#BlogTour #Review: People Like Us by Louise Fein @FeinLouise @HoZ_Books #fightfortheirlove

Fein_People Like Us_Blog Tour Poster 3Today I’m taking part in the blog tour for People Like Us by Louise Fein. If you’re a fan of gripping, emotional reads and have a penchant for WWII fiction that challenges your perceptions and makes you step into the shoes of complex characters, then this one might just be for you!


eiTitle: People Like Us.

Author: Louise Fein

Publisher: Head of Zeus

Publication Date: May 7, 2020

Genre: Historical Fiction, WWII Fiction

Themes: WWII, Coming of Age, Family Dynamics, First Love, Religious Persecution


Synopsis

‘I nearly drowned, and Walter rescued me. That changes everything.’

Leipzig, 1930’s Germany.

Hetty Heinrich is a perfect German child. Her father is an SS officer, her brother in the Luftwaffe, herself a member of the BDM. She believes resolutely in her country, and the man who runs it.

Until Walter changes everything. Blond-haired, blue-eyed, perfect in every way Walter. The boy who saved her life. A Jew.

Anti-Semitism is growing by the day, and neighbours, friends and family members are turning on one another. As Hetty falls deeper in love with a man who is against all she has been taught, she begins to fight against her country, her family and herself. Hetty will risk have to risk everything to save Walter, even if it means sacrificing herself.


Review

People like us is one of those books where there’s a huge benefit to reading the author’s note before diving into the text. As historical fiction, with inspiration drawn from real events, the note does wonders when it comes to clearly delineating the truth from the imagined, fact from fiction. I made the mistake of waiting before I read the note, and my initial impression of the first 10 chapters was that I had agreed to read something written by a sympathizer. Readers, let me be clear, this is not the case! Once I was aware that Fein sought to create a narrative that encapsulated the coming of age and the onset of critical thinking in a young woman who was raised indoctrinated into the Nazi ideology, this actually became a particularly enjoyable story. Watching Hetty grow up, grow aware of the lies, and grow rebellious, all of it urged along by the innocence of young love and human connection made for a deeply emotional reading experience.

It was discomforting at first to be reading from the perspective of someone with close ties to the SS and the Nazi party. The vast majority of the WWII fiction that I read is either from the perspective of survivors or resistance fighters, so stepping into Hetty’s shoes was a challenging experience as both her perspectives and experiences were so far from what I’ve come to expect. And as far as I’m concerned, this is a good thing.

Initially I found Hetty to be a rather spoiled and self-centred protagonist, at one point I even wrote in my notes ‘this girl is horrible.’ She makes some truly atrocious decisions that legitimately left me screaming WHY, though the sad reality is that her behaviour is exactly what was expected of upstanding citizens of the time. Thankfully, as her character develops it becomes clear that Hetty is, in fact, a good person who was just caught up in the rhetoric sweeping the nation. Every person she meets has a profound impact on her life – whether it’s the boy down the road that she seeks to protect, her friend Erna who challenges her assumptions and perceptions of the world, and even her father’s mistress who is both tearing their family apart and holding it together at the same time. Hetty ‘s personal journey is absolutely astounding, and I adored that at the end of it she occupied a glorious grey space that forced some serious introspection.

Walter too occupies some moral grey areas, though not nearly as shaded as his darling. He knowingly breaks the law, steals to feed his family, and becomes involved with a woman he doesn’t love as a means to exit the country before the war. But he is also the perfect person to challenge Hetty’s fervent belief in the Fuhrer. He is supposed to be the villain, according to everything Hetty has been raised to believe, but he is ultimately good. I really appreciated that he was a little bit older than her, and that he brought a lot of knowledge and lived experiences into their relationship. Without his intervention Hetty would still be living in a sheltered, idealistic world, blind to the realities of where the world was heading.

The contrast between the two sweethearts was exceptionally well done, and I was always on the edge of my seating wondering if they would get caught and what the repercussions would be. There was an ever-present sense of danger that mingled subtly with the realities of two teens falling in forbidden love. Everything about it felt so dang real!

I should note that I was thrown, though, buy the casual ways in which Hetty, a teenaged girl was talking about concentration camps as early as 1933. This prompted m to put down the book and take a short visit to some online newspaper archives, where I quickly discovered that these camps were indeed common knowledge and even the frequent subject of publications and speeches for many years before the onset of the war. And by golly, I do love it when not only does a book make me question pretty much everything, but also when I walk away from a work of fiction having learned something real.

If you’re looking for some WWII fiction from a different perspective and that will challenge you in a multitude of ways, give People Like Us a try! This character driven story will works it’s way under your skin and leave you wanting more.


About the Author

Author photo-2Louise Fein holds an MA in Creative Writing from St Mary’s University. Prior to studying for her master’s, she ran a commodity consultancy business following a career in banking and law. She lives in Surrey with her family. People Like Us is inspired by her family history, and by the alarming parallels she sees between the early 30s and today.

Follow her:

Twitter: @FeinLouise

Facebook: @LouiseFeinAuthor


Buy links:

Amazon: https://amzn.to/39e2cLP

Waterstones: https://bit.ly/2KRRMYV

Google Play: https://bit.ly/2DcJEOA

Kobo: https://bit.ly/2OM1iy7

Follow Head of Zeus

Website: www.headofzeus.com

Twitter: @HoZ_Books

Facebook: @headofzeus

Instagram: @headofzeus


Many thanks to Victoria Joss at Head of Zeus for inviting me to participate in the Blog Tour. I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinions.

Fein_People Like Us_Blog Tour Poster 1

Fein_People Like Us_Blog Tour Poster 2

 

 

 

#Blogtour #Review: The Wheelwright’s Daughter by Eleanor Porter #boldwoodbooks @rararesources @elporterauthor @boldwoodbooks

Wheelwright's Daughter Blog Tour Banner

Today I’m thrilled to be taking part in the blog tour for Eleanor Porter’s debut historical fiction novel, The Wheelwright’s Daughter. Chalk full of mystery and drama, Martha and her precarious situation will draw you from the first few chapters and keep ahold of you long after the final page has turned.


Wheelwrights daughter EBOOKTitle: The Wheelwright’s Daughter

Author: Eleanor Porter

Publisher: Boldwood Books

Publication Date: April 21, 2020

Genre: Historical Fiction

Themes: Witchcraft, Love, Politics, Religion


My Rating: 4/5 


Synopsis

Can she save herself from a witch’s fate?

Martha is a feisty and articulate young woman, the daughter of a wheelwright, living in a Herefordshire villlage in Elizabethan England. Unusually for the time she is educated and so helps at the local school whilst longing to escape the confines and small-mindedness of a community riven by religious bigotry and poverty.

As she is able to read and is well-versed in herbal remedies she is suspected of being a witch. When a landslip occurs – opening up a huge chasm in the centre of the village – she is blamed for it and pursued remorselessly by the villagers.

But can her own wits and the love of local stablehand Jacob save her from a witch’s persecution and death…

A brilliant and accomplished novel that perfectly captures the febrile atmosphere of Elizabethan village life in an age when suspicion and superstition were rife. Perfect for fans of Tracy Chevalier.


Review

I’ve got a soft spot in my heart for a female protagonist who knows her mind and isn’t afraid to stick it to anyone who’s trying to make her less than who she really is. Unfortunately for Martha, this particularly endearing trait runs the risk of costing her life. Set at a time when anyone could be accused of witchcraft simply because their neighbours didn’t like them, the who story is overwrought with a sense of fear. Every instance of rebellion and sass is met with rumour and degradation, even when the villagers are all to happy to ask for her help when their ailing and desperate. Trust me my friends, the hypocrisy will leave you raging!

Now add in a father who is neither a papist or a separatist, but a man of knowledge, and you have a whole other kettle of trouble brewing on the side. A priest who is not only cruel but inclined towards some sexual misconduct, and a neighbour who loves gossip more than her own life and family and you have the makings of some serious drama. And let’s not forget that tantalizingly forbidden little love story which will keep the pages turning faster than the action itself.

Porter’s writing is absolutely sublime. Not only does it give you the feel of Elizabethan England, but it’s the kind of emotional rollercoaster that’s easy to get lost in. I loved that the ambiguity in the telling, which was so well done that I caught myself questioning whether or not Martha had actually caused some of the scenarios she’d been accused of. You feel the fear, the confusion, the loss and the love so completely that you don’t even realize that you’re trucking that much closer to the end.

My only complaint was that I could have used a little more description, that creepy priest? Give me more! A moonlight walk with the feeling of someone lurking in the bush? More! That feeling of longing that Martha gets around Jacob? Mooooaaarr! But, I know that’s my preference over anything else. The upside of this is that while Porter deliver a twisty, all-encompassing read that it doesn’t take an age and a half to read (which can’t be said for all historical dramas).

If you love beautifully written historical fiction with the kind of characters that suck you and refuse to let you go, then this one might just be for you – I highly recommend it!


About the Author

_8106517Eleanor Porter has lectured at Universities in England and Hong Kong and her poetry and short fiction has been published in magazines. The Wheelwright’s Daughter is her first novel.

Social Media Links

Newsletter sign up: http://bit.ly/EleanorPorterNewsletter


Many thanks to Rachel Gilbey at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to participate in the Blog Tour. I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinions.

The Wheelwrights Daughter

 

 

 

#Blogtour #Review: Separation Anxiety by Laura Zigman @LauraZigman #RandomThingsTours

Separation Anxiety BT Poster

Today I am delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for the delightfully funny and devastatingly heart wrenching Separation Anxiety by Laura Zigman. I was enticed by the premise, lulled into uproarious laughter from the constant stream of self deprecating humour, and left absolutely shattered when reality came crashing down. This touching story about (not) coping with grief and trauma and the effects that this can have on everyday life is a tour de force – I highly recommend!


Separation Anxiety CoverTitle: Separation Anxiety

Author: Laura Zigman

Publisher: Doubleday

Publication Date: April 16, 2020

Genre: Literary Fiction, Humor

Themes: Grief, Loss, Family Dynamics, Mental Health, Self Discovery


My Rating: 4.5/5 


Synopsis

 Life hasn’t gone according to Judy’s plan. Her career as a children’s book author offered a glimpse of success before taking an embarrassing nose dive. Teddy, now a teenager, treats her with some combination of mortification and indifference. Her best friend is dying. And her husband, Gary, has become a pot-addled professional “snackologist” who she can’t afford to divorce. On top of it all, she has a painfully ironic job writing articles for a self-help website—a poor fit for someone seemingly incapable of helping herself. 

Brilliantly tapping into the insecurities and anxieties that most of us keep under wraps, and with a voice that is at once gleefully irreverent and genuinely touching, Laura Zigman has crafted a glorious new classic for anyone taking fumbling steps toward happiness. 


Review

Having never read anything by Laura Zigman, coming into this book I had no idea what I was in for. But when presented with a struggling author that’s taken to wearing her sheltie in a baby sling I simply couldn’t resist. And boy oh boy, was it ever a treat!

Separation Anxiety is a beautifully wrought and complicated exploration of human emotion and the ties that bind. It speaks to how our lives can get small, how we forget to listen and be attentive in our relationships, and how sometimes we just need a little bit of change in our lives to force some much needed perspective. Whether that perspective comes from a friend’s terminal illness, a failed creativity retreat, or having to host ‘people puppets’ in exchange for school tuition you never know what’s going to help shake you out of that funk. This is a story that explores both understanding and misunderstanding on so many levels, and more often than not, the miscommunications that arise when we’re too busy or preoccupied to really listen. It will make you laugh, make you cry, and make you question your own actions and relationships.

I found Judy to be a challenging and complicated character to read. She is emotionally blocked, occasionally selfish, and dealing with so much that she’s beyond overloaded. She goes on tangents, makes irrational assumptions, and gets so wrapped up in her own story that she regularly fails to see the bigger picture. But if you stick with her one enough, she’s also the kind of character that grows on you. I started this book laughing at her wild antics and ability to fumble into ridiculous situations and finished it with a deep rooted sympathy for all that she’s endured. Hers is the kind of story that sneaks up on you and catches you unaware, it’s the kind of story that distracts you with all the shiny baubles on the surface that when you finally get to the heart of the matter it leaves you lost and empty.

Do I think this book will be for everybody? Absolutely not. It tackles some serious issues beneath the antics and self deprecation – cancer, mental health, extreme anxiety, grief, failed marriages, loss of self-identity, bullying, and so much more – and I don’t expect that everyone will appreciate these heavy hitters being explored through a lens of brevity. And because Judy is a complicated character, some might find that she’s not as likeable or relatable as they want her to be. To be honest, I found Judy to be perplexing and infuriating, but she was written so well and so deeply that in the end what I thought of her didn’t matter.

If you want your next read to be both tender and thought provoking, hilarious and heartbreaking, then I would absolutely recommend giving Separation Anxiety a shot. It is beautifully written and has more layers than an onion. And just between you an me, we could all use a little ugly-cry to help us make sense of the world around us right now – Zigman’s just given us the perfect excuse.


About the Author

Author PicLaura Zigman is the author of ANIMAL HUSBANDRY, which was a bestseller and was made into the film Someone Like You, starring Hugh Jackman and Ashley Judd), Dating Big Bird, Piece of Work and Her. She has also been a contributor to the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Huffington Post. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with her husband, son and deeply human Sheltie. 


Many thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me to participate in the Blog Tour. I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinions.

 

 

 

#ARC #Review: The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles #WWIIFiction #HistoricalFiction @atriabooks

Today on the blog I’m getting back to my first love – WWII Fiction!

When I saw the The Paris Library on NetGalley I simply couldn’t resist. The perfect combination of headstrong girls, occupied Paris, and ‘fight-the-world’ librarians I was instantly in love. If you’re in the market for a read chalk full of historical detail, ground shaking revelations, and oodles of character development then keep this little beauty in mind!


parisTitle: The Paris Library

AuthorJanet Skeslien Charles

Publisher: Atria Books

Expected Publication Date: June 2, 2020

Genre: Historical Fiction, WWII Fiction

Themes: Family, War, Friendship, Loss

Features: N/A


My Rating: 4/ 5


Synopsis

From Goodreads…

Paris, 1939. Odile Souchet is obsessed with books and the Dewey Decimal System, which makes order out of chaos. She soon has it all – a handsome police officer beau, an English best friend, a beloved twin, and a job at the American Library in Paris, a thriving community of students, writers, diplomats, and book lovers. Yet when war is declared, there’s also a war on words.

Montana, 1983. Widowed and alone, Odile suffers the solitary confinement of small-town life. Though most adults are cowed by her, the neighbor girl will not let her be. Lily, a lonely teenager yearning to break free of Froid is obsessed by the older French woman who lives next door and wants to know her secrets.

As the two become friends, Odile sees herself in Lily – the same love of language, the same longings, the same lethal jealousy. The Paris Library’s dual narratives explore the relationships that make us who we are – family and friends, first loves and favorite authors – in the fairy tale setting of the City of Light. It also explores the geography of resentment, the consequences of unspeakable betrayal, and what happens when the people we count on for understanding and protection fail us.

The wit, empathy, and deep research that brings The Paris Library to life also brings to light a cast of lively historical characters and a little-known chapter of World War II history: the story of the American librarian, Miss Reeder, who created the Soldiers’ Service to deliver books to servicemen, and who later faced the Nazi ‘Book Protector’ in order to keep her library open. She and her colleagues defied the Bibliotheksschutz by delivering books to Jewish readers after they were forbidden from entering the library.


Review 

Normally when I read WWII fiction I’m chasing epic stories with BIG acts of resistance, but even without them The Paris Library still managed to get me right in the feels. While it doesn’t have the big action that comes with SOE operations or the French Resistance, what it does have are the everyday acts of kindness and determination that allowed humanity to prevail despite the circumstances. Libraries have always been close to the heart of activism and equality, and The Paris Library touchingly shows how even in the darkest times the services and that we’ve come to take for granted from our library systems can be a lifeline for both subscribers and staff.

I instantly fell in love with the overly emotional and taciturn Odile. Any girl who wants to buck convention to hold down a job and be able to stand on her own despite the prevailing societal norm is a sure way to win my heart. As frustrating as I found her conviction at time, I loved her passionate ad headstrong approach to life. Even when her decisions and assumptions were leading her down the exact opposite path of what she truly desired, she owned her decisions 100% and felt the implications from them so deeply. I found her romance to be sweet and naive, just as you’d expect from a young girl discovering her first love, and her friendships to be fraught with all the drama you’d expect from a teenaged girl.

Fast forward to 1983 Montana and we’re confronted with Lily, who is a little bit younger than Odile in her arc, but a young lady who is also having to grow up on the spot. Of course, the war Lily fights is much more internal than literal, but it’s a struggle none the less. Following the loss of her mother and her father’s rapid remarriage, Lily is struggling to find a place for herself in both her family and the small town of Froid that she desperately seeks to outgrow. She latches on to Odile, her next door neighbour, who provides companionship, advice, and French lessons while Lily works through the worst of her angst.

Their stories are wonderful foils for one another – one with a family intact but emotionally distant, the other falling apart but physically present, one with a young lady who knows exactly what she wants from life, and the other desperately seeking her place in the world, one with a romance that’s the thing of stories, the other whose never been kissed. This is an amazing story of opposites attracting into the challenging and companionable friendship I have read in ages.

Filled with a pleasing blend of modern realism and extensively researched historical fact, The Paris Library will take you back to Paris just before the occupation and leave you categorizing the events in your life by the Dewey Decimal system. Get ready to feel the pain of rationing, the sting of betrayal, and the subtle horrors of war from a position of protected privilege. Two beautiful stories of coming if age, and coming into one’s self, The Paris Library, is a moving and deeply emotional read.

Would I recommend this book? Absolutely!


I was provided an ARC of this book by @NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Publication dates my be in flux due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

#Review: The Molten City by Chris Nickson @ChrisNickson2 @severnhouse #HistoricalFiction

Today I am thrilled to be sharing some book love for the 8th instalment in the Tom Harper mystery series The Molten City by the fabulous Chris Nickson. If you like historical fiction that is unapologetically feminist, and love getting stuck into an old-fashion police procedural, then look no further – this book is absolutely outstanding!


moltenTitle: The Molten City

Author: Chris Nickson

Publisher: Severn House

Publication Date: March 31, 2020 (UK), July 7, 2020 (US)

Genre: Historical Fiction, Women’s Fiction, Police Procedural

Themes: Murder, Crime, White Collar Crime, Family, Women’s Suffrage, Political Dissent

Features: N/A


My Rating: 4.5/ 5


Synopsis

Detective Superintendent Tom Harper senses trouble ahead when the prime minister plans a visit. Can he keep law and order on the streets while also uncovering the truth behind a missing child?

Leeds, 1908. Detective Superintendent Tom Harper has received an anonymous letter claiming that a young boy called Andrew Sharp was stolen from his family fourteen years before. But why was the disappearance ignored? Harper is drawn deep into the dark underworld of child-snatching, corruption and murder as Leeds becomes a molten, rioting city.


Review 

Set nine years after the close of The Leaden Heart some big changes have caught up with Tom, Annabelle, Mary, and Tom’s team back at the precinct. With such a large gap between books that includes the passing of Billy Reed, the end of Annabelle’s second term as Guardian, and the dispersal of some key officers to fight in the Boer War you can’t help but get the feeling that Harper’s crime fighting days are coming to an end.

This finite tone is set with plenty of introspection, looking at both the correction of past wrongs and possibilities for the future. The result is that this book has a slightly slower pace than some of those that came previous in the series, with the weight of the feeling only amplified as Harper focuses on two cold cold cases rather than chasing down high down high stakes crime. That’s not to say this book is boring, quite the opposite in fact, as this melancholy tone set by the missing children Tom’s life changes is offset by the stress and drama that comes with arranging security for a high profile visitor – one that’s sure to draw riots.

These political tensions provide an exciting backdrop for the change coming at the Harper family, especially since women’s suffrage is such a prominent staple at home. With Tom’s daughter Mary becoming more involved in the fight for suffrage than Annabelle, the dynamic shifts rapidly, especially since teenaged Mary leans towards a more radical crowd. A tenuous balance must be struck between fighting for what’s right and protecting the family – so naturally some hot-headed drama ensues…

If there is one thing I am confident saying about Mr. Nickson’s writing, it is that it bleeds authenticity. Everything from the grimy buildings of industrial Leeds to the politics of the day, and from the feels of the neighbourhoods through to the riots, clearly comes from a deep knowledge and love of place. The passion and attention to detail will effortlessly transport you to another time and place, which is ideal for getting lost in the story.

The Molten City is an emotionally provocative and meticulously crafted read. Lovers of historical fiction will appreciate the attention to detail, while readers of crime fiction will get lost in the case. There’s even a little something for the women’s fiction and family drama readers in the mix. And despite the feeling of wrapping up the series that’s come with this last book, with such human and lovable characters I can only hope that Harper has at least one more big case waiting in the wings.


Author Information 

cn021Chris Nickson has written since he was a boy growing up in Leeds, starting with a three-paragraph school essay telling a tale of bomb disposal when he was 11. That brought the revelation that he enjoyed telling stories, and then more stories, teenage poetry, and music, as both a bassist and then a singer-songwriter-guitarist.

Chris spent 30 years living in the US, playing in bands and writing. He’s made a living as a writer since 1994. Much of his work has been music journalism, combining the twin passions of music and writing, specialising in world and roots music. His reviews and features are published in print and online, notably with fRoots, Sing Out!, emusic.com, and allmusic.com. He’s also the author of The NPR Casual Listener’s Guide to World Music.

Chris has also published 28 other non-fiction books, most of them quickie biographies, and has had a pair of one act plays staged in Seattle. His short fiction has appeared in several small magazines, and in the anthology Criminal Tendencies. A collection of his short Leeds fiction appeared under the title, Leeds, The Biography.

He moved back to the UK in 2005. The Broken Token was published by Creme de la Crime in 2010. The second of the Leeds novels featuring Richard Nottingham appeared in hardback in May 2011 with the third and fourth (The Constant Lovers and Come the Fear) appearing in 2012. The fifth and six in the series (At the Dying of the Year and Fair and Tender Ladies) arrived in 2013. The seventh novel, Free From All Danger, will appear in October 2017, Cold Cruel Winter was named one of the Best Mysteries of the Year in 2011 by Library Journal, and the audio book of The Broken Token was one of the Independent on Sunday’s Audiobooks of 2012.

Emerald City and West City Blues, two books featuring Seattle music journalist Laura Benton, are available on ebook and audiobook.

The Crooked Spire is set in Chesterfield in 1361 and can be found in paperback and ebook, as can the sequel, The Saltergate Psalter. The final volume in the trilogy, The Holywell Dead, will appear in 2017.

A series set in Leeds in the 1890s features Detective Inspector Tom Harper. Gods of Gold is the first volume, followed by Two Bronze Pennies, Skin Like Silver, The Iron Water, On Copper Street, The Tin God, and The Leaden Heart. 

Dark Briggate Blues is a 1950s noir, with enquiry agent Dan Markham and also taking place in Leeds, as does The New Eastgate Swing, the second volume to feature Markham.

Lottie Armstrong, one of the first policewomen in Leeds, was the heroine of Modern Crimes, set in 1924. She reappears 20 years later in The Year of the Gun.

Chris is also the author of Solid Air – The Life of John Martyn. This appeared as an ebook and print on demand in June 2011, along with John’s posthumous album and a tribute CD that features many major names.

Authors Links:

Web site: https://chrisnickson.co.uk/

Twitter: @ChrisNickson2

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/12044.Chris_Nickson

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/chrisnicksonwriter/