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Irma Joubert’s The Girl From the Train

Six-year-old Gretl Schmidt is on a train bound for Aushwitz. Jakób Kowalski is planting a bomb on the tracks.

As World War II draws to a close, Jakób fights with the Polish resistance against the crushing forces of Germany and Russia. They intend to destroy a German troop transport, but Gretl’s unscheduled train reaches the bomb first.

Gretl is the only survivor. Though spared from the concentration camp, the orphaned German Jew finds herself lost in a country hostile to her people. When Jakób discovers her, guilt and fatherly compassion prompt him to take her in. For three years, the young man and little girl form a bond over the secrets they must hide from his Catholic family.

But she can’t stay with him forever. Jakób sends Gretl to South Africa, where German war orphans are promised bright futures with adoptive Protestant families—so long as Gretl’s Jewish roots, Catholic education, and connections to communist Poland are never discovered.

Separated by continents, politics, religion, language, and years, Jakób and Gretl will likely never see each other again. But the events they have both survived and their belief that the human spirit can triumph over the ravages of war have formed a bond of love that no circumstances can overcome.

Review

Initially when this book came out, I very much wanted to read it…and then I just didn’t. But I have now! And I’m so glad I did. My thoughts:

What I liked:

The setting. You have a Jewish girl who starts off hiding in Poland and later makes her way to South Africa. All of it was intensely fascinating. Especially the parts of the novel that took place in South Africa…simply because I can count on my hand the number of times I’ve actually read a book that took place there. There was so much to learn and absorb and not in an overwhelming kind of way.

History. WWII and all those directly effected by it is extremely interesting and rich in the human experience. Gretl’s experience is a bit different from most WWII stories I’ve heard of and I found myself completely immersed in her story.

Gretl. She’s a survivor. It’s not often I love heroines and I loved Gretl.

Jakob. His love for his country bleeds through the pages. He’s a wonderful hero.  He makes mistakes, but there’s a gentleness and a humility there that makes them easy to forgive.

Romance. It so worked. Jakob and Gretl have an age difference. I loved that they acknowledged it and that in spite of it, they managed to fall in love. And as it was built on shared experiences and friendship, it completely worked.

Spiritually, the novel deals with Catholicism vs. Protestantism. Can you have a real relationship with God if you are one or the other? It’s rare to read a book that handles different sects of Christianity. I thought the author handled it well.

What I didn’t like

Minor things, like Gretl being a bit too perfect and things happening a bit too fast.

Romantic Scale: 8

Overall, I loved this book. In fact, I went out and bought another book my the same author the next day and have decided that the author is now on my auto-buy list. I can’t recommend it enough!

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Kristi Ann Hunter’s An Uncommon Courtship

An Uncommon Courtship (Hawthorne House Book #3) by [Hunter, Kristi Ann]

Life for Lady Adelaide Bell was easier if she hid in her older sister’s shadow–which worked until her sister got married. Even with thepressure of her socially ambitious mother, the last thing she expected was a marriage of convenience to save her previously spotless reputation.

Lord Trent Hawthorne couldn’t be happier that he is not the duke in the family. He’s free to manage his small estate and take his time discovering the life he wants to lead, which includes grand plans of wooing and falling in love with the woman of his choice. When he finds himself honor bound to marry a woman he doesn’t know, his dream of a marriage like his parents’ seems lost forever.

Already starting their marriage on shaky ground, can Adelaide and Trent’s relationship survive the pressures of London society?

Review

This is the first book I have read by Kristi Ann Hunter. For some reason the third book in the series appealed to me more than the others….At any rate, this won’t be the last book I read by this author. My thoughts:

What I liked

In medias res. This book starts right in the middle of things and I loved it. I was immediately drawn in from the first page. A forced marriage? Yes.

Romance. This is a book about what love looks like and quite frankly, how to choose to love someone. I really enjoyed watching Adelaide and Trent fall for each other. It’s not easy and it’s not smooth, but it felt real. I mean, Adelaide and Trent deal with some legitimate marriage issues, but I liked that the author showed how they worked it out instead of glossing it over. I like romances that are built on more than attraction and this is definitely that book.

Relationships. This is a character driven novel. It’s all about the interactions the characters have with each other be they sibling relationships, marital relationships, etc.

Spiritually, the characters seek God for guidance and wisdom.

What I didn’t like

I think for some people this book could be considered slow. There was not a whole of flash/bang.

As a Regency purist, I felt like their were a few actions that the characters took that happened that didn’t quite jive with that era. Also, I was a bit confused about the titles of several characters.

Romantic scale: 8.5

Overall, I could not put this book down and I eagerly look forward to book 3.

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Monday Musings…I Took a Break

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If anyone here has followed my blog over the years they will notice that I took a break…from reading. And yet, I have read hundreds of books in the past few years, so let me clarify. I took a break from reading Christian fiction…which is odd when you write a Christian fiction blog.

Why?

First off, I have read Christian romance novels since I was about 12, but around the age of 26, I found myself…bored.

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Though there are some notable exceptions (I still devour their books when they come out), I found a lot of Christian fiction to be lacking in diversity, silly, creating problems that would have been fixed with a conversation, Amish, filled with inflated reviews, perfect for old people…in other words, lame. As a young single woman in this current century, these books were just not working. I’m not saying Christian authors need to address every issue out there. Not at all. I am saying approach things realistically; were there race issues in that time? Address them. Are people attracted to each other? Acknowledge it. Does there have to be a secret for their to be a plot? No. Don’t sweep things away, face them on. That’s what makes things interesting. That’s why I love Laura Frantz, Tamera Alexander, Tammy Gray, Becky Wade, Dani Pettrey, Elizabeth Camden, Jill Williamson, etc., They don’t run from issues, they handle them. Most Christian fiction runs from issues. Hence Amish.

So aside from some of my favorite authors…I took a break. A long one. Hence why the number of reviews went down. I started reading bucket loads of YA (I love romance, but adult secular romance…is a bit too much).

And so while I would take the smallest foray into new Christian authors, I haven’t read very many in the past few years. I’ve been sticking with old, familiar friends I can count on.

But it came with a cost.

Secular books often lack hope, they can be vulgar, and more often than not contrary to my own beliefs. In other words, mentally exhausting. I just finished a book the other day that left me so depressed. This book has over 32,000 reviews on Amazon and it’s hailed as a real winner, but it was such a stressful read and not in a good way. I’m tired. I miss reading about people who know there’s more to life than this.

And so, I am hoping to rejoin the world of Christian fiction  more fully; to introduce myself to authors I have ignored and hopefully find authors who can both hold my interest as a young woman and still leave me filling good. I haven’t completely given up all secular reading, but I’m definitely limiting it. With that said,

Any recommendations?

 

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Monday Musings…Cover Love

Image result for ronie kendig crown of souls

Six months after stopping a deadly plague, Cole “Tox” Russell and his team are enjoying a little rest. That peace is short-lived when a sniper shot hits Tox. The enemy is discovered to be one of their own, a rogue Special Forces team operator.

Alec King is perhaps the only person as skilled as Tox, and he’s out for justice. Furious with orders that got his men killed, he intends to make those responsible pay. And he insists Tox join him, believing they are the same breed of soldier.

Afraid his old friend is right, Tox battles a growing darkness within himself as he and his team engage in another deadly encounter with antiquity. It appears Alec is cheating–he’s using a mysterious artifact, a crown that history has linked to some of the worst slaughters in humanity. Racing to stop Alec before his vengeance is unleashed, Tox must fight the monster without becoming one.

Grace Mallory is tired of running, of hiding. But when an old friend sends an after-hours telegraph transmission warning Grace that the man who has hunted her for nearly a year has discovered her location, she fears she has no choice. She can’t let the villain she believes responsible for her father’s death release his wrath in Harper’s Station, the town that has sheltered her and blessed her with the dearest friends she’s ever known.

Amos Bledsoe prefers bicycles to horses and private conversations over the telegraph wire to social gatherings with young ladies who see him as nothing more than an oddity. His telegraph companion, the mysterious Miss G, listens eagerly to his ramblings every night and delights him with tales all her own. For months, their friendship–dare he believe, courtship?–has fed his hope that he has finally found the woman God intended for him. Yet when he takes the next step to meet her in person, he discovers her life is in peril, and Amos must decide if he can shed the cocoon of his quiet nature to become the hero Grace requires.

Evie Blackwell’s reputation as a top investigator for the Illinois State Police has landed her an appointment to the governor’s new Missing Persons Task Force. This elite investigative team is launched with plenty of public fanfare. The governor has made this initiative a high priority, so they will have to produce results–and quickly.

Evie and her new partner, David Marshal, are assigned to a pair of unrelated cases in suburban Chicago, and while both involve persons now missing for several years, the cases couldn’t be more different. While Evie opens old wounds in a close-knit neighborhood to find a missing college student, David searches for a private investigator working for a high-powered client.

With a deep conviction that “justice for all” truly matters, Evie and David are unrelenting in their search for the truth. But Evie must also find answers to the questions that lie just beneath the surface in her personal life.

In 1917, Evelyn Marche is just one of many women who has been widowed by the war. A British nurse trapped in German-occupied Brussels, she spends her days working at a hospital and her nights as a waitress in her aunt and uncle’s café. Eve also has a carefully guarded secret keeping her in constant danger: She’s a spy working for a Belgian resistance group in league with the British Secret Service.

When a British plane crashes in Brussels Park, Eve is the first to reach the downed plane and is shocked to discover she recognizes the badly injured pilot. British RFC Captain Simon Forrester is now a prisoner of war, and Eve knows he could be shot as a spy at any time. She risks her own life to hide him from the Germans, but as the danger mounts and the secrets between them grow, their chance of survival looks grim. And even if they do make it out alive, the truth of what lies between them may be more than any love can overcome.

So much to look forward to!

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Tamera Alexander’s A Note Yet Unsung

A Note Yet Unsung (A Belmont Mansion Novel Book #3) by [Alexander, Tamera]

A master violinist trained in Vienna, Rebekah Carrington manages to wheedle her way into an audition with the new maestro at the Nashville Philharmonic. But women are “far too fragile and frail” for the rigors of an orchestra, and Rebekah’s hopes are swiftly dashed when the conductor–determined to leave his mark on the world of classical music–bows to public opinion. To make matters worse, Adelicia Cheatham, mistress of Belmont Mansion and Rebekah’s new employer, agrees with him.

Nationally acclaimed conductor Nathaniel Tate Whitcomb is Nashville’s youngest orchestra leader. And despite a reluctant muse and a strange buzzing and recurring pain in his head, he must finish composing his symphony before the grand opening of the city’s new symphony hall. Even more pressing, he must finish it for the one who first inspired his love of music–his dying father. As Tate’s ailment worsens, he knows Rebekah can help him finish his symphony. But how can he win back her trust when he’s robbed her of her dream?

Review

Tamera Alexander is one of my favorite authors and this book does not disappoint. My thoughts:

What I liked

Rebekah. She was a smart, capable heroine who knew herself and what she wanted. I will admit that it took me a minute to like her, but once I did, I was in her corner.

Nathaniel. He’s not likable at first, but by the end of the novel you are completely rooting for him. Nathaniel goes through a trial that is heart-wrenching. I thought the author did a fantastic job of dealing with the complexities of his problems.

Secondary characters. Adelicia Cheatham is in this book just as she is in the others, but she is not the one that steals the show. Nathaniel’s family is highly interesting and I loved each and every one of them.

Mystery. There are small mysteries or rather complex backstories behind the main characters which serve to make the narrative stronger and richer.

Music. Somehow the author made the music come alive and dance upon the pages. I enjoyed it along with the characters.

Spiritually, the novel deals with trusting God in difficult times.

What I didn’t like

There was one strange twist in the story that just didn’t make sense to me. I understood where the author was going, I just didn’t understand why she chose the route she did to get there.

Also, Nathaniel was both guarding his past tightly and planning to reveal it. He didn’t appear to be confused by this dichotomy, but I was.

Romantic scale: 8.5

Overall, just as I have always enjoyed Tamera Alexander’s books, I enjoyed this one.

**I received a copy from Netgalley. My opinion was not affected in anyway.**