Surprise on a Saturday with The Clover House by Henriette Lazaridis Power

Hey Everyone! Today is actually going to be my Fresh Face Friday post. I haven’t been feeling well lately and didn’t get a chance to post yesterday. So, better late than never I am featuring Henriette Lazaridis Power’s book, The Clover House.  This is a great mix of contemporary and historical fiction.  It blends the history of a country and the history of a family in with today’s world.  It’s a wonderful mystery that you can’t wait to find out the truth.  For my whole review be sure to check it out after the book blurb.  Hope you all have a wonderful weekend!

15798318Book Blurb:

A phone call from her cousin sends Calliope Notaris Brown from Boston to the Greek city of Patras to sort through an inheritance from her uncle. She arrives during the wild abandon of Carnival, when the world is turned upside down and things are not as they seem. Digging through the keepsakes her uncle has left, Callie stumbles upon clues to the wartime disappearance of the family’s fortune and to the mystery of her estranged mother’s chronic unhappiness. As she pieces together family secrets that stretch back to the Italian occupation of Greece during World War II, Callie’s relationship with her fiancé, her mother, and her mother’s two sisters will change irrevocably

Review:

In The Clover House, Callie is made to come back to Greece after her cousin calls to inform her that her favorite uncle has died.  This is unwelcome news on all fronts.  She has not returned to Greece since she had a falling out with her mother five years prior.  But, Callie feels the pull of familial obligation and of mystery.  Her mother has always been cold to her but she is especially acting strange now that her uncle has left Callie all of his belongings.  Callie is unsure about all this but to top things off she is having her own problems with her fiancée.  Choosing to flee to Greece to uncover what her uncle wants her to she is also running from her problems at home.   Upon her arriving she finds herself immersed in lives that have long passed and the stories she has always known are marred with truths long since past.  Callie takes it upon herself to unravel these mysteries that may give her some understanding as to why her mother is the way she is and why she also is the way she is.  What Callie discovers along the way will change not only her but her family.

This was a highly enjoyable read.  I loved the mystery and the history of the book.  Most of all I enjoyed the truth Callie finds then reading the real unmarred truth.  The history of the Greek involvement in WWII and occupation through the eyes of a family that was impacted to severely was phenomenal.  I am a huge history buff and to read a story such as this is wonderful.  In a story such as this it was masterfully done to show that even during war children and teenagers still make mistakes.  Only during this time they have much more far-reaching consequences.  It wasn’t just the history of this story though.  It was the cultural and familial structure that is shown so well.  Clio and Callie’s relationship was still quite unknown by the end of the book, but I feel with the discoveries that Callie had she understood why she was the way she was.  Her mother was always spoiled but she hid such darkened depths that only one other person knew.  It is the complexities of family and how they mold your life that is very much illustrated.  You can see that with Callie’s decisions with her own life and how her mother’s negligence disguised as leniency allowed Callie to be reckless.  Overall, this is a fantastic book and if you like history, not only world but personal you will love The Clover House.

Author Bio:

6459197Henriette Lazaridis Power is a first-generation Greek American who has degrees in English literature from Middlebury College; Oxford University, where she was a Rhodes Scholar; and the University of Pennsylvania. She taught at Harvard for ten years, serving as an academic dean for four of those. She is the founding editor of The Drum, a literary magazine publishing exclusively in audio form. A competitive rower, Power trains regularly on the Charles River in Boston.

Coffee and a Review with Ribbons of Steel by Carol Henry

images3Happy Monday!  I hope you all had a wonderful weekend.  I know mine was busy so I definitely need my coffee today.  Today’s review is a brilliant historical fiction about a time of train travel and unions.  Carol Henry crafts a wonderful story with significant historical points interwoven throughout the story.  For my full review be sure to keep reading after the book blurb. Many of you don’t know but this will be the final Coffee and Review of the Year.   I will see you guys again with great books and reviews starting in January.  Be sure to stay tuned this week for a fun promo I will be doing and my final Fresh Face Friday.  Have a great start to your week.

18904447Book Blurb:

Charley Carmichael’s loyalty may be with the Pennsylvania Rail Road’s main man, Mason Aderley, but his heart lies with the men who work the rails. With the railroads cutting wages, a major strike is imminent. Caught up in the riots and bloodshed sweeping the continent, Charley’s friends are threatened; workers are dying. Charley’s life turns tragic when his wife is diagnosed with consumption.

Emily, forced to leave her family due to her health, travels to her cousin’s home in the California Territory.  A damaged trestle prevents her train from crossing a ravine, stranding the passengers with nowhere to hide when an Indian hunting party causes a deadly buffalo stampede. Fearing for her life, Emily worries she will never see her children again.  Who will care for them should her husband not survive the railroad strike?

Set between a farming lifestyle in the rolling hills of south central New York and the gritty railroad realities of Philadelphia, this is one family’s story of courage, spirit, and resilience.

Review:

Charley Carmichael is working the rails in Philadelphia when news of an impending wage cut hits the railway works.  Words of strike and union begin to be thrown around.  Deep down Charley is for the strike but due to his family situation he is playing middle man between railway workers and management.  Meanwhile, Charley’s wife Emily has been ill for some time.  She is diagnosed with consumption and must go out west for her cousin to care for her.  This leaves her children in the care of her eldest son, Seth and eldest daughter Catherine.  Though the children manage to take care of each other the trials that the entire family feels is universally connected with the railroad.  Everything from Charley’s involvement with railway riots, Emily’s train ride west or the threat of the family farm being unable to sell to the city due to a possible railway shut down.  The months apart for this family makes for a wonderful three-tiered story that in the end will still leave you guessing about the family.

This was a fantastic historical journey.  I loved the layered story and how it was all connected through the railroad.  In most stories you wonder how families left to the background are supposedly coping.  Carol Henry makes them as important as Charley and Emily.  In fact I found myself drawn much more toward the life of the children on the farm than any of the other pieces.  It did disappoint me that we didn’t have closure with what happens with Seth and the rest of the Carmichael children once everything is settled.  I hope that there is a sequel in the works because this inquiring mind wants to know.  It wasn’t just the story or the historical threads that kept this story going.  The characters grew and developed through the story as if this were a true story of a family in 1877 during the railway disputes.  Overall, this was a wonderful book and I would definitely recommend it to any history buffs.

Coffee and a Review with A Wicked Deception by Margaret Tanner

untitledWelcome to yet another week closer to Christmas.  I can hear all the groans out there and I sympathize.  So, to take your mind of the impending holidays I am starting your week off with a wonderful historical romance.  A Wicked Deception by Margaret Tanner is a refreshing topic with wonderful characters and an even better backdrop.  For more on my review check it out after the book blurb.  Have a great week everybody!

51W0vfiUVcL__BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA278_PIkin4,BottomRight,-64,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_Book Blurb:

In 1854, the Australia goldfields swirl with the heated danger and betrayal of the Eureka Stockade rebellion. At the center of this maelstrom is Melanie O’Dea, a woman with a price on her head and the authorities on her heels. Melanie accepts aid from a neighbor, The Honorable Michael Guilford, but this places her in even more peril. After he seduces her and callously discards her, Melanie is left to fend for herself. Can she endure such treachery and survive the sweeping winds of uncertainty?

Review:

Melanie O’Dea is madly in love with Robbie Pritchard.  The only thing standing between the two marrying is her brother James.  James demands that Robbie make a good living before handing over his sister.  Robbie is working in the goldfields.  At this time it is very tumultuous and dangerous.   Robbie is part a group rebelling against officials who are making the miners lives very difficult.  It unfortunately this that brings Melanie into a dangerous situation and turns her into an outlaw.  When she is on the run she is aided by her neighbor, Michael Guilford, who she used to think she was deeply in love with.  During their journey Melanie finds out some devastating news about Robbie and her brother and forces herself to try to move forward with her old love.  It isn’t until after Melanie moves heaven and earth to follow her old love that she finds she has been deceived in a most painful way.  Against all odds Melanie must survive.  How to do that she doesn’t know, but the one thing she knows is that she must.

This was a great historical read.  I loved the story and the little known subject of the Eureka Stockade rebellion.  It really got my historian juices flowing.  I love this part of history especially with the rebellions of miners and others.  This is a more obscurely known rebellion to Americans, but it is no less interesting.  The love story interwoven in the back story of this rebellion was flawlessly done.  The emotion that is brought to not only the historical part but the deception and betrayal that Melanie has to endure is fantastic.  I must say that through the trials it’s the ending that makes everything ok.  I did shed some tears but in the end I was smiling.  If you want a wonderful journey to the past with an emotional component you will love A Wicked Deception.

Coffee and a Review with Imagining Vietnam by Elizabeth McLean

coffee_morning_jpg(1)Happy Monday!  Today’s coffee and a review is spotlighting the book Imagining Vietnam by Elizabeth McLean.  This is a wonderful compilation of stories that take us from early Vietnam to more modern times.  The poetic stylization of the stories brings a whole new dimension to the American view of Vietnam.  Be sure to check out my entire review after the book blurb.

41tSswyigqL__BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA278_PIkin4,BottomRight,-67,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_Book Blurb:

History explains what happened in the past; Imagining Vietnam shows us what it
was like to live in past times. Eight memorable stories, spanning ten centuries
of Vietnamese history, take us back to the drama and excitement of the past.
From Lan, dreaming of attaining womanhood in ‘The Black Stain’, to Hanh, driving
stakes into the riverbed to repel the Mongol horde in ‘The Mongolian Stake’,
Elizabeth McLean’s characters draw us into vivid personal experiences of times
gone by. Dramatic, resonant and beautifully crafted, these stories form a
triumphant debut from an author with a superb gift for storytelling.

Review:

Elizabeth McLean’s artful telling of the history of Vietnam was very imaginative.  The eight stories are like eight panels in a painting.  From the Mongol hordes to modern Canada allows the reader to see aspects of Vietnam that many did not know.  Most of those who think Vietnam only think of the war and the tragedies that happened on both sides.  This paints a completely different picture.  Elizabeth McLean takes her reader on an artistic journey that will leave the imagination reeling.  Though a beautiful piece of writing it does get quite complex and confusing at times.  If the reader has not read Asian centered literature than it may be a bit difficult to keep up with the names and the culture.  It could even be a bit cumbersome.  Overall, I thought this was a great piece of historical fiction and feel that the way the story was written was inventive and true to the Vietnamese culture.

Fresh Faced Friday: The Bequest of Big Daddy by Jo-Ann Costa

Today I am featuring Jo-Ann Costa and her book The Bequest of Big DaddyThe Bequest of Big Daddy is a historical fiction novel that takes place in the south spanning from pre-Civil War to the early 1980’s.  This is a wonderful slice of American History brought to life.  Be sure to read my entire review after the book blurb.

16087691-1Book Blurb:

From a Reconstruction-era logging industry to the decaying ruins of a doomed plantation with its dying social system but a memory, The Bequest of Big Daddy is evocative of all that was wrong in the post-Civil War South. At its heart, this is the story of a man born to Southern aristocracy then reduced to peasantry, who spawns an empire of outcasts, heroes and heroines—among them a great-granddaughter who is determined to learn the truth about her kin’s hushed, painful past.

This often dark tale of family betrayals, separations and reunions, is set in motion at the deathbed of Ratio Janson, a crusty patriarch with an infamous background, a hair-trigger temper and a feisty great-granddaughter named Jo-Dee. From the shocking gossip she overhears at his funeral, Jo-Dee is determined to plumb the murky past as the protective skin of Ratio’s story falls away. Will she betray her great-grandfather and disgrace the family name, or will she preserve his shameful secret? Either way, will Big Daddy’s spirit claim her even from the grave? Sometimes, a bit of violence in the blood is a good thing.

Review:

The Bequest of Big Daddy is a fantastic historical fiction novel.  Jo-ann Costa really brings the life of a strong-willed, no-nonsense, rough around the edges southern patriarch to vivid reality.  Horatio “Ratio” Janson lives such a varied life that it is almost too much for one person to endure.  He experiences everything from the scant love of a mother to charges of a heinous crime to the love of a good wife to the conviction of an unforgivable act.  Ratio lives to see many women in and out of his bed and many legitimate and illegitimate children through out his life.  Most of this story is the illustration of a man who must weather many storms and face many enemies.  He comes out of each challenge a harder yet wiser man.

Jo-ann Costa’s ability to bring these long forgotten, unless seen in movies, characters is phenomenal.  Her illustration of the deep south in a time of turmoil and change for both white and black people  brings to mind the movie Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.  The larger than life Ratio is a character that epitomizes this life and era.  Overall, one of the best historical fiction books I’ve read in a while.  I can’t wait to read what Jo-ann writes next.  If you liked the movies Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Gone with the Wind then you will love The Bequest of Big Daddy.

Jo-Ann Costa, NovelistAuthor Bio:

Novelist Jo-Ann Costa, formerly Director of Public Affairs for a California-based Fortune 500 company founded by the late Howard Hughes, a member of several state and national Boards of Directors, a Deputy to the California Business Roundtable, and President of the Board of Philanthropy for her firm, left the corporate world in 2002. Along with the other wildlife, Ms. Costa now makes her home at the edge of Colorado’s Weminuche wilderness, where she writes historical fiction and mysteries.

A Southerner by birth, Ms. Costa’s historical fiction and short stories are woven from the fabric of her people and the landscape of her youth, while her mystery stories arise from her experiences living and working in Southern California. She is a graduate of California State University, the University of Southern California’s Managerial Policy Institute, Leadership Southern California and the Public Affairs Institute.

The Bequest of Big Daddy is the first book in her epic saga, Longleaf Legacy.

 

Review: My Enemy’s Cradle by Sara Young

My Enemy’s Cradle by Sara Young has to be one of the best historical fiction books I have come across.  This introduced a completely new part of history I wasn’t even familiar with.  I know that there are many facets of history and even in just one part of it like WWII there are too many little nuances that it is almost impossible to know it all.  This particular book addresses one of them, the Lebonsborn.

Ok kiddies history lesson time.  As many people know Hitler wanted to create a perfect society. The perfect society was made up of blonde hair, blue-eyed people.  All others were seen as imperfect and should be disposed of.  Since this is not naturally occurring he had to orchestrate and nurture the spreading of the perfect specimen.  Part of this plan was to take any women who got pregnant by Nazi soldiers and send them to hospitals/institutions to be cared for.  Once this perfect child was born and they met the standards for a good Nazi child they were then taken away from the mother and given to a good Nazi family.  Most of these women brought to these homes were from occupied countries like Norway, Sweden or Holland.  For those children not meeting the standards like those born deaf, born with a cleft lip or born blind would either be exterminated or put into an institution and experimented on.  This  was unfortunately  the Nazi policy dictated by SS leader Heinrich Himmler.  This sad, disgusting  part of history is definitely purposely hidden away.

Now that you know the history behind the Lebensborn I will detail the story of My Enemy’s Cradle.  In the start of the book we meet Cyrla who is living with her Aunt, Uncle and Cousin Anneke.  Cyrla is half-Jewish/half-Dutch.  She was sent to Holland to live right before the Ghettos were getting put up in Poland.  She looks enough like a Dutch girl who no one suspects she is Jewish.  They must continue to hide her background once the Occupation of Holland takes place.  Many restrictions are put on Jewish citizens and many start to disappear.  In the meantime, her cousin Anneke begins to date a Nazi officer and eventually gets pregnant.  Not long after her discovery of her pregnancy she finds that her Nazi officer is gone.  Once she tells her family, her father forces her to get checked out  and look into being sent to one of the homes to have and give up her child.

Anneke does not take this well.  Anneke acts rashly and the consequences are dire.  Now, Cyrla who has been found out to be Jewish is forced to somehow quickly get pregnant and become Anneke.  Cyrla goes to the home and it is here the real story begins.  Cyrla must constantly hide her heritage and must quickly step into the shoes of her cousin.  Her struggle to keep up such a stressful charade and on top of everything be a first time mother just shows you the desperation of the Jewish people. While at the home you meet Karl, Anneke’s Nazi Officer and through the memory of Anneke develop a bond.  This story takes you to many very dark places.  Places you didn’t think existed. A story such as this is unique because this really did happen.  Maybe not this particular story but these homes and these children happened.

I recommend this book for anyone interested in the history and the emotional charge that a story like this can give.  You will feel heartbroken many times over  and because Sara Young is such an outstanding writer you will feel as if you are right there with Cyrla.  But, reader be warned, you will want to read this multiple times.  You bond with the characters and the story.  Even if you don’t usually read historical fiction you will want to read this one.

For additional information about Sara Young’s My Enemy’s Cradle go to Barnes and Noble, Amazon or any other book retailer.

Author Profile: Katherine Howe

I decided to do this week’s author profile on Katherine Howe since I just finished her new book The House of Velvet and Glass.  I was intrigued by Ms. Howe after reading both of her books.

Ms. Howe was born in Houston, Texas.  She is very academically accomplished.  She has degrees in Art History and Philosophy from Columbia.  She also has degrees in American and New England Studies from Boston University.  I was not surprised upon learning this.  Having been a History teacher myself I could recognize someone who has a working knowledge of history.  You can’t just research this for a book.  Ms. Howe knows her history and it shows in both her books.  I did find it very interesting that she is related to two persecuted witches from the Salem witch trials, Elizabeth Proctor and Elizabeth Howe.  Elizabeth Proctor survived her encounter with the trials.  This was no doubt an influence on her choice of topic for her first book, the Salem witch trials.

Ms. Howe’s writing brings history to life.  I enjoy history immensely and I enjoy a good historical fiction.  It is hard to find a book that includes both historically accurate events and persons with the story that flows so well you forget that it is fiction.  Ms. Howe does this.  You can tell as a reader that Ms. Howe uses aspects from all her academic background.  She is poetic and philosophical at times all the while painting history beautifully.  This balance is very hard to maintain. She is an exquisite writer and it shows from her very first sentence in The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane.

Here is an excerpt from Katherine Howe’s first book, The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane:

CHAPTER ONE

Cambridge, Massachusetts
Late April
1991

“It would appear that we are nearly out of time,” announced Manning Chilton, one glittering eye fixed on the thin pocket watch chained to his vest. He surveyed the other four faces that ringed the conference table. “But we are not quite done with you yet, Miss Goodwin.”

Whenever Chilton felt especially pleased with himself his voice became ironic, bantering: an incongruous affectation that grated on his graduate students. Connie picked up on the shift in his voice immediately, and she knew then that her qualifying examination was finally drawing to a close. A sour hint of nausea bubbled up in the back of her throat, and she swallowed. The other professors on the panel smiled back at Chilton.

Through her anxiety, Connie Goodwin felt a flutter of satisfaction tingle somewhere in her chest, and she permitted herself to bask in the sensation for a moment. If she had to guess, she would have said that the exam was going adequately. But only just. A nervous smile fought to break across her face, but she quickly smothered it under the smooth, neutral expression of detached competence that she knew was more appropriate for a young woman in her position. This expression did not come naturally to her, and the resulting effort rather comically resembled someone who had just bitten into a lime.

There was still one more question coming. One more chance to be ruined. Connie shifted in her seat. In the months leading up to the qualifying exam, her weight had dropped, inexorably at first, and then precipitously. Now her bones lacked cushioning against the chair, and her Fair Isle sweater hung loose on her shoulders. Her cheeks, usually flush and pink, formed hollows under her sloping cheekbones, making her pale blue eyes appear larger in her face, framed by soft, short brown lashes. Dark brown brows swept down over her eyes, screwed together in thought. The smooth planes of her cheeks and high forehead were an icy white, dotted by the shadowy hint of freckles, and offset by a sharp chin and well made, if rather prominent, nose. Her lips, thin and pale pink, grew paler as she pressed them together. One hand crept up to finger the tail end of a long, bark-colored braid that draped over her shoulder, but she caught herself and returned the hand to her lap.

“I can’t believe how calm you are,” her thesis student, a lanky young undergraduate whose junior paper Connie was advising, had exclaimed over lunch earlier that afternoon. “How can you even eat! If I were about to sit for my orals I would probably be nauseous.”

“Thomas, you get nauseous over our tutorial meetings,” Connie had reminded him gently, though it was true that her appetite had almost vanished. If pressed, she would have admitted that she enjoyed intimidating Thomas a little. Connie justified this minor cruelty on the grounds that an intimidated thesis student would be more likely to meet the deadlines that she set for him, might put more effort into his work. But if she were honest, she might acknowledge a less honorable motive. His eyes shone upon her in trepidation, and she felt bolstered by his regard.

“Besides, it’s not as big a deal as people make it out to be. You just have to be prepared to answer any question on any of the four hundred books you’ve read so far in graduate school. And if you get it wrong, they kick you out,” she said. He fixed her with a look of barely contained awe while she stirred the salad around her plate with the tines of her fork. She smiled at him. Part of learning to be a professor was learning to behave in a professorial way. Thomas could not be permitted to see how afraid she was.

The oral qualifying exam is usually a turning point – a moment when the professoriate welcomes you as a colleague rather than an apprentice. More infamously, the exam can also be the scene of spectacular intellectual carnage, as the unprepared student – conscious but powerless – witnesses her own professional vivisection. Either way, she will be forced to face her inadequacies. Connie was a careful, precise young woman, not given to leaving anything to chance. As she pushed away the half-eaten salad across the table from the worshipful Thomas, she told herself that she was as prepared as it was possible to be. In her mind ranged whole shelvesful of books, annotated and bookmarked, and as she set aside her luncheon fork she roamed through the shelves of her acquired knowledge, quizzing herself. Where are the economic books? Here. And the books on costume and material culture? One shelf over, on the left.

A shadow of doubt crossed her face. But what if she was not prepared enough? The first wave of nausea contorted her stomach, and her face grew paler. Every year, it happened to someone. For years she had heard the whispers about students who had cracked, run sobbing from the examination room, their academic careers over before they had even begun. There were really only two ways that this could go. Her performance today could, in theory, raise her significantly in departmental regard. Today, if she handled herself correctly, she would be one step closer to becoming a professor.

For the rest of Chapter One you can go to Barnes and Noble and look  under The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane.  I would highly recommend reading both The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane and The House of Velvet and Glass.  You will not be disappointed.  Now, I will be sitting here waiting for her next historical venture.  I can’t wait!

For more information about Katherine Howe visit her website at katherinehowe.com.  For more information about her books you can go to Amazon, Barnes and Noble or any other book retailer.

***You can also check out my book review of The House of Velvet and Glass for more information regarding that book.

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