Tag Archives: #WWII

Echoes of War by Tania Blanchard -a review

echoes of warEchoes of War by Tania Blanchard

Set in Mussolini’s Italy amid great upheaval, this is the story of one woman’s determination to find her place in a world that men are threatening to tear apart. Another heart-rending novel inspired by a true story from Australia’s bestselling author of The Girl from Munich.

Calabria, Italy, 1936

In a remote farming village nestled in the mountains that descend into the sparkling Ionian Sea, young and spirited Giulia Tallariti longs for something more. While she loves her home and her lively family, she would much rather follow in her nonna’s footsteps and pursue her dream of becoming a healer.

But as Mussolini’s focus shifts to the war in Europe, civil unrest looms. Whispers of war are at every corner and her beloved village, once safe from the fascist agenda of the North, is now in very real danger.

Caught between her desire to forge her own path and her duty to her family, Giulia must draw on the passion in her heart and the strength of her conviction.

Can she find a way to fulfill her dreams or will the echoes of war drown out her voice?

Published 29 September 2021|  Publisher: Simon & Schuster Australia  |  RRP: AUD$32.99

Buy it at: Dymocks |  Booktopia |  A&R  |  Abbey’s  | QBD

My Blurb (4 / 5 stars)

I am partial to war stories but this novel, Echoes of War, isn’t really a war story but a story of womanhood but set within a time of war. This is not to say that the protagonist wasn’t affected by war but just that she was not directly involved in it. All in all, it did not detract from the story of passion, resilience, and strength of this girl’s journey into womanhood.

Giulia Tallariti, our protagonist, is a passionate young woman who has a very clear vision of her future. A vision which was not shared by her father who has his own preconception and therefore resulted in a number of clashes between daughter and father. While fighting for her future, the country itself is turmoil. From wars, natural disasters, and poverty, Giulia and her family stuck together through thick & thin as she sought and found her place in her family & society.

I’m not afraid to confess that I cried a number of times; as you’d expect from such stories. Echoes of War is a novel full of anxiety, heartbreaks, family, sisterhood, and love. What fascinated me most was author’s notes as she described her own family history and how it influenced her writing especially with some of her own family stories woven into this telling; utterly captivating.

My thanks to Simon & Schuster Australia for ecopy of book via NetGalley in exchange of my honest thoughts

About the author

Find author on:  goodreads  |  websitefacebook  |  instagram

Review: Lizard’s Tale by Weng Wai Chan

Lizard’s Tale by Weng Wai Chan

A thief. A spy. A mysterious codebook. And a whole lot of trouble.

It’s 1940 and World War II is being fought in faraway Europe. Lizard doesn’t know much about that. He lives in Singapore’s Chinatown, surviving on odd jobs and petty theft.

When Boss Man Beng asks him to steal a teak box from a suite in the glamorous Raffles Hotel, Lizard knows the job is important. But can he know just how dangerous it is?

A sinister man appears in the shadows, and Lizard’s best friend, Lili, shows up with unexpected fighting skills and her eyeon what’s in the box.

And Lizard finds himself on an exciting, action-packed adventure in a world of coded secrets, Japanese invasion plans and undercover spies.

Published 2 July 2019 |  Publisher: Text Publishing |  RRP: USD$16.99

Buy it at: Dymocks |  Booktopia |  A&R  |  Abbey’s

My Blurb (5 / 5 stars)

Gosh, I loved this now as I read it in my late 30s and I can just imagine how much I would’ve adored this book were I to read it 30 years ago! It has everything I love from the cute cover, a very capable Chinese girl, to a beautiful bittersweet ending.

Lizard is the name of this 12 year-old boy who has no one is known by. While he himself if a clever young fellow, he does not know his way around big cities. Luckily, he found help in a Chinese girl called Lili and the two formed a friendship, of sort. Lizard, these days, will do all sorts of things to stay above water. Meantime, he kept an eye out for his missing uncle. Until the day that he inadvertently got involved in something well beyond his ken. Lucky for him, there are friends who cared for him who are willing to help.

Let me provide a complete list of things I loved of this novel:
🦎 Cute eye-catching cover
🦎 own voice (POC) author
🦎 Great characters: resilient & courageous MC with brave & resourceful sidekicks
🦎 Friendship Friendship Friendship
🦎 Set in Asia (Singapore)
🦎 Diverse characters (and let me stress the DIVERSE here)
🦎 Set in WW2 (or just before)

A terrific mystery, fast paced plot, and marvellous characters, Lizard’s Tale is highly recommended for readers of ALL ages!

Thanks to Text Publishing via Netgalley for ecopy of book in exchange of honest review

About the author

Weng Wai Chan was born and grew up in Singapore. She now lives in Auckland with her husband and three children. Lizard’s Tale is her first book.

Find author on:  goodreads  |  twitter

Review: The Daughter of Victory Lights by Kerri Turner

The Daughter of Victory Lights by Kerri Turner

An enthralling story of one woman’s determined grab for freedom after WW2 from a talented new Australian voice.

‘PART CABARET, PART BURLESQUE, AND LIKE NOTHING YOU’VE EVER SEEN BEFORE! GENTLEMEN, AND LADIES IF YOU’VE DARED TO COME, WELCOME TO …’

There was a pause, and Evelyn sensed those around her leaning forward in anticipation.

‘THE VICTORY!’

1945: After the thrill and danger of volunteering in an all-female searchlight regiment protecting Londoners from German bombers overhead, Evelyn Bell is secretly dismayed to be sent back to her rigid domestic life when the war is over. But then she comes across a secret night-time show, hidden from the law on a boat in the middle of the Thames. Entranced by the risque and lively performance, she grabs the opportunity to join the misfit crew and escape her dreary future.

At first the Victory travels from port to port to raucous applause, but as the shows get bigger and bigger, so too does the risks the performers are driven to take, as well as the growing emotional complications among the crew. Until one desperate night …

1963: Lucy, an unloved and unwanted little girl, is rescued by a mysterious stranger who says he knows her mother. On the Isle of Wight, Lucy is welcomed into an eclectic family of ex-performers. She is showered with kindness and love, but gradually it becomes clear that there are secrets they refuse to share. Who is Evelyn Bell?

Published 20 January 2020 |  Publisher: Harlequin Australia |  RRP: USD$29.99

Buy it at: Dymocks |  Booktopia |  A&R  |  Abbey’s

My Blurb (4 / 5 stars)

Look at the gorgeous cover 😍 and I’ve always been a sucker for a WWII story plus it is written by an Australian woman writer… Sold! And it was sooo worth it!

That’s the one thing about humanity you can always rely on: we’ll forever judge the secrets and faults of others while desperately trying to make sure our own stay hidden.

The Daughter of Victory Lights opens with the one tragic incident that leaves a lifetime worth of scars on many.  Then, we are taken back in time… to the past decade and the events that lead up to this moment in time. This is Evelyn’s story. Evelyn who was courageous in serving her country in time of war. Evelyn who, being intelligent and free-spirited, was unable to settle for a life that is dependent on men. Evelyn who, in desperation, grasped at the only chance to work with what she loves and independence.

Ignore the stiff upper lip; do not keep calm and carry on. Dig your fingers into your fears and face them head-on. For that is the only way to become free of them.

Then comes Part 2… Lucy’s story. As soon as I started Part 2, I just knew what happened and my heart broke. I didn’t have the details but I knew a lot more than Lucy! I think Lucy might be around 10 or 11 and has always felt unwanted and unloved. As she discovers who she really is, we are provided with the details of that incident from the beginning of the book and its aftermath. And oh DID I CRY!

our biggest trials can also lead to our biggest triumphs

This novel is entrenched in grief and fear for many different things. Yet, it is an encouragement to all who are suffering to seek help. I may have cried but I feel light as air following the hopeful ending of this novel. The Daughter of Victory Lights features all the glamour life can offer yet gives glimpses of its darkest pits but most of all, there is light outside to guide you through. An enchanting novel full of beautiful characters set in a fascinating time, you’ll be captivated.

Thanks to Harlequin Australia via Netgalley for ecopy of book in exchange of honest review

About the author

The Last Days of the Romanov Dancers, my debut novel, was released with HQ, an imprint of HarperCollins Australia, in January 2019. A second historical fiction novel, The Daughter of Victory Lights, is scheduled for release 20 January 2020.

​In 2017 I signed with literary agent Haylee Nash of The Nash Agency. In prior years, my short stories have been published by Reflex Fiction, Boolarong Press, Catchfire Press, Stringybark, Underground Writers, and as part of the Dangerous Women Project.

My author influences include (but are not limited to) Kate Forsyth, Sara Gruen, Belinda Alexandra, Hazel Gaynor, Ken Follett, Eli Brown, and Kate Morton. I also have a special fondness for Lorna Hill, particularly her ‘Sadler’s Wells’ series, which I have collected since childhood.

When not writing or reading, I can usually be found teaching ballet and tap dancing, baking sweet treats, or spending time with my husband and my miniature schnauzer Nelson.​

Find Kerri on:  goodreads  |  website  |  twitter  |  facebook  |  pinterest  |  instagram

Blog Tour: Hadamar – The House of Shudders by Jason K. Foster

Hadamar – The House of Shudders by Jason K. Foster

Publisher: Big Sky Publishing
Publication Date: 1 May, 2019
Australian RRP: $17.50

Nazi Germany is ruled by Hitler’s barbaric policies of racial cleansing. Ingrid Marchand’s only sin was to be born black.

Horrifying institutions like Hadamar are where the undesirables – including the mentally and physically disabled and children – are systematically tortured, gassed and executed. It is where Ingrid is humiliated and brutalised and will encounter a depth of hatred the world has never seen before.

On the brink of starvation, can Ingrid survive the horrors of her incarceration and help bring her tormentors to justice?

Hadamar is a gripping tale of survival in a world of hatred, horror and insanity.

Buy at: booktopia  |  boomerang  | dymocks  | iBooks  |  QBD  | googleBig Sky Publishing

My Blurb (3.5/5 stars)

If there’s a Heaven, I think I deserve a place in it. If there’s a Hell, it couldn’t possibly be worse than where I’ve already been. If there’s nothingness… then at least I will be able to forget, and finally find some measure of peace.

Those few sentences at the beginning of this novel indicate just how horribly wrong things are going to be in this novel. It was voiced by a much older Ingrid Marchand, the protagonist of this novel, and it is a precursor to her story of living through hell on earth.

I think I’ve read my share of WWII stories and yet… I find this perspective (a teenage girl with German-French-Senegalese ancestry who was placed in a psychiatric hospital just because of the colour of her skin) to be quite unique. I felt the premise to be promisingly enlightening and at the same time, will be heartbreaking. Needless to say, Ingrid’s story was utterly harrowing.

It is absolutely terrifying just how monstrous people can be. I’m sure everyone has heard some of the atrocities committed in this war yet there’s always new discoveries that takes all the air out of your lungs. There were no saints in this novel. Indeed, all these people are so very human complete with flaws (including Ingrid). I found that is what I particularly liked about this novel; all these characters feel real & three-dimensional to me.

What I’m not sure and not quite keen about is the insta-love feel in one part of the story. I absolutely understand her reaction and her behaviour in consequence of it BUT is it necessary? I’m guessing that this was the only way the author could think of to make her seem just like any other teen despite all the bad things she’s seen & lived through. I also felt that the whole thing didn’t quite round up neatly for me; it felt off & messy.

My next wish was there to be some sort of author’s note to explain which part of the story is real (since it’s based on true events) and which he made up. Plus why Hadamar Euthanasia Centre (“House of Shutters”) inspired him to write this story. I think all historical fiction novels should have this at the end of the book. If you’re curious (like me), here’s a Wikipedia entry for this particular place and there are photos of the place and some historical personages.

Overall, this novel was quite easy to read (language-wise but not emotion-wise) and I found it hard to put down because I really wanted to get to the part where Ingrid is finally safe! But I did have to put it down because reading one bad things after another, I really needed a break for my own sake. I am glad that someone has written a novel to remember this particular part of history – those who died there deserved to be remembered. So, do read this for them but only after you’ve prepared yourself to accept that humanity is capable of some ghastly things.

Thanks to Big Sky Publishing for copy of book in exchange of honest review. And thanks, AusYABloggers for organising the tour.

Find all the other stops by following the Tour Schedule 

About the author

Jason Foster is an author, poet, freelance journalist and high school teacher. He holds a Bachelor of Arts (Communications) and Graduate Diploma in Teaching from WSU as well as a Master of Arts (History) from Macquarie University and a Diploma in Spanish from Macquarie University.

Jason is widely travelled having spent time in five continents and over fifty countries. He has taught in Australia, the United Kingdom, Spain and Argentina; experiences that bring a distinct range and unique world view to his writing.

He has published ten books in the true crime, history and young adult genres. He has also been published the world over with his work appearing in a range of mediums from History magazines in the United States, Australian travel magazines and Poetry Anthologies in the United Kingdom.

Find Jason on: goodreads  |  website

Review: Burning Fields by Alli Sinclair

Burning Fields by Alli Sinclair

1948. The world is struggling to regain a sense of balance after the devastation of World War II, and the sugar cane-growing community of Piri River in northern Queensland is no exception.

As returned servicemen endeavour to adjust to their pre-war lives, women who had worked for the war effort are expected to embrace traditional roles once more.

Rosie Stanton finds it difficult to return to the family farm after years working for the Australian Women’s Army Service. Reminders are everywhere of the brothers she lost in the war and she is unable to understand her father’s contempt for Italians, especially the Conti family next door. When her father takes ill, Rosie challenges tradition by managing the farm, but outside influences are determined to see her fail.

Desperate to leave his turbulent history behind, Tomas Conti has left Italy to join his family in Piri River. Tomas struggles to adapt in Australia—until he meets Rosie. Her easy-going nature and positive outlook help him forget the life he’s escaped. But as their relationship grows, so do tensions between the two families until the situation becomes explosive.

When a long-hidden family secret is discovered and Tomas’s mysterious past is revealed, everything Rosie believes is shattered. Will she risk all to rebuild her family or will she lose the only man she’s ever loved?

Published 21 May 2018 |  Publisher: Harlequin MIRA  |  RRP: AUD$29.99

My Blurb (3.5 / 5 stars)

Burning Fields is a novel set in post-war Australia where men struggled with the things they saw in war & women struggled at being expected to step back to their relegated role in the home. This novel tries to reconcile these 2 issues in a typically Australian outback setting. The lush and promising land beguiled all to believe that anything is possible.

This novel opens with Rosie Stanton returning to her family farm after she lost her bid for independence. Both her brothers went to war and neither returned. She is reluctant to face her parents and their grief. Despite her love for the farm and her capabilities, her father will not have her working at the farm. Her mother appears to be struggling with her own demons. Rosie is determined for her father to recognise her abilities and help her mother. There is also the attractive newcomer at the next farm…

Tomas Conti & his family are the new neighbours. Despite their attraction, Tomas is a troubled man. His recognition of Rosie’s independence is a big plus but will he be able to put the past behind to live in the present?

The story is mainly told from Rosie’s perspective in the present. Every few of Rosie’s chapter is broken by a chapter of Tomas’ perspective from the past (the war in Italy). I must say that each of Tomas’ chapters filled me with dread as I expected whatever horrid thing to happen then. Both characters are easily likeable and I enjoyed Rosie’s persistent effort to be recognise as being capable as any man.

Burning Fields is an easy and enjoyable read. It was rather easy to put down & pick back up again. It is a sweet romance and I love how the town people (or rather most of them anyway) get together as a community to support each other.

Thanks to Harlequin MIRA & Netgalley for copy of book in exchange of honest review. 

About the author

Alli Sinclair is an Australian multi-award winning author published who has lived in Argentina, Peru, and Canada. She’s climbed some of the world’s highest mountains and worked as a tour guide in South and Central America. Australia has always been close to Alli’s heart as she loves the diverse landscapes and the rich multicultural heritage of this wonderful land.

Alli’s books explore history, culture, love and grief, and relationships between family, friends and lovers. She captures the romance and thrill of discovering old and new worlds and loves taking readers on a journey of discovery.

Find Alli on:  goodreads  |  website  | twitter  |  facebook

Review: The Juliet Code by Christine Wells

The Juliet Code by Christine Wells

It’s 1947 and the war is over, but Juliet Barnard is still tormented by secrets. She was a British agent and wireless operator in occupied Paris until her mission went critically wrong. Juliet was caught by the Germans, imprisoned and tortured in a mansion in Paris’s Avenue Foch.

Now that she’s home, Juliet can’t – or won’t – relive the horrors that occurred in that place. Nor will she speak about Sturmbannführer Strasser, the manipulative Nazi who held her captive. . .

Haunted by the guilt of betrayal, the last thing Juliet wants is to return to Paris. But when Mac, an SAS officer turned Nazi-hunter, demands her help searching for his sister, Denise, she can’t refuse. Denise and Juliet trained together before being dropped behind enemy lines. Unlike Juliet, Denise never made it home. Certain Strasser is the key to discovering what happened to his sister, Mac is determined to find answers – but will the truth destroy Juliet?

Published 30 April 2018 |  Publisher: Penguin Random House  |  RRP: AUD$32.99

My Blurb (4 / 5 stars)

I read Code Name Verity a few weeks ago so found the premise of this book even more compelling. Unlike Code Name Verity, however, The Juliet Code follows the aftermath of captivity. There is a dual timeline, albeit only a few years apart, of course, to provide the background of her capture and ultimately, on her survival.

Juliet Barnard is not one of those ‘kick-ass-heroine’ or at least, she’s not described as such to begin with. In the opening chapter, she’s a broken woman, fearful of what’s happened during her incarceration in France. In the earlier timeline, she’s compared unfavourably against other women who are better physically & mentally. She is intelligent and determined but not particularly capable as an agent in training but the country is desperate and cannot spare anyone. I love this characterisation of Juliet because it made her completely relate-able.

I loved the glamorously romantic cover and my chronically romantic self fell head over heels over this love story. If you are not a fan of insta-love, however, this book is not for you. Whilst I’m fascinated by war stories, for me, The Juliet Code is a beautiful romance story than anything else. In fact, this romantic story haunts me over the past week since I’ve finished reading and I’ll probably continue to daydream about Juliet & Felix for the next few months at least.

Thanks to Penguin Random House for copy of book in exchange of honest review. 

About the author

Christine Wells worked as a corporate lawyer in a city firm before exchanging contracts and prospectuses for a different kind of fiction. In her novels, she draws on a lifelong love of British history and an abiding fascination for the way laws shape and reflect society. Christine is devoted to big dogs, good coffee, beachside holidays and Antiques Roadshow, but above all to her two sons who live with her in Brisbane.

Find Christine on:  goodreads  |  website  | twitter  |  facebook  | instagram

Review: Ambulance Girls

Ambulance Girls by Deborah Burrows
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Source: Paperback copy courtesy of publisher

Ever since I fell completely in adoration of Deborrah Burrows’ last book, A Time of Secrets a couple of years ago, I’ve been waiting for another book. And while I was waiting, I kinda stalk her on Goodreads and twitter so I knew she’s been traipsing (sorry, researching) all over London when living there. I greeted the cover reveal of Ambulance Girls with a squeal of excitement and I think my heart might have stopped for mo when I received a copy in the mail.

Firstly, I do love this cover and I really like war historical fiction especially when this particular book’s main character was inspired by a real life historical Aussie woman serving in the London Auxiliary Ambulance Station during the Blitz. There were a lot of things I learnt from this novel about women during the Blitz. I guess there have been quite a number of books or even documentaries but the way it was written here made it all the more real to me. It was obvious that a lot of research was done in the writing of this novel and not just about the women or the Blitz as novel itself feels like veritable literary tour of London.

The novel opens with Lily on duty and having to face one of her fears of enclosed spaces. It was a great start to the novel and you’d easily fall in love with Lily. Her other fears though were not as easily conquered… Aside from her courage, empathy, and her wish to do well unto others, she’s also got a great sense of humour. Maybe that’s her Aussie flavoured humour that coloured her interactions with her friends and gave the book a reminiscent air. We follow Lily through her struggles with daily life during the Blitz; the grief of losing a friend and the joy of falling in love. There were some shaky moments where I thought things were just not going to be right with this book but thankfully, all was made quite well! I had to give the book a bit of a hug from relief and an affectionate pat when I finished reading for I was well & truly shaken.

There were a number of characters both likeable and despicable in this book and the variety and dynamics between these characters were really quite interesting. The book is told from Lily’s perspective only so in a way, we miss out on a lot about the other characters as only a few were well developed. However, as this is the first book of a trilogy, I do believe we will get to know some of the others quite well later on (and I look forward to this!). What you cannot mistake in this novel is the author’s views on anti-semitism (ignorant) and Hitler (evil); she’s loud and clear on that front. Hear! Hear! These things can never be stated enough and whilst Hitler is gone, there are still those like him & share his views.

If you loved the show, Call the Midwife, or the books that inspired it, you would love Ambulance Girls. Lily Brennan may not be English but she’s as brave as those midwives in facing uncertainties & adversities of the time. And I dare say that her Australian personality shone through especially against the foil of English reserved façade.

Thanks to Penguin Books Australia for copy of book in exchange of honest review

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Review: The Beast’s Garden

the beasts gardenThe Beast’s Garden by Kate Forsyth
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Source: eARC courtesy of publisher via NetGalley

I loved Beauty by Robin McKinley and I adore Kate Forsyth so I thought that The Beast’s Garden would be a wonderful magical retelling. Despite the horribleness of the setting (I meant the nasty gruesome war rather than the actual place), I thought that this would be an excellent foil for Beauty’s courage and generosity. In the end, whilst I have very much enjoyed the story, I’d say that The Beast’s Garden is inspired by (rather than a retelling of) ‘The Singing, Springing Lark’, the Grimm Brothers’ version of Beauty and The Beast.

‘The Singing, Springing Lark’ is quite a bit different than the well-known tale of Beauty and The Beast and if you know your literature, you’d know that Grimm Brothers’ version will be much darker. This means that our heroine must be very determined, intelligent, brave, and persistent in order to win a life with her love. Ava was young but bounteous in courage. Her courage carried her to Leo, sustained her through turbulent times, and brought her to her destined future.

It’s very clear that Kate Forsyth has done her research and I loved knowing that most characters are real historically (the exception being Ava & Leo and their family). The novel was just intricately woven together into a seamlessly stunning love story amidst destruction. It’s just like how that red rose on the cover stands out! My only grievance was the lack of magic. I’ve always associated Kate Forsyth with magic and I kept expecting something magical to pop up but aside from some hint of the gypsy, I drew a complete blank.

The Beast’s Garden has a lot to offer the readers. The friendships cultivated by Ava were true and lasting. Both Ava and Leo were bound by a force neither could fight off and by embracing love, they found a little safe haven in a dark world. As with all war fiction, you’d always wonder how you yourself will act and we are shown just how courageous some can be in fighting for humanity whilst others sought only to destroy. A smashing read and highly recommended to historical fiction fans.

Thanks to Random House Australia via NetGalley for eARC in exchange of honest review

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