(Review) The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles

The Paris Library

Publisher and Publication Date: Simon and Schuster. February 2, 2021.
Genre: Historical fiction.
Pages: 409.
Source: NetGalley, eBook, Kindle edition. I received a complimentary eBook copy from NetGalley, I was not required to write a positive review.
Audience: Readers of historical fiction, World War II, and enjoy women’s stories.
Rating: Excellent.

This book will be published in 10 months. I had the chance to read it through NetGalley.

Amazon link for the Kindle copy

Author’s site at Goodreads

The American Library in Paris

Summary:
Story number one, World War II.
Odile Souchet (pronounced Oh-deal) is a young woman who lives and breathes the Dewey Decimal Classification (the library system of organizing books.) When the story begins she interviews for a job as the Directress of the American Library in Paris, France. Her father works in the police department in Paris. Odile has a twin brother who is a student. Their mother is a delicate woman who is compliant and submissive to the husband.
Story number two, 1980s.
Lily is a teenage girl living in Froid, Montana. She is an only child. Her mother is in poor health. Her father works in a bank. Lily has an eccentric neighbor, Mrs. Gustafson. The two become friends at just the right time.

My Thoughts:
The first point I love about this story is usually when there is two different characters with two time periods, I have to guess how this story is going to intersect with the two characters, and why the two characters need one another. I was shown right away in
The Paris Library the purpose of the two characters. This is a breath of fresh air in a stagnant pool of dual time periods of characters who go back and forth. I love that right from the beginning the two characters have purpose for the relationship. It’s actually a lovely relationship of encouragement, comfort, companionship, and devotion.
A second reason I love this story is Odile’s personality. Odile is a young woman. Often young women are shown either extremely naïve or extremely independent. Odile is in the middle. She is a young woman with education and a career that gives her a bit of freedom and independence. She still lives at home and under her parent’s rules. She also has little experience with romantic relationships. However, she is a careful person. She is observant and waits to make a decision. She does not immediately act on feelings.
I love the conflict between the two women: Odile and Lily. Even the best of friends have misunderstandings and situations that require good communication. Their story is a teaching element for the book.
I love how Skeslien weaved in several sub stories. For example: a romantic relationship with a German enemy. And, an older French woman’s perspective on marriage.
I enjoyed reading the story of Odile more than Lily. Lily is a solid character, but I was drawn to Odile.
I could go on and on about this story because it’s wonderful!

(Review) War Torn by Richard Harper

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Publisher and Publication Date: Austin Macauley Publishers. July 31, 2018.
Genre: Historical fiction. World War II. Holocaust.
Pages: 156.
Source: I received a complimentary copy, but was not required to write a positive review.
Audience: Readers of World War II, Holocaust.
Rating: Good.

Amazon link

January 27 was the 75th anniversary of the liberation of AUSCHWITZ.
Links for further information:
Auschwitz
National Archives 
Huffington Post

About the author:
Richard Harper was born in 1967 in the state of Victoria, Australia. During his 20s, he spent his five years in UK. His interests include history, travel, and sports. He now resides in Brisbane with his wife, Karest, and their four puppies.

Summary:
Many wondered, and not for the first time, at the end of WWII how ordinary people could carry out the most terrible acts of cruelty and brutality against their fellow men. This book tells the story of a German boy and a Jewish girl forbidden to be together by the Nazi regime and how they fight to survive. It tells the story of the Holocaust through the eyes of the perpetrators and gives the reader an insight into the mental turmoil suffered by young men asked to carry out terrible acts. Can young love possibly survive such times?

My Thoughts:
I wonder what the percentage is of Jewish women who married a German Nazi? I’d imagine it is a low percentage. The risk was too great. The ostracism of their people groups would have made the match difficult. Plus, for a Jew to marry a German Nazi during the Holocaust was unthinkable, unconscionable. Yet, this is a plot and conflict in War Torn.
The book is interesting, because it showed me a German Nazi soldier’s perspective. His name is Gunther Wrenger. He became a Waffen-SS. The story begins with his family and life before the war. The relationship he has with Magda is secret. Their youth and naivety is apparent. I wondered how it will endure?
Wrenger is ordered to take part in events or actions that are hard to read. It is difficult for me to have empathy for him. A fine line, very fine.
I wanted to read more from Magda-to hear her voice. The focus of the story is on Gunther.
The book continues to the end of the war. I saw the destruction of Berlin and the aftermath of the war.
In the summary, the book remarks about the German peoples and how they took part in actions against the Jews. I think this book addresses this question adequately.
The pacing, characters, writing style are all fine.
I believe it is the topic of the book that is hard for me to grasp and love.

(Review) A Bookshop in Berlin by Francoise Frenkel

Publisher and Publication Date: Atria Books. December 3, 2019.
Genre: Memoir. Autobiography. World War II. Holocaust.
Pages: 288.
Source: I received a complimentary ebook copy from NetGalley and Atria Books, but was not required to leave a positive review.
Audience: Readers of World War II, Holocaust.
Rating: Excellent.

Amazon

Author Info:
Françoise Frenkel was born in Poland in 1889. Fulfilling a lifelong dream, she opened the first French-language bookshop in Berlin with her husband. Frenkel’s bookshop miraculously survived Kristallnacht, when hundreds of synagogues and Jewish businesses were destroyed. But in the summer of 1939, with war looming, Frenkel fled to Paris. She sought refuge across occupied France for the next several years until finally, on her third attempt, escaping across the border to Switzerland, where she wrote a memoir documenting her refugee experience. Her memoir, originally published in 1945 as Rien où poser sa tête (No Place to Lay One’s Head), was rediscovered in an attic in southern France in 2010 and republished in the original French as well as in a dozen other languages. This is its first publication in the United States. Frenkel died in Nice in 1975.

Summary:
In 1921, Françoise Frenkel—a Jewish woman from Poland—fulfills a dream. She opens La Maison du Livre, Berlin’s first French bookshop, attracting artists and diplomats, celebrities and poets. The shop becomes a haven for intellectual exchange as Nazi ideology begins to poison the culturally rich city. In 1935, the scene continues to darken. First come the new bureaucratic hurdles, followed by frequent police visits and book confiscations.

Françoise’s dream finally shatters on Kristallnacht in November 1938, as hundreds of Jewish shops and businesses are destroyed. La Maison du Livre is miraculously spared, but fear of persecution eventually forces Françoise on a desperate, lonely flight to Paris. When the city is bombed, she seeks refuge across southern France, witnessing countless horrors: children torn from their parents, mothers throwing themselves under buses. Secreted away from one safe house to the next, Françoise survives at the heroic hands of strangers risking their lives to protect her.

Published quietly in 1945, then rediscovered nearly sixty years later in an attic, A Bookshop in Berlin is a remarkable story of survival and resilience, of human cruelty and human spirit. In the tradition of Suite Française and The Nazi Officer’s Wife, this book is the tale of a fearless woman whose lust for life and literature refuses to leave her.

My Thoughts:

A Bookshop in Berlin is an amazing story for several reasons.

  • The book was first published in the French language in 1945. The Swiss publishing company closed a long time ago. The book was found (by chance) and republished in 2015.
  • A Bookshop in Berlin shows Europe in the years before World War I, to the midway point of World War II. This gave me a panoramic history lesson: politically, geographically, anti-Semitism, rise of Nazism, and the elite book culture.
  • Through Frenkel’s eyes, I see the escalating tension and hostility against the Jews. The restrictions enacted. The looting and burning of buildings. The roundups of the Jews. The fear of who to trust and who not to trust.
  • Frenkel’s grit and determination to escape.
  • The ordinary people who were extraordinary in their courage to help strangers.
  • The great love Frankel carried all her life for books, and for the fond memories of the bookshop she once owned.
  • Frankel shared her thoughts and feelings behind her actions.

Francoise Frenkel was a wonderful writer. I became absorbed in her story from the start. It’s a shame this is the only known book she wrote.

In some of the book the word “we” is used. Who is the “we”? Is it her husband? This is an interesting and mysterious point. She was married, but nothing is mentioned in the book about him. So many unanswered questions just from this unmentioned point. It’s possible they had a falling out and separated. It’s possible that it’s too painful to mention him in her story. Both are plausible.

(Review) Distant Signs by Anne Richter

02_Distant Signs
Publisher and Publication Date: March 7, 2019. Neem Tree Press.
Genre: Historical fiction.
Pages: 240.
Source: I received a complimentary copy, but was not required to leave a positive review.
Audience: History readers of post World War II East Germany.
Rating: Very good.

The book was first published as Fremde Zeichen in 2013.
The translation to English is by Douglas Irving, 2019.

Link to the blog tour: https://www.hfvirtualbooktours.com/distantsignsblogtour/

Amazon
The book is not available in Kindle. The Hardcover was published March 7, 2019. The paperback was published November 21, 2019.

Distant Signs Poster_web

03_Anne Richter

About the Author:
Anne Richter was born in 1973 in Jena, in the former German Democratic Republic. Her degree in Romance languages and English included study periods in England, Italy and France. In 2011, Anne was nominated for the Ingeborg Bachmann Prize, a highly regarded German-language literary award. Her debut novel, Distant Signs, was published in Germany in 2013. Anne is currently writing her second novel.
Douglas Irving is Scottish. He studied German and Spanish at Aberdeen University. In 2014, he completed a Masters in Translation at Glasgow University. His first translation, Crossing: A Love Story by Anna Seghers was published in 2016 in the US to positive reviews. His translation of Anna Seghers’ last work published in her lifetime, Three Women from Haiti, is set to follow.

Summary:
Distant Signs is an intimate portrait of two families spanning three generations amidst turbulent political change, behind and beyond the Berlin Wall. In 1960s East Germany, Margret, a professor’s daughter from the city, meets and marries Hans, from a small village in Thuringia. The couple struggle to contend with their different backgrounds, and the emotional scars they bear from childhood in the aftermath of war. As East German history gradually unravels, with collision of the personal and political, their two families’ hidden truths are quietly revealed. An exquisitely written novel with strongly etched characters that stay with you long after the book is finished and an authentic portrayal of family life behind the iron curtain based on personal experience of the author who is East German and was 16 years old at the fall of the Berlin Wall. Why do families repeat destructive patterns of behaviour across generations? Should the personal take precedence over the political? Can we rise above our histories and political identities to forge a new understanding of the past and to welcome change?

My Thoughts:
My first thought about Distant Signs is character study. This is a book strong in a character study of the protagonists.

The protagonists or main characters:
Margret
Hans
Sonja, Hans and Margret’s daughter
Johanna, Margret’s mother
Friedrich, Margret’s father
Lene, Han’s mother
Erwin, Hans’s father

The thoughts behind the characters are shared. So, I’m privy to the layers of thoughts and feelings behind the words and actions. However, there is an absence of completeness. What I mean is the characters don’t fully complete the thought pattern behind the feeling. So, if there is a feeling of sadness, that sadness is not addressed but pushed back. Each of them are affected by World War II. Even the family members who were born afterwards. Those who were living during the war are emotional vacuums. It’s a topic they don’t want to discuss, but its presence is like an elephant in the room. The people don’t feel the freedom to express what they really need to express. And, it’s possible they don’t know how. Yet, there is deep anger and sadness. Instead, they are stoic or detached. Needs and desires are stifled. Sometimes they don’t even look at one another, their eyes shift away to another object.

My second thought is Distant Signs showed me the shifting political ideology of the people. From the National Socialist German Workers’ Party or Nazi Party, to the German Democratic Republic or Communism. It’s interesting how people justify what role they portrayed in the war.

Distant Signs is a sad book with a glimpse of hope. I wanted to make this last point, because most readers want a book to have a positive conclusion.

Giveaway: This blog does not host giveaways. The giveaway is coordinated by another blog. Good Luck!
During the Blog Tour, we are giving away a copy of A Distant Signs by Anne Richter! To enter, please use the Gleam form below.
Giveaway Rules:
– Giveaway ends at 11:59 pm EST on November 29th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Paperback giveaway is open internationally.
– 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.

Direct Link to the giveaway: https://gleam.io/j4uyi/distant-signs

(Review) The Batter’s Box: A Novel of Baseball, War, and Love by Andy Kutler

The Batter's Box Poster

02_The Batter's Box

 

Publisher and Publication Date: Warriors Publishing Group. March 12, 2019.
Genre: Historical fiction. World War II. Baseball.
Pages: 310.
Source: I received a complimentary copy, but was not required to leave a positive review.
Rating: Very good.
Audience: Readers of baseball and World War II.

Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

03_Andy Kutler
About The Author:
Andy Kutler is a writer living in Arlington, Virginia. His debut novel, The Other Side of Life, was awarded a Bronze Medal from the Independent Publishers Book Awards, and Honorable Mention from Foreword Reviews’ INDIEFAB Awards. He has also authored a number of columns for the Huffington Post and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and spent more than a quarter century in public service, including with the United States Senate and the United States Secret Service, and as a consultant in the national security community.

Summary:
In 1946, a returning World War II veteran is determined to reclaim his place among professional baseball’s upper echelon and win back the woman he once fell for. Two months into the new season, at the top of his game, he abandons his team, casting aside his fame and riches and vanishing forever from the public eye. What drives a man to walk away from everything he cherishes, never to be heard from again?
The Batter’s Box follows the path of Will Jamison, a star player with the Washington Senators who enlists in the U.S. Army following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. When the war ends, Jamison returns to Washington, a decorated hero tormented by deep emotional scars. Burdened with a crushing guilt and harrowing memories he cannot escape, Jamison’s life is consumed by an explosive temper, sleepless nights, and a gradual descent into alcoholism. Will he continue, alone with his anguish and misery? Or will he level with those around him, including the woman he loves, and seek the professional care he desperately needs, even at the risk of exposing his most closely guarded secrets?

My Thoughts:
I love reading stories about World War II. I love baseball. Reading a book that has both topics is a rarity, and this is just one reason this book is a gem!
The Batter’s Box is two time periods. The story begins in 2005 with a woman named Kay who is interviewed for a story about the 1945 baseball team, the Washington Senators. The team is now called the Nationals. Kay shares more than the information needed for the article. Kay shares about Will Jamison, a star player.
It is common in a fiction book to read dual time periods. This has become taxing for me. However, Kay is reminiscing. And, the story does not go back and forth with each chapter. I’m glad the more current time period is located at the beginning and the ending.
My dad was a veteran of World War II. He too had combat stress. Help for veterans suffering from combat stress or PTSD was not available. My son David is also a veteran. He suffers from PTSD. Help for him was immediate. I’m glad Andy Kutler has written this story. It helps readers understand what a veteran endures on the battlefield and afterwards.
For me, one of the best parts of a storyline with romantic partners is their dialogue. Does their dialogue show a chemistry between them or is the romance only physical? The Batter’s Box shows the chemistry in the romance from the start. They have chemistry in their words, mannerisms and physical expression.

Praise:
“We remember World War II as ‘the Good War, ‘ when right and wrong seemed so clear. We won, they lost, and our guys came home as heroes. But as gifted author Andy Kutler tells us in THE BATTER’S BOX, mortal combat is anything but good, heroism comes with a horrific price, and some of the most tragic wounds don’t bleed — and don’t go away. If you want to know what really happened at Bastogne in the terrible winter of 1944, read this powerful, haunting book.” — Daniel P. Bolger, Lieutenant General, U.S. Army (Ret.), author of Our Year of War: Two Brothers, Vietnam, and a Nation Divided

“Andy Kutler has the eyes and ears of combat soldiers and the heart of those who love them. The horror, courage, and camaraderie of battle rivals the grit of Once an Eagle, while the poignant authenticity of Will Jamison’s struggles with his hidden wounds highlight that, for many, the impact of war lingers far past the last shots of battle. THE BATTER’S BOX is a superb work of historical fiction that carries important lessons for today.” — William E. Rapp, Major General, U.S. Army (Ret.), Former Commandant, U.S. Army War College, and Commandant of Cadets, U.S. Military Academy

The Batter’s Box is a riveting read. It is a love story and a war story and a novel with far more truth than fiction. I’m a psychiatrist specializing in treating men and women with post-traumatic stress disorder. If you love someone with that invisible wound, read this book. If you are curious and concerned about the condition, read this book. Most survivors of profound trauma lack a language to convey their life stories because those stories include the unspeakable. When the hero of this compelling novel speaks, we listen, we learn and we are transformed. If you are currently struggling with the impact of major trauma, reading passages here may be disturbing and ‘triggering.’ But I believe it is worth the risk because this book affirms your reality and your dignity.” –Frank M. Ochberg, MD, Former Associate Director, National Institute of Mental Health

“Historical fiction, if it reflects careful scholarship, is a powerful tool in the hands of a gifted writer, and can deepen our understanding of real events and people. Andy Kutler’s THE BATTER’S BOX offers an impressive addition to World War II literature, bringing fresh attention to the adjustment struggle faced by so many returning war veterans. Kutler’s depiction of one of the more heroic small-unit engagements in US Army history is both compelling and long overdue.” — Gordon H. “Nick” Mueller, President & CEO Emeritus, The National WWII Museum

I don’t host giveaways, but if you are interested in a paperback copy?
For the giveaway:
Giveaway Rules
– Giveaway ends at 11:59 pm EST on November 5th. 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.
Direct Link: https://gleam.io/competitions/j8BQQ-the-batters-box

To read an interview with Andy Kutler: Passages to the Past.