(Review) The Anglophile’s Notebook by Sunday Taylor

Publisher and Publication Date: Spuyten Duyvil. 2020.
Genre: Fiction. Travel. Romance. Family saga. Contemporary fiction.
Pages: 356.
Format: Paperback.
Source: I received a complimentary paperback copy from Sunday Taylor. I am not required to write a positive review.
Audience: Contemporary fiction/romance readers.
Rating: Good.

For more information about the book @ Spuyten Duyvil.

Amazon
The Kindle Unlimited e-book is free.

Author Info:

Sunday Taylor grew up in Pennsylvania and Connecticut and attended Bates College in Maine. A graduate of the Master of Arts program in English Literature at UCLA, she spent the last four decades in California and currently lives in Los Angeles. Taylor is married with two grown daughters and two granddaughters. She journeys to England every year, reads Jane Eyre every autumn and identifies as an Anglophile. This is her first book.

Website

Summary:

The Anglophile’s Notebook is a literary mystery set in England. Claire Easton travels from Los Angeles to London to research a book on her favorite author, Charlotte Brontë. While seeking Brontë’s secrets, she discovers her own. The Anglophile’s Notebook will whisk the reader away to literary London and the beautifully wild countryside of Yorkshire, home to the Brontë sisters. Brimming with writerly ghosts, enchanting bookstores, cozy pubs, English country gardens, and memorable characters, this novel is for anyone who has found their imagination in the gardens of rural England or a two-hundred-year-old bookstore in London and felt utterly alive.

My Thoughts:

There are things I like about the book and a few things I do not like about the book.

What I like:
1. Claire Easton is a character who is down to earth and easy for me to identify with. She is a regular gal. She is someone I could be friends with. She is a believable character who has positive and negative human traits. Claire is a reader, bibliophile, writer, blogger, book reviewer, and gardener. These interests are the same as mine. Her background and environment might have created a celebrity status type person. Instead, she is a person who is kindhearted, unselfish, long-suffering; and, she’s also a little innocent and vulnerable. I am glad Claire is a mature woman of 42. She has lived long enough to understand a bit about life and how to make wise decisions. Lastly, Claire is a character who has a transformation. This is always a positive experience for me to read a character who has a remarkable change.
2. Charlotte Brontë is the pleasant fixation for Claire. Claire plans to write a book about Charlotte Brontë . The story centers around Claire’s research of the Brontë books, manuscripts, letters, and the town they lived in. Charlotte is the main emphasis, but the other Brontë family members are apart of The Anglophile’s Notebook.
3. The Anglophile’s Notebook is a travel book. For most of the book Claire is in England. She travels back to California a couple of times. While in England she visits museums, bookshops, art and book collections, estates, and the scenery of the Yorkshire Moors. I enjoyed her descriptions and experiences.
4. Claire is close to her only sibling, a sister named, Jane. Their mother died. There is unanswered questions about their mother. There is not a reconciling of the relationship. One of the reasons I continued to read this book is I wanted to know what happened? Claire dreams of her mother. The memories and feelings about her mother are always present for Claire. Claire is still experiencing grief. Grieving takes as long as it takes. There is no time limit. And, because there are unanswered questions, there remains a mystery about their mother. These issues helped to keep me reading.
5. Jane is a praying person. She acknowledges when a prayer is positively answered. However, it is never specifically stated who Jane prays to.
6. I love the secondary characters in the book. It is a lengthy list. It is a diverse list.
7. The conflicts in the story are internal.
8. The main plot is simple.
9. The story is told in chronological or linear form.

What I do not like about the story:
1. The story has a long list of high functioning words and local dialect sayings. I don’t mind a couple of words that I need to look up in a dictionary, but the list grew and grew. The average reader is not going to like this. When a reader has to pause too much to look up a word in the dictionary it breaks the flow of reading. For example, farcical and raconteur.
2. Ben is Claire’s husband. If he were cut completely from the story would it matter? No. He is actually a weight in the story that is not needed because the story is busy with other things going on. When a story is too busy, well it is just too busy, and the reader (me) is worn-out by the heavy traffic.
3. At this time in my life (or in my reading life), I have become bored with much of the romance that is weaved in a story. I don’t have the data that will back up how other readers feel about this topic. I know how I feel. If Claire had focused all her attention on the Brontë research, the traveling, and the mystery surrounding her mother, this book would be remarkable enough. But, Claire’s personal life became a weight and additional plots for the story. Bottom line for me is there are too many things going on in this one book. Just a few would be wonderful.

Themes:
Death and dying, loyalty, self-worth, honesty, redemption, acceptance, kindness, romance, innocence, guilt, wisdom, hope, grief, temptation, empowerment, dreams, and trust.

(Review) The Girl From the Channel Islands by Jenny Lecoat

Publisher and Publication Date: Graydon House Books. February 2, 2021.
Genre: Historical fiction.
Pages: 304.
Format: Paperback.
Source: Self-purchase.
Audience: Readers of historical fiction who enjoy World War II history.
Rating: Okay.

The book is based on a true story.

Amazon

The Girl From the Channel Islands is a first novel for Jenny Lecoat.

Goodreads author page for Jenny Lecoat.

Summary:

1940.
Jersey. The Channel Islands.

Hedy Bercu is a Jewish young woman who escaped Austria and fled to Jersey. She’s been working in the home of the Mitchells. The Mitchells have left Jersey ahead of the expected German invasion. Hedy is left without a job. She cannot stay in their huge home alone. Her best friend is Anton. He has a new girlfriend named Dorothea or Dory.

After the occupation of the Germans. Hedy is able to work as a translator for them. She begins a romantic relationship with a German officer.

Hedy’s knowledge of what is happening to the Jews in Europe is minimal. She knew enough about the Nazi’s to escape Austria, but she doesn’t know what has happened since she left. She fears for her parents.

My Thoughts:

I don’t know how many fiction and nonfiction books I’ve read on World War II history but it is lengthy. It is rare to read about a Jewish person who became involved romantically with a Nazi. I have often wondered what the percentage is of Jewish women who were in romantic relationships with Nazis? It is possible that because this story takes place on the island of Jersey and not mainland Europe, the love story has more believability. I wonder how a Jewish person at this time would view this situation? It is easy for me to say I am not going to be sexually aroused, attracted, or have romantic feelings for the known enemy. But, I am not living in “their” shoes. I am not experiencing this type of situation. And, The Girl From the Channel Islands has not helped me to understand the situation. This is the first reason why I have given this book an okay rating. I am not convinced at their situation, feelings, or plight. I could care less. I care about Hedy. I care about the people of Jersey. I care about what is going on in mainland Europe. I care about what is happening with the Jews. I care about Hedy’s parents and sister. Hedy’s romantic partner is Kurt. I don’t care how cute Kurt is-he is the enemy. I don’t care if he is a little bit of a Nazi. It is nice that he helped Hedy. He is still a Nazi. He is still the enemy.

I love the descriptions of the island, town, and the people. This is a strong feature of the book.

In one brief description of Hedy she is described as a “a pale skinny girl.” She has blonde hair. Her eyes are large. The “color of the sea.” Her description shows me she is vulnerable, but has lovely features. She is some what of a loner. I don’t feel that I really know her as a character. There is little information given about her background. She is not someone who stands out. However, she is the main character. This is a second reason why this book is an okay rating in my view. Her character is not developed.

Hedy works in a minor role of resistance. It is so minor I have forgotten exactly what she was doing. This point is disappointing. Especially since I cannot remember.

Themes in the story: romance, perseverance, loyalty, courage, bravery, kindness, good and evil, survival, peace and war, resistance, trust, temptation, self-control, and hope.

(Review) Harvest Moon: By the Light of the Moon Series Book #4 by Jenny Knipfer

Publisher and Publication Date: Independently published. November 23, 2020.
Genre: Historical fiction. Native American literature. Christian historical fiction. Romance. Ojibwe history. Women and literature.
Pages: 291.
Format: Kindle Unlimited e-book.
Source: Even though I am apart of the book tour, I received the e-book via Kindle Unlimited. I am not required to write a positive review.
Audience: Readers of Native American historical fiction.
Rating: Very good.

Buy Links:

Amazon UKAmazon USAmazon CAAmazon AU
Barnes and Noble

Additional links for further reading:

From the ThoughtCo about the Ojibwe People.
The Ojibwe People’s Dictionary.
From Publisher’s Weekly, 10 Essential Native American Novels.
From Native American Writers, Early Native American Literature.
American Indians in Children’s Literature.
Social Justice Books. This website provides a long list of Native American literature for children of all ages.

Author Information:

Jenny Knipfer lives in Wisconsin with her husband, Ken, and their pet Yorkie, Ruby. She is also a mom and loves being a grandma. She enjoys many creative pursuits but finds writing the most fulfilling. Spending many years as a librarian in a local public library, Jenny recently switched to using her skills as a floral designer in a retail flower shop. She is now retired from work due to disability. Her education background stems from psychology, music, and cultural missions. Her By the Light of the Moon series earned five-star reviews from Readers’ Favorite, a book review and award contest company. Their praise: “Ruby Moon is entertaining, fast-paced, and features characters that are real. Blue Moon continues a well-written and highly engaging saga of family ties, betrayals, and heartaches. Silver Moon is a highly recommended read for fans of historical wartime fiction, powerful emotive drama, and excellent atmospheric writing. Harvest Moon is probably one of the best historical fiction novels I have ever read. I have come away deep in thought, feeling somewhat like I’ve had a mystical experience and one I will never forget.”
She holds membership in the: Midwest Independent Booksellers Association, Wisconsin Writers Association, Christian Indie Publishing Association, and Independent Book Publishers Association.
Jenny’s favorite place to relax is by the western shore of Lake Superior, where her novel series, By The Light of the Moon, is set. She is currently writing a new historical fiction series entitled, Sheltering Trees. The first title in that series, In a Grove of Maples,—inspired by the lives of her grandparents in the late 1890’s—is slated for fall of 2021.
Connect with Jenny:
WebsiteTwitterFacebookInstagram


Summary:

In the wilds of 19th century Ontario, Maang-ikwe, a young Ojibwe woman, falls into a forbidden love, breaks her father’s honor, and surrenders her trust to someone who betrays it. The abuse she suffers divides her from her tribe and causes her to give up what she holds most dear. 
Niin-mawin must come to grips with his culture being ripped away from him. Brought up in a “white man’s” school, he suffers through an enforced “civilized” education and separation from his family. When a man he respects reveals a secret about Niin-mawin’s past, he embarks on a search for the person he hopes can mend the part of his heart that’s always been missing. 
Both Maang-ikwe and Niin-mawin wonder how a harvest of pain and sorrow will impact their lives. Will they find the blessings amongst the hardships, or will they allow the results of division and abuse to taint their hearts forever?

Fans of historical fiction, Native American fiction, Christian historical fiction, clean romance, and literary fiction will be moved by this deep, heartfelt novel.

My Thoughts:

It is rare for me to read a book with characters (or even one character) who are Native Americans. Less than 1% of children’s books have Native American characters. I’m shocked and disappointed. Native Americans are the first Americans. They are the original people who settled in North America. Their stories were first told through oral history. Now, they are also told in book form, but few books share their rich knowledge of history and culture.
After reading Harvest Moon, I performed a web search of Native American literature. The statistics, types of children and adult books, the history in their literature, and the injustice of this people group who have been ignored by publishers are some of the facts I found. Obviously they’ve been ignored because I rarely hear about Native American literature. Other people groups are examined in detail and with media attention. Why not Native American literature?
What I have written in the above section is the first reason why I love Harvest Moon. This is an important story. It is important because it shares true history, in historical fiction form, of how the Ojibwe were treated in the 19th century. Everything about their culture was impacted by white people who wanted the Ojibwe to become like them. This type of indoctrination happened among the other Native Americans in North America.
A second reason why I love this story is it brings a valid but sordid point in the Christian mission work of the 19th century. This point is abuse will never bring a person to belief in God. Christians are to share the gospel message with people. Christians are not to “force” someone to become a believer. Christians are not to scold or beat a person because they are not the “right” color or culture. We are to respect and love people. Native Americans are our neighbor. Jesus commanded us to “love our neighbor.” And, love is not just a word. Love is a word that requires action.
Harvest Moon is a story showing the trauma and after-effects of sexual abuse. I am both a survivor, and a mentor for women who have been traumatized by sexual abuse. I know that healing is something we work towards. One of the ways we work towards healing is by telling our stories. Harvest Moon is one young woman’s story who speaks for so many other women.
Harvest Moon is the story of a mother’s bond with her children, and the bond between children and their mothers.
Harvest Moon is the story of relationships between men and women. Specifically the power of attraction, miscommunication, loneliness, the need for affirmation, and blending a family together.

What I did not like about Harvest Moon is the use of the quotes at the start of each chapter. I love quotes. I love the quotes used. But these quotes do not create a harmony between the content, and using American and European writer’s quotes. I’m sorry if I come across as nit-picking, but it’s like trying to place a puzzle piece in a puzzle that doesn’t fit.

A second point in the story I don’t like is the jumping back and forth in time. This is a common form in historical fiction-dual time periods. Harvest Moon has multiple time periods. I want to clarify. At no point in the story did I become lost by the various time periods. I believe they cause too many breaks in the reading of the story. Breaks can halt or pause a reader to the point of not becoming apart of the story.

This book is not strong in typical Christian fiction themes. There is a Christian theme, but I feel it is not a dominant theme.

Themes in the story: sacrifice, love, bravery, courage, death and dying, self-worth, shame, and family honor.

Over-all, Harvest Moon is a splendid story. It is an important story.

A 46 minute video on the The Ojibwe’ People: Anishinaabe – History, Culture and Affiliations.

(Review) A Sword Among Ravens, The Long-Hair Saga Book 3 by Cynthia Ripley Miller

Publisher and Publication Date: BookLocker. December 9, 2020.
Genre: Historical fiction. Mystery. Romance.
Pages: 267.
Format: Pdf copy.
Source: I received a complimentary pdf copy from The Coffee Pot Book Club. I am not required to write a positive review.
Audience: Readers of historical fiction.
Rating: Very good.

Link @ Amazon/US
Link @ Amazon/UK
Link @ Amazon/CA
Link @ Amazon/AU
Link @ Barnes and Noble
Link @ Kobo

About the Author:

Cynthia Ripley Miller is a first generation Italian-American writer with a love for history, languages, and books. She has lived in Europe and traveled world-wide, holds two degrees, and taught history and English. Her short fiction has appeared in the anthology Summer Tapestry, at Orchard Press Mysteries.com, and The Scriptor. She is a Chanticleer International Chatelaine Award finalist with awards from Circle of Books-Rings of Honor and The Coffee Pot Book Club. She has reviewed for UNRV Roman History, and blogs at Historical Happenings and Oddities: A Distant Focus and on her website, www.cynthiaripleymiller.com

Cynthia is the author of On the Edge of Sunrise, The Quest for the Crown of Thorns, and A Sword Among Ravens, books 1-3 in her Long-Hair Saga series set in Late Ancient Rome, France, and Jerusalem. Cynthia lives outside of Chicago with her family, along with a cute but bossy cat.

Social Media Links:
WebsiteFacebook Twitter PinterestAmazonGoodreads


Summary:

In a grave, on the edge of a Roman battlefield, an ancient sword has been discovered. Legend claims it belonged to King David of Israel and carries a curse—those who wield it will tragically die—but not the chosen. AD 455. Arria Felix and her husband, Garic the Frank, have safely delivered a sacred relic to Emperor Marcian in Constantinople. But now, Arria and Garic will accept a new mission. The emperor has asked them to carry the sword of King David of Israel to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem where Arria will dedicate it in her murdered father’s memory. As Arria and Garic travel into the heart of the Holy Land, they face many challenges and dangers. Their young daughter is missing then found in the company of a strange and suspicious old monk. A brutal killer stalks their path. And a band of cold-blooded thieves is determined to steal the sword for their own gains. But when Arria confronts the question of where the sword should truly rest—old friendships, loyalties, and her duty are put to the test like never before. At every turn, Arria and Garic find themselves caught in a treacherous mission wrapped in mystery, murder, and A Sword Among Ravens.

My Thoughts:

I felt drawn to read this book because I am a Christian and enjoy reading early Christian history. I also enjoy reading stories about the Roman Empire. The time period for this story is the late period of the Roman Empire (27 B.C. to 476 A.D.) It is the early part of the Byzantine Empire (330 A.D. to 1453 A.D.)

Several things I love about this story:
1. “The Author’s Note” shares helpful information about Roman names for the months and days; and background information of the “Places” and “Points of Interest.” I love the websites that are included to read further history. I believe it is important for an author to share at least a little about what they’ve learned during the process of writing a book. Miller has shared in brief her research.
2. The female lead character is Arria. She is an intelligent, wise, and capable person. She is respected and admired by all except one family member. Arria is a character who I admire because she already has positive traits, but she continues to develop as a strong person and leader.
3. The object of every character’s interest is the sword of David. Some characters are out for their own agenda. Arria genuinely cares about doing the right thing. She and Garic make a commitment to the emperor. Their mission sets in motion a busy story with other characters who come in to play. I love the form and direction of the story. I love the plot. I love the conflicts in the story. The conflicts are both internal and external. I love the mystery of the sword.
4. The violence is graphic. This is a violent culture. Roman soldiers and the Huns were barbaric in their fighting and torture. It is important to depict the reality of the time period. I believe Miller has achieved this.
5. I enjoyed reading about the descriptions of historical places.

What is passable in the story is the romance of two couples. I’m not moved by either pair. I like to read about tender affection in a loving couple. Affection is not necessarily sex. Sex is one form of affection but there are other forms.

What I didn’t like about this story:
1. When “He” or Nemesis is suddenly introduced I felt completely lost. Who is this person? Why does he matter in the story? Is he actually another character but going by a different name? It took a while but his purpose is revealed.

Themes in the story: courage, death and dying, revenge, love, honor, marriage, ambition, and loyalty.


(Review) Those Who Are Saved by Alexis Landau

Publisher and Publication Date: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC. February 23, 2021.
Genre: Historical fiction.
Pages: 432.
Format: Hardcover.
Source: I received a complimentary hardcover copy from G. P. Putnams’ Sons. I am not required to write a positive review.
Audience: Readers of historical fiction with a World War II time period.
Rating: Okay to good.

Link @ G. P. Putnam’s Sons. This link has an audio sample.

Link @ Amazon

Link @ Barnes and Noble

About the Author:

Alexis Landau is a graduate of Vassar College and received an MFA from Emerson College and a PhD in English Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Southern California. She is the author of The Empire of the Senses and lives with her husband and two children in Los Angeles.
Website/ Instagram


An interview by The Poisoned Pen bookstore:

Summary:

France. 1940.
Vera is a Russian Jew who is living in France with her husband and young daughter. Vera’s husband is Max. Their daughter is Lucie.
After the German Nazi’s occupy France, Vera and Max are sent to an internment camp. They leave little Lucie with a friend named Agnes. Vera feels this is the best place to ensure Lucie’s safety. Vera meant to return soon for Lucie. What Vera didn’t know, until the opportunity is upon her, is she has a chance to escape France and relocate to America. She is hoping Max will follow her. Vera cannot take Lucie with her, she must leave her with Agnes.

The story is dual time periods. Vera reflects on memories of France and the departure, and her new life and relationship in America. Some of the story is Lucie and her experience. Some of the story is Sasha’s life.

My Thoughts:

When I read a story with multiple characters, especially a child, I wonder how the story would read if the voice of the story is a child? A child reveals a story with a unique voice. Their perspective of life, people, and themselves reflect a different viewpoint. Further, there is an innocence that brings a heavy emotional atmosphere to the story.
When a story is told from an adult perspective almost always a romantic element is attached. A romantic element can add to or take away from the heart of the story. Those Who Are Saved is already an emotional story because parents have been forced to leave behind their young daughter in a country at war and with a pogrom of killing Jews. But, Vera is the main voice of this story. Her thoughts, fears, insecurities, and loneliness is a heavy burden she carries. Her inner life is back in France, but she is living in sunny California. I don’t care about Vera’s new life in America. I don’t care about who she has now decided to have sex with. I don’t care what kind of clothes she wears or the parties she attends. I care about Lucie who has been left behind. Lucie is the reason I felt pulled to read to the last page. Lucie is the heart of the story. Everything else is chicken feathers.

Sasha is a character I like from the first moment of introduction. He loves his mother. He is hard working. He is a man of grit and determination but with a touch of tenderness. He serves his country in a time of war with perseverance and distinction. He has a dream that gets a setback, but he chases that dream like many Americans. He needs a hug and a kiss.

Poor Max. I hardly know him. His character is more like a prop that’s used every once in a while. He shows little emotion. His character is not developed. He is just there. However, Max shows one example of how people grieve.

I love the writing style, the choice of words, and the arrangement of those words that bring a smooth rhythmic sentence.

Those Who Are Saved has both internal and external conflicts the characters act to overcome.

Themes in the story: grief, sacrifice, honor, courage, love, bravery, war, marriage, and perseverance.

Over-all, Lucie and her plight is the main reason I wanted to read to the last page. The rest of the characters circle around with their own individual stories. Sasha’s story is my second favorite-after Lucie. Vera not so much. Max not at all.

I feel Those Who Are Saved shifts too much away from Lucie, and takes on adult situations and agendas.