Friday, 26 August 2016

HF Virtual Book Tours Review & Giveaway: The Munich Girl by Phyllis Edgerly Ring

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The Munich Girl: A Novel of the Legacies That Outlast War
By Phyllis Edgerly Ring
Publisher: Whole Sky Books (November 2015)
Source: Author/Historical Fiction Virtual Tour Books
Pages: 356


Disclaimer: I would like to thank Phyllis Edgerly Ring for gifting me a copy of her book and HF Virtual Book Tours for allowing me to take part in this book tour.

"Anna Dahlberg grew up eating dinner under her father’s war-trophy portrait of Eva Braun. Fifty years after the war, she discovers what he never did—that her mother and Hitler’s mistress were friends. The secret surfaces with a mysterious monogrammed handkerchief, and a man, Hannes Ritter, whose Third Reich family history is entwined with Anna’s. Plunged into the world of the “ordinary” Munich girl who was her mother’s confidante—and a tyrant’s lover—Anna finds her every belief about right and wrong challenged. With Hannes’s help, she retraces the path of two women who met as teenagers, shared a friendship that spanned the years that Eva Braun was Hitler’s mistress, yet never knew that the men they loved had opposing ambitions. Eva’s story reveals that she never joined the Nazi party, had Jewish friends, and was credited at the Nuremberg Trials with saving 35,000 Allied lives. As Anna's journey leads back through the treacherous years in wartime Germany, it uncovers long-buried secrets and unknown reaches of her heart to reveal the enduring power of love in the legacies that always outlast war."

My Thoughts:
The Munich Girl is primarily a story of self discovery and the importance of being true to ourselves told through the narratives of three women from present day and 1940's timelines.

In part, it tells the story of Anna Dahlberg, and her journey of uncovering the story behind her mother's portrait of an enigmatic pretty young woman.

It is through her diaries that Peggy, (Anna's mother) tells of how she comes into possession of the painting and becomes the unlikely friend of Ava, (Eva Braun).  It gives us a fascinating imagined glimpse of the world of Hitler's secret mistress.

I loved the writing style, the pace was perfectly timed with scenes flowing effortlessly through each timeframe. Yes, it's beautifully written with meticulously drawn characters, I truly believed in them, and that's where my problem with it lies. It bothered me that the lines between fact and fiction were so exquisitely blurred that I believed in the premise that Eva was an innocent in her naivety and worship of her abuser. I was confused and didn't feel comfortable with it.

Eva Braun was the 'highly kept secret' mistress of Adolf Hitler and yes she was a woman in her own right who under different circumstances may have been all the book portrays of her. She is not to be blamed for the evil acts this man was responsible for, however she did love him and chose to stay with him with the full knowledge of his monstrous beliefs and actions.  No, we shouldn't demonise her, but nor too can I accept a romanticised fairytale version of her. I tried but I failed. Had this been a work of pure fiction I would not fault it.

This isn't a negative review but I do have an opinion that could be perceived as such so I hope it won't dissuade anyone from reading it as Phyllis Edgerly Ring has written an exemplary piece of historical fiction which I truly enjoyed reading. It was just the portrayal of the little known about, factual character I found hard to come to terms with.

Perfect for fans of historical fiction that address history in some form and book groups as I think it could generate some lively debate.

“I was drawn in by Phyllis Ring’s economical and expressive language. Then the story took over! Protagonist Anna Dahlberg must face the emotional fallout from a traumatic plane crash, while simultaneously uncovering the first clues in a shocking generational mystery involving key players in the Third Reich. Everything’s complicated by a new romance that may help her overcome the past and find her true inner strength. But is it real? Love can manifest itself in enigmatic–and unexpected–ways.” -Elizabeth Sims, author and contributing editor at Writer’s Digest magazine
“… fresh perspective of German women at opposing ends of the warring spectrum … a beautiful story of enduring friendship and the lengths people will go to for love.” -The Stellar Review
“So persuasive is this novel that, before I could believe it was in fact a piece of fiction, I contacted the author and asked where she did her research and where she came up with the idea.” -Leslie Handler, The Philadelphia Inquirer

About the Author
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Author Phyllis Edgerly Ring writes fiction and non-fiction. She left a part of her heart in her childhood home of Germany, which she visits as often as she can.
Her newest release, The Munich Girl: A Novel of the Legacies That Outlast War, follows the lives of three women there before, during, and after the Second World War. The novel’s protagonist begins a journey that links past and present when she discovers that her mother shared a secret friendship with Hitler’s mistress, Eva Braun.
The New Hampshire author loves writing, travel, and the noblest possibilities in the human heart and is always curious to discover how history, culture, relationship, spirituality, and the natural world influence us and guide the human family on its shared journey.

For more information, please visit Phyllis Edgerly Ring’s website. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.

Giveaway - Open Internationally
To enter the giveaway for a paperback copy of 'The Munich Girl', please click here:
Two copies are up for grabs!

Blog Tour Schedule
Monday, August 1
 Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!
Tuesday, August 2
 Review at Creating Herstory
Thursday, August 4
 Spotlight at CelticLady’s Reviews
Friday, August 5
 Interview at Dianne Ascroft’s Blog
Monday, August 8
 Review at History From a Woman’s Perspective
Tuesday, August 9
 Review at First Impression Reviews
Wednesday, August 10
 Guest Post at Let Them Read Books
Friday, August 12
 Spotlight at Just One More Chapter
Monday, August 15
 Guest Post & Excerpt at The Silver Dagger Scriptorium
Wednesday, August 17
 Review at A Chick Who Reads
Thursday, August 18
 Review at Svetlana’s Reads and Views
Friday, August 19
 Review at Book Nerd
Monday, August 22
 Spotlight at Passages to the Past
Friday, August 26
 Review at SJ2B House of Books

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

NUDGE NB Newbooks Review: The Heavenly Table by Donald Ray Pollock

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The Heavenly Table
Donald Ray Pollock
Pages: 384
Publisher: Harvill Secker
Souce: NUDGE, NB Newbooks
Genre: Historical Western Noir


Disclaimer: I received a complementary copy of The Heavenly Table
from NUDGE NB Newbooks in exchange for my honest review.

A classically written western with a contemporary noir twist
Read in July 2016
Cane, Cob and Chimney Jewett are young Georgia sharecroppers held under the thumb of their domineering, God-struck father Pearl. When he dies unexpectedly, they set out on horseback to rob and loot their way to wealth and infamy, inspired by a lurid dime novel that only one of them can read. But little goes as planned and soon they're pursued by both the authorities and by stories that make them out to be the most fearsome trio of bank robbers and murderers around. The truth, though, is far more complex than the legend. And the heaven they've imagined may in fact be worse than the hell they sought to escape. The Heavenly Table is gritty, electrifying and weirdly funny. It cements Donald Ray Pollock's place among America's best contemporary novelists.

My Thoughts:
My first encounter with Donald Ray Pollock was with 'Kockemstiff' and 'The Devil All The Time'. I just love the gritty hillbilly, redneck storylines. I just love his twisted, cruel sense of humour. Peppered throughout with the worst acts of human kind, moral angst and a just a sprinkling of goodness or innocence, Pollock does not write comfortable easy reading material. So then, with 'The Heavenly Table' I knew what I was likely to be getting and was not disappointed.

Set against the backdrop of Alabama and Meade in 1917 and the beginning of America's involvement in WWI, 'The Heavenly Table' is an epic family saga with the Jewett family at the heart of the story, with Pearl a fanatically religious hardworking farmer and his sons, Cane the oldest, wisest and literate, Cob the 'dummy' and Chimney the rebellious youngest and least moral of the three sons.

We also hear about the Fiddler's; Ellsworth who has lost the family's life savings to a travelling con artist, Eula his long suffering, all forgiving wife, and Eddie their good for nothing drunk of a son.

Initial chapters give alternating perspectives of the families with a build up of characters adding their own distinctive points of view along the way. These seemingly unrelated storylines will eventually converge with an exciting explosive climax.

The Heavenly Table's titular phrase comes from a mystical drifter Pearl encounters one day, who tells him to, “welcome all the suffering that comes your way” and preaches that if he does so, one day he will “eat at the heavenly table.”  Well darn it if Pearl and those boys haven't suffered enough already, but Pearl believes they can and must suffer more to do whatever it takes to be worthy of sitting at that table some day.  Fortunately for Pearl his suffering is soon over and the boys decide that they've had enough and want something better while they're still alive.  With the influence of an old dime novel and its violent tales of 'Bloody Bill Bucket', a hero they will aspire to more and more, the boys set off on their adventurous, often disastrous, road to to seek their fortunes.

This is gritty western noir at its best with impeccably placed humour with gruesome graphic scenes, one such as a parasitic worm vacating the dead body of the Jewett boys' mother.

Pollock writes with such fluidity and emotive intensity about his deprived and often depraved characters, about the hardship and savagery in their lives, and of their grit and determination to better themselves.  So fabulously drawn that at times it feels as if the Jewett boys could just ride off the pages in a blaze of dust and played out for me like a Cohen Brother's movie.  Surface to say, it's deliciously dark, mean and cruel with a smattering of good old religious comeuppance and plenty of brutal black humour.

Perfect for fans of Bill Frank, Joe R Lansdale, Patrick de Witt, and because I don't think it has quite the same level of violence as in his previous books, it would make an excellent introduction for newcomers to the world of Mr Pollock who is in my opinion a cracker of a story teller.

Favourite Character/Scene: I loved all the characters and far too many scenes were memorable so I'll go with...the image of a drunken Eddie Fiddler accidentally blasting his mom's cat Pickles to Kingdom Come.

Least liked character: ohh it’s got to be the big 'Bad Bob' psycho killer.

Friday, 12 August 2016

TLC BOOK TOURS REVIEW: The Ninja's Daughter by Susan Spann

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The Ninja's Daughter : A Hiro Hattori Novel
by Susan Spann
Publisher : Seventh Street Books (August 2, 2016)
Source: Publisher via TLC Book Tours
Genre: Crime Mystery set in 16th Century Japan


Disclaimer: Thank you to the publisher and TLC Book Tours for my complementary digital copy of the book in exchange for an honest review and to take part in this book blog tour.

Read in July, 2016
Autumn, 1565: When an actor’s daughter is murdered on the banks of Kyoto’s Kamo River, master ninja Hiro Hattori and Portuguese Jesuit Father Mateo are the victim’s only hope for justice.
As political tensions rise in the wake of the shogun’s recent death, and rival warlords threaten war, the Kyoto police forbid an investigation of the killing, to keep the peace–but Hiro has a personal connection to the girl, and must avenge her. The secret investigation leads Hiro and Father Mateo deep into the exclusive world of Kyoto’s theater guilds, where they quickly learn that nothing, and no one, is as it seems. With only a mysterious golden coin to guide them, the investigators uncover a forbidden love affair, a missing mask, and a dangerous link to corruption within the Kyoto police department that leaves Hiro and Father Mateo running for their lives.

My Thoughts:
The Ninja's Daughter by Susan Spann is the latest novel in the Hiro Hattori detective mystery series set during 16th century Japan.  Having not read any of the other books in the series, I don't think this detracted any from my enjoyment or understanding of the characters or their history together, as Susan supplies the pertinent information without going overboard to understand what is going on within the context of current storyline.

The case the duo are investigating is that of a young girl who shows definite signs of having been murdered. However, being from the low born status of an actress she is classed as 'a nobody' and therefore 'nobody' has been killed and no crime committed. To complicate matters further the victim happens to be the niece of Father Mateo's bodyguard.  The formidable duo, Father Mateo and Hiro Hattori his bodyguard and translator certainly have their work cut out for them in solving this mystery.

An enjoyable quick satisfying read with a little Japanese cultural history to boot, 'The Ninja's Daughter' is an engaging story with a likeable and quirky cast of characters from the main duo, to Ana the very cranky landlady, and Gato the adopted cat. I really liked this one and will definitely look at the previous books in the series.

Highly recommended for fans of the cosy crime genre and wanting or maybe willing to try something a little different, and exotic blended into the mix.  Fabulous fun, great for book group reads too.

A glossary of the cast of characters and Japanese words are included to enrich the readers experience and understanding.
About Susan Spann
Susan Spann is a transactional publishing attorney and the author of the Shinobi Mysteries, featuring ninja detective Hiro Hattori and his Portuguese Jesuit sidekick, Father Mateo. Her debut novel, CLAWS OF THE CAT (Minotaur Books, 2013), was named a Library Journal Mystery Debut of the Month. Susan has a degree in Asian Studies from Tufts University, where she studied Chinese and Japanese language, history, and culture. Her hobbies include cooking, traditional archery, martial arts, and horseback riding. She lives in northern California with her husband, son, two cats, and an aquarium full of seahorses.

Here's a link to the schedule of reviewers participating in the TLC tour for THE NINJA’S DAUGHTER by Susan Spann: TLC BOOK TOUR schedule

Susan Spann’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS
Monday, July 25th: Buried Under Books
Tuesday, July 26th: Reading Reality
Tuesday, July 26th:Book Dilettante
Wednesday, July 27th: In Bed With Books
Thursday, July 28th: Worth Getting in Bed For
Friday, July 29th: Wordsmithonia
Friday, July 29th: Write Read Life
Sunday, July 31st: Write Read Life – author interview
Monday, August 1st: Hoser’s Blook
Wednesday, August 3rd: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Thursday, August 4th: A Holland Reads
Thursday, August 4th: Book Dilettante – author guest post “Swords & Crosses: Jesuit Missionaries in Japan”
Sunday, August 7th: Buried Under Books – author guest post, “How I Decided to Murder The Ninja’s Daughter”
Monday, August 8th: All Roads Lead to the Kitchen
Tuesday, August 9th: Open Book Society
Thursday, August 11th: Luxury Reading
Friday, August 12th: SJ2B House of Books
Monday, August 15th: Books and Tea
Monday, August 15th: Musings of a Bookish Kitty
Tuesday, August 16th: A Fantastical Librarian
Wednesday, August 17th: Broken Teepee
TBD: Lavish Bookshelf
TBD: Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews

Thursday, 4 August 2016

The Atomic Weight Of Love by Elizabeth J Church

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Title: The Atomic Weight of Love
Author: Elizabeth J. Church
Publisher: Algonquin Books (3 May 2016)
Pages: 320 pages
Source: ARC via NetGalley
Genre: historical fiction, womens fiction, WWII, Vietnam War, women's studies


Disclaimer: A complementary copy of The Atomic Weight of Love by Elizabeth J Church was provided by the Publisher for an unbiased honest review.

Read in July, 2016
In her sweeping debut novel, Elizabeth J. Church takes us from the World War II years in Chicago to the vast sun-parched canyons of New Mexico in the 1970s as we follow the journey of a driven, spirited young woman, Meridian Wallace, whose scientific ambitions are subverted by the expectations of her era.

In 1941, at seventeen years old, Meridian begins her ornithology studies at the University of Chicago. She is soon drawn to Alden Whetstone, a brilliant, complicated physics professor who opens her eyes to the fundamentals and poetry of his field, the beauty of motion, space and time, the delicate balance of force and energy that allows a bird to fly.

Entranced and in love, Meridian defers her own career path and follows Alden west to Los Alamos, where he is engaged in a secret government project (later known to be the atomic bomb). In married life, though, she feels lost and left behind. She channels her academic ambitions into studying a particular family of crows, whose free life and companionship are the very things that seem beyond her reach. There in her canyons, years later at the dawn of the 1970s, with counterculture youth filling the streets and protests against the war rupturing college campuses across the country, Meridian meets Clay, a young geologist and veteran of the Vietnam War, and together they seek ways to mend what the world has broken.

Exquisitely capturing the claustrophobic eras of 1940s and 1950s America, The Atomic Weight of Love also examines the changing roles of women during the decades that followed. And in Meridian Wallace we find an unforgettable heroine whose metamorphosis shows how the women’s movement opened up the world for a whole generation.

My Thoughts:
On Meri's 10th birthday her father gives her a book, 'The Burgess Bird Book for Children'.  For her 11th birthday he gives her, Darwin's 'On The Origin of the Species'. Six months later her father dies leaving both Meri and her mother utterly devastated.
At 17 years old Meri leaves her hometown of Pennsylvania and attends Chicago University with a fierce ambition to earn an advanced degree in ornithology.  She sits in on one of Professor Whetstone's physics lectures and is completely smitten by this man old enough to be her father. This is what she says about seeing him at that first lecture, ' I was in awe of Alden. I could only sense the very fringes of concepts that his intellect grasped with such easy, ready fingers. I worshipped his knowledge, his aloof independence and greater world experience. He was my teacher; he led me, and I followed gladly.'  They embark on an affair fuelled, not by passion or lustful recklessness, but of joint admiration of intellectual minds. They marry and Alden takes her away to Los Alamos, New Mexico.

At the commencement of each chapter there are ornithological terms of reference which cleverly shadow Meri's experiences within the chapter they refer to.
The writing style is gently paced, and intelligent, with beautifully constructed sentences and phrases such as,"I watched the first snowfall begin as a light, dry powder and morph into those luscious, fat, lazy flakes that sashay downward and accumulate into weighty drifts." I fell immediately under the authors spell of words and eagerly devoured the pages of the book. In another poignantly beautifully written scene where the crows say farewell to one of their own, I cried as the loss and feeling of loneliness was utterly palpable and I truly believed I understood how Meri was feeling at that particular stage of her life.

The Atomic Weight of Love is primarily a love story written and voiced by Meri about the ever changing, evolving love she feels for Alden, and then in her 40's of her love for a much younger man.  I found it in turns to be heartbreaking, and infuriating due to the out dated attitudes of the times, but above all an uplifting read.  There is a bittersweet quality to the story and at times it simply broke my heart.

Elizabeth Church’s debut novel is an exquisite poignant tale of loyalty, trust and knowing when to let go. I truly hope there's a lot more to come from her as a writer.  I'd recommend it for readers who love beautifully written literary historical fiction that will make them question their own sacrifices and accomplishments.  I would also suggest it for book group readers as the multitude of topics raised throughout the book could generate some lively discussion.