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REVIEW: Village of Secrets: Defying the Nazis in Vichy France by Caroline Moorehead

Village of Secrets: Defying the Nazis in Vichy France by Caroline Moorehead

village of secrets

Publisher: Harper

Release Date: October 14, 2o14

Source: publisher

Rating. 3.75 out of 5

Le Chambon-sur-Lignon is a small village of scattered houses high in the mountains of the Ardèche. Surrounded by pastures and thick forests of oak and pine, the plateau Vivarais lies in one of the most remote and inaccessible parts of Eastern France, cut off for long stretches of the winter by snow.

During the Second World War, the inhabitants of the area saved thousands wanted by the Gestapo: resisters, freemasons, communists, downed Allied airmen and above all Jews. Many of these were children and babies, whose parents had been deported to the death camps in Poland. After the war, Le Chambon became the only village to be listed in its entirety in Yad Vashem’s Dictionary of the Just.

Just why and how Le Chambon and its outlying parishes came to save so many people has never been fully told. Acclaimed biographer and historian Caroline Moorehead brings to life a story of outstanding courage and determination, and of what could be done when even a small group of people came together to oppose German rule. It is an extraordinary tale of silence and complicity. In a country infamous throughout the four years of occupation for the number of denunciations to the Gestapo of Jews, resisters and escaping prisoners of war, not one single inhabitant of Le Chambon ever broke silence. The story of Le Chambon is one of a village, bound together by a code of honour, born of centuries of religious oppression. And, though it took a conspiracy of silence by the entire population, it happened because of a small number of heroic individuals, many of them women, for whom saving those hunted by the Nazis became more important than their own lives. – from the publisher

I’ve always loved history, especially that of World War II since it so greatly affected my grandparents and family. I had never read A Train in Winter, but I had heard such great things about it that I couldn’t turn down the opportunity to read this book. I thought that I had known my World War II history pretty well until I read this book. I’ve heard so much and read so much about saving Jews and others target by the Nazis, but all of these stories took place in Germany or Poland. France had one of the largest populations of Jewish immigrants ever seen, and the prejudice against them started even before Hitler took power. This book explores how such a small village and its “ordinary” inhabitants were able to save thousands of lives.

The book itself is a rather long read – it is so full of details and specifics that it seemed almost too dense to get through until you get back to the human aspect of the story. Moorehead does a wonderful job of bringing the statistics back to the human level and the reader really sees how so few people can change the world. Imagine, in a region where MILLIONS were too afraid or unable to help those targeted by the Nazis, a select few in a defenseless village were able to band together to save lives while risking their own. Village of Secrets is a wonderful book about the rise of humanity in and inhumane era – I was truly moved by the stories of this village and the individuals who were so selfless and brave. I recommend this book to anyone wanting to read an uplifting story during one of the most terrifying periods in human history.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for letting me be a host on this tour.

REVIEW: To Dwell in Darkness by Deborah Crombie

to dwell in darknessI’ve been a huge fan of the Duncan Kincaid / Gemma James mysteries for a while now, and I can’t believe that number 16 is out already!

Gemma’s partner, Melody Talbot, is bout to watch her boyfriend’s band perform at St. Pancras Station when all of a sudden all hell breaks loose. A white phosphorous bomb has been ignited – was it set off by the protestors Melody solved earlier? Duncan and Gemma are back and dealing with a possible terror case in Duncan’s new division – can they keep their family together while solving one of the biggest cases of their lifetimes? Duncan begins to question his priorities and whether or not he is still in the right job.

I love Crombie’s books with a passion. She creates a wonderful atmosphere in modern London while still being able to create the feeling of a classic murder mystery. Even after 16 books, the characters continue to evolve and remain fresh – and the mysteries never get formulaic or boring! If you haven’t read her books before, I highly recommend starting at the beginning of the series and reading forward so you don’t miss any of the character development or any of the amazing mysteries!

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for letting me be a host on this tour!

Summer of Christie Read-a-Long: Dead Man’s Folly

dead man's folly


Here are the next questions from Book Club Girl’s read-a-long of Dead Man’s Folly!

Both Ariadne and Mrs. Folliat hint to Poirot of an evil lurking at Nasse House. Why do you think Poirot cared to listen to the warnings, instead of chalking it up to empty suspicions?

Poirot is always great about listening to people, no matter what the situation. As soon as he can read the clues in someone’s face and mannerisms, he knows whether or not the case is worth it and if the person is truly dedicated to finding the truth. Since he’s known Mrs. Oliver for a while, he already trusts her intuition.

Throughout Poirot’s investigation he was so close to uncovering the truth. What were some of the clues he couldn’t decipher along the way?

I think that he knew they were clues, but because he couldn’t figure out the motive, they just didn’t fit together in a rational pattern. Plus, if he were to figure everything out right as he found the clues, it wouldn’t have been such a great mystery :)

The Chief Constable, Inspector Bland and Ariadne all doubted if Poirot could solve this mystery towards the end. Do you think Poirot himself was starting to give up?

PSHAW! There are only a few cases where Poirot really doubts himself, but I don’t think this is one of them. Many times he is overconfident, but I think in this case he was just so annoyed that he couldn’t figure out a motive. I think his annoyance just made him more determined to figure out the case.

Do you think Mrs. Folliat should be held legally accountable for her son’s actions? Does her lack of action make her guilty?

I meaaaaaan. Yes and no. Her son committed murder. She didn’t do it herself. Whether or not she could be tried as an accomplice or just a hinderance to a police investigation is another matter. It bugs me that she wouldn’t ever say anything. Her involvement in the whole ordeal is more sad than malicious, but she should have done something.

In the book, Sir George (a.k.a. James Folliat) was not overly painted as an evil, murderous person; however, in the TV episode his sinister traits were apparent towards the end. Do you think Sir George was inherently capable of performing multiple murders? Or, do you think he was caught in a spiral of deceit that he would stop at nothing to protect?

I hate to say, but I haven’t watched the episode yet! I have it on my DVR, but I haven’t had the time to really sit down and watch it yet :(

Lady Stubbs was described as “subhuman” from the beginning. Did you suspect her of being anything but what she claimed to be?

Never trust the quiet ones. People said that she was feeble-minded and meek, but I mean come on! Always suspect the quiet ones because they are the ones thinking! There was always something a little suspect about her character, but it did take me a while to figure out exactly what that was. Once you see her true self, it’s kind of freaky.

Supporting character development played a big role in the novel and was only touched upon in the TV version. Do you think the relationship between architect Michael and Mr. and Mrs. Legge was pivotal to the plot or served as background filler?

I can’t really answer, since I haven’t seen the show, but I think that books always have better focus on supporting characters than movies/shows.

There were some major plot differences between the TV rendering and Christie’s book. What were they? How did you feel about them?

Sorry, I can’t answer!

REVIEW: The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla by Lauren Willig

The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla by Lauren Willig


Publisher: New American Library

Release Date: August 5, 2014

Source: Publisher

I can’t tell you how sad I am that this is the penultimate book in the Pink Carnation series!!! I’ve been reading this series for eight whole years, and it feels as if I am about to lose one of my best friends (even though the last book won’t come out for another year). I’ve fallen in love with Eloise and Colin, the Selwicks, the Dorringtons, the Fitzhughs, and of course we cannot forget Miss Gwen! The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla is another brilliant addition to this intriguing, humorous, and engaging series.

Sally Fitzhugh, sister of the ever-comical Turnip Fitzhugh, is muddling through the latest Season just as vampire hysteria has hit the ton. Lucien, the Duke of Belliston, has just returned after years of mysteriously being “away”, and he is soon rumoured to be a vampire himself! Sally, convinced the gossip is just that, is determined to find out who this man really is and why he is so set on keeping his past hidden in secret. Lucien reveals that his parents were murdered when he was young, but the murder was made to look like his mother committed a murder-suicide. As Sally vows to help Lucien uncover the real murderer, they find a body arranged to look as if it was drained by a vampire, and only Sally can help Lucien find out who is trying to frame him. The modern thread of the story follows Eloise back in the States as she teaches a history course and tried to finish her dissertation – all while trying to maintain a long-distance relationship with Colin.

After all these years (and 13 books!), Willig still manages to keep her mysteries and romances fresh and engrossing. I often find myself rereading books from this series, and this addition will be no different. Sally is meddling and opinionated, but she is almost always right. She knows who she is, and she is willing to help Lucien, the social outcast, because she can see the real human being under all of his pain and suffering. One of the reasons I love this series so very much is because it never gets too serious. Amidst all of the drama and action, Willig inserts her wonderful Anglophile humor with Monty Python jokes and fun British lingo. One of my favorite scenes in the book involves an appearance from Miss Gwen:

“‘… I will require a cold collation to be delivered to my room along with a pot of tea steeped for precisely five minutes. Not six minutes shall you steep, nor four, but five.’

‘I shall be sure to relay that,’ replied Lucien, with remarkable forbearance. ‘I should hate to think that your tea might be steeped for only three – or,’ he added, in a tone of great seriousness, ‘as much as seven.'” p. 253

And one can’t forget the appearance of a remarkably well-trained stoat. Lady Florence Oblong (the stoat) deserves as much praise as any of the other characters :)

As always, Willig creates another book to be added to my shelf of favorites. I highly recommend this book for a light and fun summer romp!

Tea Time GIVEAWAY: Tea Time Magazine

Did you know that there is a magazine devoted ENTIRELY to tea time? I was browsing the magazine rack in a local shop a few weeks ago and this is what I found:

tea time

I honestly just ran with the magazine to the checkout counter without even flipping through it. I mean, how could you not? This is the July/August issue – it comes out with six issues every year. Tea Time covers everything from places around the world that have great tea houses to ideas for setting a table for tea to suggesting the perfect blend for your favorite type of tea. I so loved this magazine that I signed up for a two-year subscription. They just sent me the issue I already have, so I have an extra to give away! Just comment below to win. U.S. only. Contest ends August 4th, 2014 at 11:59 pm.

REVIEW: A Triple Knot by Emma Campion

A Triple Knot by Emma Campion


Publisher: Broadway Books

Release Date: July 8, 2014

Source: Publisher

Joan of Kent, the renowned beauty and niece of King Edward III, seems blessed with a life of royal privilege until her father is executed for treason and she becomes a ward of the king, living amongst those who deem her the daughter of a traitor. Joan begins to understand the brutal constraints and dangers inherent in being of royal blood. There is one at court who loves her, but his love proves the greatest threat of all.

As an impetuous teenager, she escapes into a clandestine marriage in a bid for freedom, then must hide it for nearly a decade, as her guardians marry her off to another man. After her first husband’s death, Joan—now a mother of four—enters into another scandalous relationship, this time with the heir to the British throne, Prince Edward, hero of Crécy and Poitiers, who has loved her all along. But his devotion comes at a terrible price. Haunted by nightmares of her father’s execution and the ruthlessness of her royal kin, Joan must reconcile her passion for the crown prince with her own conscience. – from the publisher

So many books have been written about the Tudor era, so it’s awesome to see more being written about their predecessors, the Plantagenets. I’ve also never read anything about Joan of Kent, so it was fascinating to read about a new-to-me historical figure. I really had a wonderful time reading this book. One of my favorite aspects is that Joan is followed from childhood into her illustrious adulthood without letting any part of her life fall by the wayside. I am so in love with Campion’s characterization of Joan. She is young, but she has been taught well to be suspicious of all those around her. Although she makes mistakes, she is always redeemed by her intelligence and spirit.

Being such a huge fan of historical fiction, I’ve read almost too many novelizations of the Middle Ages, but I was enchanted by this novel. I found the cover to be a bit misleading – this is more a story about Joan’s life than it is a bodice-ripper. Yes, there is romance, but it is always within context of Joan’s story as a human being. Most details of the real Joan are unknown, but Campion is able to create an entire world for Joan. The plot can move at a slow pace, but since I view the book more of a fictional biography than a plot-driven novel I really don’t have any problem with it. Summer can be the best time to read a great piece of historical fiction, and I definitely recommend picking this one up for the beach!

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for letting me be a stop on this tour. For more information, click here.

REVIEW: The Stories We Tell by Patti Callahan Henry

The Stories We Tell by Patti Callahan Henry

the stories we tell

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Release Date: June 24, 2014

Source: Publisher

Eve and Cooper Morrison are Savannah’s power couple. They’re on every artistic board and deeply involved in the community. She owns and operates a letterpress studio specializing in the handmade; he runs a digital magazine featuring all things southern gentlemen. The perfect juxtaposition of the old and the new, Eve and Cooper are the beautiful people. The lucky ones. And they have the wealth and name that comes from being part of an old Georgia family. But things may not be as good as they seem. Eve’s sister, Willa, is staying with the family until she gets “back on her feet.” Their daughter, Gwen, is all adolescent rebellion. And Cooper thinks Eve works too much. Still, the Morrison marriage is strong. After twenty-one years together, Eve and Cooper know each other. They count on each other. They know what to expect. But when Cooper and Willa are involved in a car accident, the questions surrounding the event bring the family close to breaking point. Sifting between the stories—what Cooper says, what Willa remembers, what the evidence indicates—Eve has to find out what really happened. And what she’s going to do about it. – from the publisher

I will pretty much read any book that even remotely mentions Savannah, Georgia. I visited Savannah years ago on a class trip, and I have been utterly enchanted by it ever since. Henry takes the beautifully Southern atmosphere and turns it into a wonderful novel about life and love. Eve is one of those great female characters who tackles hardship straight on – she realizes who she really is in her obsession to find out what really happened between Cooper and Willa. Nothing is ever as it seems at face value.

You want to cheer Eve on, but at the same time, it’s like watching a train wreck as the family slowly unravels. While this book is being advertised as “women’s fiction”, I think it really goes beyond that and should be labeled as a mystery. The quest that Eve goes on in order to find out what happened the night of the wreck is more than just a woman on a mission – she goes into full-blown detective mode. Her obsession starts to consume her everyday life, even though she doesn’t want to believe in her suspicions. I do think that the ending was rushed, but overall, it didn’t take too much away from the story. I think the ending could have been expanded upon, especially with Cooper’s story.

I recommend this book to anyone who loves Southern fiction and a good, dramatic mystery. I was constantly reminded of Karen White with a dash of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil thrown in for good measure.

REVIEW: The Remedy: Robert Koch, Arthur Conan Doyle, and the Quest to Cure Tuberculosis by Thomas Goetz

The Remedy: Robert Koch, Arthur Conan Doyle, and the Quest to Cure Tuberculosis by Thomas Goetz

the remedy

Publisher: Gotham Books

Release Date: April 3, 2014

Source: publisher

In 1875, tuberculosis was the deadliest disease in the world, accountable for a third of all deaths. A diagnosis of TB—often called consumption—was a death sentence. Then, in a triumph of medical science, a German doctor named Robert Koch deployed an unprecedented scientific rigor to discover the bacteria that caused TB. Koch soon embarked on a remedy—a remedy that would be his undoing.
When Koch announced his cure for consumption, Arthur Conan Doyle, then a small-town doctor in England and sometime writer, went to Berlin to cover the event. Touring the ward of reportedly cured patients, he was horrified. Koch’s “remedy” was either sloppy science or outright fraud.
But to a world desperate for relief, Koch’s remedy wasn’t so easily dismissed. As Europe’s consumptives descended upon Berlin, Koch urgently tried to prove his case. Conan Doyle, meanwhile, returned to England determined to abandon medicine in favor of writing. In particular, he turned to a character inspired by the very scientific methods that Koch had formulated: Sherlock Holmes.
 – from the publisher

You all know I could never resist the chance to read anything even remotely related to Arthur Conan Doyle or Sherlock Holmes, right? You never know what kind of book you will get when you read about famous authors, but this book is absolutely brilliant. So many nonfiction books these days are either too watered down for the reader who has a basic knowledge of science OR the author gets too bogged down in his/her research that there is a complete lack of a cohesive narrative. Goetz manages to create a rip-roaring scientific adventure that will fascinate and thrill you.

Out of all of the books I’ve read on Conan Doyle, most breeze by his meeting with Robert Koch and how he was influenced to create a “scientific” detective. Many never even mention his career as a doctor at all. Yet, how could a man who had not studied scientific medicine create such a genius detective so well-versed in the knowledge of the human body and its surroundings? Koch is also portrayed very fairly considering he was one of the most controversial scientists in his day. His contributions to microbiology and research on tuberculosis cannot be denied, but his progress was ultimately hindered by his desire for recognition and glory. Conan Doyle was one of the first to recognize that there was really something more going on than just pure scientific research and findings.

I highly recommend this book – it reads like a novel, but informs like a paper published in a scholarly journal. I could not put this book down, even while I was being distracted by someone’s screaming children at Starbucks! Goetz is a skilled researcher and writer, and I look forward to reading more of his works.

GIVEAWAY: How to Tell Toledo from the Night Sky by Lydia Netzer

how to tell toledo from the night sky

Thanks to the publisher, I have one SIGNED copy of How to Tell Toledo from the Night Sky by Lydia Netzer to give away! Just comment below with your favorite literary heroine.

US only, please. Contest ends July 15, 2014 at 11:59 pm.

REVIEW: How to Tell Toledo from the Night Sky by Lydia Netzer

How to Tell Toledo from the Night Sky by Lydia Netzer

how to tell toledo from the night sky

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Release Date: July 1, 2014

Source: publisher

Like a jewel shimmering in a Midwest skyline, the Toledo Institute of Astronomy is the nation’s premier center of astronomical discovery and a beacon of scientific learning for astronomers far and wide. Here, dreamy cosmologist George Dermont mines the stars to prove the existence of God. Here, Irene Sparks, an unsentimental scientist, creates black holes in captivity.

George and Irene are on a collision course with love, destiny and fate. They have everything in common: both are ambitious, both passionate about science, both lonely and yearning for connection. The air seems to hum when they’re together. But George and Irene’s attraction was not written in the stars. In fact their mothers, friends since childhood, raised them separately to become each other’s soulmates.

When that long-secret plan triggers unintended consequences, the two astronomers must discover the truth about their destinies, and unravel the mystery of what Toledo holds for them—together or, perhaps, apart. – from the publisher

I’ve got to say that this is the most bizarre book I’ve read all year – but I mean that in the best way possible. If you read the synopsis above, you might think that this is a romantic comedy, or just your average love story. Oh, you would be so very wrong. This book is tragic, intelligent, and oh so brilliantly written. Netzer has mixed the deepest love with the vastness of the universe’s unknown capabilities. The concept of predetermination is explored in the most unique way possible – it took me half the book to even realize the underlying implications of the story since I was so wrapped up in these characters and their journey.

Irene is my favorite female character that I have read in a long time. She is fierce, dedicated to her work, and independent. She is a genius in her own right, and she definitely doesn’t need a man to fulfill her destiny. Yet, she realizes that she is lacking human connection and passion in the rest of her life. Work cannot be everything, no matter how much you let it consume you.

I can’t really describe my favorite part of the book since it is the very last scene, but it involves tulips and the coolest nerds of the literary world. I fell so in love with these characters that I was truly sad that the book had ended. I want to follow George and Irene into their futures, and watch what new mischief they can get themselves into :)