Saturday, September 25, 2010

Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum

Released: January 2004

Those Who Save Us is one of the most beautiful, haunting and lyrical Holocaust novels I've ever read. Jenna Blum's background is probably one of the main contributing factors as to why this novel is so terrific. Not only is Blum of both German and Jewish descent, but she worked for the Shoah Foundation interviewing all types of survivors of the Holocaust. Her experience provided the backdrop for Those Who Save Us, and this is definitely a novel that should go on your wish list.

Those Who Save Us spans back and forth from past to present, telling Anna Schlemmer's story of her life in Germany during WWII and detailing the life of her daughter Trudy in present day, who begins a special project to interview Holocaust survivors. For the most part, Anna and Trudy have never been close because Anna has been silent for most of Trudy's life, partly due to the experiences she had during WWII. Due to Anna's tight-lipped persona, Trudy speculates about the life Anna lead in the past, and makes assumptions about a secret photograph she finds with the two of them plus one Nazi soldier. Those Who Save Us is also a mystery in this way, as we discover alongside Trudy exactly what Anna experienced up to her move to America.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Chesapeake Blue by Nora Roberts

Released: January 2004

Chesapeake Blue is the fourth and last novel in Nora Roberts' "Chesapeake Bay" series featuring her infamous Quinn brothers. Each book in the series focuses on a different brother, all of whom came from troubled and abusive families and were adopted by Ray and Stella Quinn early on in their childhoods. Chesapeake Blue is about Seth Quinn -- the only young man truly related to Ray Quinn by blood as his grandson.

There are very few authors I read in the realm of mass market publishing, and Nora Roberts is one of them. With Nora Roberts, you always know what you're gonna get; which is sweet, old-fashioned romance of the sort found in Hollywood movies and angelic gentlemen with perfect manners, lots of money, and massive sex appeal. If I need a light pick-me-up after reading a horror novel, true crime, or award-worthy Holocaust literature, Nora Roberts will usually do the trick in bringing me back from the dark trenches into happy reality.

Friday, September 17, 2010

With Your Crooked Heart by Helen Dunmore

Released: January 1999

With Your Crooked Heart is definitely a dark and moody read, so if you need something uplifting, maybe you should set this aside for a day you're feeling cynical. It isn't Dunmore's best, but it was interesting, to say the least.

The novel centers around the life of Louise, a once-beautiful and coveted woman who finds herself trapped between two brothers of opposite personas. Married to the responsible rich brother, Paul, she is irresistibly drawn to his younger and reckless brother Johnnie. Anna is the result of a one-night stand between Louise and Johnnie but is raised by Paul, who can provide a better life and stability for Anna while Louise drowns herself in alcohol.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A Desirable Residence by Madeleine Wickham

Released: June 2010

A Desirable Residence was originally published in 1996, the second novel by Wickham (AKA Sophie Kinsella). It's easy to see why Wickham's novels have bloomed over the years into the successful Shopaholic series under the Kinsella moniker; as this particular novel really reads more like a debut or starter. Although A Desirable Residence is a quick read, it just isn't as satisfying as I had originally hoped it would be.

The book centers around three main families: the Chambers', the Witherstones, and the Prentices. The Chambers' family is comprised of Liz, Jonathan, and their teenage daughter Alice. While the adults deal with two mortgages, debt, and running a newly acquired tutorial school, Alice finds herself trying to fit in with the grown-ups in the Prentice household. Ginny Prentice is a PR and Piers is an almost-famous actor who move into Alice's old house. Lastly, the Witherstones are comprised of businessman and broker Marcus, spindly and irritable wife Anthea, and their two brilliant sons, Daniel and Andrew. Marcus and Liz fall into a whirlwind affair while Jonathan is dedicated to tutoring young Daniel to help generate a boom in business.

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Ghost and the Haunted Mansion by Alice Kimberly

Released: January 2009

The Ghost and the Haunted Mansion is the fifth book in the Haunted Bookshop series featuring bookstore-owner Penelope Thornton-McClure and dead-1940s private investigator Jack Shepard.

The premise of the novel, I will admit, scared me a little because it concerns Penelope's friend Seymour, who goes so far as to hire some paranormal specialists to exorcise Jack from their quaint little town of Quindicott! Until recently, The Ghost and the Haunted Mansion was the last book in this series with no releases in 2010, but word on the street is that author Kimberly (AKA Cleo Coyle among other pseudonyms) will now be releasing The Ghost and the Bogus Bestseller sometime in 2011, continuing the series. Hallelujah!

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Skin Map by Stephen R Lawhead

Released: August 2010

The Skin Map is the first novel in the Bright Empires fantasy series. Stephen R Lawhead is widely known for many of his other series; including the Pendragon series, the Celtic Crusades, and the Song of Albion. While the novel's underlying messages lean to the serious side in terms of discovering the secret of life, saving numerous lives, and finding true paradise, the novel reads very light, fun, and is incredibly engaging!

Kit is down on his luck in present-day London, when out of the blue he is visited by his supposedly deceased great-grandfather Cosimo. Cosimo presents to Kit the way of traveling through ley lines, which resemble supernatural railroads that allow one to time-travel and visit alternate dimensions. Kit then shows this magical way of jumping through time to his girlfriend Wilhemina. The two become lost in time and separated from each other and the rest of the novel describes their adventures apart.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Poll: Holocaust Novels *Completed*

As the years pass, Holocaust novels are in abundance now more than ever.

What are your recommendations? Take the poll to the right of this post and comment below to include links to the reviews on your own blogs and websites! If you have additional recommendations, feel free to post those as well.

It's hard for me to pinpoint just one novel, but I'm going to choose Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum. Jenna Blum is of German and Jewish descent and spent four years interviewing Holocaust victims.

Here are links to my reviews on each novel:

Review -- Those Who Save Us
Review -- Skeletons at the Feast
Review -- The Book Thief
Review -- The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

We received the most votes for The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. Add it to your wish list if you haven't already!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

City Boy by Jean Thompson
Released: March 2005

I bought Jean Thompson's City Boy years ago, but it was one of those novels that just sat on my shelf and kept getting pushed aside - but oh, how I wished I had picked up this one sooner!

"City boy" Jack Orlovich longs to become a writer, so he moves with his wife Chloe from the suburbs of southern California to the bustling mecca of Chicago to pursue his dream. The novel opens with Jack and Chloe moving into a new apartment and encountering a slew of oddball neighbors. We get an immediate glimpse of the dynamic between Jack and Chloe, who seem to have a somewhat typical and cliched marriage - abundant with arguments, affairs, and romantic episodes that are few and far between.