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review 2017-06-24 04:24
The Alice Network by Kate Quinn
The Alice Network - Kate Quinn

Best book I have read all year and quite possibly my favorite Quinn novel yet. This book proves Quinn can bring any era to life with characters who you will find yourself crying over when it is all said and done. Seriously, I need to go find a corner to curl up in now. I just don't know what to do with myself now that there is no more. Maybe if I go to bed early enough I will dream of Finn *sigh*

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review 2017-06-23 18:03
I'm conflicted
Grandpa's Great Escape - David Walliams

I am struggling with how to express my feelings about Grandpa's Great Escape by David Walliams. This is due to the fact that this man might actually be a bigger Roald Dahl fan than myself and his writing definitely reflects that. I don't think that Walliams makes any bones about this but I do think that if you've read Dahl's works it will be difficult not to compare the two which leaves Walliams falling a bit short. (Sorry!) Read on its own merit, it's a great little book which touches on topics which I think are really important in middle grade fiction. Our main character, Jack, has a very special relationship with his grandfather who was a fighter pilot in WWII. Their relationship is a unique one which is further complicated by the fact that his grandpa has Alzheimer's disease and believes he is once again in the midst of the Battle of Britain. Jack's parents are torn about what to do with the old man but Jack is adamant that he continue to spend time with him...until the vicar puts an idea into their heads about the old folks home beyond the moors. In typical Dahl fashion, Walliams fashions a slapstick comedy amidst flashbacks to WWII and serious discussions over elderly care and familial loyalty.

 

What I didn't care for:

  • What felt like blatant ripoffs of Dahl's works as well as his illustrator, Quentin Blake

 

What I legitimately enjoyed:

  • The approach and handling of serious discussions revolving around elderly care and Alzheimer's
  • The glossary at the back which discussed in more detail the topics touched on in the book such as the Royal Air Force, Battle of Britain, etc.

 

I'd love to know what you guys think so please check the book out and leave a comment below. :-)

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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photo 2017-06-18 20:04
Brendan Gleeson and Emma Thompson in Alone in Berlin. Photograph: Allstar/PATHE/X-FILME CREATIVE POOL

Strange tale of the anti-Nazi bestseller, the Stasi spies and the missing Gestapo files

 

As the film of Alone in Berlin opens, German historians say facts were kept out of Hans Fallada’s original novel

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Fascinating!  It's still an amazing book.

 

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review 2017-06-10 00:02
Beautifully Written
Mischling - Affinity Konar

I don't know what to say except it was a beautifully written novel given the subject matter. It's never easy to write about this particular period in history and never will be. However at least what an author can do is make it readable and make it a good story worthwhile to read.

 

You really do feel for Stasha and Pearl once they're herded into the camp and are used as experimental fodder to play with. You see both of them mature rapidly and have their childhoods robbed from them near the start of the novel. They were already close to begin with yet because of the circumstances they're closer with them trying to hold and support each other. It's almost heartbreaking to read because without one, the other just simply feels they don't exist.

 

As to when Pearl disappears, you feel the separation anxiety as you progress through the novel. You feel Stasha's pain and emptiness. Her other half is gone and she has no idea if she's alive or not. You can feel the void within Stasha and as you continue reading, you're still feeling the pain and you're wondering throughout the novel if she will ever see Pearl again. This is great writing on the authors part as you can distinctly feel what the characters are feeling throughout the novel.

 

There's a small cast of characters in this book. Some stand out more than others. Bruna stood out for me a lot. I loved every aspect of her and her strength. Then you have Peter, Feliks and the nursing staff at the camp. You don't get attached to them as much as Pearl and Stasha are the main ones to be focused on. However, for me, I really loved Bruna.

 

The only criticism I would have for this book is I found it sometimes a little too wordy and poetic at times. It made it for some areas of the book hard to follow - it would be best to avoid this type of writing. Yes it sets the mood and makes it melancholy but the subject matter itself is already sad and tragic to begin with. I believe that's enough as it is.

 

Definitely recommended for those that are interested in this particular historical period.

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review 2017-06-08 12:15
A well-paced mystery that takes us back to a fascinating and tragic historical era
The Lover's Portrait: An Art Mystery - Jennifer S. Alderson

Thanks to Rosie’s Book Review Team and to the author for providing me with an ARC copy of this book that I voluntarily chose to review. (If you are a writer and are interested in getting first-class reviews do check here).

I love art but cannot claim to be a connoisseur and I’ve never been to Amsterdam (well, I stopped at the airport to change planes once but that was that) but I can reassure you neither of those things prevented me from enjoying this solid mystery set within the world of big art museums and exhibitions, with a background story that would comfortably fit into the genre of historical fiction.

The story is written in the third person but from several characters’ point of view, although it is easy to follow and there is no head-hopping as each chapter, some longer and some shorter, is told from only one character’s point of view. There are two time frames. Some chapters are set in 1942 and tell the story of an art dealer from Amsterdam who is being blackmailed by one of the Nazi occupiers due to his homosexuality. In 2015, Zelda, the intrepid protagonist, is trying very hard to get into a Master’s Programme that will qualify her to work in museums and agrees to help with some very basic editing tasks for an exhibition of art objects confiscated by the Nazis that has been organised in an attempt at locating the rightful owners of the paintings. Readers get also a good insight into the thoughts and motivations of other characters (the evil nephew of the original Nazi blackmailer, Rita, the owner of one of the portraits in the exhibition, Huub, the curator of the exhibition…), although we mostly follow Zelda and her adventures. Although this is book 2 in the series, I have not read the first one and had no problem getting into the story. Zelda at times reflects upon how she got here and we learn that she moved from working with computers to a stay in Nepal teaching English and finally Amsterdam. In effect, I felt the novel was better at offering factual information about her than developing her character psychologically. I was not sure of her age but at times she seemed very naïve for somebody who has travelled extensively and has held important jobs, not only with the mystery side of things but also with her personal life, but she has the heart in the right place, and I appreciated the lack of romance in the story.

The different points of view and time changes help keep the suspense going, as we have access to more information than Zelda, but this can sometimes make matters more confusing (as we are not privy to everybody’s thoughts and there are a few red herrings thrown in for good measure). The author is also good at keeping us guessing and suspecting all kinds of double-crossings (perhaps I have been reading too many mystery books and thrillers but I didn’t trust anyone and was on the lookout for more twists than there were).

The setting of Amsterdam, both in the present and in the 1940s is very well depicted and, at least for me, the wish to go there increased as I read. I really enjoyed the description of the process of documentation and how to search for the provenance of artworks (the author explains her own background and its relevance to the subject [very] in an endnote that also offers ample bibliography)  that is sufficiently detailed without getting boring, and the background theme of the fate of art and the persecution of Jews, homosexuals and other minorities in occupied Europe is brought to life in the memories described by several of the characters and also the fictionalised entries of the art merchant. It is not difficult to see how a book about the research of actual works of art could be gripping too, and the fictionalisation and the mystery elements make it attractive to even more readers.

This is a gentle mystery, with no excessive or graphic violence, with an amateur sleuth who sometimes is far too daring and impulsive (although otherwise there would not be much of a story), with a great background and sufficient red herrings and clues to keep the suspense going. I suspect most readers will guess some aspects of the solution, but perhaps not the full details, and even if they do, the rest of the elements of the story make the reading worthwhile.

A good and solid book, an interesting intrigue that combines present and past, set in a wonderful Amsterdam and the art world, with likeable and intriguing characters,  but not heavy on the psychological aspects or too demanding.

 

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