[Review] The Exiles by Christina Baker Kline

Publisher and Publication Date: Custom House, HarperCollins Publishers. July 6, 2021. First published August 2020.
Genre: Historical fiction.
Pages: 361.
Format: Paperback.
Source: Self-purchase at Target.
Audience: Readers of historical fiction, stories of women.
Rating: Good.

Link @ Amazon.
Link @ Barnes and Noble.

Website for Christina Baker Kline. Facebook. Twitter. Instagram. Goodreads.

Summary:

The Exiles is the story of three females who are exiled from their home. When the story begins only one of the females is a young woman, the other two are young girls. Two of them are convicted, imprisoned, and sentenced. They are sent by ship to Van Diemen’s Land which was the original name for Tasmania. The three of them come together in support of each other as their lives intersect.
Their names are Mathinna, Hazel, and Evangeline.
The time period begins in 1840.

My Thoughts:

There are things I like about the book and things I dislike.

What I like about the book:

1. I like the unique personalities and backgrounds of the three females. Each of them are different ages. Evangeline is in her early 20s and from England. Hazel is a teen and from Scotland. Mathinna is a young girl and is from an Aboriginal tribe.
2. The story shows me the prejudice and abuse of the Aboriginal people that the British inflicted upon them.
3. The story taught me how female convicts were treated in the prison, aboard the convict ship; and once they reached the destination-their living conditions, rules, and jobs.
4. While in London I felt engaged into the story immediately because all of the senses are apart of the storytelling.
5. I love the transformation in age and maturity of each of the female lead characters.
6. I see a sweetness and tenderness of those outside the prison system; and I see those who were selfishly bent on their own agendas.
7. I learned how the female convicts cope with their lives. Some took pleasure and comfort when offered. Some turned away from these relationships and became introspective.
8. A fulfilling closure.

What I do not like about the story:

1. One of the females took a lead part in narrating for the first half. I felt a huge investment in her outcome. I felt such a huge let down when she died mid-way through the book! I laid the book down for several days because I didn’t care to read about the other two females. It is not that I dislike them, but felt annoyed that the main character was dead! For me, that was the end of the book. I later picked back up with the book and finished.
2. Mathinna needs her own book. A book about her whole life. I read snippets (it felt like) in the story. Towards the end there is a perspective through Hazel’s eyes about Mathinna which left me in tears.
3. I’d love to read more about the geography and culture of Tasmania. I’d like vivid descriptions of the landscape. I’d like to envision where and how they lived with more description.

Final Thought:

I feel Kline tried to represent women (most-broad range) in The Exiles. All those women who were transported and relocated to a new world. I’m glad Kline gave one of them a satisfying life.

Themes in the story: Death and dying, courage, compassion, loyalty, obsession, power of love, bravery, acceptance, wisdom, trust, charity, injustice, justice, empowerment, grief, good and evil, innocence, suffering, survival, and greed.

[Review] What Did You Do In The War Sister?: Catholic Sisters in the World War II Nazi Resistance by Dennis J. Turner

Publisher and Publication Date: Published by the author, Dennis J. Turner. February 27th 2020.
Genre: Historical fiction.
Pages: 320.
Format: Kindle e-book edition.
Source: Kindle Unlimited e-book choice.
Audience: World War II readers. Readers who want to read about Catholic nuns who were apart of the Resistance.
Rating: Very good to excellent.

Link at Amazon

Link at Barnes and Noble

I have been curious about what role the Catholic Church had during World War II. I’ve read articles about their inaction in helping the Jews; but I wanted to read true stories or at least stories based on historical truth about those who did work against the Nazi pogrom during World War II. I am especially referring to priests and nuns. This book, What Did You Do In The War Sister? is a very good choice.
I have another book that I’ve not read: Church of Spies: The Pope’s Secret War Against Hitler by Mark Riebling.

Link at Goodreads

Summary:

The book is dedicated to the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur.

The summary of the book at Goodreads doesn’t give much info.

The narrator of the story is a nun, Sister Christina, who is from Ohio. She has a degree and certificate to teach secondary education. She teaches French and German. Despite the building war in Europe, she travels to Belgium to be a nun at a boarding school for girls. The time period is the late 1930s. Through this Sister’s experiences, the daily activities of a Sister and teacher is shown, as well as their work to care for and hide Jews and service men.

Through true letters and diaries of Sisters who wrote about their experiences during World War II, Turner has written a solid historical fiction story.

My Thoughts:

There are things I love about this book and things I dislike:

What I love:
1. I love learning about the Sister’s daily routine duties. Their daily schedule: when they awakened, when they went to bed at night, and everything in-between. The prayer times during the day. Everyone has responsibilities whether it is cooking, laundry, or teaching. And some duties are for all of them.
2. I love the sub-story about a young girl who lives at the school. I wish there had been more individual stories. In sharing their stories, I learn about their lives, their viewpoint about where they reside, and the Sisters who are their teachers and caregivers; plus their circumstances in how they came to live there. Another words, the main voice of the story is from this particular Sister. I’d like to have heard from other voices to fully round out the story. This also makes the story larger-epic.
3. I love the main character, Sister Christina. She is a woman of gusto. She is talented, intelligent, wise, a leader, compassionate, persuasive, adaptable, formidable, and courageous. She is a little too perfect. I am not saying that to be all these positive traits is impossible or wrong. I am saying that as a book character there must be a little imperfectness shown to be believable and approachable. If not, then the character is unapproachable, unknowable, and is seen more as someone who cannot be truly known or even become invested in their outcome.
4. I love the descriptive and graphic accounts of the bombings and its destruction of Belgium. This sets the serious tone of the whole of the story. Nazi Germany is the enemy who has brought war to Belgium. At first the Nazi’s occupy the area. Later, the allied soldiers and the Nazis fight the war in the front yards of the nation.
5. The story has a good pace. It is told in linear-chronological order with the exception of Sister Christina sharing about her background and how she became a Sister.
6. I love the Sister’s ingenuity and tactics in hiding those who the Nazis were looking for. This is an important aspect showing the work they did for those who were in harm’s way.
7. The displacement of the Sisters, children, and community at large are displaced at times because of the war. The Sisters were at risk of homelessness and murder just as all the community was at risk. This is a another strength of the story.
8. I love the tiny historical mentions. For example: the bells from church steeples that were removed by the Germans for war use. The bells had a grade system defined by their age.
9. I love how the story stayed with Sister Christina to show the impact of the war on her health.

A few things I do not like:

1. A few things I noted in the above portion.
2. I don’t like the title. I believe a better title should be short and precise. No question mark.
3. I believe a more enticing summary should be written for Goodreads, etc.
4. I’d like to hear more voices narrating the story. A favorite voice could be from a few of the young girls who lived in the school.

Themes in the story: war, peace, courage, suffering, heroism, honor, death and dying, sacrifice, resistance, trust, hope, grief, bravery, hospitality, survival, and wisdom.

I want to mention my dad was in World War II. He was in Belgium during the winter of 1944-1945. He fought in the Battle of the Bulge. He share several stories about his memories of that time. One of those stories is he too saw Marlene Dietrich in a show. He remarked it was odd she played a saw. I think he missed the point about her showing off her legs during this act.



[Review] None of Us The Same by Jeffrey K. Walker

Publisher and Publication Date: Ballybur Publishing. May 15th 2017.
Genre: Historical fiction.
Pages: 285.
Format: NetGalley ebook.
Source: I received a complimentary ebook copy from NetGalley. I am not required to write a positive review.
Audience: Readers of World War I, PTSD, and romance.
Rating: Okay to good.

Series titled, Sweet Wine of Youth #1

The Kindle copy is $2.99 on this date.
Link @ Amazon.

Link @ Barnes and Noble.
The Nook book is $2.99 on this date.

None of Us The Same has won several awards including the 2017 B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree.

For further reading I came across this website: Mercy in the Great War. And,
History of Medicine in Ireland.

Summary:

Dierdre Brannigan is a nurse at the Charity Hospital in Dublin, Ireland. Later, she is a nursing sister for the soldiers fighting in World War I.

A group of boyhood friends enlist in the military during World War I. They are from Newfoundland.

All of the principle characters will suffer to some degree with PTSD. During this time period, there was not enough research or even compassion in the medical community. It was first called Shell-Shock. Later, this mental health condition would be called PTSD.

My Thoughts:

Themes in the story: death and dying, compassion, loyalty, perseverance, courage, bravery, heroism, fear, guilt, shame, sacrifice, honor, romance, suffering, survival, war, peace, marriage, resistance, addiction, empowerment, grief, hope, and love.

I didn’t enjoy this book as I’d liked. I actually disagree with a few of the choices about the direction of the story.

My reasons for not liking this story as I’d hoped:
1. One of the characters has an opioid addiction. This type of addiction and drug is a well-known cause of sexual disfunction. Nevertheless, the character does not have this problem even though their drug use escalates.
2. The sexual positions the couple uses is not of interest to me. The love-making scenes come across as like a car manual-mechanical. I want to read tenderness and patience and love.
3. The story borders on being too busy with plots. It feels like a heavy meal. War and its aftermath, which is dealing with PTSD and its impact on relationships is heavy enough. But added to the story are other involvements and entanglements.
4. I feel no attachment to Dierdre which is a surprise. I feel more for the men.

What I love about the story:
1. The brotherly and sacrificial love between the young men is memorable.
2. The war scenes are graphic, raw, and well-written.
3. PTSD is a huge part of the story. Those who suffer in varying degrees are a strength for the story. It gives a well-rounded perspective of this condition.
4. I love reading about medical care in our history.

My son is a disabled combat Veteran. He has severe PTSD. I want to mention this because I feel it adds a little background to the things I notice about the story that people who have not personally experienced in this issue.

[Review] Emily’s House by Amy Belding Brown

Publisher and Publication Date: Berkley, an imprint of Penguin Random House. August 3, 2021.
Genre: Biographical fiction. Historical fiction.
Pages: 384.
Format: Paperback.
Source: Self-purchase.
Audience: Readers of biographical and historical fiction.
Rating: Excellent.

Link at Amazon

Link at Barnes and Noble

Amy Belding Brown’s site

Amy’s Facebook page

Summary:

Amherst, Massachusetts, 1869.

Margaret Maher was born in County Tipperary, Ireland but has lived in America for several years. Margaret had planned to move to California and own a boarding house. Her two brothers have already relocated to California. Margaret looked forward to the adventure of a new place. Mr. Edward Dickinson came to visit her an offered her a job as housemaid in his home. He told her he’d pay double what she was already making. He is assertive. His offer is enticing. But her mind had been made up. She decided to take the job temporary and earn more money for her trip.
Mr. Dickinson is a persuasive man. Meanwhile, Margaret settles to the routine of her duties. She becomes comfortable with the family members. She and Emily Dickinson become accustomed to one another.

Emily’s House is the story of Margaret Maher and her position both as maid and friend to Emily Dickinson. It is through Margaret’s eyes I learn about the woman, Emily, who became the remarkable poet.

My Thoughts:

I pre-ordered Emily’s House when I first heard about it.
I am excited to share this review because I love this story!

Themes in the story: circle of life, sacrifice, honor, conformity, wisdom, trust, grief, hope, charity, gratitude, compassion, acceptance, and kindness.

Several reasons why I love Emily’s House:
1. I learned about the culture and language differences between Americans and Irish immigrants. For example, the differences in how funerals are arranged.
2. And speaking of language, I learned a few new words. Banshee. Eejit. and Quare.
3. This is the third book I’ve read recently with a subtopic of Irish Independence.
4. I learned through Margaret that a maid’s duties are not the only hardship. How they deal with the differences and prejudices against them for not only being Irish but of a lower socio-economic class than who they work for.
5. The house is a character in the book. Sometimes authors use an object, like a house, and it is another character in the story.
6. I have not read another book about Emily Dickinson. I have read her poetry. But not a nonfiction or historical fiction book about her. I feel better acquainted with her personality. She comes across as an intelligent, sensitive, introverted type person. She feels things and views things on a deeper level than most people. I do not see her as strange but gifted.
7. Emily’s House is the story about how women were treated and viewed in the 19th century.
8. I love Margaret. She is a perfect character to tell me about Emily, the Dickinson family, life in 19th century Amherst, Irish immigrants, the job as a house maid, and a woman during this era. She has common sense, wisdom, humor, subtle sarcasm, a tender heart, and a little spark in her temperament that makes me smile.
9. Sometimes in a fiction story there is a pause or break in the main storyline. Something extra is added to the whole of the story that I didn’t know was there. I love this form of writing. It is like getting an extra Christmas package that was at first unseen.
10. The story is dual time periods. But not much time is spent in the year 1916. Most of the story is 1869 and moves forward 30 years.
11. Grief. There is not a time limit for grief. Grief is felt differently by people because we are all individuals. Grief is a strong theme in Emily’s House.
12. Emily’s House reminds me there are different types of love and different levels of love. Love is not always sexualized. It is a sacrificial love. It is compassion and warmth. It is tenderness and hope. It is commitment to the end.

Favorite quotes:
“Emily had a habit of coming into a room without making a sound.” Page 33.
“March is fickle as the Faeries.” Page 69.
“Eternity is behind us and there’s immortality to come. But for now we have the bliss of memory.” Page 357.

[Review] The Voyage of the Morning Light by Marina Endicott

Publisher and Publication Date: W. W. Norton Company. June 2, 2020.
Genre: Historical fiction.
Pages: 400.
Format: Paperback.
Source: Self-purchase.
Audience: Readers of sea adventures, sister relationships, travel, and romance.
Rating: Good.

Link @ Amazon

Summary:

Thea and Kay are half sisters. They have the same father but different mothers. Thea is the older sister by several years. She is the older sister but also like a mother to Kay. Both of their mothers died when they were young. Their father recently died.
When the story begins it is 1911. The sisters are in Nova Scotia. Thea is a newlywed. Her husband is the commander of the ship, Morning Light. The sisters join Francis during his first command of the ship. Their travels will take them around the world.
Kay is a young girl of 12. While they are in Micronesia, Thea adopts a young boy and he joins the family. Kay has mixed feelings about this decision. Her feelings continue through the years until the story ends.

My Thoughts:

It is rare to come across a sea adventure story; and especially to find a story of two sisters experiencing a sea adventure and traveling around the world. This reason alone makes The Voyage of the Morning Light a standalone in historical fiction. This is the first reason why I love this story: it is a unique story and a unique environment for two females.
2. I love reading all the details related by Kay of what she saw and experienced. Life on board the ship. The waves, storms, and the various colors of the ocean. Sea life. The islands, including the people who lived there. The Anglo-Western people who lived on the islands or continents. They were often missionaries, teachers, and pastors.
3. Kay is a strong-willed and intelligent young girl. Her personality and Thea’s more Victorian thought and behavior caused friction. They are two females from different generations.
4. The sisters love one another but their relationship led to disagreements and strife. So in this story there is a family-sister theme.
5. Thea is a newly married woman who has a focus of pleasing her husband. I saw through Kay’s eyes marriage and family during this era.
6. I understand a little better the Western thought and attitude versus people who were not.

What I did not like about the story is the rushed feel towards the last part of the book. They return to life on land. Francis joins the war during World War I. Kay grows up. The story had moved at a steady pace in order to understand the characters and their individual stories. The last part of the book felt rushed, and I felt rushed and wanted to skip the whole last part except for the boy who had been adopted by Thea. Lastly, he alone should have his own story.

Themes in the story: perseverance, courage, bravery, acceptance, family honor, circle of life, honor, romance, marriage, pregnancy, resistance, conformity, hope, and tolerance.