Blog Tour Book Review: The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck

About The Women in the Castle

• Hardcover: 368 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow (March 28, 2017)

Three women, haunted by the past and the secrets they hold

Set at the end of World War II, in a crumbling Bavarian castle that once played host to all of German high society, a powerful and propulsive story of three widows whose lives and fates become intertwined—an affecting, shocking, and ultimately redemptive novel from the author of the New York Times Notable Book The Hazards of Good Breeding.

Amid the ashes of Nazi Germany’s defeat, Marianne von Lingenfels returns to the once-grand castle of her husband’s ancestors, an imposing stone fortress now fallen into ruin following years of war. The widow of a resister murdered in the failed July 20, 1944, plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler, Marianne plans to uphold the promise she made to her husband’s brave conspirators: to find and protect their wives, her fellow resistance widows.

First Marianne rescues six-year-old Martin, the son of her dearest childhood friend, from a Nazi reeducation home. Together, they make their way across the smoldering wreckage of their homeland to Berlin, where Martin’s mother, the beautiful and naive Benita, has fallen into the hands of occupying Red Army soldiers. Then she locates Ania, another resister’s wife, and her two boys, now refugees languishing in one of the many camps that house the millions displaced by the war.

As Marianne assembles this makeshift family from the ruins of her husband’s resistance movement, she is certain their shared pain and circumstances will hold them together. But she quickly discovers that the black-and-white, highly principled world of her privileged past has become infinitely more complicated, filled with secrets and dark passions that threaten to tear them apart. Eventually, all three women must come to terms with the choices that have defined their lives before, during, and after the war—each with their own unique share of challenges.

Written with the devastating emotional power of The Nightingale, Sarah’s Key, and The Light Between Oceans, Jessica Shattuck’s evocative and utterly enthralling novel offers a fresh perspective on one of the most tumultuous periods in history. Combining piercing social insight and vivid historical atmosphere, The Women in the Castle is a dramatic yet nuanced portrait of war and its repercussions that explores what it means to survive, love, and, ultimately, to forgive in the wake of unimaginable hardship.

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Happy Thursday everyone! I hope your week has been wonderful thus far! I have had a crazy busy week with work and school (even though I had most of Monday off this week! The good news: I’m not sick anymore! Also good news: I am having a wonderful time reading some really great books.

This week I had the pleasure of reading The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck. I received an ARC from the publisher through TLC Book Tours in exchange for my honest review of it.

The Women in the Castle is a historical fiction novel set in the period around and during World War II. It is told in the alternating perspectives of multiple characters in the story, men and women but really centers around a group of women who find themselves raising their children together in a castle, their husbands dead and just trying to survive and build a life. That is all I will say about the events of the book as I do not want to give spoilers!

So I ended up giving this book a 4.5 out of 5 star rating. I enjoyed reading it although it definitely was hard for me to read it at times as most stories that take place in this time period are just because they tend to have some really heartbreaking but important content. This book was no different in that respect, there was definitely some heartbreaking and terribly tragic events that transpired but it was also interesting, suspenseful and at times hopeful.

This was the first book I have read that shows the events of WWII through the eyes of German citizens who were staunchly against Hitler’s ideals and regime from the start. It also showcased the perspectives of people who were very pro Hitler from the beginning which evolved into them realizing too late what they were actually supporting.   It was just a very interesting and affecting story. WWII stories for me are always glimpses of the absolute worst of humanity with pockets of goodness shining through like the people who opposed such cruelty and tried against all odds to save lives. I think the author treated really difficult themes really well.

The only thing I had a little bit of a hard time with was the timeline. I love stories with multiple perspectives but this one also had an alternating timeline where it wasn’t told in a straight line type of narrative but rather, it jumped around and back and forth through time. It wasn’t super difficult for me to follow but I can see how it might be difficult for some readers. It did help that the dates are provided but I found myself having to back track and connect the years and months to create a picture of the timeline in my mind to make sure I was getting events in the right order.

I loved the writing and I empathized with all of the characters and felt especially connected to Benita and Martin – what they go through and where they end up. There were alot of pieces of this story that were gut wrenching for me, I didn’t need to put the book down which is something I find myself doing every now and then with WWII books that include descriptions of human cruelty to the Jews but I did have to close my eyes, take a deep breath and move forward. Things that also affected me in this story were the sexual slavery of women in wartime, cruelty to children and some things I consider examples of animal cruelty.

I love reading books in this style that show the affects of WWII on the lives of so many and the evolution of their life and beliefs throughout. I definitely recommend this book to readers that love historical fiction or are interested in reading more historical fiction based in WWII.

Photo by Lesley Unruh

About Jessica Shattuck

Jessica Shattuck is the award-winning author of The Hazards of Good Breeding, which was a New York Times Notable Book and finalist for the PEN/Winship Award, and Perfect Life. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, New Yorker, Glamour, Mother Jones, Wired, and The Believer, among other publications. A graduate of Harvard University, she received her MFA from Columbia University. She lives with her husband and three children in Brookline, Massachusetts.

Find out more about Jessica at her website and connect with her on Facebook.

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Blog Tour Book Review: The Mermaids of Lake Michigan by Suzanne Kamata

About The Mermaids of Lake Michigan

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Wyatt-MacKenzie Publishing (February 14, 2017)

Elise Faulkner is more at home in the waters of her beloved Lake Michigan than on land where her beauty queen mom is always on her back about her lack of a social life; her sister is dating the boy of her dreams; her favorite penpal–the one who wrote about mermaids in Ghana–has gotten married and ended their correspondence; and no one’s allowed to talk about her glamorous great-grandmother, the deep-sea wreck diver. Elise is biding her time with books until she can flee. But then crazy Chiara Hanover pops into her life, as does Miguel, a mysterious carnival worker whose dark future has been predicted by a gypsy.

 

“A lyrical, compelling coming-of-age story with magical elements.” — Kirkus Reviews

“Elise Faulkner drew me into her head and heart so subtly, yet with such force, that by the end I was cheering her on. Suzanne Kamata has woven an honest, aching coming-of-age story that will speak to women everywhere.” ?Kristin Bair O’Keeffe, author of The Art of Floating and Thirsty

“Suzanne Kamata has written a novel of great charm and depth, with a bit of magical realism laced with humor. Elise, its engaging narrator opens her arms and her heart to life’s complexity, including family secrets and escapades with a magnificent new bestie–the irrepressible Chiara. When an unlikely romance unfolds with a mysterious drifter/musician, Kamata steers us expertly into darker waters. A jewel of a novel, set on the shores of Lake Michigan with Kamata’s signature compassion for all of its characters.” — Margaret Willey, author of Summer of the Silk Moths

“The Mermaids of Lake Michigan is a luminous coming-of-age story about a teen struggling against social norms and her own family legacy to find her way. Elise’s journey is hardly the stuff of fairy tales, as she ends up far from home, and far from the self she meant to be. Raw, real and even a bit magical.” — Kristina Riggle, author of The Life You’ve Imagined and Vivian in Red

“Suzanne Kamata’s new novel, The Mermaids of Lake Michigan, is a beautiful story about a teenage girl who must learn to balance her idealism and belief in mermaids with the harsh realities of growing up and trying to find people to love and trust. A page-turner set in the unstable years of the 1970s, I devoured it in one sitting. It brought back memories of my own adolescence and took me beyond, in that way all good novels do, into the wonderings of circumstance and the choices we would make if faced with hard decisions. Suitable for teens and adults alike, this novel will teach readers to believe in magic even in the face of tragedy.” — Cassie Premo Steele, author of Beautiful Waters

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Hello all! Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for The Mermaids of Lake Michigan by Suzanne Kamata. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review of it.

The Mermaids of Lake Michigan is a coming of age story about a young girl named Elise. She is an introverted bookworm until she meets Chiara, someone who challenges her to be different and to push her own boundaries. When she sees a handsome stranger at a carnival and runs into him days after, it seems like fate and through her experiences with these two people, her life is never again the same.

The Mermaids of Lake Michigan and how much I liked it, was a surprise for me. It is super short in length and when I held it in my hands I was nervous for it because of the length as some shorter books feel like they should be longer but I really felt like this book and these characters accomplished so much in so short a page length.  

The writing was beautiful and gripped me from the very beginning. There were a few paragraphs and dialogue sentences that I just had to read over and over because of how beautiful they were and how they made me feel about the characters. It definitely has a “coming of age” story feel right off the bat and I really enjoyed that as well as the atmosphere of it being set in the 70s. That was really evident in the narrative and the writing made it just so easy to be transported to that time frame, I could almost see the clothes, hear the music, feel the heartbreak and the friendships.

I literally read this in a day, really enjoyed it and recommend it if you’re looking for a really short read that packs a pretty nice punch of a story. I enjoyed this so much, it was super relatable and evoked feelings from my own childhood/teenage years when you are just finding yourself and who you are going to become. If you like coming of age stories, this may be to your liking! Four stars!

About Suzanne Kamata

Suzanne Kamata was born and raised in Grand Haven, Michigan. She is most recently from Lexington, South Carolina, and now lives in Tokushima Prefecture, Japan with her husband and two children. Her short stories, essays, articles and book reviews have appeared in over 100 publications including Real Simple, Brain, Child, Crab Orchard Review, and The Japan Times. Her work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize five times, and received a Special Mention in 2006. She is also a two-time winner of the All Nippon Airways/ Wingspan Fiction Contest, winner of the Paris Book Festival Award, and winner of the Half the World Global Literati Award for the novel.

Connect with Suzanne

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Blog Tour Book Review: Yesternight by Cat Winters

yesternight-coverAbout Yesternight

� Paperback: 400 pages
� Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (October 4, 2016)

From the author of The Uninvited comes a haunting historical novel with a compelling mystery at its core.� A young child psychologist steps off a train, her destination a foggy seaside town. There, she begins a journey causing her to question everything she believes about life, death, memories, and reincarnation.

In 1925, Alice Lind steps off a train in the rain-soaked coastal hamlet of Gordon Bay, Oregon. There, she expects to do nothing more difficult than administer IQ tests to a group of rural schoolchildren. A trained psychologist, Alice believes mysteries of the mind can be unlocked scientifically, but now her views are about to be challenged by one curious child.

Seven-year-old Janie O�Daire is a mathematical genius, which is surprising. But what is disturbing are the stories she tells: that her name was once Violet, she grew up in Kansas decades earlier, and she drowned at age nineteen. Alice delves into these stories, at first believing they�re no more than the product of the girl�s vast imagination.� But, slowly, Alice comes to the realization that Janie might indeed be telling a strange truth.

Alice knows the investigation may endanger her already shaky professional reputation, and as a woman in a field dominated by men she has no room for mistakes. But she is unprepared for the ways it will illuminate terrifying mysteries within her own past, and in the process, irrevocably change her life.

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Happy Tuesday everyone! I am happy to bring you my review of Yesternight by Cat Winters. I received this book from the publisher Harper Collins through TLC Book Tours in exchange for my honest review of it.

Yesternight is a historical fiction story about a young trained psychologist, Alice Lind, who travels the country testing children’s educational aptitude for the department of education. On her current assignment she meets an extraordinary young girl who seems to have the knowledge and memory of someone twice her age, quite literally claiming to have lived another life. Meeting her sends Alice on a hunt for answers, not only for the child and her family, but also for herself.

Yesternight wasn’t quite what I was expected it to be, which turned out to be a wonderfully good thing. I definitely wasn’t expecting to react to it the way I did. When I finally read this book, it had been months since I had last read the synopsis so I went into my read of it with fresh eyes and no clue as to what to expect, other than the front cover as a clue. I was way off judging from the cover. I expected a women’s historical fiction book. While I definitely got that in this book, it was actually so much more than that. It was unexpectedly creepy, which was awesome for an October read! I don’t know if this book was meant to be chilling and suspenseful but I read this book between the hours of 12 and 4 in the morning with the rest of the house asleep and all the lights off (except my handy dandy book light) and it was definitely a bit creepy! Aside from that, this was a wonderful read. It definitely dealt in the realm of women’s fiction as our main character, Alice, is  working in a predominantly male profession and is struggling with the preferential treatment of men in her field and in academia. She is very much an independent, modern woman in command of her own sexuality which I loved to see in this book.

I just really loved that this story was so layered. We have that women’s fiction layer but deeper than that there is this mystery/thriller beneath the surface that I did not expect but was fascinated by. This was a thrilling, entertaining story that I would highly recommend to historical fiction or mystery fans alike. Loved this book, I could not put it down! A five star read!

Photo by Tara Kelly

Photo by Tara Kelly

About Cat Winters

Cat Winters’s debut novel, In the Shadow of Blackbirds, was released to widespread critical acclaim. The novel has been named a finalist for the 2014 Morris Award, a�School Library Journal Best Book of 2013, and a Booklist 2013 Top 10 Horror Fiction for Youth. Winters lives in Portland, Oregon, with her husband and two children.

Find out more about Cat at her website, and follow her on tumblr, Pinterest, Instagram,�Facebook, and Twitter.

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Blog Tour Book Review: Fiercombe Manor by Kate Riordan

Fiercombe ManorAbout Fiercombe Manor

– Hardcover: 416 pages
Publisher: Harper (February 17, 2015)
– Rating: 4 stars

A house as old as Fiercombe Manor holds many secrets within its walls. But which dark chapter of its history is haunting Alice, a young woman staying there during the course of a fateful summer?

In 1933, naive twenty-two-year-old Alice is pregnant, unmarried, and disgraced. She can no longer share her parents’ London home, so her desperate mother concocts a cover story and begs her old friend, Mrs. Jelphs, for help. The housekeeper at rural Fiercombe Manor, Mrs. Jelphs is moved by Alice’s “plight” as a new widow and agrees to watch over her in the secluded English countryside until the baby is born and given up for adoption. Because the manor house’s owners, Lord and Lady Stanton, no longer live there, Alice’s only company will be Mrs. Jelphs and her skeleton staff.

Thirty years before Alice’s arrival, Lady Elizabeth Stanton awaits the birth of her second child, fervently hoping he will be the boy her husband desires. But as her time nears, she is increasingly tormented by memories of what happened with her first baby and terrified that history will repeat itself . . . with devastating consequences.

At first, Fiercombe Manor offers Alice a welcome relief from her mother’s disapproving gaze. But she begins to sense that all is not well in the picturesque Gloucestershire valley. After a chance encounter with Tom, the young scion of the Stanton family, Alice discovers that Fiercombe’s beauty is haunted by the clan’s tragic past. She is determined to exorcise the ghosts of the idyllic, isolated house.

Nothing can prepare Alice for what she uncovers. Can she escape the tragic fate of the other women who have lived in the Fiercombe valley?

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Happy Tuesday and welcome to my stop on the Blog Tour for Fiercombe Manor! Thank you to Kate Riordan and TLC Book Tours for giving me the chance to read and review this book!

Fiercombe Manor is a work of historical fiction that is told through the dual narratives of Elizabeth and Alice. These two women live in completely different time periods but their stories connect across time. The bulk of the story takes place on Fiercombe Manor and it’s surrounding area.

In general I tend to love stories that are told through multiple perspectives and it was a really great way to connect the stories of both of these women. I loved seeing the differences in their lives and in their feelings and I was always especially interested in Alice’s feelings about Elizabeth throughout the book.

The thing that really interested me while reading this book though was the manor and the property around it itself. I found the descriptons of the manor to be irresistible. It felt so real to me as I was reading it, I could definitely picture walking down it’s hallways and hearing the creaks of it’s old floorboards and doors. What a wonderful setting for this story!

This story was a bit slow to develop but it did keep me interested in it as part of the beauty of historical fiction novels is the amount of detail given to the geography and the historical elements in the stories. It was definitely well written and descriptive with a light yet somber feel. It really did have a historical feel to it. It was also creepy in the perfect places. This book was interesting as it can be classified under a few genres that I love: women’s fiction, mystery, supernatural and overall, historical fiction. I do think that historical fiction fans will enjoy reading this book as I very much enjoyed it. I was glued to it’s pages from start to finish and felt very much transported to a different time.

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Kate RiordanAbout Kate Riordan

Kate Riordan is a British writer and journalist who worked for the Guardian and Time Out London. She is also the author of Birdcage Walk and is already at work on her third novel. Born in London, she now lives in the Gloucestershire countryside.

Find out more about Kate at her website and connect with her on Twitter.