{Book Review} Sold on a Monday

Book Review: Sold on a Monday - a historical fiction novel set during the Great Depression{Book Review}

Sold on a Monday

By Kristina McMorris

World War I has ended and the U.S. has plunged into the Great Depression. After a long day working on a story, newspaper reporter Ellis Reed snaps a picture that will change the course of his life. 2 CHILDREN FOR SALE reads the sign in front of two young children. That photo – and the story that accompanies it – earns Reed a front-page byline, followed by a new job writing for a major paper. Continue reading “{Book Review} Sold on a Monday”

{Book Review} Lilac Girls

Book Review: Lilac Girls - WWII-era historical fiction{Book Review}

Lilac Girls

Series: Lilac Girls #1

By Martha Hall Kelly

Lilac Girls tell the story of three women from totally different backgrounds, and their time during and after World War II.

First there’s Herta Oberheuser, a German doctor at Ravensbrück, the only all-female Nazi-run concentration camp. Herta originally went to Ravensbrück (advertised as a “reeducation camp”) to help support her family. Initially, she struggled with what was really going on at camp, but stayed on and became one of the camp’s top doctors.

In contrast, Kasia is a Polish girl who plays a minor role in Poland’s underground during Nazi occupation. She is captured by the Nazis and sent to Ravensbrück. There, she and her family do their best to survive and watch out for one another. Kasia and her sister eventually become one of the infamous “Rabbits,” a group of women who undergo Nazi medical experiments.

Finally, there’s Caroline Ferriday, a former American actress who spends most of her time volunteering at the French Consulate in New York and engaged in philanthropic causes, particularly helping French orphans and later, the Polish “Rabbits.” Caroline’s WWII experience is vastly different than Herta and Kasia, as she experiences the war from afar. That being said, she lives the worry and uncertainty of the war, doing all she can to help not only those that she cares for but others that are suffering from the cruelties of WWII.

Review/Recommendation: Let’s get the order piece out of the way, shall we? Even though Lilac Girls was published before Lost Roses and is technically the first book in the series, I read it second. In truth, I don’t think it matters which order you read them in. Lilac Girls takes place, chronologically, after Lost Roses, which was nice because I knew a bit more about Caroline (and her mother) and what made her into the woman we see in Lilac Girls. But even after reflecting quite a bit, the two books could easily be read as standalone and not lose anything. (Read my review of Lost Roses here.)

The characters of Herta, Kasia, and Caroline were all based on real figures of the time. Knowing that, in my opinion, makes the story even more powerful. All three women were strong characters. I won’t say all were equally likable, but they were all strong women and their lives were entwined, despite their very different backgrounds – two things that this novel had in common with Lost Roses.

In terms of the story, Lilac Girls was pretty stellar. Like many historical fiction novels, there were parts that were a bit hard to read, but that’s part of our history. Lilac Girls was well written and engaging, and for the most part, hard to put down. While a work of historical fiction, so much of the characters and plot was based on history, which made me feel like I got a real glimpse into our past, however ugly it was.

Like Lost Roses, Lilac Girls is a must read for those that enjoy fiction and historical fiction novels, but also one for those that enjoy strong female protagonists.

{Book Review} Lost Roses

Book Review: Lost Roses #historicalfiction{Book Review}

Lost Roses

By Martha Hall Kelly

Lost Roses is the story of three strong women who live worlds apart. It is the story of their experience during and just after World War I – and the 1917 Russian Revolution – their stories entwined in very different ways.

First there is Eliza Ferriday, a New England socialite who loves to travel. In fact, one of her closest friends is Sofya Streshnayva, a Russian noblewoman she met while in France. When communication from Sofya ceases during the war, Eliza fills her time as an advocate for the White Russian population who emigrated to New England, mostly women and children. As soon as it’s safe to travel, she plans to go look for Sofya and her family.

Sofya is the daughter of Russia’s Finance Minister and a cousin of the ruling Romanov family. Married with a baby/toddler, Sofya remains close with her father, stepmother, and younger sister Luba. The family lives in Petrograd (the city known today as Saint Petersburg) and has a second home on the outskirts of the city. But as a White Russian, Sofya’s family faces huge challenges during the war – they become separated and they no longer know who to trust. Russia is now very dangerous for them.

Finally, there is Varinka – a peasant and the daughter of a local fortune-teller. Varinka lives with her mother and her guardian, a cruel man named Taras. Varinka is brought to Sofya’s family estate where she cares for Sofya’s son Max. Her life is a hard one, and as a result, she doesn’t make the best decisions.

Review/Recommendation: I’ll start my review with a caveat. Lost Roses, released in April of this year, is the second book in the Lilac Girls series, but is actually a prequel to the first book, Lilac Girls. At the time of writing this review, I had not yet read Lilac Girls, although I’m planning to start it as soon as I finish this post.

Lost Roses was another historical fiction book that I thoroughly enjoyed. The writing was beautiful, the descriptions transporting the reader to a different time and often a different place – be it New England, Paris, or Russia.

The characters in Lost Roses were one of the book’s strengths. Eliza and Sofya were strong, good women. They fought not only for their families but for others, taking a stand to do what was right. I couldn’t help but feel for them when they suffered and smile when they achieved something.

Varinka was strong, but in a different way. She had such a different, hard upbringing. She worked to protect those she loved, but her personal situation was so hard that even when she made bad decisions, it was hard to really dislike her. Instead, I pitied her, hating the cruel hand that she had been dealt.

Lost Roses was inspired by historical figures, as Kelly details in the postscript at the end of the novel, but as you’re reading through it, you can tell that it is well-researched.

And now, please excuse me while I jump into Lilac Girls. 😉

{Book Review} The Huntress

Book Review: The Huntress by Kate Quinn{Book Review}

The Huntress

By Kate Quinn

The Huntress is a story split between two time periods – during WWII and a few years after. It follows the stories of 3 unlikely individuals whose lives become unexpected entwined:

  • Nina Markova: an elite Soviet fighter pilot, one of the Nachthexen (“Night Witches”) feared by Germans
  • Ian Graham: a British journalist turned war crimes investigator
  • Jordan McBride: an American teenager who dreams of being a photographer in the thick of the action

But how are these 3 individuals connected? Through the hunt for a Nazi war criminals known only as The Huntress.

Review: Guys, this was soooo good. I picked it up and couldn’t put it down.

Now if you’ve been reading Books n’ Cooks for a while, you know that I tend to enjoy WWII-era historical fiction novels, but this one – wow! The story – inspired by real men and women of the time period, which you can read about at the end – was unique and fascinating, and just a little  bit scary. I love it when a novel teaches me a little bit about the lesser known aspects of history, and this one totally did (e.g. the Night Witches, post-WWII hunts for war criminals and the legal issues that were sometime encountered with tracking the criminals and extraditing them, etc.).

Quinn masterfully wove the WWII and post-WWII timelines together, with chapters set during the war to fill in key details about the character’s experiences and personalities. The switches between characters and their own unique perspectives also felt seamless, which is sometimes difficult to accomplish.

In terms of the characters, I loved them all. All three major characters as well as the minor characters felt so real. Each character was very different from the others – feisty Nina, grumpy Ian, and innocent (and incredibly driven) Jordan. The changes in timeline showed the character development well and as I said, gave the background necessary to understanding each characters’ personality.

If you enjoy historical fiction, this is one to read. While not the most uplifting topic, the book was addictive – hard not to read from end to end in one sitting.

{Book Review} The Lost Man

Book Review: The Lost Man by Jane Harper{Book Review}

The Lost Man

By Jane Harper

One hot day in a remote part of Australia, Cameron Bright is discovered dead, miles away from his car and supplies, apparently from dehydration. Cam’s death is considered an unfortunate accident; no foul play is found. Cameron leaves behind two brothers, a wife and two daughters, and a cattle ranch.

As Nathan returns home to help after his brother’s death, his brother’s death leaves him feeling unsettled. Something about it just doesn’t add up. And everyone at the family home seems to be hiding something. Was Cam’s death really an accident? Or is there something else going on that the family homestead that led to it?

Review: The Lost Man isn’t your typical mystery/suspense novel. It’s subtle, with the details being very slowly drawn out. It’s not action-packed. There’s not really any “bad guys” in this book. Rather, the mystery reveals itself as the family struggling to get to know one another, to trust one another, after some years of tense and sometimes difficult times.

The characters were engaging – some more likable than others – but I appreciated seeing some of the struggles that a person goes through. How much of your own and suffering would you share with your family? With strangers? How does living in the remote Australian outback affect your life and your character?

This was really a fantastic read. It started off a bit slow, but before long, I was engrossed in the story and characters, not wanting to put it down. If you enjoy mystery and suspense novels or just plan fiction novels.