Saturday, January 19, 2019

Review: The Silent Games by Alex Gray

The Silent Games (DCI Lorimer, Book #11)
by Alex Gray
Release Date: March 13th 2018
2018 Witness Impulse (first published March 13th 2014)
Softcover Edition; 432 Pages
ISBN: 978-184744
ASIN: B07119FGCR
Genre: Fiction / Mystery
Source: Review copy from publisher

3.5 / 5 Stars

Summary
DS William Lorimer has a lot on his hands. The Commonwealth Games will soon begin in Glasgow, and there’s been a credible threat of homegrown terrorism. 

When a big explosion, perhaps a trial run, causes extensive damage in a wooded area, Lorimer is seconded to help the counterterrorism force in their investigation. At the same time, he can’t resist an invitation to attend a school reunion run by his first love, Vivien Fox Gilmartin, whom he finds just as lovely as she was when she broke up with him to pursue an acting career. 

After their reunion, Vivien phones him hysterically to say that she’s found her husband, Charles, a famous theater director, dead in the flat they’re renting while he works to bring African theater groups to Scotland. His death appears to be a heart attack, but forensics show that he was poisoned. In addition, the police learn of the discovery of the body of a young African woman who has only a small tattoo as a clue to her identity. They suspect that she was part of a scheme to provide sex workers for the influx of visitors to the games. Since Vivien has no other friends in the area, Lorimer and his wife, Maggie, take her in while her husband’s murder is under investigation. Maggie berates herself for feeling that Vivien is less interested in her late husband than in Lorimer, who must hand off the case because he’s personally involved. 

Tracking down the tattoo leads to more stolen girls and a man who may be involved in both the trafficking and the terrorism, but Charles’ death remains a mystery.

My Thoughts
The Silent Games, the eleventh book in the DCI Lorimer series, definitely had an interesting premise which is what drew me to the story.  With all of the terrorism going on in the world and with recent bombings at important events, I was curious as to how this author would approach the subject in her story.  And while it was quite interesting, and took a turn I wasn't quite expecting, there were still elements I thought were left unexplored and I was not quite satisfied with the conclusion to this book.

First of all, I enjoy DCI Lorimer as a main character.  He is definitely competent at his job, dedicated, and always means to do the right thing.  He is very aware of his position as a leader of men and tries to ensure that his behaviour is beyond reproach as he knows that his men look up to him and want to learn from him.  That being said, he is also no push-over and can be quite aggressive when he needs to be; he has just learned when to push and when it is necessary to take a different route to get the answers he needs.  I was very pleased to see a character from a previous novel show up in this one and is now playing a bigger role, Kirsty Wilson.  She is now working for Lorimer, learning the ropes, and is as dedicated to the job as her father and Lorimer.  It was kind of interesting to see how she is learning the job and her frustration at being held back at times simply because she dd not have the experience to be involved in certain delicate situations; and when she did mess up, she got into trouble.  I really like her character and hope to see much more of her in the future.

This story can be pretty gritty as it deals with human traficking so of the scenes are hard to read, but there is so much of this sadly going on in our society it is almost scary and I feel that we need to face the issue.  The scenes probably don't do the ordeal these girls face justice to be honest, but I honestly don't think I could read them if it was any more explicit.   Unfortunately, while I did like the story, I did feel like there were quite a lot of holes in it which was a bit frustrating to read, somewhat predictable, and I didn't like the ending.  I really felt like the writing was too light for the subject matter in this one.  Bombing and human trafficking are serious subjects and can't be written about lightly.  I also was not crazy about the whole ex-girlfriend scenario - I think the whole thing could have been written right out of the book and it wouldn't have made a difference.  Maggie, you are one amazing woman!

Verdict
The Silent Games was no my favourite book in the series although there were definitely some good moments in it.  I enjoyed the continuing character development: I was happy to see more of Kirsty and Maggie in this one and learn more about them.  The overall plot was interesting but I just felt like there was too much going on and the author kind of lost track of some of the plot lines throughout which made it feel loose and unconnected at times.  Will I read another book by this author?  Oh, definitely.  There was enough good stuff in this one to keep me going and I am not finished with DCI Lorimer as of yet.
Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Review: Be Our Ghost by Kate Kingsbury

Be Our Ghost (Merry Ghost Inn, Book #3)
by Kate Kingsbury
Release Date: October 9th 2018
2018 Crooked Lane Books
Kindle Edition; 278 Pages
ISBN: 978-1683317845
ASIN: B078MB4FZG
Genre: Fiction / Cozy Mystery
Source: Review copy from publisher

3 / 5 Stars

Summary
The Merry Ghost Inn is well and truly open for business. Melanie West and her grandmother, Liza, are rapidly getting the hang of running their charming bed-and-breakfast inn on the rocky Oregon coast. Not that business goes without a hitch—when your hostelry boasts its own laughing resident ghost, you’d better be expect the out-of-the-ordinary. But Melanie and Liza take it all in stride…until a hotshot real estate developer arrives in Sully’s Landing, touting his plans to build a tacky amusement arcade smack dab in the middle of the tasteful cliff-side town.

No one in Sully’s Landing can stand the gaudy developer, but it’s still a shock when he ends up murdered. It’s even more shocking when Liza’s friend, Doug, emerges as the chief suspect. Melanie and Liza put on their sleuthing caps yet again and set out to clear Doug’s name.


My Thoughts
Be Our Ghost is the third book in a cozy mystery series featuring Melanie and her grandmother Liza. Unfortunately, I didn't like this one as much as the first two and while it wasn't a boring book or uninteresting, there were just too many things that bothered and distracted me throughout.

First of all, I really do enjoy Melanie as a main character but I am not yet sold on Liza.  I get that the author is trying to make Liza come across as sassy and scrappy and all that, but sometimes it rings a bit false and I was not always impressed by her personality. She could be a bit rude and obnoxious, and to be honest, I could do without her comments on someone else's dress style and habits. Perhaps a bit too much time was spent on discussing their assistant's clothing and bad eating habits and it got old, fast. I do like how the two interact with each other though, and you can tell that Melanie really cares about her grandmother and is willing to do anything for her.  But I really wish she would stand up to her once in a while!! And that ex of hers. Yikes!

Melanie and Liza own the Merry Ghost Inn which even comes with its own resident ghost.  I enjoyed the paranormal element but as of yet have learned almost nothing about Orville and why he is there which has been a bit frustrating.  I would definitely enjoy more ghostly encounters and would love to learn more about him.  While the tease was interesting at the beginning, it kind of gets irritating as the story moves along and you find out pretty much...nothing.  There are a lot of moments in the kitchen working on various recipes and things, but there was very little interaction with the guests.  And you would never know they were running an inn by their behaviour, that's for sure.  Melanie and Liza took off at a moment's notice to investigate and to do other things, sometimes leaving an assistant behind, sometimes not.  I actually began to wonder how they actually ran the inn if they were never there.  I think less details about breakfast and more interactions with their guests would make this a bit more realistic. 

The investigation was interesting but I feel like the duo needed to work on their approach with people when it came to investigating as the way it was written it was fairly easy to figure out the murderer. And I know that if Liza approached me the way she approached some of the people in this book, I would be a bit upset as well and tossed her on her backside out the door.  Sometimes age is not an excuse for rudeness.  And while the attempt was made to misdirect and twist things around, it didn't really work on me.  That being said however, it was definitely interesting meeting the people in this world and I would like to meet a lot of them again as I sense some interesting stories on the horizon. 

Verdict
Be Our Ghost is one of those books that, while enjoyable on a superficial level, was a bit of a letdown in other areas.  I think having paying guests stay at a haunted inn and then having no interaction with them whatsoever in the book is a bit of a letdown.  While I understand the main mystery was not focused on the inn this time out, it really makes no difference; no ghostly activity at the inn means no ghostly haunted inn.  I also had a harder time accepting Liza and her personality in this one; I just couldn't get past her abrasiveness.  I did really like a lot of the other characters though, so I hope to see more of them in future installments of this series.  Would I recommend this series? I think so, and there is so much potential here that I am still interested seeing what happens next. 
Monday, December 31, 2018

Review: Mistress of Legend by Nicole Evelina

Mistress of Legend (Guinevere's Tale, Book #3)
by Nicole Evelina
Release Date: September 15th 2018
2018 Lawson Gartner Publishing
Kindle Edition; 407 Pages
ISBN: 978-0996763257
ASIN: B07FSWSWW8
Genre: Fiction / Historical
Source: Review copy from publisher

4.5 / 5 Stars

Summary
Having escaped death at the stake, Guinevere longs to live a peaceful life in Brittany with Lancelot, but the threat of Arthur’s wrath quickly separates the lovers. Guinevere finds herself back in Camelot, but it is not the peaceful capital she once knew; the loyalty of the people is divided over Arthur’s role in her death sentence. When war draws Arthur away from Britain, Mordred is named acting king. With Morgan at his side and a Saxon in his bed, Mordred’s thirst for power becomes his undoing and the cause of Guinevere’s greatest heartache.


In the wake of the deadly battle that leaves the country in civil war, Guinevere’s power as the former queen is sought by everyone who seeks to ascend the throne. Heartbroken and refusing to take sides in the conflict, she flees north to her mother’s Votadini homeland, where she is at long last reunited with Lancelot. The quiet life she desires is just beginning when warring tribal factions once again thrust her into an unexpected position of power. Now charged with ending an invasion that could bring an end to the Votadini tribe and put the whole island in the hands of the Saxons, Guinevere must draw upon decades of experience to try to save the people she loves and is sworn to protect.


My Thoughts
Misress of Legend was a fitting finale for an amazing series.   Having grown up on tales of Arthur and Guinevere, I was always looking for something that I thought reflected the time period a bit better rather than the fantastical stories I grew up with as a kid.  This trilogy fit that bill nicely as neither Arthur or Guinevere were portrayed as mighty heroes, having many faults which caused huge problems in their personal relationships as well as with their subjects as High King and High Queen.  Lush and vividly told, the author has a way of transporting you to this time-period, making you realize how bloody and dangerous it actually was, and no one was safe from the political machinations surrounding everyone.  

I have always been a huge fan of Guinevere, and even as a child eschewed the portrait of her as docile and meek.  And having studied history as university, I just couldn't imagine someone sitting a throne for all these years during this time period not to have been somewhat mighty and dominant herself so I always imagined her as a type of warrior queen.  Nobody really knows exactly what she was like, but knowing how difficult things were during this time period, I always thought she would have to be quite fierce herself in order to survive.  Nicole Evelina's description of her was wonderful, and I loved her character and personality a lot, despite the flaws; they just made her seem more human.  In this novel, Guinevere was fighting for her life after Arthur's death, having been stripped of everything in the previous novel.  Despite her desire for peace and to live a long life with Lancelot, that didn't seem to be in the cards as the world around her erupted at the death of both Arthur and his heir, Mordred.  I loved how she took strength from those around her as she faced disappointment after disappointment, facing death on a few occasions, fighting bravely for everything she held dear, letting nothing stop her.  To me, she really came into her own in this book, growing into a mature and determined woman, facing adversity with a will of iron as she was once against thrust into a leadership role she did not want but was her destiny to have.  What I did have trouble with from time to time was her passivity when it came to claiming her land and her titles, which were hers by right of birth.  I just couldn't understand why she gave up so easily when confronted over things that were rightfully hers and didn't fight for them, sometimes allowing herself to be manipulated by others.  It just didn't seem to mesh with her personality and her strength and was a bit jarring from time to time.  

The author does an amazing job bring to life the people and places of this time period, giving us new twists on their stories, and making us think of the possibilities that could have happened after Arthur's death.  There is also a whole wealth of new characters (whom she has hinted might have their own stories to tell) and I definitely enjoyed the vivid descriptions of the time period and its brutal history.  These were certainly chaotic times and I thought the author did a great job bringing all of that chaos to light without overwhelming the story.  

What the author has really done though, is given us back Guinevere, a figure almost overlooked in history.  As a child reading these stories, I wanted to learn more about her and was often disappointed at the way she was treated and demeaned which didn't feel right to me.  These novels have shown us a strong and powerful woman who fought hard for everything she believed in and is someone in whom young girls can believe.  

Verdict
Mistress of Legend is my favourite book of the trilogy although all of the books were great.  This one though, was about her and how she really came into her own.  Although popular fiction has Guinevere entering a convent after Arthur died, I never could quite believe it myself so I loved this retelling very much.  The author has really given Guinevere back her voice and the tale is not just a retelling but a very new slant on the possibilities of Guinevere and Arthur's life at Camelot as well as what came before and after.   
Sunday, December 9, 2018

Review: Shadow of the Exile by Mitchell Hogan

Shadow of the Exile (The Infernal Guardian, Book 1)
by Mitchell Hogan
Release Date: October 9th 2018
2018 47North
Kindle Edition; 491 Pages
ISBN: 978-1503903227
ASIN: B07C24FVL9
Genre: Fiction / Fantasy
Source: Review copy from publisher

4 / 5 Stars

Summary
Outcast and exiled, the demon Tarrik Nal-Valim has long been forgotten by the world of humans. At least, so he thinks.

But when he is summoned as a last resort by a desperate sorcerer, it seems as though his past has caught up with him. Because the sorcerer is Serenity “Ren” Branwen, the daughter of Tarrik’s former master—and friend. Though she seems cold, driven, and ruthless, Tarrik can tell that Ren has her back against the wall, and he is compelled by ferocious powers to obey her.

As their world sinks into a terrifying maelstrom of murder, intrigue, and insurrection, Tarrik is forced to serve Ren’s arcane designs; plans that, if they were to succeed, would resurrect unimaginable power, and could destroy Tarrik’s entire race.

My Thoughts

Shadow of the Exile was an action-packed and fun novel from an author who is quickly becoming one of my favourites on the fantasy scene.  A bit snarky with a little bit of the popular grimdark thrown in without being a grimdark novel, this one kept me up much later than I should have been up but it was so much fun to read.  And best of all, no love triangle in sight!!!

Tarrick is an exiled demon trying to find his way back into the demon world when he is suddenly summoned by a desperate sorcerer who just happens to be the daughter of his previous master.  Tarrick was definitely not happy to be summoned, and definitely not happy to learn that his previous master, with whom he actually developed a friendship, had written down some of the things he promised never to reveal, ever.  I loved Tarrick's character; he was so much fun to follow in this novel as he spent half the book saving Ren's life and half trying to figure out how to kill her so he could return to the demon world.  With a constantly evolving character (man, the character development for his character was sooo good), Tarrick had to figure out what was safe for him and what was going on in this war between sorcerers.  What he did discover made even his demon blood run cold.  This shift between him and Ren as enemies to him and Ren fighting together was so subtle and I enjoyed following their partnership throughout the book.  It would have devastated me if their relationship had turned into a love relationship as it just didn't fit the tone of the book, at least for now.  Maybe later.  

I wasn't overly sympathetic to Ren at the beginning, but having read some of this author's other work, I understood how he wrote and I was willing to be patient.  That patience definitely won as Ren's backstory was slowly revealed and while you really had to read between the lines, I am so glad it was done this way as her story was pretty horrific.  I definitely became a fan of hers towards the end.  It made their relationship so much more interesting throughout the book and I loved the give and take that happened.  Both Tarrick and Ren were so interesting as characters and I enjoyed them both.

The plot moved quickly from event to event but what I really enjoyed was the well-thought out magic system.  It wasn't in your face and a lot was explained as you read along but I enjoyed it and thought it was kind of neat.  I have always enjoyed the way this author wrote and this book was no different; he has a way of drawing you in and I definitely stayed up way too late finishing this book.  There were lots of witty and snarky moments and I enjoyed them as much as the fight and magic scenes.  

Verdict
Shadow of the Exile was a pleasure to read and I am so happy to learn there will be a sequel, Dawn of the Exile, releasing March 19th 2019.  Tarrick and Ren had an interesting relationship and I enjoyed how we only hear Tarrick's thoughts about the events as the book was written from his point of view which made it even more interesting.   Full of interesting details with a fascinating magic system, I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is interesting in fantasy with magic and demons.
Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Review: Wildfell by London Clarke

Wildfell
by London Clarke
Release Date: April 27th 2018
2018 Carfax Abbey Publishing
Kindle Edition; 301 Pages
ISBN: 978-1386621218
ASIN: B07BNSBJ4W
Genre: Fiction / Horror / Gothic
Source: Review copy from publisher

3 / 5 Stars

Summary
After a traumatic experience with her graduate school professor, Anne Fleming disposes of all her possessions, boards a plane, and plans to check out of life. But a chance meeting on an international flight leads her to Wildfell, a gothic mansion north of London. At first glance, Wildfell seems like the perfect place to hide out, and Anne is intrigued by its strange atmosphere and history of disappearances and deaths. But echoing voices, ghostly mists, a mute girl with a sketchbook full of murders, and a possessive landlady force her to confront her deepest fears.


Anne's budding romance with gorgeous Irish actor Bain Tierney holds her to the house. But when Wildfell tenants begin disappearing and dying, Anne must decide if she trusts Bain. Is anyone in the house who they claim to be? Or are there are other forces at work inside Wildfell? And will they ever let her leave?


My Thoughts
Wildfell is one of those books I chose to read simply because of its cover. I'm not typically a cover girl but I have to admit I have an addiction to covers (and stories) about big scary houses and stories about them - probably stems from my childhood and then my growing fascinating with Gothic fiction in my teens.  Whatever the case, loved the house on the cover; however, the story, while somewhat interesting, didn't quite live up to that cover.

The main character, Anne Fleming, impulsively leaves her life behind after a traumatic experience with her college professor and heads to England, without a plan or a place to stay.  I never really questioned her reasons for leaving as everyone has a reason to want to hide once in a while, but I did question the amount of money she had on her in which to survive.  I've been to London and know how expensive that city is, and after all the purchases she made, what in the world did she live on?  Anne was a bit naive when it came to living in London even though she'd been on her own in college which kind of surprised me.  She was also very trusting, almost too much (part of the naivety I guess). She gets lucky when she is able to rent a room in a spooky old house at a very low fee.  Then strange things start to happen around her and residents begin to disappear.

The actual plot line was very enjoyable and I liked the spookiness of the story.  Even the background was interesting and left a lot to the imagination which is something I like.  I hate it when the author goes on for pages explaining every little thing as if the readers can't figure things out for themselves. This one hinted quite a bit and when you got the story, you had to piece it together. Love that. And dang, I still love spooky old houses.  It would have been nice to see Anne do some more of her own research as being a grad student you would have thought she'd be all over that so the author had to rely more on other characters to relate the information.  While it was an interesting way for Anne to have conversations with other characters so we could get to know them, I also felt it did a disservice to Anne and made her seem lazy and unwilling to figure out the truth herself even when she is given information with which to work by others.  

So while I did enjoy the fast plot and the interesting characters that were in this book, my main issue was with Anne herself.  Like I'd already mentioned above, she did seem a bit selfish and naive throughout the book.  And I just couldn't get past her leaving the U.S. without a plan, without lodgings, and without a lot of money.  It is London after all.  I also had a problem with the fact that we saw little character development in her character as a lot of her reflections were on her past and what sent her to London, including the way she left things there which didn't really help me like her a whole lot.  Without giving away too many spoilers, I really had a hard time imagining that she would dump all of her belongings in a dumpster and head to London, during winter, without proper clothing and a proper coat forcing her to buy the stuff here, spending her meager amount of money.  Makes no sense whatsoever.  I also had a problem with her stay - immigration would definitely have given her a harder time than they did coming over from the U.S. without a return ticket.  It would have been possible, but very difficult.  And she would have had to prove she had the money to purchase a return ticket as well as afford to stay during the time period.  And she definitely would not be able to work.  Get where I'm going with this?  I know I'm being fussy, but I've traveled extensively and I just couldn't get past it.

Verdict
Wildfell could have been so much more than it was.  I loved the setting, the house was really interesting and definitely spooky enough for me, with enough interesting moments to catch my attention.  I really wish that some of the other characters and their stories had been explored a bit more as it would have added to the tension and drama; I could glimpse it but never really caught it.  It would have been so fascinating to really involve the others, and how these characters with these issues, were all drawn together in this place.  Anne's inner monologues really got on my nerves after a while, and I was drawn to the others for some relief so it would have been nice to really learn more about them.  A good read, and basically a good story, I think those with an interest in Gothic fiction would be interested in this one, but for me, it left me somewhat dissatisfied.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Review & Giveaway: The Monastery Murders by E.M. Powell


The Monastery Murders (Stanton & Barling, Book #2)
by E.M. Powell
Release Date: September 27th 2018
2018 Thomas & Mercer
Kindle Edition; 288 Pages
ISBN: 978-1503903241
ASIN: B07C3R9LCX
Genre: Fiction / Historical / Mystery
Source: Review copy from HF Virtual Book Tours

4 / 5 Stars

Summary
Christmas Eve, 1176. Brother Maurice, monk of Fairmore Abbey, awaits the night prayer bell. But there is only silence. Cursing his fellow brother Cuthbert’s idleness, he seeks him out—and in the darkness, finds him brutally murdered.

Summoned from London to the isolated monastery on the Yorkshire Moors, Aelred Barling, clerk to the King’s justices, and his messenger Hugo Stanton, set about investigating the horrific crime. They quickly discover that this is far from a quiet monastic house. Instead, it seethes with bitter feuds, rivalries and resentments. But no sooner do they arrive than the killer strikes again—and again.

When Barling discovers a pattern to these atrocities, it becomes apparent that the murderer’s rampage is far from over. With everyone, including the investigators, now fearing for their lives, can Barling and Stanton unmask the culprit before more blood is spilled?


My Thoughts
The Monastery Murders is the second book in the Stanton & Barling medieval murder mystery series and I liked it just as much as the first book, but for very different reasons.  What I really liked in this novel were the characters and the rich historical depictions of life in a monastery during 12th century England.  The way the author describes events during this time period makes you understand the characters a bit better, but also serves to remind you of the century in which the story takes place, something a reader needs to keep firmly in their head as justice and the law are so, so, so different from today.

Fairmore Abbey is a monastery of the Cistercian Order and is where most of the action takes place. As most of the monasteries during this time place tend to be somewhat isolated, the author blends the history of several real monasteries together to create this fictional one in order to give the reader an idea of what a real monastery was like during this time period.  Personally, I have always been fascinated by life in one and the discipline it requires to actually be a monk, and this monastery is no exception.  Aelred Barling, and his assistant Hugo Stanton, head to the monastery to help the Abbot deal with a horrific murder, but they encounter much more than that.

I really liked Stanton's feelings with regards to life in the monastery simply because it seemed to mirror my own.  While I understand the reasons for wanting that kind of life, I did tend to wonder about those men who didn't have a choice about being there, and this eventually became one of the themes of this novel.  What I really enjoyed however, was the defining relationship between Stanton and Barling as they grew to respect each other, not just as co-workers, but as men as well, learning more about each other is such a confined space.  Their characters are so different from each other, but they also tend to compliment each other, with their strengths and weaknesses balancing each other out.  I also enjoyed the slight thawing in behaviour of Barling towards Stanton, with him even giving the younger man some praise now and again.  While I am glad to see them getting along much better, their somewhat prickly relationship and their bantering does make them more fun to read so I hope it doesn't change too much.  

The monastery is set in quite a harsh and unforgiving land and the author wrote about it in such a way that I felt like I was right there, could feel the cold drafts and the welcoming heat from the fires. The murders were somewhat grizzly but I really liked the premise of them, although I did feel at times I was reading a horror book and not a historical mystery novel.  I did figure out who it was quite early on simply because it made the most sense, but that didn't detract from my enjoyment of the book.  I often got caught up in the daily lives of these men, their reluctance to get up in the freezing cold to perform their duties, the lack of sleep, the days fill with labour and prayer.  So well researched.  

Verdict
The Monastery Murders is a fascinating medieval murder mystery set in quite a bleak land, one that made me reach for my blanket and snuggle deep as I was reading, grateful for my warmth.  I thought the author did a fantastic job describing the medieval nature of the abbey, the men's lives, and what it would have possibly been like to live during that time.  And while I enjoyed the mystery, I did feel like the murders were too much at one point, taking away from the lovely mystery the author had set up making me feel like I was in a horror novel instead.  I thoroughly enjoyed the developing relationship between Stanton and Barling and look forward to more adventures featuring these two men.  I highly recommend this novel to anyone who loves medieval history with a twist.  

Giveaway

The Monastery Murders
Monday, November 19, 2018

Review: Auschwitz Lullaby by Mario Escobar

Auschwitz Lullaby
by Mario Escobar
Release Date: August 7th 2018 (First published January 1st 2016)
2018 Nelson
Kindle Edition; 304 Pages
ISBN: 978-0785219958
ASIN: B077CWKDYR
Genre: Fiction / Historical
Source: Review copy from publisher

4 / 5 Stars

Summary

In 1943 Germany, Helene is just about to wake up her children to go to school when a group of policemen break into her house. The policemen want to haul away her gypsy husband and their five children. The police tell Helene that as a German she does not have to go with them, but she decides to share the fate of her family. After convincing her children that they are going off to a vacation place, so as to calm them, the entire family is deported to Auschwitz.

For being German, they are settled in the first barracks of the Gypsy Camp. The living conditions are extremely harsh, but at least she is with her five children. A few days after their arrival, Doctor Mengele comes to pay her a visit, having noticed on her entry card that she is a nurse. He proposes that she direct the camp’s nursery. The facilities would be set up in Barrack 29 and Barrack 31, one of which would be the nursery for newborn infants and the other for children over six years old.

Helene, with the help of two Polish Jewish prisoners and four gypsy mothers, organizes the buildings. Though Mengele provides them with swings, Disney movies, school supplies, and food, the people are living in crowded conditions under extreme conditions. And less than 400 yards away, two gas chambers are exterminating thousands of people daily.

My Thoughts
Auschwitz Lullaby is largely based on the true story of Helene Hannemann, a German woman married to a Roma, something that became illegal under the Nazi regime. As a German citizen, she didn't have to go to this camp she refuses to leave her five children and her husband and decides to go with them.  And while this is a book about concentration camps, Auschwitz in particular, it is also a book about the propaganda machine that was the Nazi regime, and how influential they were in convincing people these camps were a "good thing", despite the stories. 

Helene is a warm generous person who had to learn to survive very quickly in some very difficult conditions.  To say she was naive was generous and if it wasn't for the help of some of the other women, she would have died very early on in her stay.  Starving and losing weight, freezing, being attacked, she really had little understanding of the real danger she was in, always demanding things she felt every citizen should receive. And I'm not really sure she fully understood the danger she was in even when whole barracks were being killed because a couple of people had typhoid.  Enter Mengele (just the name gives me shivers). As a nurse Helene was recruited to work for him and had to develop a children's nursery.  Considering the many works I have read about the Holocaust and about Mengele, this is the first that really focuses on the nursery.  And I have to admit, my heart shrank a little bit at some of the horrors I was imagining I would read about.  But it was more about Helene's efforts to give the children some comfort and some hope; it was not really a story about Mengele except in regards to Helene's interactions with him as she ran the nursery. So, while there are some horrifying things in this book, it's nowhere near as graphic as some of the other books about the Holocaust have been, when I have had to put the book down after each chapter because I just couldn't go on. Thankfully, Mengele and his graphic experiments, for the most part, are not really mentioned in here. But like I said, it is a book about Auschwitz, so there is going to be some graphic scenes, it is unavoidable. 

Helene's story is definitely one that should be shared as with all other Holocaust stories, as difficult as they are to read, so that we never forget what happened.  I am one who never gets tired of reading books about the Holocaust; the number of people involved means so many different stories to tell and so many different perspectives to share.  And for those of us whose families have been affected by the war, it is important to learn about it.  What is particularly horrible about this book is knowing what Mengele was doing just down the road while he gave movies and toys to Helene's little nursery for propaganda purposes, for the big guns to see that everything was going according to plan.  Helene's interactions with Mengele were chilling, and you can feel Helene's fear of him right through the pages.  Even when she learned a bit about what was happening to the children, I have to admire her bravery in facing him and asking for more food and more clothing.  I would have been scared to death of him.  And when she learned about the twin experiments, having twins of her own, I can't even imagine what was going through her mind.  I think I would have hidden my kids. 

The book sheds more light about the Romani people and what they suffered during the Holocaust.  The writing is simple, but horrifying in its simplicity, leaving much to the imagination (and I can imagine plenty, thank you very much).  The characters were what made this book so enjoyable; there were no pages of horrifying descriptions, just scenes as they happened, which were horrifying enough.  I really liked this author's way of writing.  My only flaw with the novel, which is why I gave it the rating I did, is the beginning and end.  I don't want to spoil it so you'll have to see for yourself, but I don't think it was necessary. Helene's story was powerful enough.

Verdict
Auschwitz Lullaby is one of those stories that grips you and makes you hope for a different ending.  I think part of it is because the focus was on Helene and her desperate situation to save her five children.  Because of this, she took risks, took on those in authority, all to protect not just her children, but as many children as she could.  As a German citizen she was entitled to certain things but that would have meant being separated from her children and she wasn't willing to do that.  I highly recommend this book to those who have an interest in reading about the Holocaust.  It is definitely a worthwhile entry to the genre, and reminds us that all life is precious.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Giveaway: House of Ashes by Loretta Marion


House of Ashes: A Haunted Bluffs Mystery by Loretta Marion



Supernatural Mystery 1st in Series 
Crooked Lane Books (November 13, 2018)  
Hardcover, 336 pages 
ISBN-10: 1683318439  
ISBN-13: 978-1683318439  
Digital Details Coming Soon
 

A family patriarch’s dying proclamation, an enigmatic disappearance, and a century-old curse converge in the shadows of a majestic home on Cape Cod’s craggy coast.
Thirty-seven-year-old painter Cassandra Mitchell is fourth-generation to live in the majestic Battersea Bluffs, a brooding Queen Anne home originally built by her great-grandparents, Percy and Celeste Mitchell, and still standing despite tragedies that have swept the generations. Local lore has it that there was a curse placed on the family and the house is haunted, though opinions are divided on whether it's by malicious or benevolent spirits. Cassie believes the latter―but now she stands to lose her beloved home to mounting debt and the machinations of her dream-weaving ex-husband.

Salvation seems to arrive when a nomadic young couple wanders onto the property with the promise of companionship and much-needed help―until they vanish without a trace, leaving behind no clue to their identities. Cassie is devastated, but determined to discover what's happened to the young couple...even as digging into their disappearance starts to uncover family secrets of her own. Despite warnings from her childhood friend, now the local Chief of Police―as well as an FBI agent who pushes the boundaries of professionalism―Cassie can't help following the trail of clues (and eerie signals from the old house itself) to unravel the mystery. But can she do so before her family's dark curse destroys everything in its path?

About the Author

An author of fiction, Loretta Marion’s writing bridges the genres of mystery and suspense and women’s fiction, always with hints of romance and humor, sometimes delving into the psychological and paranormal. She creates strong but flawed and struggling characters as appealing as the rich atmospheric settings in which the stories take place.

Loretta is a true bibliophile and has loved reading and creating with words since she was a young girl. And that affection for the written word followed her like a shadow throughout her life as she put pen to paper crafting marketing and advertising copy, educational brochures, and newsletters. But her passion for writing fiction evolved from the unlikely world of hospice. As a volunteer, she set out to establish a Legacy Story program to honor and preserve the rich heritage of the fascinating people who were soon to leave this world. The meaningful experience inspired her to create her own interesting characters and stories. Her debut novel, The Fool's Truth, was a twisty and suspenseful mystery with whispers of romance. Her newest novel, HOUSE OF ASHES – A Haunted Bluffs Mystery, is the first in a series published by Crooked Lane Books.

Though born and raised in the Midwest, Loretta fell in love with New England and has made it the setting for much of her writing. When not whipping out words on her laptop, she is traveling, enjoying outdoor pursuits, or is curled up with a delicious new book. Loretta lives in Rhode Island with her husband, Geoffrey, and their beloved Mr. Peabody, a sweet, devoted and amusing “Corgador” (Corgi-Labrador cross). (www.LorettaMarion.com)


EXCERPT 1:
Eighty years ago ~ Whale Rock, Massachusetts ~ Cape Cod Bay Friday, December 13th

     Percival Mitchell balled up the tele gram and threw it into the blazing tavern fire. It had arrived that morning, but he’d yet to share the devastating news with his wife. He needed some Dutch courage before he found the words to tell Celeste that now the last of their three boys had been killed. “A shot of Old Crow, Lloyd,” he said to the barkeep, then downed it, glad for the punishing burn in his throat. He’d loved all his sons, but the youngest, Ambrose, had been most like him, with a love of the sea and a desire to see the world.  They’d struck a deal: Ambrose would enlist in the Navy, but after three years’ time he would return to Whale Rock and assume his rightful place at the helm of the family business. Yet only weeks later, while Ambrose was stationed in China on the USS Panay, there’d been a surprise attack by the Japanese on his ship. The attack was allegedly a mistake, and the USS Panay just an unfortunate target— but what consolation would that be to Celeste, who had already lost her other two sons?