[Review] Half Notes from Berlin by B V Glants

Publisher and Publication Date: Anchor Media. October 4, 2022.
Genre: Historical fiction. Young adult historical fiction.
Pages: 256.
Format: E-book.
Source: I received a complimentary e-book copy from Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours and B. V. Glants. I am not required to write a positive review.
Audience: Historical fiction readers with an interest in Holocaust stories, and those who read young adult fiction.
Rating: Very good.

Link for the book @ Amazon.

Link for the book @ Barnes and Noble.

About the Author:

B.V. Glants was born in Soviet Ukraine and immigrated with his family to suburban New Jersey when he was ten years old. Raised on family stories ranging from his grandparents’ fight for survival in WW2 to his parents’ confrontations with Soviet antisemitism, he now lives in Silicon Valley with his wife and daughter.

B.V. Glants is a lay leader at a Jewish day school, a Wexner Heritage Program member, and a technology entrepreneur, most recently having cofounded Tonic Health (sold to R1, NASDAQ:RCM) and Turnkey Labs. That hasn’t stopped him from earning an MFA at California College of the Arts and attending writers’ conferences at Squaw and Sewanee. He writes historical fiction from a Jewish perspective, focusing on how major historical events challenge and transform the lives of everyday families. Half Notes from Berlin is his first published novel.

Summary:

Berlin, Germany. 1933.

Hans believes he and his family are safe from persecution.

Then, he discovers his family’s dirty secret: his maternal grandparents were Jews who converted to Christianity.

Driven by the desire to understand who he is and whether his mother’s blood is tainted, Hans befriends Rebecca, the only Jewish girl he knows. Perhaps if Jewish blood isn’t evil, his mother will be ok.

To be a Jew in Hitler’s Germany is dangerous.

But to fall in love with one is unthinkable.

Desperate to keep both his family’s true heritage and his love for Rebecca a secret, Hans attempts to navigate this terrifying new world. He’s disconsolate when his Jewish mother is kicked out of the Berlin Conservatory. He’s disgusted by his Aryan father’s aims to acquire a Jewish business on the cheap.

Worst, he must watch helplessly as his classmates target Rebecca with increasing violence and malice.

But when his school announces it will expel Jewish students, Hans is determined to fight for Rebecca — and the lives and souls of his family.

“…[a] beautifully written historical debut explores themes of identity and resistance…their gripping stories will stick with readers long after the last page.” –BookLife Reviews – Editors Choice

“A mesmerizing novel, moving and intelligent.”–Kirkus Reviews

This is the link for the Kirkus Review: Half Notes from Berlin.

My Thoughts:

I’m excited to share my thoughts about this story for two reasons:

  1. This is a first published story for Glants. I love to discover new authors. I love to read a first published story.
  2. This is a favorite genre.

I want to first share a few thoughts about the genre and the summary that’s been given. The book is presented as a historical fiction story, and the summary that’s given is brief or vague.

When I am browsing books there are several factors, I want to have clear information about. Half Notes from Berlin is a historical fiction story, but it is also young adult fiction and a coming-of-age story. Not all readers of historical fiction want to read those other two types of books. I happen to love all three genres.

I also enjoy having a strong summary to read. It is the summary that sets the tone as to what I can expect. It is a prompt and a teasing and a setting of the stage for the full story.

Kirkus Reviews gives a strong summary of the book, and you can read it at this link: Kirkus Reviews.

I have come to expect that when I read historical fiction there is almost always a reflecting back from the narrator of the story. Often there are dual time periods. This is a form or structure in a story that I dislike. I don’t mind reflecting back-what I don’t like is the back and forth, and back and forth between the dual time periods. I love it that Half Notes from Berlin stayed in the past (with brief thoughts from the man who is telling the story), AND it stayed in a short period of time, the spring of 1933. This pivotal and significant period of time in the life of a 15-year-old young man. It is during this time period that changed the course of his life.

One of the best points of this story is I felt engaged because of the main character, the 15-year-old young man named Hans. He is exactly how I’d imagine a young man of his age to be. In his interests, vulnerabilities, stubbornness, and rebellion. He has strengths and weaknesses. He has a vision of what his life is and what it can become. He is a lone child of parents who are at odds and unhappy. His parents do not work together as a team. As a result, his grandparents are a source of stability. Yet, all of the adults have failed to be honest with him.

Hans has a group of boys he hangs around with in school. He joins a youth choir with the help of a female classmate who is an assertive kind of girl.

Hitler’s influence and ideology has seeped or poured into the youth groups or movements of Germany. Hans is unsure of the right thing to do.

Meanwhile, he has a building interest in another girl in his class. He is drawn to her, I feel, because she is different. There is something remarkable about her. She is vulnerable; however, she is strong. She is a Jew. The growing hate and abuse escalate among the other classmates towards her.

The story has several inner and outer conflicts that pull me along because I have to know what will happen.

I am glad the story is over a period of several weeks in the spring of 1933. This gave time to examine closely the various events and impact of the people.

I wish the story had allowed Hans’ mother’s character to develop more. She is a character with much more going on in her mind and past life. There is a revealing of some things of her past, but I am left wanting to hear her voice-her thoughts.

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The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

Publisher and Publication Date: Ballantine Books. 2011.
Genre: Historical fiction.
Pages: 314.
Format: Hardcover.
Source: Library.
Audience: Historical fiction readers of women and literature. The book may especially be of interest to Hemingway fans.
Rating: Good to very good.

Goodreads author page for Paula McLain.

Paula McLain has written another book about the wives of Ernest Hemingway. The Paris Wife is book one about the first wife.
Love and Ruin is the third book about the third wife.

Link for The Paris Wife @ Amazon.

Ernest and Hadley Hemingway. They married in 1921 and divorced in 1927. Their son was John Hadley Nicanor Hemingway. His nickname was Bumby. He was born in 1923. He died in 2000.

Ernest and Pauline Hemingway. They married in 1927 after his divorce from Hadley. Hadley and Pauline had been friends. Ernest and Pauline had 2 sons: Patrick and Gregory (Gloria). Ernest and Pauline divorced in 1940.

Summary:

The Paris Wife is from the voice of Hadley. In the first pages, Hadley is grieving the death of her mother who she had a strained relationship. She takes a trip to Chicago and at a party she meets Ernest. It’s only been a couple of years since Armistice Day. Ernest is a young, ambitious, vibrant, charismatic, charming, persuasive Romeo. He is a strong pursuer.

Hadley is older than Ernest by 7 years and 8 months.

Hadley has not had the social life of dating and relationships that Ernest had. She has lived at home. She’s had three deaths to grieve in her lifetime. Each taking a little bit more away from her psyche.

The story follows their relationship to the end and especially during their Paris years. In the final chapters of the book, it shares about Hadley’s later part of life. The book does not share the detailed life of their son Jack or Bumby (as he was called as a child).

My Thoughts:

The main point I do not like about the book is the structure or form. Hadley shares her story in her voice, but every once in a while, Ernest (in italics) shares his story. I dislike him having a voice at all considering Hadley points out more than once that his personality is so big, he fills the room with his presence. This is another way of saying he sucked all the air out of the room. So, I’d say that through Hadley sharing her story, Ernest has a big enough presence that I don’t need him to have any more voice than he already has. I want to clarify. I enjoy reading Hemingway stories. For Whom the Bell Tolls is a favorite. I want Hadley to have a complete book in her voice. It is her story.

Later in the book, Hadley shares that she feels she had the best of him-the early years before he was a famous writer.

Hadley is a wife who is very supportive of his work. She praises and encourages him. There is a point in the story where she finally has an emotional event. She has been supporting him. She has been giving her all to him. She lives for him. But she has had enough. She is emotionally frayed and starved. I’ve known several women, especially those from the previous generations who completely live for their husbands. Their feelings and thoughts and goals and desires are not really their own but their husbands. The wife has no hobby of her own. She has no work of her own. She has no other opinions but his. This is difficult for me to wrap my mind around. To lose oneself in another. And I dislike Ernest’s reaction to her emotional event. In essence, what she did was finally open her mouth and rise up and say no. No, she did not want him to go. And for this he was angry.

From the start, I immediately like Hadley. She is imperfect (as all people). Even though there is a vulnerability and sadness, I also see a strength that I don’t think she realized she had until later in life. I certainly have empathy for her.

I enjoyed reading about their life in Paris. Where they lived. The people they met. The places they visited, especially the travels to other countries.

I enjoyed reading about how his writing style evolved or transformed.

I enjoyed reading about the cultural changes starting in about 1921.

I’d certainly like to have read more about the Shakespeare and Company book store located on the Left Bank in Paris. It is mentioned but not in descriptive detail.

Hadley Richardson Hemingway Mowrer died in 1979.

[Review] In the Shadow of a Queen by Heather B. Moore

Publisher and Publication Date: Shadow Mountain Publishing. October 4, 2022.
Genre: Historical fiction. Inspirational fiction.
Pages: 384.
Format: Advanced reader copy/e-book.
Source: I received a complimentary e-book copy from Shadow Mountain Publishing and Austenprose. I am not required to write a positive review.
Audience: Readers of Queen Victoria’s royal family. Readers of the Victorian era.
Rating: Excellent.

To read more information about the book visit the publisher at Shadow Mountain Publishing. That is a direct link to the book.

Praise:

“Peek into the House of Hanover and view the strength of two women: Queen
Victoria and her daughter Princess Louise. This story weaves compassion and
conflict into breathtaking and gripping historical detail.”— Julie Wright, author of
A Captain for Caroline Gray.
“Moore crafts an intriguing portrait of the independently minded Princess Louise
and her tensions with the English royal family. Moore sets the stage with
meticulous research, and she expertly combines fact with fiction, with
psychological insights on Victoria’s mercurial moods and the impact of her
controlling nature. It adds up to a worthy portrait of a woman divided by duty and
self-determination.”— Publishers Weekly.
5 STARS – “I always enjoy Heather Moore’s historical novels. This one did not
disappoint! She is impeccable with her research and always does an excellent
job of bringing people from the past to life.”— Julia Daines, bestselling author
of Haven Cross, and Whitney Award Finalist.

Links to purchase:
AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE | BOOK DEPOSITORY | BOOKSHOP | GOODREADS

The Kindle copy is $4.99. At Amazon, it is also available in audio, hardcover, and audio CD.

Author Info:

Heather B. Moore is a USA Today best-selling and award-winning author of more than seventy publications, including The Paper Daughters of Chinatown. She has lived on both the East and West Coasts of the United States, as well as Hawaii, and attended school abroad at the Cairo American College in Egypt and the Anglican School of Jerusalem in Israel. She loves to learn about history and is passionate about historical research.

WEBSITE | TWITTER | FACEBOOK | INSTAGRAM | GOODREADS

Summary:

Based on the True Story of the Free-Spirited Daughter of Queen Victoria. Princess Louise’s life is upended after her father’s untimely death. Captive to the queen’s overwhelming mourning, Louise is forbidden to leave her mother’s tight circle of control and is eventually relegated to the position of personal secretary to her mother―the same position each of her sisters held until they were married. Already an accomplished painter, Louise risks the queen’s wrath by exploring the art of sculpting, an activity viewed as unbefitting a woman. When Louise involves herself in the day’s political matters, including championing the career of a female doctor and communicating with suffragettes, the queen lays down the law to stop her and devotes her full energy to finding an acceptable match for her defiant daughter.

Louise is considered the most beautiful and talented daughter of Queen Victoria but finding a match for the princess is no easy feat. Protocols are broken, and Louise exerts her own will as she tries to find an open-minded husband who will support her free spirit.

In the Shadow of a Queen is the story of a battle of wills between two women: a daughter determined to forge her own life beyond the shadow of her mother, and a queen resolved to keep the Crown’s reputation unsullied no matter the cost.

My Thoughts:

Recently I read another book about the same people. Louise was shown as an outspoken, artistic, intelligent young woman. The book emphasized her defiance and disrespect of her mother, Queen Victoria. The book emphasized her artistic work and the supposed affair she had before and during her marriage. I gave that book 3 stars for good. To me, the book came across as sensationalistic.

In the Shadow of a Queen emphasizes the royal family’s love and devotion to one another. Even though the queen and Louise did not always agree, and Louise wanted to pursue interests outside her mother’s rule and will, Louise respected and honored her mother. I love these qualities. Honor and respect are moral qualities, but also show the true character of the person. Louise is shown as gentle, kind, thoughtful, sensitive, devoted, wise, purposeful, and loving. I have given this book 5 stars for excellent. This book comes across as intimate and real; and it is a story and a daughter to be admired.

Additional reason why I love, In the Shadow of a Queen:

  1. Much of the story is dialogue among the family members including the husband of Louise and herself. I love their devotion, tenderness, and love for one another. Often, the scenes are intimate, and share conversations that I leaned into as if I too were a part of their conversations. This helps to sweep me up and away. The feeling and atmosphere in a story that pulls me in.
  2. The story starts at the beginning of Louise’s life. It moves forward progressing through her age. I watched her grownup. I watched her transform to a lovely young woman.
  3. The pace of the story is slower at times. This is not an adventurous edge of your seat type book. It is the life of Queen Victoria’s family. They have day’s when they are busy with events, and they have many slow days when they are at home with one another. I feel this helps shape them as people I can identify with and not just celebrity type individuals.
  4. Before Albert’s death, I saw his dedication and time spent with the children. He was involved with every area of their lives.
  5. I love the happy times the children shared with their mother.
  6. I love the descriptions of people. Their clothing, mannerisms, posture; and facial expressions to the point of intimacy and a revealing of unsaid affection.
  7. One of the best romantic scenes in literature that I’ve read is the courtship of Louise and John Campbell, the 9th Duke of Argyll. It is less about physical activities, and more about patience, true love and devotion.

I want to clarify something. There are scenes when Victoria and her children are at odds. When one defies the other. When a scandal has caught fire. But for me, I saw the love and devotion as more pronounced in the story. The negative situations only show a reality that effects all people no matter their station or status in life.

In the Shadow of a Queen is one of my favorite reads of 2022!

[Review] One Woman’s War: A Novel of the real Miss Moneypenny by Christine Wells

Publisher and Publication Date: William Morrow. October 4, 2022.
Genre: Historical fiction.
Pages: 384.
Format: Advanced reader copy, e-book.
Source: I received a complimentary e-book copy from William Morrow and NetGalley. I am not required to write a positive review.
Audience: Historical fiction readers of World War II and Britain’s SOE.
Rating: Good.

Link @ Amazon to preorder the book.

Christine Wells’s Goodreads author page. Website/ Pinterest/ Facebook/ Twitter/ Instagram.

Summary:

One Woman’s War is the story of two young women involved in spying and espionage for the British Government security service.

The women are Victoire “Paddy” Bennett and Friedl Stottinger. Paddy is English. Friedl is Austrian.

The women are as different in character as they are in looks.

The story begins in 1940 but will back up to 1937 to introduce Friedl’s story in 1937, Portugal.

Both women work for the security service, but one of them is working both sides.

My Thoughts:

Even though Friedl is not a likable character to me. She is an interesting character. She is a striking person as far as singing talent, beauty, well-traveled, and savvy. She knows the art of charm and persuasion in dealing with men. However, she fits the mold of a typical female spy. Whereas Paddy is the girl next door who is underrated in ability and possibly overlooked.

It is difficult to feel empathy for Friedl. She is a conner. A user. She is blackmailed into working the other side and for this I have a little sadness for her.

I don’t know if having two main female characters who are opposite work in this story because they are rarely together in order to show the strong differences. To my mind, a single story with Friedl as the main character will work well.

In Paddy’s story I see the civilian life in London during the war, especially the Blitz.

The story did not keep me on the edge of my seat.

It is a pleasing story in that it wraps up fine.

I just finished another story: D-Day Girls by Sarah Rose. This is narrative nonfiction and fabulous.

[Review] The Nurse’s Secret by Amanda Skenandore

Publisher and Publication Date: Kensington Publishing Corp. June 28, 2022.
Genre: Historical fiction.
Pages: 368.
Format: Paperback.
Source: I received a complimentary advanced reader copy from the publisher. I am not required to write a positive review.
Audience: Historical fiction readers. Readers of nursing history in the 19th century.
Rating: Okay.

Amanda Skenandore’s author page at Goodreads.

Summary:

New York City. 1883.

Una is a young woman who is a thief. She knows the “art of the grift.”

When the story begins, she is arrested for a murder she had nothing to do with. She looks for a way to hide herself and make a living. She creates a new life in a new nursing school.

Nursing is a new choice for women who do not mind the hard work, and the respectable interaction of caregiving.

In the beginning, Una’s tough facade does not pair well with employers and nursing students who are from a society that frowns upon the criminal and the lower income.

After the murder of a patient, Una begins to wonder if her situation and the victims is related.

The Nurse’s Secret is a mix of 19th century nursing history, 19th century New York city history, murder/mystery, and romance.

My Thoughts:

I dislike the name Una. I googled the name. It is of Irish origin and means lamb. Other countries have the first name also. For example, Bosnia and Wales. Another definition of the name is unity.

Una is not a lamb. She is the opposite of a lamb in character.

Actually, I dislike her character. It made it difficult to care what happened. She comes across as having an attitude that people owe her. She is arrogant. Haughty. Cunning. Calculating. Manipulative. Selfish. Brazen. I saw a little transformation in her through the story but not enough for me to care. It was difficult to finish the book.

The murder/mystery is so so. There isn’t a shock about the solving of the murders nor the closure.

What I liked most about the story is learning about the nursing practices of this time period. This is fascinating history.