[Review] We Shall Not Shatter: A World War II Story of Friendship, Family, and Hope Against All Odds by Elaine Stock

Publisher and Publication Date: Amsterdam Publishers. May 15, 2022.
Genre: Historical fiction. World War II literature.
Pages: 398.
Format: E-book.
Source: I received a complimentary e-book from Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours, Elaine Shatter, and Amsterdam Publishers. I am not required to write a positive review.
Audience: Readers of historical fiction who want to read World War II literature.
Rating: Very good.

Page for the Book Tour which runs May 15-31 @ Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours.

AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE

LOOK FOR THE AUDIO BOOK OF ALL 3 BOOKS OF THE RESILIENT WOMEN OF WWII TRILOGY TO BE RELEASED BY TANTOR MEDIA, PART OF RECORDED BOOKS. THEY WILL BE SOLD IN BOTH DOWNLOADABLE DIGITAL FORMATS, AS WELL AS CD AUDIOBOOKS AND WILL BE SOLD ON AMAZON, BARNES AND NOBLE, INDEPENDENT BOOKSTORES, AND MOST ANY OTHER OF YOUR FAVORITE VENUES.

Praise:

“For anyone who loved ‘All the Light We Cannot See’ by Anthony Doerr, this is another beautiful journey of not just one woman’s story through the turbulent times of Nazi Germany, but two. A story which will touch your heart, and perhaps bring a few tears to wipe away, showing how love does indeed break barriers and sees beyond human labels and disabilities. You will absolutely fall in love with Zofia and Aanya, and how strong friendships were forged in the heat of oppression from Hitler’s Germany despite their different faiths.”
— Historical Fiction Company

“Drawing from her own family’s history, author Elaine Stock has created a compelling story of enduring friendship, heart wrenching sacrifice, and resilient strength. While set during one of the darkest moments on history’s stage, We Shall Not Shatter’s themes—conveyed through characters who will inhabit your heart—have much to say to readers in today’s world, too.”
— Carrie Schmidt, ReadingIsMySuperPower.org

“Elaine Stock’s novel, We Shall Not Shatter, the first of a promised trilogy, Resilient Women of WWII, is a poignant and heartfelt tale of perseverance, of friendship across boundaries, of making families in different ways, of horror and of healing. In the characters of Zofia and Aanya, and the families they make and lose in their native Poland, the barbarities of war, the added peril of Aanya’s deafness, and their harrowing escape, the story is offset by the plot strands of Christians helping Jews, Germans helping Poles, hearing people cherishing the strength of the deaf, and the deaf healing others. This is a story not only of resilience, but of the victory of love and friendship over pain and suffering.”
— Barbara Stark-Nemon, author of the award-winning novels, Even in Darkness and Hard Cider, Speech-language therapist and Teacher Consultant for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing

“We Shall Not Shatter is a compelling novel, inspired by real-life events in Brzeziny, Poland that so dramatically changed the fortunes of both a close-knit Jewish family and a Catholic family during the Hitler years. Elaine Stock’s poignant narrative charts the despair, confusion and sheer will to survive during this terrible period in modern European history. This is a story that oozes tragedy, hope, love and courage in the face of adversity.”
— Ron Vincent, author of The House on Thrömerstrasse: A Story of Rebirth and Renewal in the Wake of the Holocaust

“The story and its characters will linger in the reader’s heart for days… perhaps forever.”
— Patricia Bradley, Author of the Logan Point Series, Memphis Cold Case Novels, Natchez Trace Park Ranger Series

“We Shall Not Shatter takes readers on a rare journey of life-tested relationships and uncompromising courage. Stock brilliantly creates a time and place that is terrible and heartbreaking only to reveal the beauty that awaits on the other side of devastation. This story will stay with you long after the last page is turned.”
— London Clarke, #1 Amazon bestselling author of Wildfell and The Meadows

About the Author:

Elaine Stock writes Historical Fiction, exploring home, family and friendships throughout time. She enjoys creating stories showing how all faiths, races, and belief systems are interconnected and need each other.

Elaine’s grandparents, on both sides of her family, narrowly escaped World War II by immigrating from Poland and Austria to the US. Fascinated by the strong will of people to overcome the horrors from this era, she wrote We Shall Not Shatter, book 1 of the Resilient Women of WWII Trilogy inspired by her deaf great aunt who was left behind as a teenager in Poland and perished in the Holocaust, while her other deaf siblings were permitted to enter the US when their young ages helped them to circumvent medically revealing exams. Other extended family members also remained in Poland to lose their lives in the Holocaust.

Although multi-published in award-winning Inspirational Fiction, and a past blogger and online magazine contributor, Elaine now pens novels for the General reading audience. She is a member of Women’s Fiction Writers Association and The Historical Novel Society. Born in Brooklyn, New York, she has now been living in upstate, rural New York with her husband for more years than her stint as a city gal. She enjoys long walks down country roads, visiting New England towns, and of course, a good book.

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Summary:

An unforgettable story of friendship, family and hope as two courageous young women face one of history’s most horrific tragedies.

Brzeziny, Poland, 1939 Zofia’s comfortable-lifestyle overturns when her husband, Jabez, who monitors Nazi activity, has gone missing. Rather than fleeing the country with her young son, as she had promised Jabez who is fearing retaliation, she decides to stay. She cannot possibly leave her friend, Aanya. Since their childhood they have amazed fellow Brzeziners that it does not matter that Aanya is Jewish and deaf, and that Zofia is Catholic and hearing. Now, more than ever with war looming, Zofia will do whatever is necessary to protect her family and Aanya.

As both love and war approach their Polish town, Zofia and Aanya must make choices that will change the meaning of family, home, and their precious friendship. The journey, decisions and the no-going-back consequences the women face will either help them to survive—or not—as Hitler’s Third Reich revs up its control of the world.

Inspired by the author’s paternal heritage from Brzeziny, this is a heartbreaking yet beautiful story of two women who are determined to remain united in friendship and to live freely despite the odds.

My Thoughts:

World War II literature is the most widely read books I read. It does not matter whether it is fiction or nonfiction. I first began reading books in this realm because my dad was an American soldier during World War II and overseas in Europe. He was a D-Day Veteran. A Veteran of the Battle of the Bulge. He shared many stories of what he witnessed and experienced. As I grew older, Dad told the stories he did not tell me when I was young. Some of these stories are what he witnessed during the liberation of a concentration camp in Czechoslovakia. It was through dad’s stories that piqued my interest in reading more stories of this history.

One of the first things I love about We Shall Not Shatter is it is exactly what I have been asking for in a story. I have expressed in some reviews how I’d like to read stories showing other types of love, not just romantic love. Some examples of what I’d like to read are the love between friends, and the love between children and their parents. We Shall Not Shatter is the story of two women who have been best friends since they were young children. Despite the differences in religion and culture, they have persevered and strengthened the bond of friendship. They love each other dearly. They would sacrifice for one another.

Other reasons why I love this story:

1. The story has a character who has a disability. It is very rare to read a story that has a person who is disabled. It seems that most book characters are near perfect. This includes the front cover of a person who is beautiful-handsome-an airbrushed model. This is not real life. I prefer characters to reflect reality. I want to read about their story that reflects what and how they are living.

2. I love it that Elaine Stock has based this story on some of her relatives. It is a memorial and testament.

3. I love the organized and interesting book selection for further reading. These are books that the publisher also has on this subject. This section is located in the back of the book.

4. We Shall Not Shatter shows the days before and during the German occupation. In addition, the horrors at Brzeziny, and the tightening of restrictions on the Jews.

5. The story is strong in showing love, compassion, kindness, and charity between the family members and friends.

Some things I have trouble with:

1. There are areas where the story drags and other areas where it feels rushed.

2. Aanya’s husband has a more prominent role in the story. Whereas Zofia’s husband has a more interesting storyline, yet he is in the background (thought of and wondered about.) And this point is related to number 3.

3. Zofia’s husband is involved in resistance work. I’d rather have his story more pronounced because this is important. He represents a group of people resistant to the German invasion and their genocide of the Jews. Until later in the book, I am finally educated about what he has been doing. Whereas before I had limited information.

4. In a sea of World War II type books, I believe it is important to try and tell a story that has not been told. For example, Aanya’s story. She is deaf. I want to know what she is thinking. I want to know what it is like to be her. I want to become lost in her story of living with a disability during the Holocaust. I wish the book had focused the most on Aanya.

Themes: suffering, war, power of love, courage, bravery, kindness, hope, injustice, resistance, survival, romance, sacrifice, and good and evil.

Quote of the Week

“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearth-stone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.” Page 539.

“If there ever could be a proper time for mere catch arguments, that time surely is not now. In times like the present, men should utter nothing for which they would not willingly be responsible through time and in eternity.” Page 540.

Abraham Lincoln [1809-1865]

Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations by John Bartlett.
Published by Little, Brown and Company 1955.

[Review] Bloomsbury Girls by Natalie Jenner

Publisher and Publication Date: ‎St. Martin’s Press. May 17, 2022.
Genre: Historical fiction. Women and literature.
Pages: 370.
Format: E-book from NetGalley.
Source: I received a complimentary e-book copy from NetGalley, Austenprose, and St. Martin’s Press. I am not required to write a positive review.
Audience: Readers of women’s fiction/literature.
Rating: Very good.

ADVANCE PRAISE:

“Jenner follows The Jane Austen Society (2020) with another top-notch reading experience, using the same deft hand at creating complex, emotionally engaging characters [against] a backdrop chock-full of factual historical information… Fans of Christina Baker Kline, Kate Quinn and Pam Jenoff [will] appreciate this gem.” —Booklist (starred review)

“An illuminating yarn… Fans of emotional historical fiction will be charmed.” —Publishers Weekly

Bloomsbury Girls is an immersive tale of three women determined to forge their own paths in 1950s London. Jenner has proven to be a master at spinning charming, earnest characters and paints a vivid picture of postwar England. I wanted to stay lost in her world forever!” —Stephanie Wrobel, internationally bestselling author of Darling Rose Gold

Bloomsbury Girls is a book lover’s dream, one of those rare reads that elicits a sense of book-ish wistfulness and nostalgia. Jenner has created a colorful cast of characters in a story about friendship, perseverance, and the ways that determined women can band together in a man’s world. You’re in for a treat.” —Sarah Penner, New York Times bestselling author of The Lost Apothecary

“In a London still reeling from the ravages of World War II and the changes war has brought to English society, three young women take their futures into their own hands. With Bloomsbury Girls, Natalie Jenner has penned a timely and beautiful ode to ambition, friendship, bookshops, and the written word.” —Janet Skeslien Charles, New York Times bestselling author of The Paris Library

“In post-war London, Bloomsbury Books survived The Blitz until Vivien Lowry, Grace Perkins, and Evie Stone set off their own bomb on the stuffy all-male management. What ensues is the most delightful, witty, and endearing story you will read this year. Natalie Jenner, bestselling author of The Jane Austen Society, proves that she was not a one hit wonder. Like Austen, her second book is even better than the first.” —Laurel Ann Nattress, editor of Jane Austen Made Me Do It 

PURCHASE LINKS:

PRINT & DIGITAL BOOK
AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE | BOOK DEPOSITORY | BOOKSHOP | GOODREADS | BOOKBUB
AUDIOBOOK
AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE | BOOK DEPOSITORY | BOOKSHOP | GOODREADS

A MESSAGE FROM AUTHOR NATALIE JENNER:

Dear readers,
I am immensely grateful for the outpouring of affection that so many of you have expressed for my debut novel The Jane Austen Society and its eight main characters. When I wrote its epilogue (in one go and without ever changing a word), I wanted to give each of Adam, Mimi, Dr. Gray, Adeline, Yardley, Frances, Evie and Andrew the happy Austenesque ending they each deserved. But I could not let go of servant girl Evie Stone, the youngest and only character inspired by real life (my mother, who had to leave school at age fourteen, and my daughter, who does eighteenth-century research for a university professor and his team). Bloomsbury Girls continues Evie’s adventures into a 1950s London bookshop where there is a battle of the sexes raging between the male managers and the female staff, who decide to pull together their smarts, connections, and limited resources to take over the shop and make it their own. There are dozens of new characters in Bloomsbury Girls from several different countries, and audiobook narration was going to require a female voice of the highest training and caliber. When I learned that British stage and screen actress Juliet Stevenson, CBE, had agreed to narrate, I knew that my story could not be in better hands, and I so hope you enjoy reading or listening to it.
Warmest regards,
Natalie

AUDIOBOOK:

Narrated by esteemed stage and screen actress Juliet Stevenson, enjoy the full unabridged edition of Bloomsbury Girls. “Stevenson delivers the satisfying triumph at the end with perfect polish.” —AudioFile Magazine

AUDIOBOOK EXCERPT:
https://soundcloud.com/macaudio-2/bloomsbury-girls-by-natalie-jenner-audiobook-introduction

AUTHOR BIO:

Natalie Jenner is the author of the instant international bestseller The Jane Austen Society and Bloomsbury Girls. A Goodreads Choice Award runner-up for historical fiction and finalist for best debut novel, The Jane Austen Society was a USA Today and #1 national bestseller and has been sold for translation in twenty countries. Born in England and raised in Canada, Natalie has been a corporate lawyer, career coach and, most recently, an independent bookstore owner in Oakville, Ontario, where she lives with her family and two rescue dogs. Visit her website to learn more.
WEBSITE | TWITTER | FACEBOOK | INSTAGRAM | GOODREADS


Summary:

Natalie Jenner, the internationally bestselling author of The Jane Austen Society, returns with a compelling and heartwarming story of post-war London, a century-old bookstore, and three women determined to find their way in a fast-changing world in Bloomsbury Girls.

Bloomsbury Books is an old-fashioned new and rare bookstore that has persisted and resisted change for a hundred years, run by men and guided by the general manager’s unbreakable fifty-one rules. But in 1950, the world is changing, especially the world of books and publishing, and at Bloomsbury Books, the girls in the shop have plans:

Vivien Lowry: Single since her aristocratic fiancé was killed in action during World War II, the brilliant and stylish Vivien has a long list of grievances–most of them well justified and the biggest of which is Alec McDonough, the Head of Fiction.

Grace Perkins: Married with two sons, she’s been working to support the family following her husband’s breakdown in the aftermath of the war. Torn between duty to her family and dreams of her own.

Evie Stone: In the first class of female students from Cambridge permitted to earn a degree, Evie was denied an academic position in favor of her less accomplished male rival. Now she’s working at Bloomsbury Books while she plans to remake her own future.

As they interact with various literary figures of the time–Daphne Du Maurier, Ellen Doubleday, Sonia Blair (widow of George Orwell), Samuel Beckett, Peggy Guggenheim, and others–these three women with their complex web of relationships, goals and dreams are all working to plot out a future that is richer and more rewarding than anything society will allow.

My Thoughts:

Bloomsbury Girls is my kind of story. It features characters who work in a bookstore, and of course talk about books and authors.

What I love about Bloomsbury Girls:

1. Evie Stone, a founding member of The Jane Austen Society, is an important character in this book. I love her most of all. She is a breath of fresh air. She is not described as a perfect and hard to identify with person. She is intelligent, hard-working, capable, independent, quirky, and very much an individual. I love her patience and planning of how to achieve goals. I love how she looks past the outward appearance of a person and seeks to know the real person. I love how she thinks. She ponders in her mind about people and life in general. And I love how the story shows her full personality. I became invested in the story because of her.

2. Other notable characters in the book each have substories. I enjoyed reading and learning about all of them. But as it is often the case, I want the characters to develop big. I want more of their stories. I don’t want snippets or small portions. Bloomsbury Girls has several characters who each have interesting substories that could become larger stories. Is it possible than one of them will have a future role as a main character in a book?

3. I love having a character who is not of white English descent. He is a person of another culture and society. He is a person who does not look like the rest. I love this. I love understanding a bit about his life in living in a predominantly white society. I see how difficult prejudice impacts him and his friends. I see how something simple like eating in a restaurant shows people’s prejudice. I am also glad Jenner allows the story to show his story and not tell me about his life.

4. Bloomsbury Books has a lengthy list of rules for the employees. I love the unique approach of showcasing each of the rules individually in the beginning chapters.

5. The story begins shortly after World War II. I knew almost nothing about the post-World War II years, especially in regard to rationing and looking back on the experiences of civilian life during the war.

6. The author adds her thoughts about characters. Not only do I read the thoughts and words of the characters, but I also read them from the author. This is the only thing I did not like about the story. I prefer the story speak for itself.

7. Dialogue is heavy in the book both in words spoken out loud and in thoughts.

8. The pace of the story is fine.

9. It is a character driven story.

Themes in the story: romance, compassion, kindness, marriage and family, spousal abuse, ambition, injustice, conformity, wisdom, dreams, grief, and hope.

Quote of the Week

Mother and me in 1977.

“They are all gone into the world of light,
And I alone sit lingering here;
Their very memory is fair and bright,
And my sad thoughts doth clear.”

“They Are All Gone” Stanza 1.

Henry Vaughan [1622-1695]

Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations.
Published by Little, Brown and Company 1955. Page 272.

To read the full poem: Poetry Foundation.

[Review] Beany Malone, Book 2 in the Beany Malone series by Lenora Mattingly Weber

Publisher and Publication Date: Image Cascade Publishing,1999. First published in 1948.
Genre: Young adult fiction. The series was written for young girls.
Pages: 260.
Format: Kindle e-book.
Source: Self purchase.
Audience: Readers with an interest in mid 1940s America. Readers who enjoy a family story.
Rating: Excellent.

Link @ Amazon.

To read a biography of Lenora Mattingly Weber: Image Cascade.

And at Goodreads, another biography plus a list of her books: Goodreads.

Summary:

In the first book in this series (total of 14 books), Catherine Cecilia Malone or Beany is the youngest sister and a secondary character, but in this book, she is the principal character.

In the first book, Meet the Malones, I learn their mother died, their father is a journalist, there are two older sisters, followed by one brother, and Beany is the youngest.

The second book continues the Malone story:

The year is 1945 and the war is over. It is the fall of the year. The place is Denver, Colorado.

Elizabeth is the eldest sister; she has a young son and she’s waiting for her husband to return home. He was overseas during World War II, and he has a serious injury.

Mary Fred is the second eldest sister. She is a college freshman but is held up taking one final course in high school to be a full college freshman, that course is Chemistry. She wants to be in a sorority. Her friend is Lila.

Johnny is a senior in high school. He is a writer, and he’s working on a nonfiction history story about an early settler in Denver.

Beany is 16. She’s a sophomore in high school with a heart-felt crush on a boy who is not nice. He actually hates the family. Beany’s dad shares information with her that will impact the whole family. He tells her first which is interesting because she is the youngest. In reading between the lines, I believe the father feels she is trustworthy and mature.

My Thoughts:

I am a member of a Facebook group for those who love Lenora Mattingly Weber’s books. Several in the group have remarked they love the early books in the series rather than the later books. The main reason for the later books is they dislike the male personalities and how they treat people. So, it will be interesting for me to read the further books. I feel a big reason for their feelings is the culture and society differences of the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. People in history did not live like we do in 2022.

What I love about this book:

1. I love reading old sayings. For example: fiddle-faddle, fling, big shots.
2. I love the substory of Elizabeth and her husband. Towards the end of the story, they have serious struggles to overcome. This story gave me a lesson in what couples went through after World War II.
3. I love the internal and external struggle between Beany and Norbert. Despite how she feels about him, and his hurtful words, she does not change who she is to seek revenge and retaliation. I believe this shows the depth of her character.
4. Weber’s writing is excellent at setting the mood and tone of the various situations in the story.
5. I love the maturity of Elizabeth. She takes time from the serious stuff in her own life to share wise words to her family.
6. I love the hidden gems of wisdom and grace and love in the family.
7. The story weaves in a moral lesson in honesty. An adult who should be mature and honest is not. Instead, a young person marvels the family with honesty.
8. In the first book there is a theme about socio-economic levels of people. Those in the higher income versus those who are working class families who struggle to make ends meet. This book shares a bit of the same. Add to this sororities and popular kids at school and the struggle for those who try and become one of them.
9. Beany is a young girl who wants to take care of people-save-fix-make peace. She finds out not all people need or want her help and interference. She is actually remarkable in certain areas of maturity but as all people who have ever been a young person there are things to learn.

Themes: coming of age, family honor, romance, suffering, judgment, wisdom, trust, gratitude, charity, hope, dreams, acceptance, kindness, compassion, bravery, and honesty.