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Mailbox Monday #416

Mailbox Monday, created by Marcia at To Be Continued, formerly The Printed Page, has a permanent home at its own blog.

To check out what everyone has received over the last week, visit the blog and check out the links. Leave yours too.

Also, each week, Leslie, Martha, and I will share the Books that Caught Our Eye from everyone’s weekly links.

Here’s what I received:

Dark Lady: A Novel of Emilia Bassano Lanyer by Charlene Ball for review from Caitlin Hamilton Marketing in June.

Emilia Bassano has four strikes against her: she is poor, beautiful, female, and intelligent in Elizabethan England. To make matters worse, she comes from a family of secret Jews. When she is raped as a teenager, she knows she probably will not be able to make a good marriage, so she becomes the mistress of a much older nobleman. During this time she falls in love with poet/player William Shakespeare, and they have a brief, passionate relationship―but when the plague comes to England, the nobleman abandons her, leaving her pregnant and without financial security.

In the years that follow, Emilia is forced to make a number of difficult decisions in her efforts to survive, and not all of them turn out well for her. But ultimately, despite the disadvantaged position she was born to, she succeeds in pursuing her dreams of becoming a writer―and even publishes a book of poetry in 1611 that makes a surprisingly modern argument for women’s equality.

A Bridge Across the Ocean by Susan Meissner for review in March.

February, 1946. World War Two is over, but the recovery from the most intimate of its horrors has only just begun for Annaliese Lange, a German ballerina desperate to escape her past, and Simone Deveraux, the wronged daughter of a French Résistance spy.

Now the two women are joining hundreds of other European war brides aboard the renowned RMS Queen Mary to cross the Atlantic and be reunited with their American husbands. Their new lives in the United States brightly beckon until their tightly-held secrets are laid bare in their shared stateroom. When the voyage ends at New York Harbor, only one of them will disembark…

Present day. Facing a crossroads in her own life, Brette Caslake visits the famously haunted Queen Mary at the request of an old friend. What she finds will set her on a course to solve a seventy-year-old tragedy that will draw her into the heartaches and triumphs of the courageous war brides—and will ultimately lead her to reconsider what she has to sacrifice to achieve her own deepest longings.

What did you receive?

Jewish Book Month: Tasa’s Song by Linda Kass

Jewish book month, sponsored by the Jewish Book Council, begins on Nov. 24 and runs through Dec. 24.

This year’s poster features artwork by Katherine Messenger, and the council will advise local communities on exhibits, book fairs, book clubs, author speaking tours, and literary programs. For information on programs in your area, please check the network website.

Earlier this year, I reviewed Tasa’s Song by Linda Kass, which is based on true events in eastern Poland. I thought it was very well done, and it was the BRONZE WINNER, IPPY AWARD for HISTORICAL FICTION.

Please check out the book trailer below:

Classical music infuses this novel, and Charles Wetherbee has composed “Tasa’s Song” as inspired by Kass’s novel. Please listen to a portion of the song here.

If you’re looking for good historical fiction, Tasa’s Song should be on your list.

About the book:

1943. Tasa Rosinski and five relatives, all Jewish, escape their rural village in eastern Poland―avoiding certain death―and find refuge in a bunker beneath a barn built by their longtime employee.

A decade earlier, ten-year-old Tasa dreams of someday playing her violin like Paganini. To continue her schooling, she leaves her family for a nearby town, joining older cousin Danik at a private Catholic academy where her musical talent flourishes despite escalating political tension. But when the war breaks out and the eastern swath of Poland falls under Soviet control, Tasa’s relatives become Communist targets, her new tender relationship is imperiled, and the family’s secure world unravels.

From a peaceful village in eastern Poland to a partitioned post-war Vienna, from a promising childhood to a year living underground, Tasa’s Song celebrates the bonds of love, the power of memory, the solace of music, and the enduring strength of the human spirit.

Heirlooms: Stories by Rachel Hall

Source: Caitlin Hamilton Marketing & Publicity
Paperback, 190 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Heirlooms: Stories by Rachel Hall is a series of connected stories that read like a novel. Four generations of a Jewish family are touched by the secrets held as one generation copes with the Nazi occupation and, ultimately, flees France to safety. What are the heirlooms this family carries into their new lives? Is it a baby carriage? A beloved wedding band? Or is it simply the memories that flood their minds when they refuse to speak of the past?

From “The War Ends Many Times” (pg. 53)
“Of course, one second-guesses, grasps at the many missed opportunities for escape–that lovely word, that flowing cape of an idea! Why did they not attach themselves to it when it flapped and hovered close? Why?”

Beyond loyalty and duty, each generation is tethered by the ghosts of the past — a father who dies a revolutionary at the hands of Nazis and a mother dying in bed calling for her mother even as her own baby waits in the next room. Peeling back each layer, readers peer into the lives of the Latour family, seeing echoes of the past and reverberations into the future. Even the smallest decision of a stranger desperate for a child she can never have is felt through the generations, forcing one member to make a decision that affects many more and another to accept responsibility for a casual moment.

From “En Voyage” (pg. 89)
“When Jean takes the film to be developed, he is given doubles of this roll. He puts one set of the photos in an album, labels them carefully. He can’t bear to throw the extras away, though there is no one to whom he can safely send them. This makes him feel as if that time is lost, irretrievable, though he knows certainly he does, that time is like that, moving only forward despite our wishes.”

Heirlooms: Stories by Rachel Hall is a deeply moving collection of stories about survivors of WWII and how they coped with their own survival. Fears and protecting their children were forever at the top of their mind, making them hide the past. Despite their efforts, the past can re-emerge in the most unpredictable ways — the effect of heat-stroke leaving you exposed to those you sought to keep from prying too much, from getting too close.

RATING: Quatrain

Photo Credit: Pamela Frame

Photo Credit: Pamela Frame

About the Author:

Rachel Hall’s collection of linked stories, Heirlooms, was awarded the BkMk Press 2015 G.S. Sharat Chandra prize, selected by Marge Piercy.

Hall’s stories and essays have appeared in a number of journals and anthologies, including Bellingham Review, Crab Orchard Review, Gettysburg Review, Lilith, New Letters, and Water~Stone. In addition, she has received awards and honors from publications such as Lilith and Glimmer Train, and New Letters and from the Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference, Saltonstall Foundation for the Arts, as well as Ragdale and the Ox-Bow School of the Arts where portions of Heirlooms were written.

She holds an MFA from Indiana University where she was the Hemingway Fellow in Fiction. Currently, Hall is Professor of English at the State University of New York-Geneseo. She teaches creative writing and literature and holds two Chancellor’s Awards for Excellence—one for teaching and one for her creative work.

The California Wife by Kristen Harnisch

Source: Caitlin Hamilton Marketing & Publicity
Paperback, 432 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

The California Wife by Kristen Harnisch is everything readers will want in a sequel and more.  I would recommend reading this after reading The Vintner’s Daughter.

***Spoilers for previous book below***

The Lemieux family has a wide open future ahead of them as their California vineyard seeks to become one of the best. Sara continues to be independent and strive for the revival of her family’s vineyard in France, while her husband continues to perceive himself as the lone captain of the family ship. He’s as hard-headed as she is, but when it comes to the wine business, they both know their stuff. Unfortunately for him, his wife has a mind of her own and will not back down when she sets her sights on something she wants for herself and their future. As they navigate their new marriage, their family faces threats from within their neighborhood and from outside — competing vineyards plagued by phylloxera and the price wars and prohibition. Although their love has been tested in the previous book, it remains to be seen if that love can overcome their headstrong notions about winemaking and their roles in that business.

Harnisch’s characters are wonderfully drawn, and while Sara is independent and a bit childish at times when she wants her way, it’s not surprising given the age difference between herself and her husband. She’s a bit more emotional given the tragedies she’s dealt with beginning in early adolescence, while he’s a bit more practical, working through all the facts and figures to find the best solution to their business problems. Aurora remains the mother Sara doesn’t have in California, guiding her through grief and disagreements, but she’s also a mother to her husband, helping him realize his dreams and steering him to less volatile waters where his wife is concerned. She’s an excellent sounding board.

Even though readers may want to see more of the 1900 World’s Fair in Paris, Harnisch provides enough of a glimpse to understand the role American winemakers played in the competition and how they were viewed by the rest of the world. As the Lemieux family navigates the world stage, some of their old friends come back into their lives, including midwife Marie Chevreau, who embarks on a struggle of her own against patriarchy. The California Wife by Kristen Harnisch is a saga you’ll want to read over the summer with a glass of white or red wine, most likely from Napa Valley, and soak in the tannins and ferment.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

Kristen Harnisch’s ancestors emigrated from Normandy, France, to Canada in the 1600s. She is a descendant of Louis Hebert, who came to New France from Paris with Samuel de Champlain and is considered the first Canadian apothecary. She has a degree in economics from Villanova University and now lives in Connecticut. The Vintner’s Daughter, her debut novel, is the first in a series about the changing world of vineyard life at the turn of the century.

Mailbox Monday #380

Mailbox Monday, created by Marcia at To Be Continued, formerly The Printed Page, has a permanent home at its own blog.

To check out what everyone has received over the last week, visit the blog and check out the links.  Leave yours too.

Also, each week, Leslie, Vicki, and I will share the Books that Caught Our Eye from everyone’s weekly links.

Here’s what I received:

End of Watch by Stephen King from my mom for my birthday — she’s a bit early.

Brady Hartsfield, perpetrator of the Mercedes Massacre, where eight people were killed and many more were badly injured, has been in the Traumatic Brain Injury Clinic for five years, in a vegetative state. According to his doctors, anything approaching a complete recovery is unlikely. But behind the drool and stare, Brady is awake, and in possession of deadly new powers that allow him to wreak unimaginable havoc without ever leaving his hospital room.

Retired police detective Bill Hodges, the unlikely hero of Mr. Mercedes and Finders Keepers, now runs an investigation agency with his partner, Holly Gibney, who delivered the blow to Hartsfield’s head that put him on the brain injury ward. Brady also remembers that. When Bill and Holly are called to a murder-suicide with ties to the Mercedes Massacre, they find themselves pulled into their most dangerous case yet, one that will put not only their lives at risk, but those of Hodges’s friend Jerome Robinson and his teenage sister, Barbara. Because Brady Hartsfield is back, and planning revenge not just on Bill Hodges and his friends, but on an entire city.

In End of Watch, Stephen King brings the Hodges trilogy to a sublimely terrifying conclusion, combining the detective fiction of Mr. Mercedes and Finders Keepers with the supernatural suspense that has been his trademark. The result is an unnerving look at human vulnerability and up-all-night entertainment.

Heirlooms: Stories by Rachel Hall for review from Caitlin Hamilton Marketing.

Fiction. Jewish Studies. Winner of the G. S. Sharat Chandra Prize for Short Fiction, selected by Marge Piercy. HEIRLOOMS begins in the French seaside city of Saint-Malo, in 1939, and ends in the American Midwest in 1989. In these linked stories, the war reverberates through four generations of a Jewish family. Inspired by the author’s family stories as well as extensive research, HEIRLOOMS explores assumptions about love, duty, memory and truth.

What beauties did you receive in your Mailbox?

Tasa’s Song by Linda Kass

Source: Caitlin Hamilton Marketing & Publicity and She Writes Press
Paperback, 256 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Tasa’s Song by Linda Kass, BRONZE WINNER, IPPY AWARD for HISTORICAL FICTION, is a concerto built on the jarring experiences of young violinist Tasa Rosinski in war-torn Poland during WWII.  Poland has changed hands many times before and does so again during the war, a war that many never expected to get as far as it did. As a young girl, she’s sent for additional schooling in Brody with her cousin Danik, but even as she enjoys school, she sees how the townspeople begin to treat their Jewish neighbors.  As fear creeps along the streets, Tasa softens the sharp edges with her violin, practicing music and losing herself in its timbres.

“In conveying the complicated history of Poland, Tasa’s schoolteacher used Podkamien as an example when she said you could live and die in one spot and occupy four different countries, because this part of Poland was constantly being invaded and carved up, then ‘liberated’ by somebody.” (pg. 15)

Tasa’s Jewish family is well liked by the townspeople of Podkamien because her father invested in the town, even as his family’s wealth grew.  He helped bring electricity and infrastructure to the village, making the lives of others better.  When the Nazis move on Poland and it is caught in between them and the Soviets, her family is able to escape for the most part with the help of non-Jewish families.  However, the tensions in the village are immediate, and the fear of being discovered can be difficult to live with.  Tasa, however, finds strength in her memories of her encouraging grandfather and her supportive mother, but also in her music, which provides her an escape from fear and loss.  She’s a strong young woman, and her strength helps others to keep going.

Tasa’s Song by Linda Kass demonstrates the tension within families at a time when there is so much uncertainty, and it illustrates the changing tides in just one nation during WWII.  Being Jewish in Europe during WWII was dangerous, and while luck can be with you, that luck also can turn out to be a bad omen.  This is a story of growing up in war, but also of learning to navigate uncertainty and reach into the future for something better without losing hope or the memory of those left behind, many in unmarked graves.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

Linda Kass wrote for regional and national publications, including Columbus Monthly, TIME and The Detroit Free Press, early in her career as a journalist. TASA’S SONG, her debut novel, is inspired by her mother’s life in eastern Poland during the Second World War.

Linda lives in Columbus, Ohio, where she is a strong advocate of education, literacy, and the arts. Her past experience as a trustee and board chair of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra fed into much of the music that fills the pages of TASA’S SONG. Linda enjoys long distance road cycling and rides in an annual event to support cancer research.

Mailbox Monday #361

Mailbox Monday, created by Marcia at To Be Continued, formerly The Printed Page, has a permanent home at its own blog.

To check out what everyone has received over the last week, visit the blog and check out the links.  Leave yours too.

Also, each week, Leslie, Vicki, and I will share the Books that Caught Our Eye from everyone’s weekly links.

Here’s what I received:

Tasa’s Song by Linda Kass for review from Caitlin Hamilton Marketing & Publicity.

1943. Tasa Rosinski and five relatives, all Jewish, escape their rural village in eastern Poland avoiding certain death and find refuge in a bunker beneath a barn built by their longtime employee.

A decade earlier, ten-year-old Tasa dreams of someday playing her violin like Paganini. To continue her schooling, she leaves her family for a nearby town, joining older cousin Danik at a private Catholic academy where her musical talent flourishes despite escalating political tension. But when the war breaks out and the eastern swath of Poland falls under Soviet control, Tasa’s relatives become Communist targets, her new tender relationship is imperiled, and the family’s secure world unravels.

From a peaceful village in eastern Poland to a partitioned post-war Vienna, from a promising childhood to a year living underground, Tasa’s Song celebrates the enduring power of the human spirit.”

What did you receive?

Mailbox Monday #359

Mailbox Monday, created by Marcia at To Be Continued, formerly The Printed Page, has a permanent home at its own blog.

To check out what everyone has received over the last week, visit the blog and check out the links.  Leave yours too.

Also, each week, Leslie, Vicki, and I will share the Books that Caught Our Eye from everyone’s weekly links.

Here’s what I received:

The California Wife by Kristen Harnisch from Caitlin Hamilton Marketing & Publicity.

It is 1897, and Sara and Philippe Lemieux, newly married and full of hope for the future, are determined to make Eagle’s Run, their Napa vineyard, into a world-renowned winemaking operation. But the swift arrival of the 20th century brings a host of obstacles they never dreamed of: price wars and the twin threats of phylloxera and prohibition endanger the success of their business, and the fiercely independent Sara is reluctant to leave the fields behind for the new and strange role of wife and mother.

An invitation to the World’s Fair in 1900 comes just in time to revive the vineyard’s prospects, and amid the jewel-coloured wonders of Belle epoque Paris, Sara and Philippe’s passion is rekindled as well. But then family tragedy strikes, and, upon their return to California, a secret from Philippe’s past threatens to derail their hard-won happiness in one stroke.

Sara gains an ally when Marie Chevreau, her dear friend, arrives in San Francisco as the first female surgery student to be admitted to prestigious Cooper Medical College. Through Marie, Sara gets a glimpse of the glittering world of San Francisco’s high society, and she also forges friendships with local women’s rights advocates, inciting new tensions in her marriage. Philippe issues Sara an ultimatum: will she abandon the struggle for freedom to protect her family’s winemaking business, or will she ignore Philippe and campaign for a woman’s right to vote and earn a fair wage?

Fate has other plans in store in the spring of 1906, which brings with it a challenge unlike any other that the Lemieux family or their fellow Northern Californians have ever faced.

What did you receive?