(Review) The Historians by Cecelia Ekbäck

Publisher and Publication Date: HarperCollins Publishers. 2021.
Genre: World War II. Historical fiction. Spy. Espionage. Women and literature.
Pages: 464.
Source: I received a complimentary uncorrected eBook copy from NetGalley, I was not required to write a positive review.
Audience: Readers of war/spy/espionage stories.
Rating: Good.

Amazon link
I don’t know the release date for the eBook.
The audiobook releases December 8, 2020.
The paperback releases January 12, 2021.

Summary:
The year is 1943.
World War II.
The Scandinavian countries are Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Denmark. Some lists omit Finland. Some lists add Iceland.
In 1940, Norway became occupied by Germany. Sweden is neutral, but Germany wants Sweden’s rich iron ore located in the north. Finland fought with both Germany and the Soviet Union. Denmark was neutral during the early part of the war.
When Laura Dahlgren found out her best friend Britta Hallberg had died, she began investigating the circumstances of her death despite her father telling her to stop.
At one time, Laura and Britta along with three young men had been college students and close friends. Laura tries to bring together the original group of friends to find out what happened to Britta.
During the investigation, Laura is led to Lapland (northern Finland) where the local people are disappearing.

My Thoughts:
I’ve gone back and forth on whether to give this book a good or very good rating. I’m not usually a half-star reviewer, but technically this book is 3 1/2 stars.
What I love most about the story is the location. I’ve since bought 3 Scandinavian historical fiction books. These books are Gunnar’s Daughter by Sigrid Undset, Kristin Lavrandsdatter by Sigrid Undset (3 books or volumes in this edition), and The Half-Drowned King by Linnea Hartsuyker.
A 2nd reason I love this story is the time period-World War II.
A 3rd reason I love this story is it taught me about a period in history and a country I knew little about.
What tipped the review to 3 and 1/2 stars is I feel it took too long to make it where the book came together in a form I enjoyed reading.
A 2nd point is I don’t understand the heightened affection for Britta. Britta is characterized as beloved (several times) and even idolized by Laura. Is there a background story I missed?
I also noticed the group of 5 friends had overlapping relationships where they became more than just friends. This is another background story that is not developed.
The relationship between Laura and her father is complex. Their conflict and the themes going along with it could make an excellent standalone story.
My last points made the story feel undeveloped and distracting.

(Review) Promise Season, Book One by Lee Evie

Publisher and Publication Date: Interstice Press. December 20, 2019.
Genre: Historical fiction.
Pages: 294.
Source: I received a complimentary Apple eBook copy from the publisher, I was not required to write a positive review.
Audience: Readers of women and literature, historical fiction, and espionage/spy stories.
Rating: Very good.

Book One: Promise Season
Book Two: Promise Thief
Book Three: Promise Dream

Amazon ($2.99 at this time)
Barnes and Noble
Indiebound

About the Author:
Lee Evie is a historical fiction author. She writes with a focus on Korean history and loves dark adventures with a heavy dose of danger, mystery and romance. When she’s not writing, Lee Evie can be found watching drama, which she will do for hours on end. She believes drama watching is the ultimate joy of life. Even when they make her cry. An avid photography and travel lover, Lee Evie thinks stories are the most precious gift to the universe.
Website/Newsletter/Instagram/Goodreads

Lee Evie

Summary:

A slave. A spy. A promise.

Joseon Dynasty, Korea: A humid summer storm rages across the Pavilion, the greatest entertainment house in the sprawling city of Hanyang. Within its stifling walls a gisaeng slave girl hides a fugitive in her bed, unexpectedly saving the life of a young man who is not all he seems.

Immediately Seorin is thrust into a razor-edged world of conspiracy and spies, doomed rebellion and murky intrigue. For the first time in years, she glimpses an opportunity for change.

Yet it is not her freedom Seorin so desperately desires, but something far more precious. She will risk anything, even death, to gain it.A dark and romantic historical adventure set in old Korea.

My Thoughts:
This is the second story I’ve read by Lee Evie. I’ve loved both of them!
Jang Seorin is a young woman who became a servant (not of her choice) and has made the best of the situation. She learned to play a musical instrument which helps her position and status. She is wise and shrewd, but takes chances. She has courage. She is able control both her speech and emotion. She is a person who despite hardship has made wise decisions. However, through a chance encounter she makes a pivotal decision that changes her life. Seorin is a character who rises above her station. She is a character I admire. She is a character who propels me to read through to the last page.
I enjoyed reading about the culture of this period in Korea even though I’m unclear of the specific date of this story. The time period is the Joseon Dynasty covering the years 1392 to 1910. I researched a little online about the Gisaeng women. They were prevalent during the Joseon Dynasty.
Examples of themes in the story: loyalty, ambition, love, courage, bravery, and perseverance.
The plot is easy to follow and makes for a compelling and original story, because of the setting and time period.
The pacing suits the story. It is not rushed nor is it sluggish.
I love this story and recommend it.

Giveaway:

During the Blog Tour, we are giving away a paperback copy of Promise Season! To enter, please use the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules:

– Giveaway ends at 11:59 pm EST on July 27th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Paperback giveaway is open to the US only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspicion of fraud will be decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– The winner has 48 hours to claim prize or a new winner is chosen.

Giveaway link:
https://gleam.io/oQ2jl/promise-season

(Review) A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win World War II by Sonia Purnell

Publisher and Publication Date: Penguin Books. Paperback 2020.
Genre: Nonfiction. Biography. Women and literature.
Pages: 368.
Source: Self-purchase.
Audience: Readers of World War II, women’s stories, and SOE history.
Rating: Very good.

Amazon link

Additional links:
CIA
NPR
All That’s Interesting

Summary:
Virginia Hall was born to a wealthy family in Baltimore, Maryland in 1906. She grew up an independent minded female. She was intelligent. She attended college. She traveled extensively through Europe. She worked for several years for the State Department at posts in Europe and Turkey. In the 1930s, and because of a hunting accident, she had a leg amputated. The recovery set her back a bit, but she went back to Europe and became involved in a new job with the SOE (Special Operations Executive.)
A Woman of No Importance covers all of Virginia’s life, but the focus is on the years working as an SOE agent in France during World War II.

My Thoughts:
Some important things I want to mention is A Woman of No Importance is not historical fiction. The narrator of the book is the author, Sonia Purnell. The book is narrative nonfiction. I use that term loosely. It is information heavy, and narrative nonfiction is a common approach.
I’ve read several reviews of readers who felt this book too dry. I disagree, because I read this book with the mind-set that it is nonfiction, and will be told in a way that is not like reading a historical fiction story.
A second point. Virginia Hall’s character matches the telling of the story. May I explain? I’ve written down a list of Virginia’s personality traits: highly intelligent, savvy, a physical person, strong memory for memorizing, courageous, stoic, in control of emotions, purposeful, determined, and tenacious. Her personality, talents, and abilities was the perfect recipe for the work of being an SOE agent.

What I love about this story:
*I’d never heard of Virginia Hall and her work during World War II. I enjoyed reading a first time story.
*Virginia was a unique woman during a time when it was rare for a woman to live a different type of life (a life outside of home and family.) And, even in comparing her against the men she worked with, she stands out in contrast, because of her acute intelligence, emotional strength, and courage.
*I enjoyed reading about her spy techniques.
*I enjoyed reading about the other people working in SOE, and the French civilians who helped.
*The Nazi’s hated Virginia and closed in on her location. I felt this was a possibility when I began reading the book. This made for tense moments while reading.
*37 black and white illustrations are included.
*The strong prologue set the atmosphere for the rest of the book.