(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.

(Review) The Light Over London by Julia Kelly

Light Over London

Publisher and Publication Date: Gallery Books. January 8, 2019.
Genre: Historical fiction. Mystery.
Pages: 336.
Source: I received a complimentary copy, but was not required to leave a positive review.
Rating: Very good.
Audience: Readers of World War II time period.

Amazon

 

 

 

Julia Kelly
About the author:
Julia Kelly is the award-winning author of books about ordinary women and their extra ordinary stories. In addition to writing, she’s been an Emmy-nominated producer, journalist, marketing professional, and (for one summer) a tea waitress. Julia called Los Angeles, Iowa, and New York City home before settling in London. Readers can visit JuliaKellyWrites.com to learn more about all of her books and sign up for her newsletter so they never miss a new release.
Additional points of contact for Julia Kelly:
Facebook group
Twitter

Summary:
The Light Over London covers two time periods, 1941 and 2017.
In 1941, Louise Keene is age 19. She works as a bookkeeper for a grocer. She lives at home with her parents. They live in Cornwall, England. Louise is coaxed by her cousin to attend a dance. Louise meets Flight Lieutenant Paul Bolton at the dance. He is the first young man to really notice her and they have a whirlwind romance. Louise’s mother is controlling and has already chosen Louise’s future life. Louise wants more in life than to settle.
In 2017, Cara Hargraves is a recent divorcee. She lives in Barlow, Gloucestershire, England. She works as a dealer of antiques. While sorting through antiques from an estate, Cara finds a journal from the early 1940s. Cara reads through the journal entries and begins to search for the mystery author.

My Thoughts:
I read The Light Over London in 2 days! I’m not a fan of dual time periods, because this has been done too much. I am a fan of World War II books. Adding other elements to the story: antiques, a granddaughter/grandmother bond, and a mystery to solve about the author of the journal. All of these reasons kept me glued to the book.
I think it’s fascinating Kelly weaved in to the story a common problem men and women have when they seek out a romantic partner. The attraction and involvement with a person similar to a parent. Another words, if a parent is controlling a child will often (but not always) become involved with a person who is controlling.
There is two mysteries in the book. The second mystery becomes apparent at the end of the book along with the reveal. This surprised me. I didn’t necessarily expect a happily ever after conclusion, but the ending was a surprise.
Both Cara and Louise are not strong-leap off the page type characters. They are average people who survive hard life struggles. This makes them believable. It makes the main characters easy to identify with.

(Review) Whose Waves These Are by Amanda Dykes

9780764232664
Publisher and Publication Date: Bethany House. April 2019.
Genre: Christian fiction.
Pages: 368.
Source: I received a complimentary copy from Bethany House, but was not required to leave a positive review.
Audience: Readers who love family saga, World War II, and dual time period stories.
Rating: Very good.

Amazon link

 

 

For more information: Bethany House. At this link you can read an excerpt!

Dykes_Amanda

About the author:
Amanda Dykes (www.amandadykes.com) is a drinker of tea, dweller of redemption, and spinner of hope-filled tales who spends most days chasing wonder and words with her family. Give her a rainy day, a candle to read by, an obscure corner of history to dig in, and she’ll be happy for hours. She’s a former English teacher, and her novella, Bespoke: A Tiny Christmas Tale, was met with critical acclaim from Publishers Weekly, Readers’ Favorite, and more. She is also the author of a novella in The Message in a Bottle Romance Collection. Whose Waves These Are is her debut novel.

Summary:
In the wake of WWII, a grieving fisherman submits a poem to a local newspaper: a rallying cry for hope, purpose . . . and rocks. Its message? Send me a rock for the person you lost, and I will build something life-giving. When the poem spreads farther than he ever intended, Robert Bliss’s humble words change the tide of a nation. Boxes of rocks inundate the harbor village on the coast of Maine, and he sets his callused hands to work.
Decades later, Annie Bliss is summoned back to Ansel-by-the-Sea when GrandBob, the man who gave her refuge during the hardest summer of her youth, is the one in need of help. But what greets her is a mystery: a wall of heavy boxes hiding in his home. Memories of stone ruins on a nearby island ignite a fire in her anthropologist soul to uncover answers.
Together with the handsome and enigmatic town postman, Annie uncovers the story layer by layer, yearning to resurrect the hope GrandBob once held so dear and to know the truth behind the chasm in her family’s past. But mending what has been broken for so long may require more of her and those she loves than they are prepared to give.

My Thoughts:
I love the front cover! And, I love the title!
Bethany House is a Christian publishing company. They have some of the best front covers in the publishing industry.

Dual time periods are a popular way of telling stories. I’m tired of it. It is being done way too often in fiction books. It’s time to take a break from this.

What I like about this book (very good rating.)
•The bond of twins. Twin brothers are the main characters in the book. Their twin brother bond never changes no matter what happens in life.
•The setting is Maine. I love books with a setting close to the ocean.
•A moral story. Integrity. To do the right thing no matter how afraid or what the cost will be.
•Scene descriptions are wonderful. Maine is vivid and real.
•For the modern time period the main character discovers her family history.
•The love stories are inspirational. There is a depth to them. The love stories are not focused on the erotic, but on a lasting dedicated love.
•There are layers of stories not just the main story.
Whose Waves These Are is a well-written story to curl up with in your favorite chair.