Tag Archives: Historical Fiction

Audiobook Review – Girl in the Blue Coat – Monica Hesse

girl-in-the-blue-coatGirl in the Blue Coat
Author: Monica Hesse
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Narrator: Natalia Payne
Run Time: 9hrs, 42min
Narration Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Review Copy Provided by Hachette Audio

Amsterdam, 1943. Hanneke spends her days finding and delivering sought-after black market goods to paying customers, nights hiding the true nature of her work from her concerned parents, and every waking moment mourning her boyfriend, who was killed on the Dutch front lines when the German army invaded. Her illegal work keeps her family afloat, and Hanneke also likes to think of it as a small act of rebellion against the Nazis.

On a routine delivery, a client asks Hanneke for help. Expecting to hear that Mrs. Janssen wants meat or kerosene, Hanneke is shocked by the older woman’s frantic plea to find a person: a Jewish teenager Mrs. Janssen had been hiding, who has vanished without a trace from a secret room. Hanneke initially wants nothing to do with such a dangerous task but is ultimately drawn into a web of mysteries and stunning revelations—where the only way out is through.

It’s always hard to try and capture thoughts for books that engage you so emotionally that you are just left wondering what happened? For me Girl in the Blue Coat did just that – as soon as I started listening to the fabulous audiobook narrated by Natalia Payne I was sucked in. Historical fiction set during in Amsterdam in 1943, a time period where the Jewish population were required to wear the yellow star of identification and where significant portions of the Jewish population were starting to be forcibly rounded up and sent to various concentration camps. Hanneke is one of those members of the Jewish population, trying to maintain some normalcy of a life with all the restrictions being placed on them, and attempting to stick it to the Nazi’s by buying and selling goods on the blackmarket. All of that changed when she was asked to help locate a Jewish teenager who was being hidden by one of her customers and who had seemingly disappeared into thin air. What follows is a mystery of who is the girl in the blue coat and where did she go?

But this wasn’t just a story of the girl in the blue coat – it was a story of bravery, resistance, growing up in the face of adversity, betrayal of friends and so much more. I’ll admit that Hanneke drove me kind of nuts at times – for a 19 year old, especially one who had been doing some of the work that she had been doing seemed remarkably naive at times – especially when faced with working with the resistance. Her behavior at times reminded me kind of a spoiled brat – taking risks with no care for others, especially when she was Jewish in a community where Jews were being rounded up daily and sent to concentration camps – it just seemed like at times she was almost asking to be caught. It was the interplay between Hanneke and the other characters – Bas/Elspeth/Mirjam/Amalia that really added depth to the story. I really what to know what happens in the future with Hanneke and Elspeth’s relationship as well as Bas and Hanneke.

Natalia Payne was a new narrator to me but i can’t wait to listen to more books narrated by her in the future. I have to admit that I don’t really know how a dutch accent should sound to be able to judge her on accuracy, but it seemed pretty close to what i’ve heard in other historical fiction/movies set in the same time period. She was able to instill the right amount of fear into me during certain portions of the book, as well as making me cry in other portions. There were definately a few times where I almost needed to pull over because I wanted to cry. I want to thank Hachette Audio for allowing me the opportunity to listen to this book and as an added bonus for the audiobook listeners, there is an interview at the end with Monica Hesse (the author); the narrator and one of the Hachette producers who was responsible for bringing this book into both print and audio. I’m excited to see what more Monica Hesse writes about in the future. A solid 4 stars for both the story itself and the narration.

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Posted by on October 6, 2016 in Audiobook Review, Review


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Review – Shining Sea – Anne Korkeakivi

shining-seaShining Sea
Author: Anne Korkeakivi
Rating: ☆ ☆ ½

Opening in 1962 with the fatal heart attack of forty-three-year-old Michael Gannon, a WWII veteran and former POW in the Pacific, SHINING SEA plunges into the turbulent lives of his widow and kids over subsequent decades, crisscrossing from the beaches of southern California to the Woodstock rock festival, London’s gritty nightlife in the eighties to Scotland’s remote Inner Hebrides islands, the dry heat of Arizona desert to the fertile farmland of Massachusetts. Beautifully rendered and profoundly moving, SHINING SEA by Anne Korkeakivi is a family story, about the ripple effects of war, the passing down of memory, and the power of the ideal of heroism to lead us astray but also to keep us afloat.

One source of books that I often find to be intriguing when I’m looking for new books to read are the lists published by various magazines called “most anticipated books of…,” “books you can’t wait to read in…” and other various ways to title lists. Mostly I’m curious to know how the books that are selected for these lists are selected – who determines that they are the “most anticipated” – is it some kind of algorithm based on sales (although since sometimes these posts are done months in advanced of publishing dates I find that hard to rectify); is it based on preferences of the article writer or staff at a magazine…and there is a reason behind my meandering here…I had a profound sense of disappointment as I read Shining Sea and struggle to understand how it ended up on a most anticipated list.

The beginning of the story was interesting with how a family dealt with tragedy, but about 1/3 of the way through it just started to meander a bit – lots of focus on family drama (mostly focused around 1-2 of the family members) rather than the family saga that I was kind of expecting. I also kind of expected more than two generations to be part of the story – maybe I had a bit of an over-inflated sense of expectation because of how it was presented on the Most Anticipated list…I will stay that I enjoyed the earlier portions of the book that had shorter chapters that jumped through different time periods – so there was one chapter that would be in 1965, and then another in 1967 for the first couple parts of the book. Then there was a portion that was a good 100 pages and honestly, there is where the author started losing me…i just wanted engaged in that portion of the story – it just felt out of place. I think that is kind of where I started to wonder exactly what I was reading…up until then i was ambivalent, but that is just where i turned from ok to ehhh….but i did stick it out until the end and while the second to last chapter (prior to the epilogue) was solid and fulfilling – once again after I finished reading the epilogue I was like ehhh….

Maybe i’m just not the right audience for this book – i’m sure there are people who would enjoy it – it just didn’t work for me – 2.5 stars overall.

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Posted by on September 29, 2016 in Book Review, Review


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Waiting on Wednesday – 21 September

New WoW

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly feature hosted by Breaking the Spine where bloggers spotlight eagerly anticipated upcoming releases.

the-german-girl This week’s Waiting on Wednesday pick is an upcoming historical fiction set in the lead-up to World War 2. Its kind of weird how sometimes it seems like authors are in my brain examining ideas for what I would love to see featured in a book – and this book is no different.

A few months ago I was at the Holocaust Museum in DC (which if you have never been there, find a way to visit). Anyways, on the first floor you enter (which is actually the 5th floor) there are lots of displays about the lead-up to WW2 and one of the featured events was the sailing of the Saint Louis to Cuba from Europe – which many Jewish families were hoping to use as a way to escape Hitler’s persecution.

Added to being intrigued by what could potentially have happened on that ship and not knowing if anyone had even written anything about this period in history – I was immediately intrigued when I saw an advertisement for The German Girl by Armanda Luca Correa.

the German Girl has a release date of October 18, 2016 and while I don’t often pre-order books, I broke my rule for this one and can’t wait to read it.

In 1939 before everything changed, Hannah Rosenthal lived a charmed life. Her family moved in Berlin’s highest social circles, admired by friends and neighbors. Eleven-year-old Hannah was often taken by her mother for an afternoon treat at the tea room of the beautiful Adlon Hotel, both dressed in their finest clothes. She spent her afternoons at the park with her best friend Leo Martin. But, in an instant, that sunlit world vanished. Now the streets of Berlin are draped with red, white, and black flags; their fine possessions are hauled away, and they are no longer welcome in the places that once felt like home. The two friends make a pact: come what may, they promise to have a future together.

As Hannah and Leo’s families desperately begin to search for a means of escape, a glimmer of hope appears when they discover the Saint Louis, a transatlantic liner that can give Jews safe passage to Cuba. After a frantic search to obtain visas, the Rosenthals and the Martins depart from Hamburg on the luxurious passenger liner bound for Havana. Life aboard the ship is a welcome respite from the gloom of Berlin—filled with masquerade balls, dancing, and exquisite meals every night.

As the passengers gain renewed hope for a bright future ahead, love between Hannah and Leo blossoms. But soon reports from the outside world began to filter in, and dark news overshadows the celebratory atmosphere on the ship; the governments of Cuba, the United States, and Canada are denying the passengers of the St. Louis admittance to their countries, forcing them to return to Europe as it descends into the Second World War. The ship that had seemed their salvation seems likely to become their death sentence.

After four days anchored at bay, only a handful of passengers are allowed to disembark onto Cuban soil, and Hannah and Leo must face the grim reality that they could be torn apart. Their future is unknown, and their only choice will have an impact in generations to come.

Decades later in New York City on her eleventh birthday, Anna Rosen receives a mysterious envelope from Hannah, a great-aunt she has never met but who raised her deceased father. In an attempt to piece together her father’s mysterious past, Anna and her mother travel to Havana to meet Hannah, who is turning eighty-seven years old. Hannah reveals old family ties, recounts her journey aboard the Saint Louis and, for the first time, reveals what happened to her father and Leo. Bringing together the pain of the past with the mysteries of the present, Hannah gives young Anna a sense of their shared histories, forever intertwining their lives, honoring those they loved and cruelly lost.

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Posted by on September 22, 2016 in Wishlist Wednesday


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Waiting on Wednesday – 13 July 2016

New WoW

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly feature hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.

I’ve been on a recent 20th century historical fiction kick (which seems kind of weird to say, considering that the 20th century ended only 16 years ago and I was alive during the end of it)…but specifically, books set from World War 1 (inclusive) through the end of world war 2, so i was excited to see the following book pop up in the Publisher’s Weekly upcoming releases list.

secrets of nanreath hallSecrets of Nanreath Hall: A Novel – Alix Rickloff
Release Date: August 2, 2016

Tagline: This incredible debut historical novel—in the tradition of Beatriz Williams and Jennifer Robson—tells the fascinating story of a young mother who flees her home on the rocky cliffs of Cornwall and the daughter who finds her way back, seeking answers.

Why Waiting on Wednesday?
Sometimes when taglines say for fans of certain authors, I’d immediately buy, or I’ll avoid…but in this instance, I’ve had very limited exposure of the 2 authors mentioned in the tagline (Beatriz Williams and Jennifer Robson), but I’ve (unintentionally) been making my way through the different decades of the 20th century (with a WW1 anthology, followed soon after by a book set in the 1920’s) – although, I’ll admit, I still need to find a book set in the 1930’s…but this will likely be my book for the 1940’s when I get there🙂 (although, it seemed to be a book that tells the story in 2 time periods, which if done right, is a story format that I really enjoy). Plus, I’ll admit there was some total cover lust for this book – its a cover that is just simple and elegant and one that I would totally buy in a store if i was just browsing the shelves.

What about you – what is your “Waiting on Wednesday” book?

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Posted by on July 14, 2016 in Wishlist Wednesday


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Review – The Girl from the Savoy – Hazel Gaynor

the girl from the savoyThe Girl from the Savoy
Author: Hazel Gaynor
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Review Copy Provided by Publisher

Sometimes life gives you cotton stockings. Sometimes it gives you a Chanel gown …

Dolly Lane is a dreamer; a downtrodden maid who longs to dance on the London stage, but her life has been fractured by the Great War. Memories of the soldier she loved, of secret shame and profound loss, by turns pull her back and spur her on to make a better life.

When she finds employment as a chambermaid at London’s grandest hotel, The Savoy, Dolly takes a step closer to the glittering lives of the Bright Young Things who thrive on champagne, jazz and rebellion. Right now, she must exist on the fringes of power, wealth and glamor—she must remain invisible and unimportant.

But her fortunes take an unexpected turn when she responds to a struggling songwriter’s advertisement for a ‘muse’ and finds herself thrust into London’s exhilarating theatre scene and into the lives of celebrated actress, Loretta May, and her brother, Perry. Loretta and Perry may have the life Dolly aspires to, but they too are searching for something.

Now, at the precipice of the life she has and the one she longs for, the girl from The Savoy must make difficult choices: between two men; between two classes, between everything she knows and everything she dreams of. A brighter future is tantalizingly close—but can a girl like Dolly ever truly leave her past behind?

sometimes i have to wonder if my desires in book settings is like published somewhere…so funny(ish) story, maybe a month or so ago, I was talking some book-ish friends on facebook and mentioned that I would love to see more books that were set in the post-WW1 era, but pre-WW2 (so the 1920’s and 30’s). And then not long after, I got an email asking me if I would be interested in reviewing Hazel Gaynor’s newest book, The Girl from the Savoy. I’d first read Gaynor when I picked up her “The Girl Who Came Home” when it was on sale one day (which told the story of a Titanic survivor, interspersed with a modern day story). And who doesn’t love this cover, like I have serious cover envy right now!

The first thing that sucked me into Gaynor’s story-telling, was how I felt like I was in London during the 1920’s. I felt like I was walking into the Savoy for the first time, seeing its opulence and having Dolly (or one of her friends) being my maid. Reading the vivid descriptions of the clothes and their trips to see Loretta May perform on stage. Dolly was just a character that you could fall in love with because she was so relateable – a girl who just wants to live her dreams, but one that also has a past that she is trying to reconcile with. It took me a few chapters to realize that while the majority of the book was set in the 1920’s, that there were a few portions that were set 1919 and more immediately post WW1 (yeah, I know, sometimes, I’m a bit slow on the uptake).

There was such a cast of characters included in The Girl from Savoy – Dolly and her fellow maids, several customers of the Savoy (there was one who really gave me the heebie-jeebies) so you could see the types of people who stayed at the Savoy, to Loretta and her brother, Percy and then there was Dolly’s long-lost love, who while he came back physically from the war, was never the same. His portion of the story was probably the most gut-wrenching off all the parts in the story (I know that it was supposed to be, but maybe its because I am in the military, that it hit home even closer)…

The Girl from the Savoy makes 2 books in a row by Gaynor that I have really enjoyed and I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next. I’d recommend both the Girl from the Savoy (and the Girl Who Came home) to people who like historical fiction that has been extremely well-researched and just draws you in. A solid 4 stars for The Girl from Savoy and one step closer to Gaynor being added to my auto-buy list.

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Posted by on June 17, 2016 in Book Review, Review


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Wishlist Wednesday – 27 January 2016

Wishlist WednesdayWishlist Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Pen to Paper where we post about one book that has been hanging out on our wish list (either for a long time, or not so long)

My pick for this weeks Wishlist Wednesday is a book that is actually due out in less than a week and that I already have reserved at the library for when their copies come in (here’s hoping, I’ll be one of the first to get to read it).

salt to the sea
Salt to the Sea
Author: Ruta Sepetys
Release Date: Feb 2, 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, World War 2 Fiction

In 1945, World War II is drawing to a close in East Prussia, and thousands of refugees are on a desperate trek toward freedom, almost all of them with something to hide. Among them are Joana, Emilia, and Florian, whose paths converge en route to the ship that promises salvation, the Wilhelm Gustloff. Forced by circumstance to unite, the three find their strength, courage, and trust in each other tested with each step closer toward safety.

Just when it seems freedom is within their grasp, tragedy strikes. Not country, nor culture, nor status matter as all ten thousand people aboard must fight for the same thing: survival.

Why am I excited to read it?
Ruta Sepetys’ debut book a few years back (2011), Between Shades of Grey, told the story of a teenager displaced and sent to Siberia when Russia annexed the Baltic states in 1941. It was a unique story to me as I read it, because not only did it touch on an era in history that isn’t routinely taught in high school (or college to my knowledge), but that it was also based in part on experiences by her family members. Ms Sepetys has the ability to write historical fiction in a way that just sucks you in and if her newest is like Between Shades of Grey, I might have to plan on a sleepless night, because I couldn’t put it down…


Posted by on January 27, 2016 in Wishlist Wednesday


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TBR Tuesday – 26 January 2016

TBR TuesdayWelcome back to the first official TBR Tuesday of 2016 (yes, I realize its nearly the end of January, work has been keeping me REALLY busy). I’m making it my goal this year to read at least 4 books a month off my archive pile (for me, this is any book that has been purchased at least 12 months prior to the date of the post). I hope you join me in tackling Mt TBR!

The Rest Falls Away
Author: Colleen Gleason
Series: #1 in the Gardella Vampire Hunters series

Purchase Date: May 28, 2010
Date Read: December 28, 2015
Time on Mt TBR: 2040 days

So there is kind of a funny story attached to my reading of this book. I bought this back in 2010 and promptly lost it in my archives (and never actually logged it as being owned on my Goodreads shelves – which is one of my major problems). Anyways, as I was browsing on Edelweiss one night, I came across the first 3 books in this series (including this one) all available on auto-approval (they were being re-released), so I grabbed them because the premise sounded intriguing. When I went to download the first book in the series to my kindle, I got several options in my archives – which made me stop for a second and scratch my head, thinking WTF…and thus, I realized my mistake. So while I am posting a short and sweet review for TBR Tuesday here – i’ll likely have a longer ARC version of a review to go live later on.

Keeping with the theme of short and sweet – I really liked how this series was developed – it was much more in the realm of urban fantasy than paranormal romance, so don’t be expecting a happy ending at the end of the first book (don’t say I didn’t warn you). It is definately a developing story arc. I loved how Victoria wasn’t a push-over and while she def. tried to act like a proper young maid in this book, you could see the inner conflict of her character, between how she had been raised, and what she was destined to become. I’ve already read the second book in the series, and look forward to continuing it.

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Posted by on January 26, 2016 in TBR Tuesday


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