Isaac, by Robert Karmon

A different point of view during WWII, Isaac takes readers on a ride for the insurgent side of the war.

Rounded up to be murdered, Isaac survived—and continued to survive. He traveled with a band of rogues fighting Nazi’s. Will they survive long enough to see the fruits of their labor?

Talk about a story invested in a character. The tone of the novel—of Isaac’s life—was a very somber one, and it projected well into the reader. Conflict was persistent, dogging him every painful step of the way. It didn’t feel like unnecessary conflict—it was crucial for his development and it kept the reader turning the pages. The suspense and the drama were very well written.

Even though it was based on a true story, I liked the fact that it was a different viewpoint. Most tales of WWII focus on the concentration camps, or escaping to another country. Readers don’t usually hear the stories about those who hid their identity, eluded the camps, and fought back. It breathed a new light into the specific setting. It was obvious that the author took great pains to maintain historical accuracy, as well as constructing a compelling tale that kept the readers’ attention. Very well done.

Solahutte, by Steven Donahue

A touching romance with the backdrop of Nazi Germany. Blaz Schaffer, a solider transferred to a death camp, isn’t having the easiest adjustment. Rival guards, unexpected love, and the ever-growing Third Reich throw Blaz’s convictions out of whack.

In terms of WWII, the plot felt generic in many ways. That’s not to say it was a bad plot—because it wasn’t. Blaz was a likeable character and his journey was an interesting one. The author found a nice balance in using conflict to destroy a character and help them grow. Their antagonists had a variety of emotional range—sympathetic to despicable and beyond.

The writing style didn’t exactly suit the tone of the novel. Pacing of it never really changed from beginning to end. It stayed at a kind of neutral, level emotion the whole way. During suspenseful moments, scenes of joy or heartbreak, where the style could have enhanced the scene, it made things feel sort of meh.

The novel was still well-done. The setting complimented the love story and vice-verse. I liked the characters and I liked how it was pulled off. Worth the read.

Nosferatu Chronicles: Origins, by Susan Hamilton

1_19_18 Origins Nosferatu

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Vampires are not my thing. I’m going to go ahead and get that out of the way. Nosferatu and the original Dracula were alright, but I lose my taste for even them after the Twilight fiasco.

These vampires—Vambir, these alien freakin’ vampires—are totally my thing.

First of all, let’s talk about how we have sci-fi vamps. Second, let’s talk about how well they’re integrated into the era of Vlad the Impaler and the legend of Count Dracula. And Nosferatu. And modern vampires. Origins progresses history with the evolution of vampires. Not only was a thorough explanation given for the transformations, but they were all so integral to the plot.

Not only was the story seamless, so were characters. There was a wide array, and each of them had distinct personality—which, like everything else, served the plot well. Dialogue read easily and naturally.

It was filled with wonderful tension, suspense, and political intrigue. Every moment was carefully planned, and not a page was wasted getting there. Character development was on-point. Perspective switched were excellently placed. Each one allowed for the story to be told in an interesting way. It also utilized the ‘two sides to every story’-type narrative incredibly well.

This was a good book. A really good book. It gave me hope for the vampire genre. When I was it was hard to put down, I mean it. This was a really good book.

Buy it here!

Refiner’s Fire, by Ann Nolder Heinz

Books Reviews Anonymous

Another stunning period piece by the author.

A riches to ruin tale of an upperclass southern belle. Lizzie Hamilton’s life gets real exciting, real fast. As she undertakes the journey far from the comforts of her Charleston plantation, she finds herself barraged with a myriad of life lessons. Most of which are learned the hard way, but that’s where all her development comes from.

I like how the author made a story about growth, but didn’t make being rich the end result. For everyday Joes, being a millionaire is something of a wild concept. So the fact that Lizzie hits many of the hardships that the working class endures, it’s not about the money and status. It started that way, sure. Definitely did not end that way. The level of personal development for such a sheltered, proper young lady was massive.

Writing style, again, was well-suited for the tone of…

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Last Stop Freedom, by Ann Nolder Heinz

6_30_17 Last Stop Freedom

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You know, I was about halfway through Last Stop Freedom when it finally dawned on me that I read these novels in the wrong order. The way the stories are connected is reminiscent of the Little House on the Prairie books. They tell tales of a specific world through different eyes and other, reoccurring characters. In case you were curious: Last Stop Freedom, Refiner’s Fire, and A Light Within (I think) is the order that makes the most sense. Things flow flawlessly from character to character and, frankly, I enjoyed each one of them.

 

As the daughter of a preacher, Julia Bigsby’s life isn’t too exciting. All that changes when she meets a plantation owner that’s more trouble than he’s worth. Her life loses its dullness quickly, but at what cost? The longer she stays, the more she abhors the Southern way of life—and for good reason. Living in the South is an uncomfortable thing for me. Especially seeing how many people consider the Civil War a trifling matter, and continue on as racist and sexist as can be. Reading through Julia’s journey gave me hope that maybe—maybe—one day, things will change (even though the rational side of me knows it won’t).

 

After reading several books by this author, I’ve come to appreciate the subtle, nuanced approach they take to their romances. Their foreshadowing, as well. The reader thinks they’ve figured things out all by themselves, only to realize that the author was deliberately stringing them along. I know we’ve all seen the romanticized versions of Southern romance (think Gone With the Wind, and things similar). Well, these romantic subplots are written versions. Really. I had actual feelings reading through them.

 

Story pacing took its dear, sweet, Southern time. It really matches with Julia’s character. There’s a lot that goes on. Level and levels of detail went into enhancing the background of the characters and the setting. Character voices, for the most part, were fairly clear. Description and knowledge went hand-in-hand, one serving the other at all times. The author didn’t rely on media stereotypes for their genre. Historical accuracy was excellent.

 

The range of conflict was wonderful, both internal and external. Watching the main antagonist descend into gentlemanly villainy was quite the spectacle to see. Again, a very subtle thing that’s masterfully crafted.

 

This one was quite a bit longer than the others, but worth it. Just like always.

 

Buy it here!

Refiner’s Fire, by Ann Nolder Heinz

Another stunning period piece by the author. 

A riches to ruin tale of an upperclass southern belle. Lizzie Hamilton’s life gets real exciting, real fast. As she undertakes the journey far from the comforts of her Charleston plantation, she finds herself barraged with a myriad of life lessons. Most of which are learned the hard way, but that’s where all her development comes from. 

I like how the author made a story about growth, but didn’t make being rich the end result. For everyday Joes, being a millionaire is something of a wild concept. So the fact that Lizzie hits many of the hardships that the working class endures, it’s not about the money and status. It started that way, sure. Definitely did not end that way. The level of personal development for such a sheltered, proper young lady was massive. 

Writing style, again, was well-suited for the tone of the novel. Highbrow and proper at the beginning. Narration and dialogue changed with the actions of the story. The farther Lizzie delved into the working class, the more her speech reflected that. 
Knowledge of the time period was obvious and consistent throughout. There were, of course, several stereotypes. However, they felt useful for the end game of the novel. 
Description was quite good. Given the saturation of the Wild West in the media, things were easy to picture. The author took a definitive step away from the classic themes of the West. No gun-slinging deputies or damsels in distress there. In fact, all the women were capable. There were the obvious allowances for the time, but the author took creative license and elevated the women. It never felt like there was an actual villain, or antagonist. There were people with which conflict occurred, but the actual antagonist ended up being her situation rather than a person. 

I did have some questions left at the end. Things that I don’t feel were quite as wrapped up as they could be. There was an allusion to one of the authors’ other novels, A Light Within. One of the characters makes an appearance, and we get a nifty little backstory to them. I like the continuity between the novels. 

Another excellent novel from this author. Bring the olden days back to life in a tasteful way. They always manage to construct such excellent settings and characters. An author to keep an eye on for sure. 

Buy it here!

A Light Within, by Ann Heinz

5_10_17 A Light Within

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Not only do I get the privilege of being the first to review this book on Amazon, but I get to give it five stars!

 

A period piece about breaking traditional gender roles is how I describe A Light Within. A young woman named Cora laments about her inability to attend medical school. Because she’s a woman. Alright, pretty standard for the time. The events that follow are anything but standard.
Set during a time of abolitionists and women becoming self-aware, A Light Within takes on a heavy task. There was much going on in the pre-Civil War era that was important, and the author managed to encompass quite a bit.
Something that stood out besides the excellent writing, was the attention to detail. A heavy bit of research seems to have gone into everything from locations, to speech and dress. The novel never feels like it “breaks character” and has modernism creep in. Though it does mimic certain current events, or are we repeating history because we can’t seem to learn from it?
While traditional in some ways, we see more and more of the opposite as the story unfolds. And the story’s woven tighter than Gordian’s Knot. Later on, it morphs to takes on a more To Kill A Mockingbird feel. The issues of morality, good and evil, and racism are now at the forefront.
Now, anyone who reads my reviews knows my thoughts on how romance gets portrayed. It usually follows the same formula over and over again. The woman’s thought process of “I and independent and don’t want a family” changes when she meets a man. What’s different about Cora is the fact that she does want that. Eventually. She has things to do first, and she remains true to that. The love story that blossoms with her is well done. It’s subtle, and progressive, and it doesn’t try to take away from the story. In other words: it remains a tertiary theme.
Characterization represented and interesting dichotomy, especially within Cora’s family. Remember how I said traditional gender roles get broken? Look at the character development. There are significant points that the reader can see it happen. The author isn’t subtle about it at all. Nor are they apologetic.
There was a lot I liked about this novel. Writing language from a different time is a difficult task, but the author was up for the challenge. A Light Within is very immersive and so well-written. A great deal of thought and effort went into this novel and the result is stunning. A must-read.
Buy it here!

Mercer Street, by John A. Heldt

4_24_17 Mercer Street

4 stars

 

Mercer Street is a heartwarming tale of three women that get to travel back in time.

 

Susan, Elizabeth, and Amanda. Mother, grandmother, and daughter. After tragedy strikes the family, the women get the opportunity to travel to the late 1930’s. Like any good, sensible people would do, they look the chance. A chance to visit a time when Germany was about to go to war? Why not?

 

Armed with enough supplies to last their visit, they set out on an emotional journey.

 

Continuity is important when it comes to time travel. Many suffer with convoluted storylines, plot holes, and more questions asked than answered. Mercer Street did the opposite. Grueling attention to detail was very much a cornerstone of the tale.

 

I loved the family dynamic. They usually don’t fight. They get along. Sort their problems in a civil manner. They respect each other, even when things get difficult. And they’re always there for each other. No matter what life throws at them: Nazi spies, Albert Einstein, or Eleanor Roosevelt.

 

For the most part, the writing is solid. The style and the tone suit the story.

 

My major problem with the novel was that everyone sounded too polite. Too formal. Long sections of dialogue got dry quick. Dialogue told most of the story, and as such things got awkward and clunky.

 

External conflict was also on the low side. Situations felt a little too easy for the characters. They didn’t usually fumble. They were too knowledgeable. Near-perfect memories. Visitors to another era and they blended in no problem. If something did happen, the next paragraph solved the problem. Given the nature of the novel, though, internal conflict seemed appropriate. It helped convey the depth of emotion the novel was going for.

 

Along the way, each woman got a very satisfying storyline. All were different, but tied together. Each one served to further their character in different ways. And they were all important, not thrown in because the author could.

 

The ending was a touching one as well. Most of it was predictable. Not a bad thing, because it was satisfying and appropriate. The author still managed to slip in a bit of a surprise at the very end, one I didn’t see coming. I’m always happy when that happens. With the way the loose ends tied up, most things about this novel were solid. Worth the read.

Buy it here!

Review of Timothy Brady’s “Caomhnóir”

Let me start by saying that Caomhnóir was a very well-researched book. The facts and placement for some of the major wars in history (Vietnam, Korea, WWII) showed quite a bit of attention to detail and a determination to get it right. Brilliant, in that regard.

The level of detail given to the backdrops was wonderful; very descriptive of the setting. The jungles of Vietnam and the war-torn streets during WWII really allowed me to envision things as they were happening. There weren’t a whole lot of metaphors or similes running rampant, but that really worked for the tone and style of this tale. I felt as though it was being told through the eyes of a tired war-vet, who had seen enough of battle, but needed to get this story out. It provided an excellent emotional setting for the read.

Plot-wise, Caomhnóir had a very interesting take on the classic good vs. evil story. Ancient warriors, chosen throughout time to stand up to the evil incarnate known as Puck. Caomhnóir took that classic tale, and gave it a very modern, gritty setting instead of spinning tales of swordsmen and princesses and the like. That made it enjoyable right off the bat.

I did have a few problems with timelines and the way the chapters jumped around. The first few chapters were labeled to give you a sense of where you were in time (i.e Germany, 1945 as a subheader for the first chapter), but after that it completely disappears and when the chapters jump, sometimes you have to go back and make sure that you didn’t miss anything because it happens so suddenly. Occasionally I got a little lost in the timeline because the chapter would start with different characters and bring the main ones in later.

As for the characters, most of them felt a little flat and static. The only character development I really discerned were from Branch and Nance (referring to being children and pushing away their destiny versus growing up and embracing it). Everyone talked the same, and only a few of them had character-defining tics (like Farrell’s physical twitching). A few phrases used in describing what the characters were doing/feeling became heavily overused: how they light their cigarettes, “eyes revealed,” and the emotions were told to me, rather than shown (“…eyes revealed his confusion,”…”eyes revealed his anger”).

The ending was rather anti-climactic (Branch rallies despite a grievous head injury?), and left a few questions in its wake: what happens to the balance of good and evil now that Puck is vanquished? What happens to the Caomhnóir order now that they’re not needed? Does evil choose another champion? I wouldn’t mind if these questions were asked in a sequel, which I would be very keen to read.

Overall, Caomhnóir was a very enjoyable novel to read. I tore through it quickly because I was eager to find out what happened to Branch and his company. If you’re looking for a different spin on a classic tale, then Caomhnóir is the book for you!

Buy Caomhnoir on Amazon