the characters, giving the reader a glimpse into a reality endured over seventy years ago.

Without revealing any plot details, I did have an issue with one aspect of the story. The SS officer risks everything to expose the truth and is frustrated when his actions, or rather inactions, are questioned by the American government resulting in thousands of more deaths each passing day his claims are investigated. But when he is offered the opportunity to bring forth information upon his surrender, he keeps silent for months. It was hard to reconcile this behavior with his character’s purpose, and the impact of his story was weakened. Despite this minor flaw, I would definitely recommend this book for all historical fiction readers.

*I received this book for free in exchange for my honest review.*

Reedsy – The Discovery Team

Book Reviews

Book Review – IN BETWEEN

In Between by Jenny B. Jones book cover

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In Between by Jenny B. Jones captures the essence of family dynamics seasoned with a sprinkle of humor (Okay, maybe more than a sprinkle). Katie, a sixteen-year-old ward of the state, is fostered by a pastor and his wife. However, determined to return to her group home immediately, Katie is her own worst enemy. But the unyielding acceptance her new foster parents wield, knocks her off a troubled course, setting her on a path less traveled. With Chihuahua’s as her new school mascot, Katie’s ‘small town nightmare’ converts a not-so-troubled teen into a foster parent’s hero.

I loved this book! The star, besides Katie herself, has to be ‘psycho granny’ – Maxine Simmons is a gum-smacking, energy-drink-guzzling, wheelie-popping demon. Her antics and geriatric (I say this loosely) spirit kept me laughing. With a foster granny like Maxine, Katie is plopped smack in the middle of crazy, learning to embrace the unexpected. Beyond the humor, though, the author keeps the relationship wheel turning, proving acceptance, friendship, and forgiveness are found where we least expect them.

Feel-good. Laugh out loud. Clean humor at its best! I may have to convert my favorite genre from historical fiction to somewhere in between. 😉

Book Reviews

Book Review – THE DRESSMAKER’S GIFT

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The Dressmaker’s Gift by Fiona Valpy depicts the sheer tenacity of the human spirit. Bonded by more than their living conditions, Claire, Vivienne, and Mirielle take a stand against the Nazi’s as they occupy Paris during the 1940s. Their jobs as seamstress’ provide the perfect cover in a world of rising fashion, but their loyalty and friendship to one another may cost them everything. In present-day Paris, Claire’s granddaughter, Harriet, seeks to uncover the missing pieces of her past and accept her mother’s suicide. Her purpose, however, is more connected to her grandmother than she realizes.

Overall, Valpy provides a glimpse into the life of the people surviving in Nazi-occupied Paris. She recounts the rationing of food, the implementation of curfews, and the lack of coal. But The Dressmaker’s Gift is more about the friendships of Claire, Vivienne, and Mirielle – a bond set against the backdrop of war. The story of Harriet is minimal and, in my opinion, serves only to elevate the books ending – an ending that moved me to tears with an unexpected but heart-warming revelation. The mention of inherited trauma, however, caused me to drop my rating from 5 to 4 stars. This is a dangerous assumption to put into a society grappling with a rise in mental health issues. But then again, this is historical fiction.

If you seek a novel about friendships, war, and survival, look no further. Set during the turmoil of WWII, The Dressmaker’s Gift will both warm your heart and touch your soul.

Book Reviews

Book Review – THE GIRL WHO WROTE IN SILK

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The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelli Estes is a beautiful representation of Chinese culture amidst American prejudice in the Northwest during the 1880s. Mei Lien, a Chinese American girl, confronts both prosperity and tragedy. After a series of horrific events, the deep wounds to her heart begin to heal thru a most unexpected union. By implementing the ancient art of Chinese embroidery, she leaves the story of her ancestors as well as her own intricately woven into a piece of fabric for future generations. Her story is revealed when Inara, a recent college graduate, discovers this hidden antiquity over a century later. On a path of self-discovery, Inara is on a collision course with her own truth – a truth that is hard to accept. Will she do right by Mei Lien or keep her secret hidden?

Estes proves we are more connected than we think. The anti-Chinese sentiment from the late 1800s is a fragment of history discarded among a pile of ugly truths. Estes executes the interweaving of the present and the past with ease. She made connections where I least expected them; and, I experienced Mei Lien’s pain, her heart-break, and her love. The strength of the human spirit is threaded through her story.

Unaware of this piece of history, I embarked on learning more. The best aspects of reading historical fiction are the real stories behind the fictional words. Mei Lien’s account may be more fact than fiction.

Book Reviews

Book Review – THE KING OF KRESKIN AVENUE

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The King of Kreskin Avenue by A. K. Vitberg is an exceptionally written and emotionally moving coming-of-age novel. Mario Colucci, known to the youth of Kreskin Avenue as “the King,” suffers from PTSD as a result of his service during the Korean War. Robbie, a Kreskin Avenue youth, tutors Mario’s son, who endures ridicule and isolation because of a medical condition. Robbie witnesses there’s more to the Colucci family than meets the eye, and an unspoken bond is forged between the veteran and the teen. It is the death of Robbie’s brother, though, that sets in motion a series of events that will affect thousands.

Honestly, I am not one for a coming-of-age novel but was touched beyond words by this book. The domino effect of war is the underlying theme. Vitberg reminds us there are invisible scars even though the physical wounds of war have healed, and a charismatic young boy can return from battle a shell of his former self. Amusing anecdotes are peppered throughout the chapters, revealing a more straightforward way of life – a time when life revolved around the neighborhood, and the internet was non-existent.

This novel is a must-read but be prepared with tissue in hand to shed tears, for we are remembered in death for who we were in life.

*I received this book for free in exchange for my honest review.*

Reedsy – The Discovery Team

Book Reviews

Book Review – IT CALLS TO ME

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It Calls to Me by Victoria Walsh is a paranormal thriller that is sure to keep you guessing. The core of the novel revolves around a curse and a young girl’s determination to uncover the truth. She dedicates years of research to understand a town tragedy and the leader who led to its demise. Ultimately, she reveals the basis of a curse that has kept her family in paranormal bondage for generations. There is an underlying theme of overcoming family demons, battling isolation, and prevailing as the victor. Look elsewhere for warm family stories. Here, they are
non-existent.

The basis of the story is intriguing and unique but needs more substance-meat on the bones. The frequent time jumps prevent connection with the protagonist, and specific aspects of the story were confusing, while some trajectories were never fully explained. In the end, I was left wishing for more ‘thriller’ to the paranormal.

It Calls to Me will appeal to those looking for a light paranormal read minus the intensity often associated with paranormal thrillers.

Book Reviews

Book Review – BAG LADIES

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Bag Ladies by Jean Lant is the charming story of one woman’s tumultuous but humorous employment with a corrupt Las Vegas law office. Amid her employer’s questionable payment methods, a bond is forged with a fellow co-worker. The two women affectionately label themselves ‘bag ladies.’ Her boss’ shady activity prompts an early move, but state lines do not stop bullets.

Jean Lant’s story is sincere and entertaining. It is perfect for an afternoon read.
Comfortable and endearing, it left me with a smile on my face. The friendships are a
delight, and the encounters with unsavory characters are frequent. Blind loyalty
proves to be hazardous to her character’s well-being.

If it looks like a duck and walks like a duck, it is DEFINATELY a duck! Work at your
own risk.

Scheduled for release December 2, 2019

Book Reviews

Book Review-THE LAST QUMRANIAN

THE LAST QUMRANIAN

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The Last Qumranian by Joe Basile seamlessly merges science fiction with biblical facts. The misuse of a quantum orb creates an alternate reality, one in which the Messiah never existed. Lukas, a guardian of God’s Truth, is forced to seek refuge in the world Above after the Underground falls during a military siege. Destitute and alone, he is painfully introduced to the Consortium’s way of life. Can Lukas retrieve the stolen orb, rewrite history, and rescue his cousins from the ultimate evil?

I loved this book and had a hard time putting it down. The tension flows with ease, and the characters are memorable. Lukas’ ability as a Hedge Master to crush bones and sever limbs with a single blow is impressive. Basile’s futuristic society is believable and not overly complicated, providing a visual platform to propel the story forward. I can’t wait for Book 2!

Book Reviews

Book Review-TIME FRAMED

TIME FRAMED

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Time Framed by Roger Chiocchi explores the complex concepts of time travel, parallel realities, and a one-world-order.  Since the arrival of the Mayflower into the New World, the Pennfield family has been cursed by a vengeful spirit.  The curse claims its victim approximately every sixty years.  But an unusual event alters the course of the curse, setting in motion a game of chess across time.  Two branches of the Pennfield family, separated by almost 50 years, seek to realign this timeline in favor of their own respective goals.  The fate of a seven-year-old boy hangs in the balance.

Honestly, the multitude of ideas in this one novel could span the length of four books.  Not to say it wasn’t an interesting read, but the magnitude of each concept almost made my brain explode.  The author demonstrates an impressive ability to weave various ideas into a cohesive plot; however, the impact of the story is lost within its seven hundred plus pages.  The scattering of strong ideas throughout a novel doesn’t necessarily translate into a focused read.

Now, that being said, Time Framed is in a league of its own: imaginative, thought-provoking, and conceptually unique.  The idea of psychic phenomena (ESP, clairvoyance, past life regression, out of body experiences, etc.) and psychiatric disorders (multiple personalities, schizophrenia, bipolar, etc.) emerging from superimposed realities is a brilliant notion.  This idea deserves a book if not a series of its own.

Despite the novel revolving around time travel, the one-world-order dynamic intrigued me more.  Chiocchi creates a futuristic society reminiscent of a medieval social hierarchy.   There are no geographic determinants or boundaries but groupings designated by a person’s level of wealth and IQ.  Each grouping is governed by its own tax system and laws, and stringent rules on procreation are implemented on those within this new hierarchy considered to be of a lower class.  A fascinating representation of a very real possibility.  The ability of the author to portray these concepts without hiccups is a testament to his writing strength.  My brain is still trying to recover.

Disclaimer: NOT FOR READERS BOUND TO REALITY

Book Reviews

Book Review-SANGRE: THE WRONG SIDE OF TOMORROW

SANGRE

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Sangre: The Wrong Side of Tomorrow by Carlos Colón is the second installment to follow Nicky Negron on his path to construct a life between the undead and the living.  Reinventing himself as Jorge Sangria, Nicky stakes the romanticized version of a vampire through the heart, revitalizing Bram Stoker’s Dracula into the modern-era.   He struggles to balance human morality with his one basic need.  Blood.  Nourished by the lesser of two evils, this predatory killer rids the city of unwanted thugs. Instead of thanking him, the FBI targets his possible involvement in a string of drug-related decapitations.  The ability to remain beneath their investigative radar proves difficult as the woman who turned him reemerges with a vengeance.  The singular purpose to destroy her creates an unlikely alliance with a dis-credited epidemiologist whose determination to eliminate society of these ‘anomalies’ causes their alliance to teeter along a fine line of trust.

“I am a menace?  Let us go back a bit, shall we?  Since we’ve met, you’ve doused me in Holy Water, which is like acid to me, you had those young men take batting practice on my head, then you had them throw me down your basement and lock me in a box.  Shall I continue?”

Written in first-person, the reader connects on a deeper level with Nicky, witnessing first-hand the struggle to satisfy his urges while maintaining his humanity.  A surprising revelation at the end, however, shows how much more human than monster Nicky really is.  The narrative flows smoothly, and Colón stays true to vampire lore.  I found certain aspects of the novel difficult to read, not from a failure in style, but content.  Some things are better left unwritten.

Leave romantic notions of vampirism behind.  Lustful.  Cruel.  Murderous.  Everything a vampire should be.  Give him a conscious, and he’s a force to reckon with.

Book Reviews