Book Reviews

Review: Cradles of the Reich by Jennifer Coburn

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My Interest

Liebstraum is one of my programs used to punish the horrific Nazi eugenics ideas in real life. Whether the children were born to unwed Aryan mothers who could prove the father also was Aryan or they were born to a young, willing, Aryan woman and an SS Officer or even that they were stolen from the “conquered” lands and taken back to Germany to be adopted by SS or other high-ranking Nazi families, all brought about the same end: furthering the numbers of Aryans.

This novel is what I’ve taken to calling a “Book Twin”–two books on the same subject appearing at about the same time. The earlier book was, The School for German Brides by Aimie K. Runyan (my review is linked).

The Story

NOTE: Lots of spoilers! Sorry! I just couldn’t hide them.

The story is told in a conventional way. Characters reflect various stereotypes. The nurse who has never married and is let down by her current beau takes a job in one of the Leibenstraum houses for expectant mothers or for “mothers in training.” The young women are stereotypes, too. One comes from a proudly Nazi family with a father who ignores her, the other, you guessed it, is the picture of Aryan everything but in love with a Jewish man. Only she goes along with the program and helps her gay friend by saying he, with an impeccable Aryan family, is the true father of her child.

Instead of experiencing all the normal Nazi events as she nears her due date, X flashes back on the events. The other, sadly can’t help herself and brags to one of the holiest of holy Nazi’s about who the father of her child is. Naturally, there is a big scene in which it all crashes down.

My Thoughts

This book was so “meh” I almost threw it back. If you are about 14 and know nothing of Nazi history it might be spellbinding. I had to wonder if this author was asked to write something to “compete” with the other book. I’m sure the author has better stories than this in her, I hope she is given the chance to tell those stories.

My Verdict

2 Stars

Cradles of the Reich by Jennifer Coburn releases on October 10, but is available now for pre-order.

Book Reviews

Review: Switchboard Soldiers by Jennifer Chiaverini

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My Interest

World War I and it’s preceding and following historical epochs are favorites of mine. President Wilson, long admired for his foreign policy ideals (he suffered a debilitating stroke trying to get the US into the League of Nations) was in truth, not what people thought. He re-segregated the government, for a start. It is a fascinating time. He had backtrack on the promise “He kept us out of war” that got him re-elected. But the war did bring some opportunities to women and gave the promise, finally, of women’s suffrage nationwide.

In addition, I enjoyed a previous book by this author, Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker, and, to a lesser degree, another of her books, Mrs. Lincoln’s Sisters.

The Story

One of the careers that opened to provide women with careers outside of domestic service was the new telephone industry. Women were employed as switchboard operators. Like every other type of women’s employment of the period, they were subjected to morals clauses that men did not have to endure, but it was still a way to earn a living without “living in.”

In the World War I, bilingual telephone operators (English and French fluency required) were recruited for the U.S. Army Signal Corps. While treated as though holding the same rank as Army nurses, they were not granted Veteran’s Status. Our story concerns three women popularly (and annoyingly) known as “Hello Girls” or “Switchboard Soldiers:” Grace, Marie, and Valerie who all volunteer to serve. After training, they embark for France where they help General Pershing and the American “Doughboys” put down the Kaiser and help win the war. French or Belgian, or of French Canadian roots, the girls are fluent in French, well educated, and have the manners and mores of the middle class.

Once overseas the women give their all to serving our country. Along the way they make good friends, help the local community and even find love. Thankfully, they each too seriously that they were “the first” and had to obey each rule to the letter–so there is no modern day jumping in and out of beds with guys. No Spoilers, but I was left admiring one character for knowing herself. That’s all I’ll say on that.

My Thoughts

I enjoyed this story, but thought the author was a little to “prescient” in sounding the music of doom with things like the Spanish flu–it wasn’t known at the time it entered the story that it would be a worldwide killer. Also, imposing the recent COVID-era mask debate into the story wasn’t helpful. (At least I didn’t catch any references to the Republicans!).

I thought the characters were likeable and mostly believable. All behaved in a way believable for the historical era, but none of the three really stood out to me. They were fairly “generic” though, admittedly, that could really just be from my “blues” of the moment. I liked the book very well and liked that other than the mask problem, nothing “modern” seeped into the story.

There was a bit too much for my taste of telling news headlines and historical scene-setting, but sadly today much of that is necessary. Does anyone even learn about World War I today? I wonder. I recall my kids doing a sound byte history of the world from the ancient Egyptians to Desert Storm in one school year, so I’m trying to not get as “peeved” by this pet peeve in historical fiction as I used to!

I did tear up (again) when the tragic story of one of my history crushes, General “Blackjack” Pershing was told. So sad. I’m glad that was included.

My Verdict

3.5

Switchboard Soldiers: A Novel by Jennifer Chiaverini

My reviews of other books by this author:

Mrs. Lincoln’s Sisters (click to go to my review)

Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker (from my old blog):

“I was enthralled by Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker! Elizabeth Keckly deserves a place of prominence in Civil War-era history and beyond. Mary Todd Lincoln’s mental illness is portrayed respectfully and accurately here. Mrs. Keckly’s ability to cope with “The Hellcat” as President Lincoln’s aides termed the First Lady, let alone her ability as a designer and seamstress, was vividly portrayed here.”

 

Book Reviews

Review: Age of Misadventure by Judy Leigh

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My Interest

When I like an author I usually decide to read/listen to their entire back list. This is, I believe, Judy Leigh’s 2nd novel. Once again, I was in need of an audio book. I was out of Audible credits and nothing I’d requested was in from the library’s e-audio collections, so I found this in my Chirp stash. Chirp does not pay me to mention them–but if you haven’t found them for great deals on audio books check then out! New deals daily, so if you enjoy audio books make sure to get their emails–and best of all, there is no subscription fee.

The Story

Georgina Turner’s life in Liverpool is in a bit of a rut. She has her own business as a “beauty therapist” that she runs from her home. Her adult daughter, Jade, is a personal trainer who lives with her mother and has her gym in the basement. Nearby lives Georgina’s aunt known to all as “Nanny” or “Nan” and her sister, Bonnie, married to the sleazy Adrian “Ady” who finds himself in the grips of an unforgiving mobster like business partner.

Jade meets a professional footballer [soccer player] who lives in Brighton. Georgina takes frozen dinners, and some home cooked ones, to unappreciative but dependent old Aunt Nanny as part of her weekly routine. Bonnie is constantly treated badly by philandering husband and his “wandering womb weevil,” but this time he owes money and its become dangerous to stay in Liverpool. So, Georgina decides to make a get-away that keeps them all safe from the angry mobster, but provides bonding time. Jade, newly in love, only wants to go to Brighton to start living with her soccer hero boyfriend. Along the way they have a very stressful “misadventure” that lands them in another soccer players apartment with a 24/7 police presence protecting them. But then there’s that bracelet, eh, “Bon-Bon?” And what does a vegetable spiralizer have to to do with it all?

My Thoughts

For a second novel, this isn’t bad. While it isn’t as warm and fun as Leigh’s later novels, there is the warmth of family and friendship ties that are hallmarks of all of Judy Leigh’s novels. In this one, she was still finding her way with story lines. This one, to me, was a tad unbelievable, but then I wasn’t a Sopranos fan!  Ha! I loved the way Georgina took charge and made everyone comfortable when possible. Nanny was just plain fun! Bonnie was like so many wives who trust their husband’s too much–vulnerable and afraid to live.

I loved the touch of romance that gave the story a rosy overtone. It is hard enough to make platonic friends at 50+ so when a romance happens that’s worth having, I celebrate.

In spite of this, I felt the story was a bit belabored–the road trip maybe a stop too long, the life in the soccer player’s flat with the police just a little too long.I also did not think the police would dither like they did. No matter! Judy Leigh tells a good story and her books are all worthwhile.

My Verdict

3 Stars

The Age of Misadventure by Judy Leigh

My Reviews of Other Books by Judy Leigh:

  1. The Highland Hens
  2. A Year of Mr Maybes
  3. Lil’s Bus Trip
  4. Chasing the Sun
  5. Heading Over the Hill
  6. The Old Girls’ Network

 

 

Book Reviews

Review: Carrie Soto is Back by Taylor Jenkins Reid

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I’m so caught up in Queen Elizabeth’s death that I forgot to post this earlier today.

My Interest

I’ve enjoyed previous books by this author–especially Daisy Jones and the Six, so when I heard this one was coming out, I knew I’d read or listen to it. Tennis is fine–I’m not a huge sports fan, but I was a little worried about how I’d do with that part of the story.

The Story

“We live in a world where exceptional women have to sit around waiting for mediocre men.”

“One of the great injustices of this rigged world we live in is that women are considered to be depleting with age and men are somehow deepening.”

“Luckily, I did not need to be pretty. My body was built to wage war.”

Carrie Soto, daughter of a South American tennis champion turned club pro, is raised on the public tennis courts. Her father, Xavier, brings her up to love the game and to play it at the highest levels. The hard work pays off–she is the GOAT–the “greatest of all time” in tennis. She leaves the game. Now she’s attempting a comeback–at almost age 40 she is competing against another generation of would be-GOATS, some of whom have changed the game–just as she did in her day. Can she do it? Meanwhile, men’s champion Bowe Huntley, is also attempting a come-back. He and Carrie were briefly an “item” in the tabloids years ago. Can the “battle axe” (as the press dubbed Carrie) and Bowe make it back to the top of their game?

My Thoughts

Taylor Jenkins Reid delivers in this book. While I DID, sadly, find some of the description of the matches Carrie plays to be tedious, the author’s command of her characters kept me interested overall. I loved Xavier–a good man, a good father, a brilliant coach. Who wouldn’t win with him at the helm of a career? Bowe, too, came across as likeable even if he was portrayed as a lot like John McEnroe. Unfortunately, I never really warmed up to Carrie herself. I admired her determination. I liked that she respected her father in s….[No Spoilers]. But she was not very likeable.

That this book was mostly set in an era when I was aware of tennis helped. I thought of McEnroe throwing his tantrums, the young phenom Tracey Austin with the two-handed backhand, Chris Evert, Billie Jean King, and so many others.  I loved the tongue-in-cheek reference to another of the author’s books worked in as Carrie’s reading material! I love things like that. I loved what Xavier and Bowe did.

Whether or not you are a tennis fan, this is a good novel–very compelling. I already wonder who will play Carrie in the movie that is sure to come of it.

And, how fun that Patrick McEnroe was one of the performers on the audio version?!

Note: “The perfect creases” in her tennis skirt? I think the word Reid was searching for was “pleats.” Odd.

My Verdict

4 Stars

 

Carrie Soto is Back: A Novel by Taylor Jenkins Reid

My Review of Other Books by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Malibu Rising

Daisy Jones and the Six

Book Reviews

20 Books of Summer Round Up: My 20 Books & My Favorite Book of Summer 2022

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Blogger 746 Books hosts this event each summer. It runs from June 1 to September 2.

 Least Favorite Book That I Finished

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My 3rd Favorite Book of Summer 2022

(Same book but showing both USA & UK titles/covers)

My 2nd Favorite Book of Summer 2022

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My Favorite Book of Summer 2022

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All of my 20 Books of Summer 2022

 

If you’d like to see my reviews of any of these books, you can either leave me a comment and I’ll reply with the post url or (if you are on your phone or tablet) scroll to the very end and you’ll find the search box. On a laptop or PC the search box is in the right sidebar.

25 books read and reviewed, plus a few other in the categories I do not review.

Did you participate in 20 Books of Summer this year? Leave me a comment or a link to your own post.

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20 Books of Summer is hosted annually by blogger 746 Books. Why not visit her blog and see all the great post she’s written? Leave her a comment. Bloggers live for comments.

Book Reviews

Review: Young Clementina by D.E. Stevenson

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My Interest

Once again, I needed an audio and this time I thought “Dean Street Press.” Sadly, none were available on audio. I found an audio of this D.E. Stevenson and used my monthly Audible credit to buy it. I’ve enjoyed a few of D.E.Stevenson’s other books and have linked my reviews at the bottom of this post.

The Story

“Death is not the saddest way to lose somebody you love.”
“It is a terrible thing to be angry with the dead.”

Charlotte and Garth grew up playing together. They were “made” for each other. But World War I intervenes. Garth goes off to the war while Charlotte, the Vicar’s daughter, waits. Meanwhile, Charlotte’s little sister, Kitty, grows up and decides she will be the mistress of a great house. She doesn’t need to love the man–she just needs the house and the wealth. You can imagine what happens!

NOTE: A “SORT OF” SPOILER is coming in my thoughts! You are warned!!

My Thoughts

Having forever been the “friend” of great guys, but never the “girl friend” I just KNEW the course this story would take. But, happily I was wrong–in a way. That made it all worthwhile. If you loved (and cried over) One Day by David Nicholls, you will love Young Clementina.

My Rating

3.5

Young Clementina by D.E. Stevenson

 

Other Books I’ve Enjoyed by D.E. Stevenson

  1. Mrs. Tim of the Regiment
  2. Spring Magic
  3. Winter and Rough Weather
Book Reviews

Top Ten Tuesday: School Freebie–Books Set in Colleges or Universities

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This week’s topic is “School Freebie” so make up your own topic around schools of any sort. I decided on colleges. I’ve done other posts on favorite school books in the past and will link them at the bottom of this post.

The Staff and Faculty Books

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The Groves of Academe: A Novel by Mary McCarthy

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The Netanyahus by Joshua Cohen

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Groundskeeping by Lee Cole. This novel has a character who is faculty (writer in residence) and character who is a student who also works on the college staff.

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Changing Places by David Lodge

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Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher

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The Professor’s House by Willa Cather

Vera [Mrs Vladimir Nabokov] by Stacy Schiff, is a biography but includes so much about Cornell that I’m counting it. The Wife is a novel that pairs perfectly with Vera. As in The Netanyahus, faculty wives (today husbands or partners) are the unpaid half of a pair. Both are necessary for one career to flourish.

The Student Books

Each group counts as “one”

Harvard Law School

The Paper Chase: A Novel by John Osborne spawned a movie and a t.v. show.

One L by Scott Turow, a nonfiction book on the first year of Harvard Law School is the nonfiction counterpart to The Paper Chase and started his career.

Pinstripes and Pearls by Judith Richards Hope tells the (nonfiction) story of Elizabeth Dole and others who turned Harvard Law coed in 1964.

The Military Academies

Note to readers from outside the USA: The Military Academies in the USA are degree-granting, 4-year undergraduate colleges–not simply officer training schools. At the US Military Academy (West Point), Naval Academy (Annapolis), US Air Force Academy, US Coast Guard Academy and US Merchant Marine Academy, engineering is the focus, with only a small percent of students allowed to major in other subjects. The private or state military colleges: The Citadel, Virginia Military Institute (VMI), Norwich University, Texas A & M, and a few others other majors are more easily had.

Dress Gray by Lucian K. Truscott IV is set at West Point.

The Lords of Discipline: A Novel by Pat Conroy tells the story of life at the Citadel (aka The Military College of South Carolina)

The Classic Harvard Undergrad

Books

Class Reunion by Rona Jaffe (Radcliffe  and Harvard)

The Last Convertible: A Novel by Anton Myrer

Love Story by Erich Segal

Have you read any of these? Leave me a comment or a link to your own post on college books.

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Check out the rules at That Artsy Reader Girl and join in next week!

Book Reviews

Review: Highland Hens by Judy Leigh

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My Interest

I’ve really enjoyed the author’s previous books–all of which off fun romances for older people. They feature people you’d like to know. There’s nothing in them that would smack of an Oprah’s Book Club pick. They’re just nice and a lot of fun. Plus, this one features a great country house in Scotland. So, what’s not to love?

The Story

Jess arrives in the Highlands to stay at a B &B for a short visit. The repairs on her cottage down south in England are now going to be prolonged. She decides to accept a job at Glen Carrick House (the local “big house”) as a companion to former dancer, Mimi McKinlay. Mimi holds Chardonnay Show Time in the evenings when she lets herself go and dances just for the fun of it. She has a slightly out-sized personality. Fortunately her 3 adult sons, Fin, Angus, and Hamish, are devoted to her and see to it that she comes to no harm. Jess is a wonderful addition to the family.

But there are things about Mimi’s past no one is sure of: WAS she a dancer in the West End of London? Or was she just a common “call girl” in the parlance of the 1950s? Can Jess help her live her last years to their fullest?

My Thoughts

This book was very different in tone (well, to me at least!) to Judy Leigh’s other books. It was even a little confusing at the beginning–probably because I was listening to it and my life is a bit unsettled right now. I got “up”on everything and then started to enjoy the story. Like all of Judy Leigh’s books, this is about romance at a later time in life, only this time there are multiple possibilities for who will become romantically involved. I liked that. Mimi’s story was so touching. I liked her zest for life. Jess was exactly who you’d want to find to be a companion for an elderly person–thoughtful, caring, polite, but personable in all the right ways. I loved the relationship that developed between Jess and Mimi. The McKinlay brothers were a great trio–not too good to be true, but just close enough to be believable. And Thor. Sigh. Sweet Thor! This is a sweet story, but never cloying or precious.

My Verdict

3.5

The Highland Hens by Judy Leigh

My reviews of other Judy Leigh books:

  1. A Year of Mr. Maybes
  2. Lil’s Bus Trip
  3. Chasing the Sun
  4. Heading Over the Hill
  5. The Old Girls’ Network
Book Reviews

Review: The Case of the Man Who Died Laughing (Vish Puri #2) by Tarquin Hall

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My Interest

I enjoyed the first book in this fun series, so when I needed an audio book while waiting on holds at the library, I decided that book two would be fun. (I do not usually review series books since it is so hard to avoid spoilers).

The Story

There are people in the world called variously magicians, healers, conjurers, mystics, gurus, and similar. The tricks the use often persuade their audience that incredible things are happening. A TV show personality known as the “Guru Buster” dies at a meeting of the Laughing Club. Who was he trying to unmask? Meanwhile, Vish Puri has to also help a Non Resident Indian citizen, unused to his home country’s ways, get his American-born children into a good school the Indian way!

And what is Mummy-Ji up to? Her Kitty Club (kitty, as in poker, not as in cat) has had a shock. Will Mummy-Ji figure it out? Will she have time to help beloved sun Vish, aka, “Chubby?”

Of course, along the way, Vish’s his wife and married, pregnant with twins daughter, help in interesting ways while making sure he knows he is loved.

My Thoughts

Political corruption and religious or spiritual charlatans! A BOGO offer in this book! While this series is intentionally light-hearted and often funny, the story takes on two serious topics. The manipulation of people for political ends and the manipulation for spiritual or religions ones can go hand-in-hand. The trick employed to make people think they are getting what they want are often subtle. Sometimes though they are more obvious than we think.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I’d love to see a Guru Buster in the USA to take on the politicians and expose both parties for their idiocy, as well as take on vapid celebrity crusaders, and t.v. evangelists!

I listened to the audio version.

My Verdict

4.0

The Case of the Man Who Died Laughing (Vish Puri #2) by Tarquin Hall.

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