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The Orphan’s Tale by Pam Jenoff

Source: TLC Book Tours
Paperback, 368 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

The Orphan’s Tale by Pam Jenoff, out in stores today, is a deeply moving tale of a home found in the fanfare and hard work of a traveling circus, a dying profession under the Reich.  The Nazi regime has clamped down on everything, taken children from mothers, and shipped infants off in rail cars to die with little more than knitted booties on their feet.  The circus is a refuge for those the Reich seeks to harm, but it also becomes a family based on unbreakable trust, forgiveness, and love.

“I scan the train, trying to pinpoint the buzzing sound.  It comes from the last boxcar, adjacent to the caboose–not from the engine.  No, the noise comes from something inside the train.  Something alive.”  (pg. 17 ARC)

In this dual narrative, readers are drawn into the innocence of Noa and her struggle to reach safety despite her impulsive decisions, while at the same time being drawn to Astrid’s struggle to hide in plain sight of the Reich and not become too attached to those who could be taken at a moment’s notice.  Jenoff has created a magical world in which her characters and readers feel as though anything is possible, that the horrors of the Reich cannot pierce the enchanting lives of these hard-working performers.

Jenoff is one of the best writers of WWII fiction, and her characters are real and dynamic — they struggle with the horrors of the Reich but also with their own decisions and in some case indecision.  She knows this time period well, her books are always well researched, and readers know that they will be in for an intense and emotional ride on the rails with this traveling circus.  The Orphan’s Tale by Pam Jenoff is one of the best books I’ve read so far this year.  I could not put it down, even when I knew I had to.

RATING: Cinquain

Other Reviews:

Pam Jenoff Author Photo credit: Mindy Schwartz-Sorasky

About the Author:

Pam Jenoff is the author of several novels, including the international bestseller The Kommandant’s Girl, which also earned her a Quill Award nomination. Pam lives with her husband and three children near Philadelphia where, in addition to writing, she teaches law school.  Connect with her on her Website, Facebook, and Twitter.

Mailbox Monday #407

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:

Family Portraits: A Dearest Friends Continuation by Pamela Lynne, a gift from the author.

In Dearest Friends, Pamela Lynne drew complex and interesting characters who joined Darcy and Elizabeth on their road to happily ever after. But, what happened after ‘the end’? Did Lydia survive her time at Rosings? Did Jane find fulfillment as Mrs. Bingley? Did Mary and Sebastian adhere to duty or allow their hearts to lead them? Follow the Fitzwilliams, Bennets, Gardiners and Darcys through portraits of their lives at two, five and ten years after the Darcys’ marriage. Their canvas is studded with heartbreaking loss, new beginnings and, through it all, the indelible bond of family?

A Certain Age by Beatriz Williams for review.

As the freedom of the Jazz Age transforms New York City, the iridescent Mrs. Theresa Marshall of Fifth Avenue and Southampton, Long Island, has done the unthinkable: she’s fallen in love with her young paramour, Captain Octavian Rofrano, a handsome aviator and hero of the Great War. An intense and deeply honorable man, Octavian is devoted to the beautiful socialite of a certain age and wants to marry her. While times are changing and she does adore the Boy, divorce for a woman of Theresa’s wealth and social standing is out of the question, and there is no need; she has an understanding with Sylvo, her generous and well-respected philanderer husband.

But their relationship subtly shifts when her bachelor brother, Ox, decides to tie the knot with the sweet younger daughter of a newly wealthy inventor.

A Jane Austen Christmas: Regency Christmas Traditions by Maria Grace, which I won from JustJane1813.

Many Christmas traditions and images of ‘old fashioned’ holidays are based on Victorian celebrations. Going back just a little further, to the beginning of the 19th century, the holiday Jane Austen knew would have looked distinctly odd to modern sensibilities.

How odd? Families rarely decorated Christmas trees. Festivities centered on socializing instead of gift-giving. Festivities focused on adults, with children largely consigned to the nursery. Holiday events, including balls, parties, dinners, and even weddings celebrations, started a week before Advent and extended all the way through to Twelfth Night in January.

Take a step into history with Maria Grace as she explores the traditions, celebrations, games and foods that made up Christmastide in Jane Austen’s era. Packed with information and rich with detail from period authors, Maria Grace transports the reader to a longed-for old fashioned Christmas.

The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir by Jennifer Ryan for review in 2017.

As England enters World War II’s dark early days, spirited music professor Primrose Trent, recently arrived to the village of Chilbury, emboldens the women of the town to defy the Vicar’s stuffy edict to shutter the church’s choir in the absence of men and instead ‘carry on singing’. Resurrecting themselves as “The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir”, the women of this small village soon use their joint song to lift up themselves, and the community, as the war tears through their lives.

Told through letters and journals, The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir moves seamlessly from budding romances to village intrigues to heartbreaking matters of life and death. As we come to know the struggles of the charismatic members of this unforgettable outfit — a timid widow worried over her son at the front; the town beauty drawn to a rakish artist; her younger sister nursing an impossible crush and dabbling in politics she doesn’t understand; a young Jewish refugee hiding secrets about her family, and a conniving midwife plotting to outrun her seedy past — we come to see how the strength each finds in the choir’s collective voice reverberates in her individual life.

In turns funny, charming and heart-wrenching, this lovingly executed ensemble novel will charm and inspire, illuminating the true spirit of the women on the home front, in a village of indomitable spirit, at the dawn of a most terrible conflict.

The Orphan’s Tale by Pam Jenoff for review in 2017.

Seventeen-year-old Noa has been cast out in disgrace after becoming pregnant by a Nazi soldier during the occupation of her native Holland. Heartbroken over the loss of the baby she was forced to give up for adoption, she lives above a small German rail station, which she cleans in order to earn her keep.

When Noa discovers a boxcar containing dozens of Jewish infants, unknown children ripped from their parents and headed for a concentration camp, she is reminded of the baby that was taken from her. In a moment that will change the course of her life, she steals one of the babies and flees into the snowy night, where she is rescued by a German circus.

The circus owner offers to teach Noa the flying trapeze act so she can blend in undetected, spurning the resentment of the lead aerialist, Astrid. At first rivals, Noa and Astrid soon forge a powerful bond. But as the facade that protects them proves increasingly tenuous, Noa and Astrid must decide whether their unlikely friendship is enough to save one another—or if the secrets that burn between them will destroy everything.

From my secret Santa:

Overheard in Hell

Take Out From the Writer’s Cafe

By Candlelight: Dark Imagination

Straying from the Path

Dancing on the Edge

If My Sandcastle Drowns… Can I Live With You?

What did you receive?

The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach by Pam Jenoff & Giveaway

tlc tour host

Source: Pam Jenoff
Paperback, 384 pgs
I am an Amazon Affiliate

The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach by Pam Jenoff is a sweeping tale set during World War II, as a sixteen year old Adelia Monteforte comes to America to live with her aunt and uncle in Philadelphia without her Jewish parents, who stayed behind in Trieste, Italy.  She feels like an outsider with the relatives she’s never met before, and she realizes that her limited English and mostly secular upbringing is not what they expected.  While she speaks English, she still feels as though she’s an outsider, until she becomes like a sister to the Connally brothers.  Despite their perceived differences in religion and upbringing, Adelia becomes Addie, molding herself in the cracks of the local family she meets at Chelsea Beach.

“Robbie turned to his mother.  ‘Can we keep her?’
‘Robbie, she isn’t a puppy. But I do hope you’ll join us often,’ she added.
‘Because we really need more kids, ‘ Liam said wryly.” (pg. 38)

Jenoff’s World War II novels are always captivating, full of missed chances and second chances, moments of horror and tragedy, but also moments of hope and happiness. These snippets of time are those that her characters treasure, and they provide that kernel of hope that readers hold onto until they reach the end. Addie is a young displaced woman looking for a home, and she thinks that she’s found it with the Connallys until tragedy strikes close to home and she’s left in the breeze. She has to decide what to do for herself for the first time since coming to America, and while she chooses to go to Washington, D.C., with a half buried hope of finding her childhood crush, she also wants to do something more.

The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach by Pam Jenoff is an addicting read with its twists and turns and the realities of rationing and the closeness of war.  Jenoff is a master at characterization and romance in a way that is both fanciful, but realistic.  Her characters often have to struggle with more than the things that keep them apart, and for that, readers will be grateful.  Her books are not to be missed, and this summer read should be at the top of your lists.

About the Author:

Pam Jenoff is the Quill-nominated internationally bestselling author of The Kommadant’s Girl. She holds a bachelor’s degree in international affairs from George Washington University and a master’s degree in history from Cambridge, and she received her Juris Doctor from the University of Pennsylvania. Jenoff’s novels are based on her experiences working at the Pentagon and also as a diplomat for the State Department handling Holocaust issues in Poland. She lives with her husband and three children near Philadelphia where, in addition to writing, she teaches law school.

U.S. residents, leave a comment below about your favorite beach activity by Aug. 26, 2015, at 11:59 PM EST.  Win a bag and book!

ChelseaBeach

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mailbox Monday #320

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:

1. The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach by Pam Jenoff, an unexpected surprise from the author.

Young Adelia Monteforte flees fascist Italy for America, where she is whisked away to the shore by her well-meaning aunt and uncle. Here, she meets and falls for Charlie Connally, the eldest of the four Irish-Catholic boys next door. But all hopes for a future together are soon throttled by the war and a tragedy that hits much closer to home.

Grief-stricken, Addie flees—first to Washington and then to war-torn London—and finds a position at a prestigious newspaper, as well as a chance to redeem lost time, lost family…and lost love. But the past always nips at her heels, demanding to be reckoned with. And in a final, fateful choice, Addie discovers that the way home may be a path she never suspected.

2.  How Tiger Says, Thank You! by Abigail Samoun, illustrated by Sarah Watts from Sterling Children’s Books for review.

Tiger’s taking a trip—and everywhere she goes, from the market in Moscow to a boat on Egypt’s Nile River, she says “thank you” to the friendly people she meets. And, as they follow her round the world, children will learn to how to say thanks in seven different languages, too: French, Russian, Arabic, Hindi, Mandarin, Japanese, and Spanish. Each “please” word is translated and has a pronunciation guide, and an illustrated map follows Tiger’s travels.

3.  How Penguin Says, Please! by Abigail Samoun, illustrated by Sarah Watts from Sterling Children’s Books for review.

This adorable board book teaches preschoolers how to say “please” in seven languages! Join Penguin as she enjoys pastries in France, explores the Hermitage in Russia, sees Mount Fuji in Japan and the Pyramids in Egypt, buys fish in China, sips chai in India, visits relatives in Argentina—and remembers her manners everywhere she goes! Each “please” word is translated and has a pronunciation guide, and an illustrated map follows Penguin’s travels round the world.

4.  Ally-Saurus & the First Day of School by Richard Torrey from Sterling Children’s Books for review.

When Ally roars off to her first day at school, she hopes she’ll meet lots of other dinosaur-mad kids in class. Instead, she’s the only one chomping her food with fierce dino teeth and drawing dinosaurs on her nameplate. Even worse, a group of would-be “princesses” snubs her! Will Ally ever make new friends? With its humorous art, appealing heroine, and surprise ending, this fun picture book celebrates children’s boundless imagination.

5. Mireille by Molly Cochran from Lake Union Publishing and TLC Book Tours for review in June.

Near the end of World War II, seventeen-year-old Mireille de Jouarre flees the home of her stepfather, a Nazi collaborator and abusive drunk. She finds shelter with her childhood friend Stefan, and the two fall deeply in love. But as the fighting escalates, Mireille must escape alone to Paris, where she discovers she’s pregnant and lacking a way to provide for her child.

So begins her new life as l’Ange—the Angel. After an unlikely meeting with a wealthy aristocrat in a Parisian hotel—and her acceptance of his solicitation—Mireille becomes the most celebrated poule in all of France, eliciting huge fees and invitations to exclusive parties. At one of these events, Mireille meets Oliver Jordan, an American womanizer and film producer, and is soon launching a promising film career. As her star rises, Mireille is determined to bury her past. But her success isn’t as carefree and glittery as it seems, and when her daughter’s future is threatened, Mireille must make a deadly decision in a desperate attempt to finally choose her own path.

What did you receive?

The Other Girl by Pam Jenoff

Source: NetGalley/Kindle
ebook, 21 pages
I am an Amazon Affiliate

The Other Girl by Pam Jenoff is a complementary story to her new novel, The Winter Guest (my review), in which Maria finds herself married and estranged from her father in rural Biekowice, Poland, during WWII.  Maria, who is married to Piotr, finds that she is an outsider at her in-laws home, and is unable to share even her sense of loss with them after he was conscripted by the Germans.  She fills her days avoiding the scrutiny of her mother-in-law, and dreaming about what life will be like when her husband returns.  She feels alone now that she’s severed herself from her father, whom she caught selling information to the Nazis.  However, her father’s betrayal is the least of the secrets she will uncover.

“War had nipped at the edges of their tiny village, Biekowice, changing little things first, like the requirement of registration cards.  Later had come the food requisitioning that left the market so bare.  Piotr’s family had not been affected as badly as most — the farm produced enough simple fare to keep their stomachs full.”

While she lives in relative comfort, Maria must remain strong for herself and a young Jewish girls she discovers hiding in the family barn.  Maria is a young wife who is still finding her place in her new family, while at the same time trying to make sense of the families around her who turn in their neighbors or make other deals with the Nazis to survive.  When she is faced with the dilemma of a little Jewish girl, it is clear that her father’s betrayal propels her to take a different action.  The Other Girl by Pam Jenoff expounds upon a minor character in her novel, The Winter Guest, giving readers a glimpse into how much the paranoia and fear had begun to permeate even the smallest villages as Nazis traipsed through the city squares and fought through the countryside.  It’s too bad that this story is so short; it would make a good novel.

About the Author:

Pam Jenoff was born in Maryland and raised outside Philadelphia. She attended George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and Cambridge University in England. Upon receiving her master’s in history from Cambridge, she accepted an appointment as Special Assistant to the Secretary of the Army. The position provided a unique opportunity to witness and participate in operations at the most senior levels of government, including helping the families of the Pan Am Flight 103 victims secure their memorial at Arlington National Cemetery, observing recovery efforts at the site of the Oklahoma City bombing and attending ceremonies to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of World War II at sites such as Bastogne and Corregidor.  Visit her Website and Facebook page.

22nd book for 2014 European Reading Challenge; (Set in Poland)

 

 

 

32nd book for 2014 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge.

 

 

 

 

27th book (WWII) for the 2014 War Challenge With a Twist.

The Winter Guest by Pam Jenoff

Source: Diary of an Eccentric
Paperback, 352 pages
On Amazon and on Kobo

The Winter Guest by Pam Jenoff explores the bonds between sisters, particularly twins, and how those bonds can be tested and crack beneath the pressures of war and persecution.  The Nowak twins live in a small fictitious town in Poland, Biekowice, and are charged with raising their two younger sisters and brother after the death of their father.  Ruth is considered the more feminine and nurturing of the sisters, while Helena was adventurous, gathering wood and setting animal traps with their father from a young age.  Ruth was the first to fall in love and have her heart broken, and this heartbreak helped to define her views on family and loyalty, while Helena has yet to fall in love and does the best she can to provide for the family as the Nazis move across Poland and take over not only Krakow, but smaller villages along the way.

“As I stroll beneath the timeless canopy of clouds, the noises of the highway and the planes overhead fade.  I am no longer shuffling and bent, but a young woman striding upward through the woods, surrounded by those who once walked with me.”  (page 8 ARC)

Jenoff is a talented story-teller and her ability to transport readers into the harsh conditions of a rural town in Poland during WWII is nothing short of miraculous.  Readers will feel the biting cold, the harsh stares of neighbors looking for information to sell to the Nazis to get ahead, and feel the warmth of the Nowak family even as it struggles to stay together.  Ruth weighs loyalty above everything, while Helena places her family’s happiness above her own for so long that when she sees happiness for herself within her grasp, she wants to hold it close and not have to share it.  Like all sisters, Ruth and Helena share the burdens of bringing up their siblings alone, keeping food on the table and checking on their mother who is in a Krakow hospital.

Helena stumbles upon an American paratrooper in the woods and the Nowak family’s trajectory becomes skewed.  Jenoff has created twin sisters who are connected but seeking their own individuality while keeping their family together.  These dynamic women must face their own fears, as well as the reality of the WWII knocks on their door, literally.  The Winter Guest by Pam Jenoff demonstrates how the unexpected can be a blessing and a curse, how families can pull together even when they don’t really like one another at that moment, and how guilt can compel us forward to make things right.

This book was phenomenal, well told, and would be a great pick for book clubs — also it is likely to make the 2014 Best of list.

About the Author:

Pam Jenoff was born in Maryland and raised outside Philadelphia. She attended George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and Cambridge University in England. Upon receiving her master’s in history from Cambridge, she accepted an appointment as Special Assistant to the Secretary of the Army. The position provided a unique opportunity to witness and participate in operations at the most senior levels of government, including helping the families of the Pan Am Flight 103 victims secure their memorial at Arlington National Cemetery, observing recovery efforts at the site of the Oklahoma City bombing and attending ceremonies to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of World War II at sites such as Bastogne and Corregidor.  Visit her Website and Facebook page.

21st book for 2014 European Reading Challenge; (Set in Poland)

 

 

 

 

31st book for 2014 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge.

 

 

 

 

 

26th book (WWII) for the 2014 War Challenge With a Twist.

Mailbox Monday #283

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:

1.  The Paradise Tree by Elena Maria Vidal for review in October for Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours.

The year is 1887 in Leeds County, Ontario. The O’Connor clan is gathering to mourn the loss of its patriarch Daniel O’Connor, an Irish immigrant. The story of Daniel and his wife Brigit is one of great hardships, including illness, ill-starred romances, war and political upheavals, as well as undying love and persevering faith. As Daniel is laid to rest, his grandson Fergus receives a piercing insight into what his own calling in life will be.

2. Giggle Poetry Reading Lessons: A Successful Reading-Fluency Program Parents and Teachers Can Use to Dramatically Improve Reading Skills and Scores by Amy Buswell and Bruce Lansky, illustrated by Stephen Carpenter from LibraryThing Early Reviewers.

Many struggling readers are embarrassed to read aloud. They are often intimidated or bored by texts that conventional programs require them to practice. So, instead of catching up, they fall further behind. Currently 67% of American fourth graders can’t read grade-level text. Reading specialist Amy Buswell has spent eight years looking for remediation methods that work. “What is needed,” Buswell explains, “is a program that improves the motivation of struggling readers, because that accounts for 90% of the problem.” Four years ago, Buswell came up with a brainstorm. She knew her best readers enjoyed reading Bruce Lansky’s poetry books for pleasure. The more poems they read, the better their reading got. Why not use Lansky’s kid-tested poems as texts struggling readers could practice on to improve their reading—using six research-based strategies: choral reading, echo reading, paired reading, repeated reading, sustained silent reading and “say it like the character” reading. — This book is the result of that brainstorm and the resulting collaboration between Buswell and Lansky. It gives teachers and parents everything they need to help children improve their reading: -35 kid-tested poems by Bruce Lansky -35 customized reading lessons by Amy Buswell -35 off-the-wall illustrations by Stephen Carpenter -35 sets of zany performance tips by Bruce Lansky …all of which is designed to make the process of reading improvement more like fun than work. Parents will enjoy Lansky’s funny poems and Stephen Carpenter’s delightful illustrations as much as their children.

3.  The Garden of Letters by Alyson Richman for review in September.

Portofino, Italy, 1943. A young woman steps off a boat in a scenic coastal village. Although she knows how to disappear in a crowd, Elodie is too terrified to slip by the German officers while carrying her poorly forged identity papers. She is frozen until a man she’s never met before claims to know her. In desperate need of shelter, Elodie follows him back to his home on the cliffs of Portofino.

Only months before, Elodie Bertolotti was a cello prodigy in Verona, unconcerned with world events. But when Mussolini’s Fascist regime strikes her family, Elodie is drawn into the burgeoning resistance movement by Luca, a young and impassioned bookseller. As the occupation looms, she discovers that her unique musical talents, and her courage, have the power to save lives.

4.  In Real Life: Love, Lies, & Identity in the Digital Age by Nev Schulman, a suprise review copy from Grand Central.

Now Nev takes his investigation to the page, providing readers with an essential roadmap to better connect their digital personas with their true selves. Woven throughout with Nev’s personal stories, this book explores relationships in the era of social media. Specifically the book tackles:

-what motivates catfish
-why people fall for catfish
-how one can avoid being deceived
-online accountability
-Nev’s rules for dating
-how to connect authentically with people over the internet
-how to turn an online relationship into a real life relationship, and much, much more.

Nev delves deeply into the complexities of dating in a digital age, and continues the cultural dialogue his show has begun about how we interact with each other through social media versus in person — specifically in relation to millennials, who have never known a world without Facebook.

5.  My Mother’s Secret: A Novel Based on a True Holocaust Story by J.L. Witterick for review in September.

Franciszka and her daughter, Helena, are unlikely heroines. They are simple people who mind their own business and don’t stand out from the crowd. Until 1939, when crisis strikes. The Nazis have invaded Poland and they are starting to persecute the Jews. Providing shelter to a Jew has become a death sentence. And yet, Franciszka and Helena decide to do just that. In their tiny, two-bedroom home in Sokal, Poland, they cleverly hide a Jewish family of two brothers and their wives in their pigsty out back, a Jewish doctor with his wife and son in a makeshift cellar under the kitchen floorboards, and a defecting German soldier in the attic–each group completely unbeknownst to the others. For everyone to survive, Franciszka will have to outsmart her neighbors and the German commanders standing guard right outside her yard.

6.  Chasers of the Light by Tyler Knott Gregson for review in September.

One day, while browsing an antique store in Helena, Montana, photographer Tyler Knott Gregson stumbled upon a vintage Remington typewriter for sale. Standing up and using a page from a broken book he was buying for $2, he typed a poem without thinking, without planning, and without the ability to revise anything.

He fell in love.

Three years and almost one thousand poems later, Tyler is now known as the creator of the Typewriter Series: a striking collection of poems typed onto found scraps of paper or created via blackout method. Chasers of the Light features some of his most insightful and beautifully worded pieces of work—poems that illuminate grand gestures and small glimpses, poems that celebrate the beauty of a life spent chasing the light.

7.  Pies & Peril by Janel Gradowski from my friend and the author.  Thank you!  Check out my review.

When Amy Ridley decided to compete in the Kellerton Summer Festival Pie Contest, the last thing she expected was to find the reigning pie queen, Mandy Jo, dead—a raspberry pie smashed on her face! Mandy Jo made fantastic pies, but she accumulated more enemies than baking trophies. But when Amy receives a note threatening her own life, she decides to do some investigating herself.

It seems that half the town has a reason to kill the mean pie queen, and Amy finds herself sifting through a list of suspects that’s longer than her list of recipes. Not to mention playing cupid for her love-shy best friend, fending off a baker intent on finding out her prize-winning culinary secrets, and ducking the deadly attentions of Mandy Jo’s killer. If Amy doesn’t find out who wanted the pie queen dead soon, her own goose may be cooked!

8.  One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez from the library sale for 50 cents.

The novel tells the story of the rise and fall of the mythical town of Macondo through the history of the family. It is a rich and brilliant chronicle of life and death, and the tragicomedy of humankind. In the noble, ridiculous, beautiful, and tawdry story of the family, one sees all of humanity, just as in the history, myths, growth, and decay of Macondo, one sees all of Latin America.

Love and lust, war and revolution, riches and poverty, youth and senility — the variety of life, the endlessness of death, the search for peace and truth — these universal themes dominate the novel. Whether he is describing an affair of passion or the voracity of capitalism and the corruption of government.

9.  The Best of Us by Sarah Pekkanen from the library sale for 50 cents.

Following a once-in-a-lifetime invitation, a group of old college friends leap at the chance to bring their husbands for a week’s vacation at a private villa in Jamaica to celebrate a former classmates’ thirty-fifth birthday.
All four women are desperate for a break and this seems like a perfect opportunity. Tina is drowning under the demands of mothering four young children. Allie needs to escape from the shattering news about an illness that runs in her family. Savannah is carrying the secret of her husband’s infidelity. And, finally, there’s Pauline, who spares no expense to throw her husband an unforgettable birthday celebration, hoping it will gloss over the cracks that have already formed in their new marriage.

The week begins idyllically, filled with languorous days and late nights of drinking and laughter. But as a hurricane approaches the island, turmoil builds, forcing each woman to re-evaluate everything she’s known about the others—and herself.

10.  The Best-Loved Poems of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis with an introduction by Caroline Kennedy from the library sale for $1.

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis loved literature, especially poetry. Once you can express yourself, she wrote, you can tell the world what you want from it. Now, Caroline Kennedy shares her mothers favorite poems by such renowned authors as William Shakespeare, Emily Dickinson, e.e. cummings, and Robert Frost. The book also includes a poem written by Jacqueline Kennedy and is illustrated with photographs of the Kennedy clan. This is a wonderful volume for reading aloud or by yourself and a meaningful gift or keepsake for Mothers Day.

 

11.  Best-Loved Slow Cooker Recipes from the library sale for $1.

Crock Pot Best Loved Slow Cooker Recipes includes more than 100 recipes for your Crock Pot Slow Cooker. Whether you need to whip up main dish meals, party time appetizers or sweet tooth threats, the Crock Pot slow cooker helps to easy your busy day.

 

 

 

12.  The Winter Guest by Pam Jenoff from Anna at Diary of an Eccentric who had an extra copy.

Life is a constant struggle for the eighteen-year-old Nowak twins as they raise their three younger siblings in rural Poland under the shadow of the Nazi occupation. The constant threat of arrest has made everyone in their village a spy, and turned neighbor against neighbor. Though rugged, independent Helena and pretty, gentle Ruth couldn’t be more different, they are staunch allies in protecting their family from the threats the war brings closer to their doorstep with each passing day.

Then Helena discovers an American paratrooper stranded outside their small mountain village, wounded, but alive. Risking the safety of herself and her family, she hides Sam, a Jew, but Helena’s concern for the American grows into something much deeper. Defying the perils that render a future together all but impossible, Sam and Helena make plans for the family to flee. But Helena is forced to contend with the jealousy her choices have sparked in Ruth, culminating in a singular act of betrayal that endangers them all and setting in motion a chain of events that will reverberate across continents and decades.

What did you receive?

Grand Central: Original Stories of Postwar Love and Reunion

Source: Penguin
Paperback, 368 pages
On Amazon and on Kobo

Grand Central: Original Stories of Postwar Love and Reunion is a collection of short stories by a number of great authors from Karen White to Sarah McCoy and Pam Jenoff in which the linchpin is Grand Central Station in New York City.  What makes this collection a solid five stars (a designation I never use in reviews) is the connections — small as they may be — between the stories and characters.  You’ll find one character from a story early on is in the background and evokes an emotion in a character in a story later on.  This collection is so strong and examines that various aspects of reunion and love after World War II — whether that is love between father and daughter or an instant connection between strangers in a train station.

From “Going Home” by Alyson Richman

“But no matter the style, the clocks all gave a sense that one had to keep moving, and Liesel liked this.  It enabled her to focus on her responsibilities.  When she wasn’t dancing, she was sewing.  And when she wasn’t sewing, she was dancing, either at her ballet studies or performing at the supper clubs that helped pay her bills.” (page 14)

In these talented ladies’ hands, Grand Central comes to life with the bustling passengers on their way to trains and coming from trains and the subway, the people earning a living with their art in the hallways, and those waiting for their soldiers to return from war.  World War II was a pivotal time in history, but it also was the last time that the country was truly united behind a cause — the cause against a pervasive evil that must be vanquished.  These stories are about what happens when that cause is complete and those who fought and those left behind have to pick up what’s left of their lives.  What does it mean to be lucky, especially when you are all that’s left of your family — like Peter in “The Lucky One” by Jenna Blum?  Or what does a mother do after the Lebensborn program ends when her children are gone and the Nazis are vanquished in Sarah McCoy’s “The Branch of Hazel.”

From “The Harvest Season” by Karen White:

I glanced down at my ruined hands, thinking of Johnny and all the boys in the county who would never be coming home.  I wanted desperately to hold on to this moment for Will, to allow him to believe that while he’s been away we’d held on to the life he remembered so he could slip back into it like a familiar bed.  But time could not be fenced no matter how hard we tried.”  (page 336)

Some of these men and women face pivotal moments in their lives in Grand Central Station, while others are merely passing through onto that moment that will change their lives forever, but all together these are tales of strong people living beyond the hurt of the past to seek out the hope of the future.  Grand Central: Original Stories of Postwar Love and Reunion is stunning, an emotional collection tied together by love, sadness, loss, and Grand Central Station. No matter who passes through their lives, there is an indelible impression left behind.

22nd book for 2014 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge.

 

 

 

 

15th book (WWII) for the 2014 War Challenge With a Twist.

Giveaway and Interview with Pam Jenoff, Author of The Ambassador’s Daughter

The Ambassador’s Daughter by Pam Jenoff is set in Paris in 1919, a time when the world’s leaders are attempting to rebuild after the Great War, WWI.  Margot Rosenthal comes with her father, a German diplomat, to a peace conference, but soon finds herself trapped and contemplating a return to Berlin and her wounded fiancé, Stefan, rather than endure the lingering anger against Germans in the City of Light.  Check out some sample chapters.

Jenoff has crafted a number of novels in the past about WWII and WWI, international intrigue and espionage, and romance.  You can check out my review of Almost Home.

Today, I’ve got a treat for my readers as a prelude my review of her latest novel, The Ambassador’s Daughter — an interview with Pam Jenoff and a giveaway.

1. What book has impacted you the most?

Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg. She combines her practice of Zen Buddhism with creative writing that just broke me wide open. Her approach really got me writing in the mid-nineties, which paved the way to my career as a novelist.

2. What are you currently reading?

With three small children, I’m usually reading something that rhymes or has lots of pictures. For myself, I read in spurts, lots at once, then not much when I’m researching. I’m actually between books at the moment, but I just placed a huge order of books and am eager to receive it.

3. Any advice to aspiring writers?

I would tell aspiring writers three things. First, you have to be tenacious. For a long time it didn’t look as if The Kommandant’s Girl was going to get picked up. But with the help of my agent, I developed the attitude that if this one doesn’t sell, the next one will. You just have to keep on knocking at the door until it opens.

Second, you have to be disciplined. Writing takes a lot of time, and I’m not just talking about the first draft. There are the revisions, and then there’s the business marketing side of it. You have to make choices in order to consistently carve out the time for your writing, if it is going to be important to you.

Finally, the single biggest skill that has helped me as a writer is having the ability to revise. My books have gone through dozens of rewrites from first draft to publication. Many times I had to take broad, conceptual suggestions from my agent or editor and incorporate them into the work. Often I wasn’t sure if I liked or agreed with the changes. Sometimes I would take the leap of faith and see if the changes worked (they almost always did). Other times I would go back to whoever was making the suggestion and say, “Whoa, let’s slow down here and revisit” in order to negotiate changes that made the story better without destroying my gut-level instinct about the spirit of the book. But ultimately, I truly believe my ability to integrate those changes made all the difference.

4. If you could pen any previously printed work as your own it would be —-fill in the blank—-because—-fill in the blank.

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. When I was in college, someone read the whole thing aloud to me, bit by bit in the evenings and it was magical.

5. Did you base any of your characters on any real people in your life?

I try not to base my work on real life. I think that real life makes for great setting, but terrible plot. That said, a few characters might remind me of people I know or physically resemble them. And I once had the distinct pleasure of seeing an ex-boyfriend after many years and telling him, “I’m killing you off in my next book. What would you like your name to be?”

Thanks, Pam, for joining us today and sharing your thoughts on books and writing.

To enter to win The Ambassador’s Daughter by Pam Jenoff, you must be a US/Canada resident and leave a comment on this post by Feb. 16, 2013.

The Ambassador’s Daughter by Pam Jenoff

The Ambassador’s Daughter by Pam Jenoff set in 1919 Paris just after WWI, the war to end all wars.  Margot Rosenthal and her father straddle the line between German and Jew, and the atmosphere after the war has greatly changed how German and Jew alike are seen by the rest of Europe and even at home.  Jenoff carefully crafts a set of characters who are genuine in emotion and struggle, but also who remain a bit mysterious even to one another until the end of the novel.

Margot has lived her life in relative protection by her father after the death of her mother, but as she and her father experience Paris for the first time after the war, she must face the truth of events that once seemed so far away.  Her impending marriage to Stefan, a childhood boy from the neighborhood wounded during the war, and her father’s precarious role as a precursor to the German delegation to the peace conference that will decide the fate of Germany and so many others.

“We are the defeated, a vanquished people, and in the French capital we loved before the war, we are now regarded as the enemy.  In England, it had been bad enough — though Papa’s academic status prevented him from being interned like so many German men, we were outsiders, eyes suspiciously at the university.  I could not wear the war ribbon as the smug British girls did when their fiances were off fighting because mine was for the wrong side.”  (page 16 ARC)

Boredom pushes Margot to seek out things to occupy her time, and when she does, her life takes on a new direction and excitement.  Her new friend, Krysia Smok, introduces her to the artistic side of Paris outside the stuffy parties of academics and politicians that she’s accustomed to, and Margot relishes the freedom.  With this freedom, she finds that her life back in Oxford and even at home in Berlin was stifled and cloistered, with her father ensuring she learned enough to be free, without actually allowing her to free herself from the confines of societal expectations and gender roles.  Without a mother to guide her, Margot is beholden to the tight, protective bubble her father has crafted, until Krysia pricks it with a pin, enabling her to find her freedom.

“She begins to walk up the hill.  At the top of the ridge, the terrain that had appeared endless breaks suddenly.  The trenches.  The long tube of hollowed out earth, much deeper and wider than I’d imagined, a kind of subterranean city where the men had lived and died, rats in a maze.  The smell of peat and earth and human waste wafts upward.  About fifty meters to our right, the trench is bisected abruptly by a great crater, maybe ninety feet in diameter.  Like the spot where Stefan had nearly died, only so much worse in reality.”  (Page 174 ARC)

However, even though the war has changed certain expectations and enabled women to express their views and be more free, the realities of war always hover in the background, threatening this new perspective.  Jenoff infuses her novel with a great many layers from the characters who grow into new people to those who struggle to remain who they are even after the world has changed around them.  There are spies and espionage and there are plans to save Germany from the heavy hand of “justice,” but more importantly, there are everyday people struggling for their ideals and their hopes.

The Ambassador’s Daughter by Pam Jenoff is an emotional look at life after the war for both the victors and the enemy, but it also is a historical look at how German culture changed amidst the political machinations of various ideologies.  Margot is a strong young woman, but like many after the war struggles to find her true path as she’s pulled by the familiarity of the past and the adventure the future could hold.

***If you’re interested in The Ambassador’s Daughter, come back tomorrow for an interview and giveaway.***

About the Author:

Pam Jenoff was born in Maryland and raised outside Philadelphia. She attended George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and Cambridge University in England. Upon receiving her master’s in history from Cambridge, she accepted an appointment as Special Assistant to the Secretary of the Army. The position provided a unique opportunity to witness and participate in operations at the most senior levels of government, including helping the families of the Pan Am Flight 103 victims secure their memorial at Arlington National Cemetery, observing recovery efforts at the site of the Oklahoma City bombing and attending ceremonies to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of World War II at sites such as Bastogne and Corregidor.

Mailbox Monday #208

Mailbox Mondays (click the icon to check out the new blog) has gone on tour since Marcia at A Girl and Her Books, formerly The Printed Page passed the torch. This month’s host is Lori’s Reading Corner.

The meme allows bloggers to share what books they receive in the mail or through other means over the past week.

Just be warned that these posts can increase your TBR piles and wish lists.

Here’s what I receive:

1.  All That I Am by Anna Funder for a TLC Book Tour later this month.

When Hitler seizes power in 1933, a tight-knit group of friends and lovers suddenly become hunted outlaws overnight. Dora, liberated and fearless; her lover, the great playwright Ernst Toller; Ruth; and Ruth’s journalist husband, Hans find refuge in London. There, using secret contacts deep inside the Nazi regime, they take breathtaking risks to warn the world of Hitler’s plans for war. But England is not the safe haven they think it will be, and a single, chilling act of betrayal will tear them apart.

2.  The House Girl by Tara Conklin for a TLC Book Tour in February.

Two remarkable women, separated by more than a century, whose lives unexpectedly intertwine . . .

2004: Lina Sparrow is an ambitious young lawyer working on a historic class-action lawsuit seeking reparations for the descendants of American slaves.

1852: Josephine is a seventeen-year-old house slave who tends to the mistress of a Virginia tobacco farm—an aspiring artist named Lu Anne Bell.

It is through her father, renowned artist Oscar Sparrow, that Lina discovers a controversy rocking the art world: art historians now suspect that the revered paintings of Lu Anne Bell, an antebellum artist known for her humanizing portraits of the slaves who worked her Virginia tobacco farm, were actually the work of her house slave, Josephine.

3. The Ambassador’s Daughter by Pam Jenoff for review in February.

The world’s leaders have gathered to rebuild from the ashes of the Great War. But for one woman, the City of Light harbors dark secrets and dangerous liaisons, for which many could pay dearly.

Brought to the peace conference by her father, a German diplomat, Margot Rosenthal initially resents being trapped in the congested French capital, where she is still looked upon as the enemy. But as she contemplates returning to Berlin and a life with Stefan, the wounded fiancé she hardly knows anymore, she decides that being in Paris is not so bad after all.

Bored and torn between duty and the desire to be free, Margot strikes up unlikely alliances: with Krysia, an accomplished musician with radical acquaintances and a secret to protect; and with Georg, the handsome, damaged naval officer who gives Margot a job—and also a reason to question everything she thought she knew about where her true loyalties should lie.

Against the backdrop of one of the most significant events of the century, a delicate web of lies obscures the line between the casualties of war and of the heart, making trust a luxury that no one can afford.

4. Blood Gospel: The Order of the Sanguines Series by James Rollins and Rebecca Cantrell, which I received for review.

An earthquake in Masada, Israel, kills hundreds and reveals a tomb buried in the heart of the mountain. A trio of investigators—Sergeant Jordan Stone, a military forensic expert; Father Rhun Korza, a Vatican priest; and Dr. Erin Granger, a brilliant but disillusioned archaeologist—are sent to explore the macabre discovery, a subterranean temple holding the crucified body of a mummified girl.

But a brutal attack at the site sets the three on the run, thrusting them into a race to recover what was once preserved in the tomb’s sarcophagus: a book rumored to have been written by Christ’s own hand, a tome that is said to hold the secrets to His divinity. The enemy who hounds them is like no other, a force of ancient evil directed by a leader of impossible ambitions and incalculable cunning.

From crumbling tombs to splendorous churches, Erin and her two companions must confront a past that traces back thousands of years, to a time when ungodly beasts hunted the dark spaces of the world, to a moment in history when Christ made a miraculous offer, a pact of salvation for those who were damned for eternity.

5. Cassandra and Jane by Jill Pitkeathley, which I bought at the library sale for 50 cents.

They were beloved sisters and the best of friends. But Jane and Cassandra Austen suffered the same fate as many of the women of their era. Forced to spend their lives dependent on relatives, both financially and emotionally, the sisters spent their time together trading secrets, challenging each other’s opinions, and rehearsing in myriad other ways the domestic dramas that Jane would later bring to fruition in her popular novels. For each sister suffered through painful romantic disappointments—tasting passion, knowing great love, and then losing it—while the other stood witness. Upon Jane’s death, Cassandra deliberately destroyed her personal letters, thereby closing the door to the private life of the renowned novelist . . . until now.

6. The Secret Lives of People in Love by Simon Van Booy, which I purchased at the library sale for 50 cents.

The Secret Lives of People in Love is the first short story collection by award-winning writer Simon Van Booy. These stories, set in Kentucky, New York, Paris, Rome, and Greece, are a perfect synthesis of intensity and atmosphere. Love, loss, human contact, and isolation are Van Booy’s themes. In radiant prose he writes about the difficult choices we make in order to retain our humanity and about the redemptive power of love in a violent world. Included in this updated P.S. edition is the new story “The Mute Ventriloquist.”

7. Eight Silly Monkeys illustrated by Steven Haskamp, which I picked up for the girl in spite of her temper tantrum for 50 cents.

Get set for romping and rhyming fun! Young ones will love counting backwards as they watch eight monkeys disappear one by one with each turn of the page in this delightful tale. Eight Silly Monkeys features full-color illustrations, charming verse, and innovative die-cutting to reveal silly, touchable monkeys on each page. As fun to read as it is to listen to, this enjoyable rhyming adventure is a perfect read for ages 3 and up.

8. A Small Death in Lisbon by Robert Wilson, which I borrowed from the library since I’ve been inspired by this challenge to read more books about/set in Portugal, though I’m not limiting it to historical fiction or fiction — poetry works too.

In A Small Death in Lisbon, the narrative switches back and forth between 1941 and 1999, and Wilson’s wide knowledge of history and keen sense of place make the eras equally vibrant. In 1941 Germany, Klaus Felsen, an industrialist, is approached by the SS high command in a none-too-friendly manner and is “persuaded” to go to Lisbon and oversee the sale–or smuggling–of wolfram (also known as tungsten, used in the manufacture of tanks and airplanes). World War II Portugal is neutral where business is concerned, and too much of the precious metal is being sold to Britain when Germany needs it to insure that Hitler’s blitzkrieg is successful.

Cut to 1999 Lisbon, where the daughter of a prominent lawyer has been found dead on a beach. Ze Coehlo, a liberal police inspector who is a widower with a daughter of his own, must sift through the life of Catarina Oliviera and discover why she was so brutally murdered. Her father is enigmatic, her mother suicidal; her friends were rock musicians and drug addicts.

9. News from Heaven by Jennifer Haigh for a TLC Book Tour in February.

Now, in this collection of interconnected short stories, Jennifer Haigh returns to the vividly imagined world of Bakerton, Pennsylvania, a coal-mining town rocked by decades of painful transition. From its heyday during two world wars through its slow decline, Bakerton is a town that refuses to give up gracefully, binding—sometimes cruelly—succeeding generations to the place that made them. A young woman glimpses a world both strange and familiar when she becomes a live-in maid for a Jewish family in New York City. A long-absent brother makes a sudden and tragic homecoming. A solitary middle-aged woman tastes unexpected love when a young man returns to town. With a revolving cast of characters—many familiar to fans of Baker Towers—these stories explore how our roots, the families and places in which we are raised, shape the people we eventually become.

10. Baker Towers by Jennifer Haigh, which I received as part of the tour for the new book.

Bakerton is a community of company houses and church festivals, of union squabbles and firemen’s parades. Its neighborhoods include Little Italy, Swedetown, and Polish Hill. For its tight-knit citizens — and the five children of the Novak family — the 1940s will be a decade of excitement, tragedy, and stunning change. Baker Towers is a family saga and a love story, a hymn to a time and place long gone, to America’s industrial past, and to the men and women we now call the Greatest Generation. It is a feat of imagination from an extraordinary voice in American fiction, a writer of enormous power and skill.

Also, I’ve been remiss in talking about some of the Kindle books I’ve downloaded or gotten for review, and have reviewed one or two already without featuring them in Mailbox Monday.

11. Rules for Virgins by Amy Tan, downloaded for free.

12. Georgiana Darcy’s Diary: Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice continued (Pride and Prejudice Chronicles) by Anna Elliot, downloaded for free.

13. Becoming Elizabeth Darcy by Mary Lydon Simonsen, downloaded for free.

14. Monsters In My Closet by Ruby Urlocker, which I received for review and reviewed, here.

15. A Killing in Kensington (A Patrick Shea Mystery) by Mary Lydon Simonsen, which I downloaded for free.

16. Must Love Sandwiches (The Bartonville Series) by Janel Gradowski, which I got for review from the talented author.

17. Darcy Goes to War by Mary Lydon Simonsen, which I downloaded for free.

What did you receive?

Happy Birthday & Mailbox Monday #132

First I want to wish my husband a happy birthday. I’m sure he’s starting to feel his age, but I keep telling him that age is just a number and he doesn’t look a day over 25. I hope that you have a great birthday, honey, and keep smiling now that our daughter is here. She adores her daddy, and I know you adore her. Have a great day off from work spending time with her. I wish that I could do the same.

Mailbox Mondays (click the icon at the right to check out the new blog) has gone on tour since Marcia at A Girl and Her Books, formerly The Printed Page passed the torch.  This month our host is The Bluestocking Guide.  Kristi of The Story Siren continues to sponsor her In My Mailbox meme.  Both of these memes allow bloggers to share what books they receive in the mail or through other means over the past week.

Just be warned that these posts can increase your TBR piles and wish lists.

Here’s what I received this week:

1.  Cross Currents by John Shors for review from the author.

2.  The Secret Lives of the Four Wivess by Lola Shoneyin for a TLC Book Tour in July.

3. The Things We Cherished by Pam Jenoff from the author for review, an unexpected delight!

What did you receive in your mailbox?