Tag Archives: Historical fiction

Book Review: The Rising Place – Emotionally Charged Debut Novel

The Rising Place

By David Armstrong

David, a young lawyer in Hamilton, Mississippi met Emily Hodge when she was 75. He did not know much about Miss Emily, but wondered why someone born and bred in Hamilton was not surrounded by family and friends from the long life she led when her days become numbered. She shared a picture of her late teenage years with David and he was startled to see she was beautiful and full of life.

After her funeral, he gathered up the picture and some letters he found in the drawer next to her bed. Therein lies the history and heartache of Miss Emily. Never married, she fell in love with a man that was one quarter African American. Harry is a pilot and took her flying in his plane. They were intimate just once, right before he left for the war. As fate would have it, she was pregnant. So began the ostracizing of Miss Emily. The 1940’s in Mississippi were intolerant of mixed marriages and no compassion was given to unwed mothers.

Heartbroken and lonely, she began writing Harry about her love for him, the progress of her pregnancy and the racial tensions in Hamilton. Headstrong and defiant, Miss Emily refused to stop seeing her best friend Wilma who is an African American. This is just not done in Mississippi in the 1940s.

The Rising Place is an interesting, emotionally charged glimpse at life in the 1940s south. While it is a work of fiction, there are many parallels to the events that actually occurred during that timeframe. The war, racial tension and the societal rules for women are clearly outlined, yet challenged by Miss Emily no matter the high cost of spending most of her adult life alone.

This fast and fascinating book is David Armstrong’s debut novel. Previously made into a film, The Rising Place is available on DVD. As always, I suggest reading the book first – it is always better, even if the film is fabulous. He has previously published collections of his short works and screenplays.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy from publicist Maryglenn McCombs in exchange for a fair and honest review. Copyright © 2020 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Bad Love Tigers – “Live Dangerously, Have Fun – Don’t Die”

bad love tigersBad Love Tigers

By: Kevin L. Schewe MD.FACRO

The Bad Love Gang is back with guns blazing to save the world. Their motto is “live dangerously, have fun – don’t die”, which sums up their crazy, time traveling adventures.

Amidst spies, assassins and aliens, the gang travels around the United States and China on their current mission. Bouncing from the 1970’s to the 1940’s BB, Browmar, Bucky, Waldo and Tator have the honor of meeting with President Roosevelt very shortly before his death. During this meeting they discuss the White Hole Project (time travel) and shock FDR by reintroducing him to Bucky, who was assumed dead the first time the White Hole Project was used.

With FDR paving the way for them and the rest of the Bad Love Gang as they travel to several key cities working undercover to complete their mission. One of the stops was personal for Bucky. He needs to see his parents as they were notified that he was missing in action and presumed dead. One of their destinations is the infamous Area 51 and a spot in China that observers claimed to see a space ship much like the one in the states. Arriving there in time to contact the aliens, will change the gang’s lives forever.

Schewe brings page turning action and drama from the first pages to the last. His characters are quirky and funny, cracking jokes amidst missions that will impact each of them as well as the world as we know it. It is fascinating to read the historical facts interwoven with the time traveling fictional characters. I was particularly interested in learning more about Allen Wright, a real-life hero that flew missions in China in the 1940’s. Yes, I did look him up and he was an amazing man. I love a work a fiction that takes this leap to further engage the reader and provide an opportunity to read more about the historical facts and figures mentioned along the way.

I suggest reading Bad Love Strikes, the first book in the series before this one, but if you want to jump in and read the books out of order, I don’t think you will be overly confused or lost. Getting to know the characters in the first book gives the reader a foundation for the second. Like the first book, the author gives us a sound track which includes songs from the 50s to the 70s. It is fun to listen to the music the characters are enjoying while reading, pulling the reader further into the story.

Bad Love Tigers is the second book in The Bad Love Series by Schewe. It is appropriate for teens, young adults and adults. If this book was a movie, I’d rate it PG13 as there is language as well as references to sex, but nothing explicit.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy from Scott Lorenz in conjunction with Westwind Book Marketing in exchange for a fair and honest review. Copyright © 2020 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Bad Love Strikes – Time Travel and History Perfectly Paired

Bad Love Strikes

By: Kevin L. Schewe MD.FACRO

The summer of 1974 opens with an eclectic group of teens calling themselves Bad Love doing what kids do. Driving motorbikes, hanging out and fooling around. But when they happen upon a secret in the desert their lives will change in an instant. Two of the members, Kevin “Bubble Butt” Schafer and Nathan “Bowmar” stumble upon the remnants of a top-secret project from the 1930’s that involved the unlikely pairing of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Albert Einstein. Named the White Hole Project, Einstein and FDR created and possibly used time travel, but kept it a secret from the world.

While doing research about time travel, Bubble Butt and Bowmar read about a mysterious event in World War II. The Phantom Fortress, a plane that landed with no one on board, intrigued them. Had the occupants of the plane time traveled just as the plane landed? The Bad Love gang soon find themselves planning to time travel to 1944 in order to find out what happened to soldiers in the plane and hopefully save a group of Jewish people and gypsies from the clutches of the remnants of the Nazi regime. They can only hope to make it back to 1974 alive, but are determined to complete the mission they have taken on no matter the outcome.

Criss crossing through time, Bad Love Strikes is full of page turning action with interesting bits of history in every chapter. The growth of the characters from carefree teens evolving to time traveling lifesaving warriors is fascinating.

Much like Guardians of The Galaxy, Bad Love Strikes has a playlist. The beginning of the book gives the readers a song to play while reading each chapter.  Songs from the 60’s and 70’s run through the reader’s head as the characters sing the words to the familiar tunes. This added a fun element that really connects readers to the characters and settings. By peppering the pages with quotes from Einstein and FDR, Schewe skillfully brings bits of history to his novel in an interesting way.

Schewe, is a board-certified cancer specialist as well as an author. Bad Love Strikes is the first book in The Bad Love Series and the first work of fiction for this author. I highly recommend this book to anyone who likes their history with a bit of adventure and humor. It is appropriate for teens, young adults and adults.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy from Scott Lorenz in conjunction with Westwind Book Marketing in exchange for a fair and honest review. Copyright © 2020 Laura Hartman

 

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Book Review: We Came Here to Shine – Historical Fiction Takes Readers to the 1939 World’s Fair

We Came Here to Shine

By Susie Orman Schnall

Vivi Holden and Maxine (Max) Roth are two different women on very different paths in life. Little did they know that they would become best friends amidst the awe and wonder of the 1939 World’s Fair in New York City.

Max is a fledgling writer trying to make her way in a man’s world. The summer internship she covets is working for the New York Times. Her reality is being assigned to write the daily newspaper for the World’s Fair by her professor at NYU. Unfortunately, she is not the only one assigned to the Fair. Charlie, a fellow classmate will be working along side of Max. Charlie is assigned all of the coveted articles only because the boss feels women are better at organizing rather than actually being good writers.

Vivi is an actress that has been sent to NY from LA to become the lead swimmer in the Aquacade production. With an impossibly short time to learn the routine and the fact that she has not been in a pool since high school, she is up a creek without a paddle. To make matters worse, the person assigned to teaching her the difficult routines has been filling the role Vivi is taking. The only reason she has agreed to the part is because her manager has promised her the lead in a film as soon as the Fair closes.

Max and Vivi meet after listening to feminist Elizabeth Dorchester’s speech at the Democracity exhibit at the Fair. They quickly bond as both are inspired by the message of equality for women. Soon they are sharing their hopes, dreams and frustrations with each other. Vivi’s manager holds her life and career in his hands and Max’s editor holds her fate as a serious reporter in his. Both women will need to struggle and claim the path in life they want and need to take. Unfortunately, most women in 1939 are at the mercy of the men that employ them. Unbeknownst to them, both girls will become part of the movement to change the mindset of men and women alike as they fight for their personal rights to be heard.

We Came Here to Shine is like stepping into the past on a guided tour with friends. The characters are realistic and interesting. I enjoy the depth of each of the girls. They are dealing with not only equality issues, but deep personal issues as well. The World’s Fair looms bigger than life for the characters as well as the readers. The innovations that are detailed in this fascinating book are fun to experience with the characters. What is now outdated or taken for granted is all brand new for Vivi and Max as well as those who attend the 1939 World’s Fair.

This is the second book I’ve read by Susie Orman Schnall. I love the nod to the other book I read, The Subway Girls, that Ms. Orman Schnall weaves seamlessly into We Come Here to Shine. Her knowledge and research paint a beautiful background for her characters in both novels. I highly recommend both of these books. Both of them have solid, interesting plots that take

the reader back in time. Actual events in history are combined with interesting fictional people creating two of the best historical fiction novels I have ever read. I highly recommend them.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. Copyright ©2020 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Murder, She Encountered – Fun and Informative Historical Cozy Mystery

12.25.19Murder, She Encountered

By Peg Cochran

Elizabeth Adams, is a woman before her time. She is a crime photographer at the Daily Trumpet in New York City and works closely with veteran crime reporter Ralph Kaminsky. Today no one would blink an eye at a woman photographer, but in 1939 that is virtually unheard of. She is a career woman when almost all women married and stayed home to raise children.

The reporter and his photographer are on the way to the World’s Fair, where a robbery has just been committed. But when they arrive to get the details for a story, a dead body is found. Is this crime connected to the robbery or is it unrelated? Both Biz (as Kaminsky calls Elizabeth) and Kaminsky are on the trail. The story takes them in and around the World’s Fair as well as New York City.

While working the clues to the crimes at the World’s Fair, Kaminsky has a health scare. Unlike other women of the day, Elizabeth jumps right into the investigation, much to everyone else’s dismay. They might just be right when she puts herself in danger. Hopefully the reporter and his favorite photographer will live to write another story.

All of the details Cochran adds to this historical cozy mystery are fascinating. From the nickel and dime subway rides to the high heels Elizabeth wears to crime scenes, the reader is pulled into the past. The setting of this novel is brilliant. Bodies among the new inventions that we now consider relics of our past really pulls the reader into the past and the story. I love learning new facts about the World’s Fair that Cochran tucks in this perfect cozy mystery.

This is the third book in the Murder She Encountered Series. It is the first book I have read in the series, and I found it fun and interesting. I was not confused or lost by jumping in the middle of the series. It is also the first book I have read by the prolific cozy author, Peg Cochran. She is the author of several cozy mystery series. I am excited to read the others in this series.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. Copyright © 2019 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Girls of Pearl Harbor – Page Turning Historical Fiction

The Girls of Pearl Harbor

By Soraya M. Lane

 

Sisters April and Grace, along with their best friend Poppy are on an adventure. At least for now that is what it feels like. The girls have been close for years, and when April decided to follow her dream to become a nurse in the military, Poppy and Grace went along. They were far from dedicated in the beginning; Grace couldn’t even stand the sight of blood. But all of them made it through nursing school and enlisted. Their assignment was in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. It was 1941 and they seemed to spend more time on the beach than nursing, which was working out fine for Grace.

Then tragedy struck. Pearl Harbor was attacked. Life as they had grown accustom to was forever changed. People very close to them died that day and the wounded needed the nurse’s care more than ever before.

After the initial tragic days, it was evident the girls might not be staying in Pearl Harbor because they needed to be closer to the action to help our wounded soldiers. When April decided to go to Africa, her sister insisted on going also. They were needed there, but the living conditions were poor and the injuries were much worse than they encountered in Hawaii.

Their personal lives were in turmoil as well. Grace trying to be her own person and April always trying to mother her didn’t help. The girls love and depend upon each other, but even sisters have secrets they don’t want to share.

The Girls of Pearl Harbor allows the reader to enter an historical event from an angle different than most. All Americans as well as most of the world have heard about the attack that brought the United States into the war, but the characters bringing the reality to readers from each of their different perspectives was very interesting.

I also liked that choice of the girls going to Africa instead of the South Pacific as was expected. I didn’t realize that much fighting during the war was based there, as well as the brave nurses and other medical personnel that were needed to care for the wounded.

The characters were interesting and multidimensional. The growth in the nurses, as well as the way each of them handled their job as well as their personal losses, was an integral part of the plot and well done. The only thing that didn’t ring true was the amount of time they spent holding each other’s hands, grasping hands, clutching hands…it seemed as though they could not walk anywhere without all of them holding hands like toddlers. I even asked my aunt who lived on the base at Pearl Harbor while her husband was stationed there in the late 1940s if women held hands all the time. She answered no, they did not. I understand once in a while when someone is upset, but it got to be too frequent for me, taking away from the story.

Overall, The Girls of Pearl Harbor was very interesting and the characters likeable. I recommend it to fans of historical fiction and women’s fiction.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. Copyright © 2019 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Claire’s Last Secret – Intriguing Historical Mystery

Claire’s Last Secret

By Marty Ambrose

Based upon the true story of the conception and infamous writing weekend of Mary Shelly’s famous Gothic ghost story, Frankenstein, this historical mystery intertwines delicious bits of true history with a tantalizing tale of lost love and murder.

Set in 1873, the stepsister of Mary Shelley, Claire Cairmont is the only survivor of that fateful summer in 1816. Now Claire is forced to remember those days – as if she could ever forget.

As a young woman, in love with a married man and expecting his child, her future was uncertain. Claire was and is a free spirit, living life as she chose, not as was expected of her. She was on holiday with Mary, poet Percy Bysshe Shelley (Mary’s husband) and Lord Byron. It was during this holiday that Frankenstein was born and Claire’s life changed forever.

Claire now lives with her beloved niece and grandniece, but they are hardly living in luxury. Their basic needs are barely met, but it is doubtful they will be able to make it much longer without some income. Surprisingly, a man contacts them requesting an audience with Claire. He wants to purchase personal letters and memorabilia from the time spent in 1816 with Byron and Shelley. By selling them, she and her niece would be able to live comfortably, but does this benefactor bring salvation or death to her door?

The tangled relationships of 1816 have come back to haunt Claire as she is in the twilight of her life. Must she live through the agony of losing Lord Byron and the fateful events surrounding the best and worst time of her life.

Ambrose’s work of literary historical fiction is interesting and intriguing. She alternates the story between 1816 and 1873, filling in interesting background and events that led up to the mystery man and his reason for entering her life.

Claire’s Secret is the first book of a planned trilogy. Ms. Ambrose is a gifted writer, with several books to her credit. The most popular is her modern day Mango Bay Mystery series starring Mallie Monroe. Claire’s Secret is the first book I’ve read by this author, and thoroughly enjoyed it. The literary prose in an easy to read format was refreshing and entertaining. I cannot wait to read the next book in the series.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review. Copyright © 2018 Laura Hartman

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Book Review – Auschwitz Lullaby – A Haunting Story of a Mother’s Undying Love

Auschwitz Lullaby

By Mario Escobar

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Helene’s husband Johann was a member of the Berlin Philharmonic before the Nazi’s turned the world upside down. Because he is Romaini, or Gypsy he was no longer allowed to work even though he is a violin virtuoso. Helene can still work because she is a purebred German. The family of seven lives in their own apartment. Food is hard to obtain but they have enough to get by.

Their last day of freedom was like any other. Helene readied the older four children for school. Johann and their youngest child slept up until minutes before their world exploded. As Helene and the children left for the day, Nazi soldiers stormed up the stairs. They had finally come for Johann and the children. Helene was free to stay, but she refused to be left behind.

Thus begins the days of physical and mental anguish. The family is taken via cattle car to Auschwitz. They are hungry, thirsty and terrified. Once they arrive at the camp, Johann is separated from the rest of his family. The barracks are cold, dirty and survival is the only thing everyone cares about. Helene’s family loses the precious few pieces of warm clothes they have to thieves before they realize that their world has forever changed.

Because Helene is a nurse, she is immediately of use to her captors. Life becomes incrementally better when she is moved to a different barracks with women she can trust with her children while she works. Her job in the camp brings her in close contact with one of the most horrific men in the Nazi party, Herr Doktor Mengele.

Helene fears for her children, but is strong and stands up for herself. Mengele admires her and puts her in charge of the Zigeunerlager kindergarten in Auschwitz-Birkenau. While it seems wonderful in the beginning, offering more food and things for the children to do, it is probably just a show for the visiting Nazi leaders. And it is the perfect place for Mengele to find twins to try his experiments on. As the war nears the end, what will happen to Helene and her children as well as the rest of the prisoners?

Escobar’s telling of Helene’s story is heartbreakingly beautiful. The strength of the prisoners, the brutality of the Nazis and the bits of love and happiness that were found in one of the most horrific places on earth all play out in on the pages. This book is based upon the true story of Helene Hannemann and her five children. He visited Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II, Holocaust museums and read scores of documents during his research for this poignant book.  The result personalizes the countless atrocities experienced in the camps.

Reading the story of Helene and her family was not always easy. It is evident Escobar put his heart and soul into Auschwitz Lullaby. I would not be surprised to see it becoming as influential as The Diary of A Young Girl (also known as The Diary of Anne Frank) and deservedly so. Escobar’s words will haunt you long after the last page.

Copyright © 2018 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Murder on Union Square – A Gaslight Mystery

Murder on Union Square

By Victoria Thompson

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Penguin First to Read in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Frank Malloy and his wife Sarah are looking for a killer in the latest Gaslight Mystery by award winning author Victoria Thompson. When Malloy is found with bloody hands over the body of a dead man, the local police figure they have an open and shut case. Malloy, former cop turned PI is not a favorite of the precinct which just adds more fuel to the fire. And if that isn’t enough to get him in hot water, the dead man needed to sign custody papers so that Sarah and Malloy could adopt the victim’s daughter, which according to the police, gives Malloy the perfect motive.

Sarah quickly bails Malloy out and rounds up Gino (Malloy’s partner) and Maeve (Sarah’s right-hand gal) to start investigating the murder to clear her husband’s name. The problem is there is an unreliable witness that claims Malloy is the killer. It doesn’t help that it happened in a theater full of actors, all of which seemed to have an ax to grind with the victim and his girlfriend. Everyone seems to be lying or hiding something from each other and the investigators, who must pull out all stops to find the truth, clear Malloy’s name and put the real killer behind bars.

This is the twenty-first book in Thompson’s Gaslight Mystery Series. It is the first one that I have read, and it works as a stand-alone novel. There were a few times I was fuzzy on who a specific character was for a page or two but Thompson skillfully gave enough information to put them in context before the end of the chapter. It is no surprise that she is a #1 Best Selling New York Times author as well as Edgar and Agatha nominee.

Murder on Union Square is tantalizingly engaging. I love the depth of characters as well as the twists and turns of the storyline. There is something cozy and comforting about historical novels that draw me in immediately. While I am thankful for cell phones and modern forensics, it is refreshing to have mysteries that are solved with shoe leather and wit.

Somehow I’ve missed out on Thompson’s series before now, but cannot wait to put the other twenty on my wish list. Anyone who is a fan of captivating historical mysteries and realistic characters should do that same.

Copyright © 2018 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Twenty-one Days – Stellar Work of Historical History

Twenty-one Days – A Daniel Pitt Novel

By Anne Perry

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Set in 1910, Twenty-one Days opens with young barrister Daniel Pitt defending a wealthy man of dubious reputation. Murder is the charge and Pitt’s father is associated with the former police officer standing trial. While the young lawyer is smart and clever, he is worried that he is in over his head. To make matters worse, there is another man on trial for killing his wife in a most brutal way and Pitt is needed the next day to take the place of an injured co-worker so he must wrap up the trial the next morning or the accused will then have to start over with a new defense attorney. Good or bad, Pitt had to finish and be in court at the Old Bailey – the most famous court in the British Empire.

He makes it to court, albeit late.  Kitterage is the lawyer in charge; Pitt will be doing as told. Unfortunately things go south in a hurry. The distasteful accused claimed innocence but it seemed unlikely anyone else could have brutally murdered his wife. Not only was she murdered, but horribly disfigured by burning her face and upper torso after death. This trial does not go the way Kitterage and Pitt planned. Their client was quickly found guilty and set to hang in twenty-one days. He was not a pleasant man, as a matter of fact he was most distasteful. But he was entitled to every effort of his two attorneys to win an appeal to keep him from the hangman’s noose.

To further complicate Kitterage and Pitt’s job even further, the accused has countless enemies due to a controversial manuscript he intends to publish. At best it includes damning information of several highly recognizable and influential citizens. Unfortunately, it borders on treason at the highest level, which is alienating him from the men hired to keep him from hanging. Pitt finds himself working day and night to help the man that just might “rip the masks off of people we regard as heroes” – twenty-one days to do the impossible.

This is the first book in award winning author Anne Perry’s new series starring Daniel Pitt, but it is the 33rd book in the Pitt series. It is the first one I’ve read, but I did not feel confused or that I was missing something in the story for not having started with the entire Pitt series. It is easy to see why Perry is an internationally renowned historical novelist. Her intriguing plot, engaging prose and multidimensional characters are skillfully woven into a page turning book that will delight mystery lovers worldwide.  Ms. Perry is second to none when writing historical fiction.

Copyright © 2018 Laura Hartman

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