Book Review: The Black Swan of Paris by Karen Robards

The Black Swan of Paris by Karen Robards

Summary

A World at war.
A beautiful young star.
A mission no one expected.
Paris 1944

Celebrated singer Genevieve Dumont is both a star and a smokescreen. An unwilling darling of the Nazis, her position of privelege allows her to go undetected as an ally to the resistance.
When her estranged mother, Lillian de Rocheford, is captured by Nazis, Genevieve is shaken. She knows it won’t be long before the Gestapo succeeds in torturing information out of Lillian that will detail the upcoming allied invasion. The resistance movement is tasked with silencing her by any means necessary – including assassination.
But Genevieve refuses to let her mother become yet one more victim of the war. Reuniting with her long lost sister, she must find a way to navigate the perilous cross currents of occupied France undetected – and in time to save Lillian’s life. – from the blurb

My Thoughts

I am a huge fan of historical fiction and particularly when the setting is France during WW2. I’m especially interested when the story line is about the French resistance during the war. Unsurprisingly then, I was really looking forward to reading this book.

I enjoyed the themes of WW2, spies and family disfunction. Most of the connections and history were told by using flashbacks. At first I found it a little confusing, but soon became accustomed to the style and enjoyed each chapter as the true story was revealed.

The stories of the Nazis and their tactics were believable, but at times difficult to read due to the cruelty of the Nazis. The conflict between them and the Parisians and French people was at times heartbreaking.

The strength of three women was a theme that I enjoyed also. Their characterisations and believability had me glued to the page. None of these female characters were predictable or ordinary but they were entirely believable and relatable.

The only thing that detracted from my enjoyment of this book was the romantic theme which I didn’t think was necessary to the story line. After it was introduced, I became quite annoyed and could have lost interest. I’m glad I persisted to the end as the finale action scene is fantastic. This was the reason for a lower star rating.

Recommendations

“A truly outstanding novel, brilliantly written, that captured me and held me in its grip from page one. At its heart this story is about family love and the umbilical cords that stretch but never break. So much can be learnt from the telling of this story of what is truly important whether we live in a privileged, safe environment or in a theatre of conflict. The Black Swan of Paris reminds us of the power of love, hope and courage.”
Heather Morris, #1 bestselling author of The Tattooist of Auschwitz

“Long a master of suspense, Karen Robards turns her formidable talents to the Second World War. The Black Swan of Paris tells of singer Genevieve Dumont, who must navigate a tangled web of torn allegiances, painful secrets and a past that refuses to set her free, as she struggles to save all she holds dear from the Nazis. Boldly conceived and richly realized, Robards establishes herself in a single sweep at the forefront of World War II novels with an emotional and powerful tale.”
Pam Jenoff, New York Times bestselling author of The Lost Girls of Paris

Published in Great Britain by Hodder & Stoughton in 2020.
Paperback, 473 pages

Star Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

About the Author

Karen Robards

Karen Robards is a best selling author of more than fifty books and one novella. Karen has been writing since she was very young, and was first published nationally in the December 1973 Reader’s Digest. She sold her first romance novel, ISLAND FLAME, when she was 24. It was published by Leisure Books in 1981 and is still in print. After that, she dropped out of law school to pursue her writing career.
Karen was recently described by The Daily Mail as “one of the most reliable thriller….writers in the world.”

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Book Review: The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

 

The Shadow of the Wind – The Cemetary of Forgotten Books #1

The Shadow of the Wind : Shadow of the Wind Series - Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Summary

Barcelona, 1945: A city slowly heals from its war wounds, and Daniel, an antiquarian book dealer’s son who mourns the loss of his mother, finds solace in a mysterious book entitled The Shadow of the Wind, by one Julian Carax. But when he sets out to find the author’s other works, he makes a shocking discovery: someone has been systematically destroying every copy of every book Carax has written. In fact, Daniel may have the last of Carax’s books in existence. Soon Daniel’s seemingly innocent quest opens a door into one of Barcelona’s darkest secrets–an epic story of murder, madness, and doomed love
Blurb

My Thoughts

This book had me hooked from the start. I loved the story of the young boy who was taken to the cemetery of forgotten books and told to choose a book. As the book progressed and the child became older, his life almost mirrored the life of the book he had chosen.There were many parallels between the life of the child and the author.  l found the story riveting and couldn’t leave it alone.

There is a theme of death throughout this novel, from start to finish, which raises its head in many different forms. The writing is beautiful. There were many passages, that, though romantic, had me laughing out loud.

There were a few things about the narrative, however, that grated a little. At times, there were aspects to the story and sequence of events that didn’t seem to me to be believable. Also, the conversations at times seemed a little stilted, but that could be because this book was translated from Spanish to English.

The things that annoyed me were few and far between, and I was able to put them to the side, so they didn’t interfere with my enjoyment of the story.

In the edition that I read there were bonuses at the end – an interview with the author, discussion notes and an illustrated Shadow of the Wind walk through the streets of Barcelona. I especially enjoyed the illustrated walk. It was the icing on the cake of this novel for me. 

Recommendation

“If you thought the true gothic novel died with the 19th century, this will change your mind. Shadow is the real deal. Be warned, you have to be a romantic at heart to appreciate this stuff, but if you are this is one gorgeous read” – Stephen King

“Zaffron’s tightly plotted thriller, is sharp, sexy, gothic (perhaps even a little goulish), powerfully atmospheric, often funny and utterly unputdownable – Australian

Quotes

Few things leave a deeper mark on a reader than the first book that finds its way into his heart.

Death was like a nameless and incomprehensible hand…like a hellish lottery ticket. But I couldn’t absorb the idea that death could actually walk by my side, with a human face and a heart that was poisoned with hatred.

Star Rating ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

Carlos Ruiz Zafón

About the author: Carlos Ruiz Zafón is a Spanish novelist. Born in Barcelona in 1964, he has lived in Los Ángeles, United States, since 1994, and works as a scriptwriter aside from writing novels.

This edition was published by Text Publishing, Melbourne in 2001.
Paperback, 536 pages

Thanks to my friend Kerryn for recommending this book

Book Review: The White Earth by Andrew McGahan

Summary

After his father’s death, young William is cast upon the charity of an unknown great-uncle, John McIvor. The old man was brought up, expecting to marry the heiress to Kuran Station—a grand estate in the Australian Outback—only to be disappointed by his rejection and the selling off of the land. He has devoted his life to putting the estate back together, and has moved into the once-elegant mansion.

McIvor tries to imbue William with his obsession, but his hold on the land is threatened by laws entitling the Aborigines to reclaim sacred sites. William’s mother desperately wants her son to become John McIvor’s heir, but no one realizes that William is ill and his condition is worsening.

Issues covered are Native Title legislation, the Mabo decison and Australian politics.

My Thoughts

When I first began to read this book, I had no idea what it was about. I wasn’t far into it when I realised this was the perfect book for me to read, in the week of Australia Day.

The setting is the Darling Downs in Queensland, spanning a time frame of 150 years. I really enjoyed the sense of place and landscape that this novel evoked. I loved it’s Australian-ness.

The publicity material describes this book as ‘part family saga, part history and part gothic thriller’. I agree with that completely. I do love a family saga and a historical novel, but the mention of gothic really had me intrigued. I’m not really interested in gothic or ghost stories, but I found the story to be entirely believable.

There is so much to this novel, including multiple themes but I would prefer to say less rather than more for fear of spoiling the reading experience for someone who picks up this book.

William was a lovely, beautiful, innocent young boy, but he was surrounded by very unattractive and flawed characters. This gave a dark and sinister feeling to the story. The characterisations by the author, I felt were brilliant.

I listened to this as an audio book. It didn’t lose any of the tension of gothicness in that form at all. The narrator, Edwin Hodgeman, an actor of many decades, was able to portray the darkness of certain characters and events in the story.

Recommendations

Winner of the Miles Franklin Award in 2005.
Winner of The Age Book of the Year Award in 2004

“…..The White Earth has all the trappings of a classic supernatural tale, and McGahan seamlessly blends the factual elements with the preernatural dimensions – the ghosts of black and white that haunt the landscape”  – The Age

Star Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

About the Author

Andrew McGahan, was an Australian novelist, born 1966, in Queensland, Australia. He passed away in 2019 at age 52. He is  best known for his first novel Praise, and for his Miles Franklin Award-winning novel The White Earth. His novel Praise is considered to be part of the Australian literary genre of grunge lit.

This review is linked to lovelyaudiobooks.info
#2020 AussieAuthorChallenge

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The Paris Seamstress by Natasha Lester

Summary

How much will a young seamstress from Paris sacrifice to succeed in the male dominated world of 1940s fashion in New York?

In 1940, Estella Bissette, a seamstress was forced to escape from France, as the German’s are approaching. She headed to New York with just her sewing machine, a few francs and just one suitcase. Other than that, all she had was her dream to be successful in the fashion world.

Jump forward to 2015, and we read of Fabienne Bissette’s visits to an exhibition of her grandmother’s work. Her grandmother was one of the world’s leading ready-to-wear designers. As Fabienne learns about her grandmother’s past, she discovers that her life was about more than just fashion and designing. Stories of tragedy, heartbreak, love, secrets and sacrifices are uncovered.

“This is the story of the special relationship between a grandmother and her granddaughter, as they attempt to heal the heartache of the past”

My Thoughts

This story is based on fact: some of the characters existed, as do some of the buildings which are central to the story. My favourite genre to read is historical fiction based on fact, particularly focusing on war history.  This book definitely did not let me down in any way.  The Paris Seamstress  is an emotional roller coaster ride, and very heart breaking, but at the same time the story and the characters are extremely courageous.

The main character,Estella,  is very strong willed, but absolutely believable. I have no interest at all in fashion, so I was a bit wary of this book at first. However the story lines about fashion were mainly concerning conservation and finding cheaper alternatives during the war years. Unexpectedly I was swept up into these story lines, and found them to be believable for the times.

I loved this book and would definitely like to read it again. I read it while on holidays, so fortunately had time to read it quickly.  It’s my opinion that this book is #unputdownable. The artistry on the front cover is incredibly beautiful which was what drew me to The Paris Seamstress  in the bookstore.

My Star Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

About The Author

Natasha Lester

 

Natasha Lester is a USA Today, internationally best-selling author. Prior to writing, she worked as a marketing executive for L’Oreal, managing the Maybelline brand, before returning to university to study creative writing.

Her first historical novel, the bestselling A Kiss from Mr Fitzgerald, was published in 2016. This was followed by Her Mother’s Secret in 2017 and The Paris Seamstress in 2018. The French Photographer is her latest book (note: this will be published as The Paris Orphan in North America in September 2019).

Natasha’s books have been published in the US, the UK, Australia and throughout Europe. She lives in Perth, Western Australia with her 3 children and loves travelling, Paris, vintage fashion and, of course, books – Goodreads

 

Published in 2018 by Hatchette Australia. Paperback 448 pages.

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#AtoZChallenge L is for The Lost Girls of Paris by Pam Jenoff

#AtoZChallenge 2019 Tenth Anniversary blogging from A to Z challenge letter

Blogging from A to Z April Challenge  is for bloggers who wish to participate by publishing a blog post every day in April except for Sundays. Each blog post will focus on a letter of the alphabet. For example April 1 will be A, April 2 will be B and on it goes. By the end of April, a blog post for every letter of the alphabet will have been posted.

Summary

Grace is trying to rebuild her life, after losing her husband during the war. One day, as she was on her way to work, and passing Central Station, she finds an abandoned suitcase  under a bench seat. On opening it, she finds photographs of a dozen different women. For some reason that she can’t explain she quickly closes the suitcases and hurries off with the photographs.

After spending time researching the photos, she discovers that the owner of the suitcase was Eleanor Trigg, the leader of a group of female secret agents who were sent to Europe during the war to help with the war effort.

Grace finds herself drawn to these photos. She can’t leave them alone and feels she must find out more, if only to find the families so she can pass on the photos.

This story is inspired by true events during world war two and shines a light on the incredible bravery of these otherwise ordinary women.

My Thoughts

I found this story to be inspiring, troubling and unforgettable. One of my favourite genres is world war one and two historical fiction and this book didn’t disappoint.  I was so caught up in the story of these girls, that I didn’t want to be finished reading the book. I even read the last couple of chapters, very slowly, a couple of pages at a time, to delay the ending. I really didn’t want it to end.

I found The Lost Girls Of Paris to be a page turner which didn’t disappoint. This is the first book that I’ve read by this author but I now plan to read her previous book,  The Orphan’s Tale.

Recommendation

“Fraught with danger, and filled with mystery, and meticulously researched, The Lost Girls Of Paris is a fascinating tale of the hidden women who helped win the war” – Lisa Wingate, New York Times best selling author of Before We Were Yours

“Pam Jenoff’s meticulous research and gorgeous historical word building lift her books to must-buy status. An intriguing mystery and a captivating heroine make The Lost Girls Of Paris a read to savour” – Kate Quinn, New York Times best selling author of The Alice Network

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

About the author
Pam Jenoff

Pam is the author of several novels, including her most recent The Lost Girls of Paris and The Orphan’s Tale, both instant New York Times bestsellers. Pam was born in Maryland and raised outside Philadelphia. She attended George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and Cambridge University in England. Upon receiving her masters in history from Cambridge, she accepted an appointment as Special Assistant to the Secretary of the Army. The position provided a unique opportunity to witness and participate in operations at the most senior levels of government, including helping the families of the Pan Am Flight 103 victims secure their memorial at Arlington National Cemetery, observing recovery efforts at the site of the Oklahoma City bombing and attending ceremonies to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of World War II at sites such as Bastogne and Corregidor.

Following her work at the Pentagon, Jenoff moved to the State Department. In 1996 she was assigned to the U.S. Consulate in Krakow, Poland. It was during this period that Pam developed her expertise in Polish-Jewish relations and the Holocaust. Working on matters such as preservation of Auschwitz and the restitution of Jewish property in Poland, Jenoff developed close relations with the surviving Jewish community.

Having left the Foreign Service in 1998 to attend law school at the University of Pennsylvania, Jenoff practiced law at a large firm and in-house for several years. She now teaches law school at Rutgers – Goodreads.com.au

Published in 2019 by Park Row. Paperback 34 pages

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