Genre: Historical

Divider

How the Circus Saved Innocents in The Orphan’s Tale

December 17, 2016 Book Review, reviews 6

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book nor the content of my review.

How the Circus Saved Innocents in The Orphan’s TaleThe Orphan's Tale by Pam Jenoff
Published by Mira on February 21st 2017
Genres: Fiction, Historical
Pages: 368
Source: complimentary review copy
AmazonBarnes & Noble
Goodreads

This post contains affiliate links you can use to purchase the book. If you buy the book using the link, I will receive a small commission from the sale at no cost to you.

 

Here I am on a flight bound to Phoenix and what book do I choose to read? The Orphan’s Tale by Pam Jenoff. Oh my goodness dearest ones. If you embarrass easily, don’t read this one on the plane. I started ugly sobbing about 3/4 of the way through and didn’t stop until we landed in Arizona!

Historical fiction set during World War II is a personal favorite. There is still so much to be learned about the Holocaust and World War II. For example, did you know the circus continued to operate and perform during much of the war? And that some of the performers were Jewish, hiding in plain sight. Brilliant!

The Orphan’s Tale takes us backstage as a high-flying circus performer. The story begins with Noa, a young girl cast from her home in Holland for becoming pregnant by a German soldier. We learn Noa was accepted into a home for unwed mothers pregnant with what the Nazi’s deemed the perfect race. But something goes horribly wrong when Noa’s baby is born, and Noa is left with empty arms and a large hole in place of her heart.

As The Orphan’s Tale begins, Noa is working in a train station for scraps simply trying to survive. When she hears a strange noise from one of the train cars, 17-year-old Noa breaks every rule by opening the door. What she finds inside turns her blood cold – baby upon baby thrown on top of one another, some with tatters for clothes, some completely naked, most frozen in the bitter cold. Discovering one infant still alive, softly mewling, Noa rescues the baby bound for the gas chambers. With little thought of where to go, how to get away, what to do, Noa escapes deep into the woods running until she can run no more.

Discovered in the woods by members of the local well-known circus, Noa and the rescued infant are taken in and nursed back to health. Given the choice to depart the circus or stay and earn her keep, Noa is apprenticed to well-known lead aerialist, Astrid. Astrid hails from a neighboring circus whose business had been shut down because the family was Jewish. Astrid’s family was well-known throughout the area for their skills, especially on the flying trapeze. And all of this happens in the first few pages.

A book of unlikely friendships, the humanity of strangers and sacrifice for the greater good. Must read. Click To Tweet

I’ve read extensively books set in and around World War II. The Orphan’s Tale is the first fictional account I’m aware of to focus on the efforts of the circus during the war. The dichotomy of villagers and soldiers attending the circus as if nothing was amiss baffles me. Though I know it was so. Pam Jenoff does a superb job of creating layers of conflict. The layer upon layer of human emotion are deftly woven, believable and oh so heartbreaking. What could have easily turned into a tragic account of mankind becomes an opportunity for man to reveal his most kind nature.

My only complaint throughout the entire novel was Astrid’s secrets versus Noa’s secrets – and it’s probably that I can’t fathom being prudish about the differing secrets. One is accepting of the other when her secret is revealed, but at a later time, when the roles are reversed, there is no acceptance – only hurt, betrayal, anger.

If you are looking for a book about the love of friendship, the humanity of strangers, and sacrifice for the greater good . . .The Orphan’s Tale is for you. I was reminded of the verse Whatever you do for the least of these, you do for me. Matthew 25:40 This book epitomizes loving your neighbor as yourself. Beautiful, profound, and devastating, it is a book that must be read. Just be sure to have tissues handy.

If you enjoyed

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah and Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum then you’ll love The Orphan’s Tale. {affiliate links}

Many thanks to Mira and NetGalley for the early review copy.

 

Divider

Book Review: Into the Free

September 3, 2016 Book Review 5

Book Review: Into the FreeInto the Free by Julie Cantrell
Published by David C. Cook on February 1st 2012
Genres: Fiction, Historical, Inspirational
Pages: 329
Source: purchased
AmazonIndieBound
Goodreads

 

Into the Free begins with 9-year old Millie wishing for a way to escape her life, her abusive father and a mother who gets so blue she forgets to care for Millie.  The family lives in a tiny shack, former slaves quarters, which have since been remodeled into tenant housing for the farm hands. Millie’s dad, Jack, is a rodeo cowboy and helps with the horses on the farm. Millie’s mom takes in ironing and sewing when she’s not gone away to the dark place Millie calls ‘the valley.’

What is remarkable with Into the Free is the seemingly ease of interweaving hope and a realistic faith throughout the threads of the novel. Not all Christians portrayed in the book are “good” just as in real life some proclaimed Christians are bad…very bad. Had the novel been set in most recent times, Millie would have been removed from her parent’s home due to the abuse suffered at the hands of her father and the neglect of her mother. When Millie is around a regular family we can see how hard it is for an abused child to accept kindness, gentleness and love. Having worked with abused children I can attest to the absolute accuracy of Cantrell’s portrayal of Millie.

[Tweet “Beautiful coming-of-age story set in Depression-era Mississippi”]

It would have been easy for Cantrell to fall into the use of stereotypes and yet such is not the case with Into the Free. If anything, stereotypical characters are turned on their head. The gypsy is not dirty nor illiterate and the grandparents who shun Millie are supposed to be of good Christian stock. That’s not to say there’s not a few characters who happen to fall into a stereotype, but they make it so easy! For instance, the ladies who cluck about everything Millie is and does. Although the ladies did offer a little bit of comic relief, even if it was because we’ve all known those types of busy-bodies with an opinion on everything without knowing anything.

Julie Cantrell does a magnificent job of tackling diversity, child abuse, the gross hypocrisy of a few so-called Christians and the resilience of children, to not only survive a horrific childhood, but to then thrive. Believing God has forgotten about her, Millie slowly comes to realize God was with her all along, even in the deepest pits of despair.

I do two things,” she told me. “I remind myself that it’s not all about me. And I focus on the good. There’s always a way to find some good.

I can’t recommend this one highly enough. If you enjoy Joshilyn Jackson or Susan Gregg Gilmore then you’ll most likely fall in love with Julie Cantrell and her band of characters.

Just a note When Mountains Move is the follow-up to Millie’s story taking us into her adulthood. Review coming soon!

In a few words: Emotional, heart-felt coming-of-age story. Inspirational, though not overtly preachy.  Southern, yet diverse with gypsies and Indians playing vital roles. Set in a small train town during the Depression-era Mississippi. Highly Recommended.

Connect with author Julie Cantrell on website | Facebook | Twitter

signature

Divider

Learning to Survive and Thrive with The Tumbling Turner Sisters

June 28, 2016 Book Review, Giveaway, reviews 6

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book nor the content of my review.

Learning to Survive and Thrive with The Tumbling Turner SistersThe Tumbling Turner Sisters by Juliette Fay
Published by Gallery Books on June 14th 2016
Genres: Fiction, Historical
Pages: 352
Source: complimentary review copy
AmazonIndieBound
Goodreads

 

What an incredibly researched historical novel! I felt completely immersed in the time period {1920s}! Vaudeville was at its height {kind of a prequel to tv show ‘America’s Got Talent’}.   When the novel opens we meet the Turners and learn how they’re  barely getting by. Dependent on Mr. Turner’s income, losing the source from a stupid mistake makes figuring out how to survive critical.

So what does the mom to four beautiful daughters do? She comes up with the idea to put her daughters on the stage as a vaudeville act in order to make enough money for the family to eat and pay rent. When the girls’ act becomes a hit their lives are forever changed.

What I loved

→The history and detail. Learning what vaudeville was {comedy, gymnastics, music, dancing} and wasn’t {burlesque} fascinated me and had me looking up old videos and photographs. There are even a few of the theaters that hosted vaudeville still open and operating today!

→The quotes at the beginning of each chapter from famous vaudeville players. “There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves.” ~Will Rogers, actor, singer, comedian, and social commentator

→How the characters and theaters came to life through the descriptive passages “Even from inside the suitcase, I sensed the audience’s anticipation. They cheered for Nell’s cartwheels, but the volume rose when Gert entered with her handsprings. By the time I rolled out onto the proscenium, the audience was like a pack of hungry dogs, ready to devour any scraps of entertainment we threw them. Gert’s arm jiggles sent them into paroxysms, and the human rolling ball, with skirts flapping up as they spun, caused a wild round of boot stomping.”

→The humor! The dialogue between the four sisters was seamless and filled with funny moments!

→The breadth of topics approached from poverty and mental illness to racism and women’s rights, The Tumbling Turner Sisters touches on it all with skill and grace.

[Tweet “Learning how to survive and thrive in The Tumbling Turner Sisters”]

and the Not So Much

I would be remiss if I neglected to share a couple of things that frustrated me in reading this novel. For example ~

The mother. Granted her character was supposed to be a strong Italian woman, but she was a bit over the top for me. At times I wondered why she even had children. Her actions were so non-mothering! AND she took henpecking her husband to an entirely new level. Did women really act that way?

While not that big of a deal, I did have to flip back to the beginning of the chapters several times to see who was narrating. While normally I love multiple points of view in books, in The Tumbling Turner Sisters it was somewhat difficult to tell the sisters apart. Narrated from Winnie and Gert’s pov, the sisters’ characters were too similar to distinguish at times.

Caution. Some aspects were difficult to read though true to the time period. There is one passage in particular that uses cringe-worthy terminology. I appreciate that the author approached sensitive subjects head on but do want to warn you sections may make you uncomfortable.

Recommended for

Readers who loved Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. Goodreads also recommends Christina Baker Kline, author of Orphan Train, but I think Juliette Fay’s novel is closer to a Karen White novel such as On Folly Beach. The laugh-out-loud humor and fleshed out characters are comparable.

Juliette Fay: Website :: Facebook :: Twitter

With many thanks to Wunderkind PR and Gallery Books, I’ve got a copy of The Tumbling Turner Sisters to give away! Ends Monday, July 4th at 11:59 pm. U.S. entries only please.

[promosimple id=”9dda”]

Divider

Book Review: Flight of Dreams

February 22, 2016 Book Review, reviews 5

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book nor the content of my review.

Book Review: Flight of DreamsFlight of Dreams by Ariel Lawhon
Published by Doubleday on February 23rd 2016
Genres: Fiction, Historical, Mystery
Pages: 336
Source: complimentary review copy
AmazonBarnes & Noble
Goodreads
four-half-stars

 

In Flight of Dreams, Lawhon takes us on a journey with a re-imagining of the final voyage of the Hindenburg. The Zeppelin flight has always been a source of fascination for me – what really happened? was it a bomb? or the highly flammable hydrogen used as a fuel source? or something entirely different?

The quite plausible scenarios laid out by Lawhon take us on an opulent and mysterious ride through history.

We were first introduced to Ariel Lawhon in her re-imagining of the disappearance of Judge Joseph Crater in The Wife, The Maid, and the Mistress. It’s one of those books I distinctly recall flying through, trying to solve the mystery of how and why this NYC Judge disappeared.  Lawhon created dynamic characters and a plot that encouraged reading straight through the night.

In the beginning of Flight of Dreams we are introduced to a handful of characters. It’s almost like playing a game of Clue – there’s The Stewardess: the first woman to work on board a Zeppelin, a true honor for the time period; The Journalist: forced to join the flight while leaving her 3-month old son behind; The Navigator: a handsome young man in love with The Stewardess; The American: with questionable behavior from his first introduction; and finally, The Cabin Boy: low ‘man’ on the staff desperate for recognition while earning money needed by his impoverished family. Told in the alternating point of view of these 5 characters we get an intimate look behind the scenes of travel aboard the Hindenburg.

Although the introduction of characters, life aboard the airship and multiple story threads takes the first few chapters to build, it is worth the slow progress. We get to see the incredible views from the large windows Taste the whiskey and smoke in the only smoking area on board { can you believe smoking was allowed?!? with hydrogen as fuel??? }. and feel the coolness of the altitude. . . .

But where the author truly shines is in her characterizations of the real lives aboard the Hindenburg. The Cabin Boy, in particular, such a minor character and yet so fully developed. We are allowed into the lives of the characters – their motivations and desires become clearly known to the reader. It’s obvious this author takes her role as author and creator quite seriously.

[Tweet “An intriguing re-imagining of the Hindenburg tragedy as told by @ariellawhon”]

The tragedy becomes all the more real by the final closing of the book because we have journeyed across an ocean with the travelers. We’ve been along as The Navigator attempts to impress The Stewardess with the spectacular view on a mail drop (such a fascinating historical fact!). We are with The Cabin Boy as he is taken under The Navigator’s wing and we are with each person as the fire erupts and envelopes The Hindenburg in 34 seconds.

While I went into Flight of Dreams knowing the tragic end to the Hindenburg, I came away with the sense of each very real person on this airship of dreams. They had hopes, desires, dreams – a full life ahead of them. That the author took a vague historical event and turned it into one of real human drama is a testament to Lawhon’s staying power as a top-notch novelist. Highly recommended. 

Side note ~ isn’t that cover gorgeous?!?

About the Author Ariel Lawhon is co-founder of the popular online book club, She Reads, a novelist, blogger, and life-long reader. She lives in the rolling hills outside Nashville, Tennessee with her husband and four young sons (aka The Wild Rumpus).

To connect with Ariel Lawhon visit Website | Facebook | Twitter

Flight of Dreams will especially appeal to readers of: The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress; The Aviator’s Wife or The Paris Wife

four-half-stars

Divider

Book Review: Let Me Die in His Footsteps

June 16, 2015 Book Review 6

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book nor the content of my review.

Book Review: Let Me Die in His FootstepsLet Me Die in His Footsteps by Lori Roy
Published by Dutton on June 2nd, 2015
Genres: Fiction, Historical, Mystery, Southern
Pages: 336
Source: complimentary review copy
AmazonBarnes & Noble
Goodreads

 

There’s an old wives tale/superstition that if a young girl looks down a well she will see the face of her future husband.  In a 1952 small Kentucky town, that belief is taken to extremes.  At exactly midnight, on the half-birthday between a girl’s 15th and 16th year, each girl in this small town looks down a well while most of the town looks on.  It is a celebratory event and one greatly anticipated by most girls.  For Annie Holleran, the half-birthday she expected and what actually occurred are vastly different.  Annie has the “know-how” just like her grandmother and her real mother, Aunt Juna.  Annie lives in fear her real mother will return after disappearing 15 1/2 years prior and after accusing the oldest Baine boy of raping her, fathering the baby that became Annie, and of disappearing Juna’s younger brother.

With the passages devoted to tobacco farming and lavender harvesting, Let Me Die in His Footsteps is infused with atmosphere.  Strong on southern gothic elements as evidenced with Aunt Juna’s “evil” black eye color.   The writing is solid; Roy has infused the novel with enough melancholy to allow the reader to feel immersed in the story while the mystery kept me guessing til the end.

What ‘old wives tales’ or superstitions did you hear growing up? or even still use to this day?

Thank you so much TLC Book Tours for inclusion in the Let Me Die in His Footsteps tour.

To read additional reviews please visit TLC Book Tours.

Divider