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Monday, April 25, 2022

The School for German Brides...#BookReview

Germany, 1939
As the war begins, Hanna Rombauer, a young German woman, is sent to live with her aunt and uncle after her mother's death. Thrown into a life of luxury she never expected, Hanna soon finds herself unwillingly matched with an SS officer. The independence that her mother lovingly fostered in her is considered highly inappropriate as the future wife of an up-and-coming officer and she is sent to a "bride school." 

There, in a posh villa on the outskirts of town, Hanna is taught how to be a "proper" German wife. The lessons of hatred, prejudice, and misogyny disturb her and she finds herself desperate to escape.

For Mathilde Altman, a German Jewish woman, the war has brought more devastation than she ever thought possible. Torn from her work, her family, and her new husband, she fights to keep her unborn baby safe. But when the unthinkable happens, Tilde realizes she must hide. The risk of discovery grows greater with each passing day, but she has no other options.

When Hanna discovers that Tilde hiding near the school, she knows she must help her however she can. 

For Tilde, fear wars with desperation. The women must take extraordinary risks to save the lives of mother and baby.

Will they both be able to escape with their lives and if they do, what kind of future can they possibly hope for?

I haven't finished a book for review since September of 2020. I have started so many and just didn't have the desire/drive to finish them. Until now.  I knew The School for German Brides was a historical WW2 novel, but I was completely unaware of the bride schools that existed in Germany. Only girls engaged to SS officers were sent there and they were trained to be perfect wives for the officers.

This story revolves around Hanna, Klara and Tilde. Two German women unwillingly engaged to SS officers and the Jewish woman who makes their dresses and tries to hide her mixed heritage. Hanna was sent from rural Germany to the city to live with her aunt and uncle and meets Klara. Tilde is Klara's dressmaker and is hired to make new dresses for Hanna. 

The novel drops us into the lives of the German rich. Those who benefited from the war and being in the good graces of the SS. And while neither Hanna nor Klara want to marry cruel SS officers, they know they have no choice in the matter. Their friendship with Tilde and their desire to help her, binds them together.

In all her stories, Aimie writes about strong women and their friendships and I absolutely adore books about the strength, resilience, and community of women. 

These women are strong, resilient and steadfast. Even fighting against the expectations of their families and the Reich, they are tenacious. Hanna's maid, who helps her understand and navigate her new world is a charming addition to the story. 

I have never been disappointed by an Aimie Runyan novel. And The School for German Brides did not fail me. It kept me enthralled and captivated.

Thanks to the author and Netgalley for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Aimie K. Runyan on her website and find her on Facebook and Twitter.

Read 4/22

* * * * *
5/5 Stars

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

The Half Wives...#BookReview

About the book:
Over the course of one momentous day, two women who have built their lives around the same man find themselves moving toward an inevitable reckoning.

Former Lutheran minister Henry Plageman is a master secret keeper and a man wracked by grief. He and his wife, Marilyn, tragically lost their young son, Jack, many years ago. But he now has another child—a daughter, eight-year-old Blue—with Lucy, the woman he fell in love with after his marriage collapsed.

The Half Wives follows these interconnected characters on May 22, 1897, the anniversary of Jack’s birth. Marilyn distracts herself with charity work at an orphanage. Henry needs to wrangle his way out of the police station, where he has spent the night for disorderly conduct. Lucy must rescue and rein in the intrepid Blue, who has fallen in a saltwater well. But before long, these four will all be drawn on this day to the same destination: to the city cemetery on the outskirts of San Francisco, to the grave that means so much to all of them. The collision of lives and secrets that follows will leave no one unaltered.

Henry and Marilyn tragically lost their 2-year old son and their marriage never recovered. They live together but distantly. Marilyn has never been able to move forward in her grief and loses herself in charity work. Henry has had a long-term affair with Lucy and they have a daughter. 

The one day that Henry and Marilyn come together as a couple is the anniversary of Jack's death. They meet at his graveside at a set time in the afternoon. But, Henry has also been going to the grave site on that same day with Lucy, but earlier in the day. And on this day, with extenuating circumstances and unexpected delays, they all come together.

So, a slice of life story is clever and a great way to keep the reader's attention. The characters were well developed and we really get a sense of their feelings.

The second person narrative with questionable punctuation and different perspectives? While, I can see why the author may have chosen to narrate second person, but it's just not a narrative I enjoy. However, the details and inner thoughts did add to the story.

The historical aspects and the dark history of San Francisco cemeteries was absolutely new to me and fascinating. 

The story is just that. A story. There isn't a grand reveal or am exciting turn of events. It's not particularly uplifting and there is little hope for a happy ending. There were some loose ends that were not resolved and I was disappointed in that.

Read 9/20

* * * 
3/5 Stars

Monday, September 28, 2020

Prospects of a Woman...#BookReview

About the book
Elisabeth Parker comes to California from Massachusetts in 1849 with her new husband, Nate, to reunite with her father, who’s struck gold on the American River. But she soon realizes her husband is not the man she thought—and neither is her father, who abandons them shortly after they arrive. As Nate struggles with his sexuality, Elisabeth is forced to confront her preconceived notions of family, love, and opportunity. She finds comfort in corresponding with her childhood friend back home, writer Louisa May Alcott, and spending time in the company of a mysterious Californio. 

Armed with Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Self-Reliance, she sets out to determine her role in building the West, even as she comes to terms with the sacrifices she must make to achieve independence and happiness. A gripping and illuminating window into life in the Old West, Prospects of a Woman is the story of one woman’s passionate quest to carve out a place for herself in the liberal and bewildering society that emerged during the California gold rush frenzy.

The Gold Rush was one of my favorite parts of learning California history in the 4th grade. I've spent time in gold rush country and I love the Northern California area. So a book about a woman, set in that time period? Sign me up!

Elisabeth marries Nate, a man she barely knows to escape a life of poverty and despair in Massachusetts. Arriving in California, she discovers that life isn't any easier there. Her marriage isn't a happy one, because her husband, Nate, is a closeted gay man and she turns to another for affection. Working the claim they inherited from her father, the two struggle to make a living as well as a life. 

What I enjoyed most about Prospects of a Woman was California's progressive views about the roles of women and Elisabeth's understanding of the options she had there. She could own her own business. She could divorce her husband. She could make her own decisions. 

Elisabeth isn't an inherently likeable woman. But, her tenacity is to be admired. She writes letters to her friend, Louisa May Alcott, but while the letters give more insight into Elisabeth, we never see Louisa's responses, which would have given the story an added depth. 

Thanks to Netgalley and She Writes Press for the opportunity to read this book. You can learn more about Wendy Voorsanger on her website and follow her on Facebook and Instagram.

Read 9/20

* * *
3/5 Stars