Mussolini's Italy to Hollywood where old family ties and open wounds are healed or at least scabbed.
A struggling movie studio run by two Jewish brothers are finding it hard to keep putting out the movies that play to the war stereotype. In an environment where German, Italian and Japanese Americans are being cast as the enemy who lives next door these movie industry people are finding it impossible to work in anything that doesn't cast them as a villain or village idiot. Relationships are formed by people who never would have found each other in Europe or Asia but now a sense of survival has lumped them together. Atmospheric and beautifully told, this is historical fiction that digs deep into the soul of those not in the spotlight. For readers of old Hollywood shenanigans as well as those looking for more of a cultural perspective. 4 stars
A beautifully told story of love and sorrow handed down through generations starting with the first Chinese woman to come to America. Beginning in 1834 With Afong Moy who leads a sad life as a sideshow performer and filtering down to Dorothy in 2045 who attempts to understand her past pain, this is a story of how each generation is overshadowed by trauma from the past. These traumas often feel like a glimpse of deja vu or feeling like you know someone you have never met - a way of seeing life from the shadows or a dream that you can't quite remember clearly. These women endured much and embraced a somewhat different path yet had many similarities. Jamie Ford is so talented in finding something in each character that we can embrace and make a connection. It will come as no surprise how much cruelty humans can inflict upon each other and their equally immense capacity to show compassion. The background for this book, the study of epigenetic inheritance ,is fascinating and Ford provides a wealth of background and reading materials. This will appeal to his many fans as well as readers of Asian historical fiction by Lisa See and Amy Tan. 5 stars
This sweeping historical novel focuses on the many ways we thirst. It can be a physical thirst for water and the many implications when it is given or taken away. There is also the thirst for acceptance and love which is seen in the love that the agent sent to set up a Japanese American internment camp has for the rancher's daughter or the acceptance of those families being rounded up for the camp having that acceptance from their new country taken away. The story is centered around the setting up of an internment camp and how it affects the community around it and the ranching family fighting for extinction should they lose water rights. The sentences are written in short bursts that help the reader reach into each character as well as expertly setting the stage. Even though this is a novel of America and the impact of WWII it is also a love story, a family drama and people fighting both nature and men just to survive. 4 stars
An unusual take on the French Revolution as seen through the eyes of an island born biracial woman caught between two worlds. Fleeing the slave rebellion in Saint Dominque with one of her brothers to the salons of Paris should have made Sylvie feel safe but instead they left one powder keg only to head into another. Sylvie becomes intimate friends/lovers with Maximilian Robespierre and his mistress giving her an open door to the inner circle of those defining the new direction of France. The gentile life she led shielded from the injustice of slavery did not prepare her for the targeting, violence and hatred she witnesses in the new republic and she finds herself in a love triangle between her love for both Robespierre and his mistress Cornelie. This is a world where love is given freely but the political alliances can be a treacherous and deadly game. Unconventional love in the dangerous world of rebellion, revolution and freedom for all. A masterful tale of survival that doesn't sugarcoat the overall butchery of the revolution.
This is one of those books that you think is going in one direction and then suddenly it flips you and you can't tell the good guys from the bad. Cassie is summoned to her NYC upper crust family's side when her younger brother is arrested for the rape of his ex-girlfriend. The Quinn family all have secrets, they are well versed in emotional warfare but above all else they are loyal and stand united in their support of Billy. As the situation gets more intense their relationships and stories take a darker turn. This is not an easy read as it deals with violence against women and the underage grooming of a young girl. Intense, provocative and a story that could have been taken from today's headlines, this is perfect for readers of deep family drama as well as fans of MY DARK VANESSA and DEFENDING JACOB. 4 stars
A Cold War saga of friends, comrades and all the relationships in between. Valery is starving to death in a Siberian prison camp when he is pulled out of his cell, cleaned up and dropped off at a research facility in the middle of nowhere. He is in this city built on top of an old nuclear site to study the effects of exposure to long term radiation. While he can't believe his good fortune and a chance for a second life he becomes all too aware of the dangers of where he is and the village around him. In a strange twist he develops a deep relationship to the one person he should fear - a KGB agent who is in charge of watching over the scientists. When your world is built on lies, fear and secrets how can he trust is anything he sees or hears. It is a quietly intimate story set in the middle of a house of horrors with the added bonus of an octopus who stole my heart.
A Russian classic spy story the likes of Ken Follett or CHILD 44 and others by Tom Rob Smith.
A dark mystery in a gothic setting in Mexico with horror undertones is once again the theme of Silvia Moreno-Garcia's latest. This time she is revisiting the tale of Doctor Moreau and his experiments.
Doctor Moreau is working on a bizarre set of experiments in his remote Yucatan hacienda. With only his daughter, an outcast majordomo, and a handful of servants (mostly hybrid) the doctor maintains a peaceful and secretive existence deep in the jungle. Carlota loves her home and would happily stay there forever but the doctor has run out of funding from his patron which means marrying Carlota off to the wealthy family is the only option. What Carlota sees as a love match could mean disaster and soon the truth about the hybrids and the reason for their existence comes into the light. Class systems and racial tension between the landowners and the indigenous people fighting back adds much to the classic horror story. Her many fans as well as lovers of revisited classics will find much to enjoy with this book.A dark mystery in a gothic setting in Mexico with horror undertones is once again the theme of Silvia Moreno-Garcia's latest. This time she is revisiting the tale of Doctor Moreau and his experiments.
War has broken out in Europe and all over America families are sending their loved ones "over there" to fight in the Great War. A group of patriotic young women want to do their part and respond to a unique opportunity for telephone operators who speak French to participate in the first military program of its kind. The women of the U.S. Army Signal Corps "manned" the switchboard connecting calls from the military headquarters in various locations to the frontlines. They not only acted professionally being trusted not to repeat sensitive information but performed much faster and with greater accuracy than their male counterparts. While exposed to much of the same dangers as the men, that of gas, bombs and the first deadly influenza epidemic, they were expected to act like the military but were denied military benefits after their service was finished. Many of them were awarded high military honors for their contribution and won the respect of General Pershing himself. A wonderful addition to the hidden stories of heroic women during war and a sure bet for Chiaverini's and historical fiction fans. 4 stars
An Agatha Christie style whodunnit with all the atmosphere of MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS but instead of a train we are on the luxury liner The Queen Mary crossing from England to New York. London in the 30's has a certain charm but not for Lena who is a singer in a club trying to follow in her musician father's footsteps. Her father is gone and she has just been fired from the club when her boss dies in front of her leaving Lena as a potential suspect. Fortunately, she has an offer to sail to New York for a job in a broadway show and a good friend in the dead bosses wife who can help her get there. Once on the ship Lena straddles the line between her rooms on the upper decks with the people she must impress and the people of color and staff on the lower decks. Her light skin allows her some freedom but soon she ends up in the middle of more suspicious deaths and deeper into a family plagued by bad luck possibly worse than her own. So many secrets and so many suspects make for a classic British murder mystery on the high seas. Historical fiction readers as well as classic mystery lovers will fall for this romantic sea crossing filled with danger with lovers in the moonlight and killers in the shadows. Bon Voyage! 4 stars
The primary character is a young noblewoman who is married off to a domineering man and then tossed aside when she cannot provide a living male heir. Her story is similar to most of the women in that time but Isabelle made the decision to alter her husband's wishes for a child something that would put her life at risk. After being sent home in disgrace she finds a safe haven in a convent and then in the court of the imprisoned Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine. This story is billed as a story of Queen Eleanor even though she does not enter the story until the last third of the book. The bulk of the story revolves around the strong independent women controlling their own destiny despite the powerful men. This is a women's story from Queen Eleanor down to the orphan Marie who lives at the convent, masterfully told and well researched. Fans of Ken Follett's PILLARS OF THE EARTH series and the classic historical fiction of Philippa Gregory will dive into this meaty tome. 3 1/2 stars
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