Reblog: DG Kaye recommends :The Violin Maker’s Daughter by Sharon Maas

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APPRECIATION,  D.G. KAYE,  GOODREADS,  GREAT INFORMATION,  HOLOCAUST,  HUMANITY,  READING,  RECOMMENDED READ,  SUNDAY MOVIE REVIEW,  WORLD WAR II

Sunday Book Review – The Violin Maker’s Daughter by Sharon Maas

September 20, 2020

My Sunday Book Review is for Sharon Maas’s – The Violin Maker’s Daughter. This book takes us to Colmar, France 1940, when Germany is about to take over France during WWII. A hard to put down book as we follow the life of Sarah Mayer, a 17 year old girl, the eldest of five sisters who will be the first of them to be sent away from her home, arranged by her parents and the French Resistance with the ultimate journey and goal for Sarah to reach Switzerland or Spain.

Blurb:

When the Nazis march onto the cobbled streets of Colmar on November 1st 1940, Josef, a Jewish violin maker, gathers his wife and daughters closely to him and tells them everything will be alright.

But one year later, three sharp knocks on the door at midnight turn his seventeen year old daughter Sarah’s world upside down. As the oldest child, Sarah must be the first to leave her family, to make her escape in a perilous journey across France via Paris to Poitiers. And she must hide who she is and take a new name for her own safety. For now, bilingual Sarah is no longer a French Jew but a German girl.

As she bids farewell to her beloved father and family, Sarah has hope, against all odds, that she will see them again when the war is over. But, travelling through the mountains she finds herself in terrible danger and meets Ralf, a German deserter, who risks his own life to save her.

Ralf and Sarah continue their journey together, keeping their identities secret at all cost. But when Ralf is captured, will Sarah pay the ultimate price for sharing who she really is?

A gripping and heart-breaking account of love, bravery and sacrifice during the terror of war. A story of standing up for what you believe in; even if it’s going to break your heart. Perfect for fans of The Tattooist of Auschwitz and The Ragged Edge of Night.

My 5 Star Review:

Josef Mayer is the violin maker in Colmar, France. As Germany’s takeover of France nears, Josef makes arrangements with the French Resistance for his five daughters to be escorted to Switzerland. His eldest daughter Sarah will leave first, despite her own resistance for not wanting to leave her home and family, as the severity of what was to come to France couldn’t be realized. Sarah’s papers are all ready, stating she’s a German from Colmar, France with no yellow star stamped on the paper. Josef is an agnostic Jew and his wife Leah is a converted Jew, although the family are not practicing Jews, to the Nazis, they are still Jews. The children don’t understand why plans are being made for them all to eventually flee Colmar and quick plans are made with a nearby neighbor, Yves, to hook the family up with the resistance to get them all to safety – first Sarah, then her sisters to follow, and eventually her parents. That was the plan, but during war, plans can change in a moment’s notice.

Sarah is picked up in the middle of the night and taken to first stop – the winery where Rebecca who’s in charge of an old farmhouse, prepares the routes and missions with Eric to guide runaway Jews through the mountains from this underground safehouse pitstop along the way of Sarah’s journey. But when Rebecca falls and twists her ankle, early into the journey, the three must turn back as she cannot walk, and Eric and Sarah help to carry her back to the safehouse. New plans are made as Rebecca is housebound and will now await the next two sisters to come to the safehouse while she heals and Eric and Sarah set out again.

Eric and Sarah encounter two young German soldiers in the forest. One of them apparently relishes his job to kill Jews and the other, Raif Sommer, stood in mortification as he watched the struggle between Eric and the other soldier as Eric tried to protect Sarah and foil his attempt to rape Sarah, until Eric was shot in the leg. In this stunning commotion, Raif shoots and kills the other soldier and becomes a deserter and helps carry injured Eric with Sarah’s help, back to the safehouse once again. We soon learn, once Sarah and Eric and a German soldier return, that Raif was drafted in a war he wanted no part of as he was supposed to be studying in university to be a doctor. And now with Rebecca and Eric out of commission, the plans have changed. Raif is given civilian clothes from Rebecca’s son’s wardrobe and he will lead Sarah once again on the journey.

Before leaving, Rebecca has a chat with Raif, informing him how Sarah is young and naive and has no experience with relationships, warning him not to start any romance business. They set out for the journey to Metz, only Sarah will take a train and Raif will have to walk for three days because he has no papers. Those three days of traveling Sarah realizes she has feelings stirring for Raif who has been kind and chivalrous to her and has ultimately saved her and Eric’s life. Once they meet up again and have made it to the next farmer’s safehouse, they are to wait with the resistance members until Raif’s new papers are made for them to carry on together – only the safehouse is ambushed one night with mass murder going on upstairs. Once again, Sarah’s life is spared by Raif’s quick thinking, as they were sleeping in their respective rooms in the basement when the kerfuffle began and Raif grabs Sarah and squashes them both into a bathroom hole  with a secret crawlspace as they await the Nazis to finish inspecting the basement and leave. Later Raif walks around outside to make sure the coast is clear and with the help of a neighbor who saw the whole invasion, they are directed to the next safehouse where they will then get on a train to Paris where they will connect to the next town, Poitiers.

The train ride is nerve-racking as gestapo go around checking for papers and Raif – now Karl, and Sarah sit separately as not to attract undue attention. Sarah’s weakness is learning to keep her mouth shut as she loves to talk and still doesn’t grasp the peril of her journey. Great tension as we follow Sarah on the multiple journeys, almost squirming with hope she doesn’t make any mistakes.

They stop at a cafe and watch Jews being berated and ultimately beaten by Nazis. Sarah wants to shout out at them and Raif shuts her up by kissing her, and so the romance begins. Although Sarah is confused after because Raif backs off. He is also attracted to Sarah, but tries to honor his promise to Rebecca, not to tangle up Sarah’s young heart when she is dealing with so much more.

When they finally arrive at the last safehouse in Poitiers, a town south of Paris, the two must be separated. Raif has joined the French Resistance, and Sarah who speaks fluent French and German is sent to apply for a job as a nanny who is to teach the four young children, German, and give them violin lessons at the Limoin residence where this upper class French family have become collaborators with the Nazis. Sarah rests comfortably there as she pines away for Raif/Karl awaiting message from him so they can meet up. In the meantime, Madam Limoin’s boisterous and socialite younger sister, Monique, befriends Sarah and gets a little too close for comfort, especially when Monique  snoops and finds a letter Sarah stupidly, left on her bed. Sarah gets a message from her safehouse keeper, Regine, in Poitiers, and she’s told to get moving before she is discovered by the Limoins.

At that point, Sarah decides not to continue her journey to now Spain, but to also join the resistance. Her mission is to gather intelligence by traveling to Germany to visit various train stations to learn which towns in France the troops were being sent to next. Sarah also takes the opportunity to spread fake news to anyone she makes small talk with, in hopes they will spread her rumors that the allies have landed in some small towns in France and are killing the Germans. This mission offers great tension taking us all the way to the end of the book with a nice twist surprise ending I didn’t see coming.

This book was a fantastic read, well written, lots of suspense to keep the pages turning, a bit of romance, and, love, endurance, sadness and triumph. If you enjoy stories about courage and survival, espionage, mixed in with love, hatred and redemption during the perilous WWII era, you will love this book!

©DGKaye2020

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Guest Post: Lucinda E Clarke

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Today I have the pleasure and honour to host the very talented Lucinda E Clarke on my blog. I’m a big fan of her work and look forward to reading this new psychological thriller series of her. Books 1 & 2 are on sale @ $/£0.99 for a week beginning 12th September.
Now over to Lucinda and her experience as freelance writer

When you earn a living as a freelance writer you meet all kinds of people. You also get to visit all kinds of interesting places. I’ve been inside a power station, numerous factories, radio and TV studios, in helicopters, tunnels under the sea, behind the scenes at Ocean World, honestly the list is endless.

Each time you’re commissioned you have a subject specialist who may or may not be the main client. Either way, it’s a new boss.

I worked with some wonderful people and I also encountered what I described as ‘the clients from hell’. These were the frustrated Steven Spielbergs who just knew they could write better and who kept changing both their minds and the facts and figures each time I submitted another draft.

When I retired to Spain and began to write novels, I left all that behind.

Or did I?

The short answer is NO.

My new boss is totally unreasonable and utterly impossible.

For example, if I decide to spend an hour reading, she nags me. ‘Have you replied to that email?’ ‘Are you up to date with your FB posts?’ ‘You said you were going to write at least 1,000 words a day, yet you sloped off to do the ironing. What was that all about?’ ‘Have you booked that promo?’ ‘It’s over 10 minutes since you checked your sales!’

As if that wasn’t enough, she directs all my work. ‘We won’t have any more Amie books for the moment, change genres to psychological thrillers. They are popular right now. And, you must publish at least 2 of those a year, so get writing. The first A Year in the Life of.. series was published last August, so the second should be out during lockdown to catch all those Netflixed out, bored, stuck at home people desperate to ready anything. Then to capitalise on that, book 3 must be out in September and tell everyone book 4 will launch in January.’

“You are joking, aren’t you?”

‘Nonsense. Stop being so lazy.’

“But I have all the marketing and promos and a husband to amuse and friends to talk to and…”

‘I’m not listening. You’re always finding excuses.’

“It’s not easy now with WordPress and FB changing all their settings and layout. I can’t find my way around anymore, and, I’m supposed to be retired.”

‘Yes, I’ve heard all that before. And, what happens when you don’t write?’

“I get twitchy, and a bit shaky and I can’t settle.”

‘Exactly, so sit down and write that guest post for Christoph and stop arguing.’

“Yes Lucinda, stop nagging. You are such a bully.”

A Year in the Life… series follows the Brand family through terrifying trials and tribulations. Leah lost her leg, her husband and two babies in a car accident. She remarries, but then strange and frightening things happen in her home. Someone is out to convince her she’s mad, but who would do that and what would they hope to gain?

In A Year in the Life of Andrea Coe Leah’s best friend helps her back on her feet and is there for her every step of the way. But does Andrea have another agenda? Who is she working with? Who committed the murder and why? From England to Australia and back Leah needs to discover who is telling the truth and who is lying.

A Year in the Life of Deidre Flynn sees the Brands in France, but the threats and incidents have continued. Once again Leah has no idea who the enemy is or what they might want. As each attack gets more vicious than the last, neither Leah nor Deidre know which way to turn. Then Leah’s stepdaughter Belinda goes missing.

Books 1 & 2 are on sale @ $/£0.99 for a week beginning 12th September.

Well hopefully that will shut the boss up for a while and it only remains to thank Christoph for having me as a guest on his blog.

Of course, I dare not relax as I’ve not written the 1K words today and I have a review to write. Never enough hours in the day and unless ‘she’ allows me some time off I’ll not be able to reach my laptop through the accumulated dust and dirt.

Don’t be fooled by retirement, it’s a myth. The sad part is that I didn’t want to retire. I was having way too much fun writing and traveling on location and making movies. I was a boss in those days and the team work was such fun. I’m not sure what turned Lucinda into this virago who is now working me to death, I had more time off in my old life.

What is it about Beethoven?

This sounds like a great read. Any book that Victoria recommends so highly is worth checking out. I got my copy 🙂

Cold

Was Beethoven black? | AL DÍA News

My friend Gerald Elias is a wonderful fiction writer (and professional violinist) who (mostly) specializes in mysteries. His Daniel Jacobus mystery series, which combines Jerry’s two passions – classical music and murder – is a gem of a collection that I can’t recommend highly enough.

But this week, we’re talking about Jerry’s newest endeavor. A stand-alone mystery novel – “The Beethoven Sequence” – which fuses classical music with murder and…politics.

Here’s what reviewers are saying: “The Beethoven Sequence, the latest thriller by award-winning Gerald Elias,might be his best one yet. Written with the author’s unique sense of humor and his insightful musical references as a professional violinist, it tells the story of a mentally unstable conductor who becomes obsessed with Beethoven’s ideals of liberty and freedom, interspersed with an analysis of his past traumas and parental influences (thank you Sigmund Freud!) Including two murders and a…

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Books Read in the Month of August 2020!

A lovely shout out and great reviews for books in medical thriller box set DO NO HARM including yours truly thriller THE HEALER

Jemsbooks

Here it is already the end of another month. Where does the time go? I have been busy as usual reading some wonderful books for the month of August of 2020. Here are the 6 books I read and reviewed for August. I might have read even more if I didn’t have another WIP. I hope you enjoy reading these reviews.

I love sharing my reads in thisJemsbooks Segment, Books Read in the Month. I hope you will get a chance to look these books over soon. Thank you for your kind support of my work and my fellow authors.

This book is part of a collection of 17 medical thrillers in the book, Do No Harm.

A gripping and suspenseful story with graphic scenes that will keep you glued to the pages. The horrific descriptions of the serial killer may be difficult for the feint…

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Guest Post: M.C.V. Egan “Wars Predicted, Not Prevented”

Today I’m delighted to welcome a dear friend of mine on my blog as part of a blog tour by Silver Dagger. M.C.V. Egan has written some fantastic books and has always excellent perspectives. Enjoy this guest post and check out her work and scroll down for a giveaway via the attached raffle copter.

Wars Predicted, Not Prevented.

© M.C.V. Egan
The Powder Keg of Europe is a newspaper clipping from a Foreign Office file I found at The National Archives, UK, located at Kew Gardens, Richmond. It is one of several clippings in file number N7735 110 dated December 30, 1932. The file has a bit of back and forth, some entries typed others handwritten, and clippings from various newspapers. It postulates that “Mr. Crossley was unduly influenced by German Propaganda and is inclined to exaggerate the difficulties and dangers of the present situation.”
Powder-Keg-Of-Europe
Crossley’s argument was that as a backlash of Versailles’ treaty, Germany would indeed feel the need to go back to war. We all know what happened; Anthony Crossley was right. Seven years later, September 1, 1939, The German Army marched into Poland through that same corridor, and that was the spark that ignited the fire we have come to know as WWII.
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An English MP wrote that article, Anthony Crossley, who died two weeks before Hitler invaded Poland on a British Airways LTD plane crash in Denmark. My grandfather died in the same plane crash, which is why I researched this MP. Neither lived to see the start of WWII.
In 1938 Anthony Crossly was one of the MPs known as the “Glamour Boys” who disagreed with Neville Chamberlain regarding The Munich Agreement. Ironically in 1938, that would make him one of the aggressive few who opposed the settlement reached by Germany, Great Britain, France, and Italy that permitted German annexation of the Sudetenland, in western Czechoslovakia. The famous tag line on September 30, 1938 Peace in Our Time.
In the 1930s, his voice was not heard. Can we compare the 1930s to today’s world? Are we as vulnerable or more vulnerable?
When wars Are Predicted, why can’t they be prevented? I have pondered on this, especially in this time of shelter in place during COVID 19, that we have time to watch a lot of movies and shows.
One film that impacted me is Official Secrets https://youtu.be/pP4zhzIyTUA . It is a 2019 British-American docudrama about a whistleblower; Katharine Gun, who leaked a memo that should have thwarted the United States’ efforts to influence diplomats from countries with the power to pass a second United Nations resolution on the invasion of Iraq.
It should have. It did not, and many have died and suffered. It makes me sad. Especially on days like today, when we realize that 81 years ago, World War II began. It was the deadliest military conflict in history. With an estimated total of 70–85 million people perished, about 3% of the 1940 world population (est. 2.3 billion).

The Bridge of Deaths (Revised Edition)

A Love Story and Mystery
by M.C.V. Egan
Genre: Historical Mystery
On August 15th, 1939, an English passenger plane from British Airways Ltd. crashed in Danish waters between the towns of Nykøbing Falster and Vordingborg. There were five casualties reported and one survivor. Just two weeks before, Hitler invaded Poland. With the world at the brink of war, the manner in which this incident was investigated left much open to doubt. The jurisdiction battle between the two towns and the newly formed Danish secret police created an atmosphere of intrigue and distrust. The Bridge of Deaths is a love story and a mystery. Fictional characters travel through the world of past life regressions and information acquired from psychics as well as archives and historical sources to solve “one of those mysteries that never get solved.” Based on true events and real people, The Bridge of Deaths is the culmination of 18 years of sifting through conventional and unconventional sources in Denmark, England, Mexico and the United States. The story finds a way to help the reader feel that s/he is also sifting through data and forming their own conclusions. Cross The Bridge of Deaths into 1939, and dive into cold Danish waters to uncover the secrets of the G-AESY.
Book Trailer
M.C.V. Egan is the pen name chosen by Maria Catalina Vergara Egan. Catalina is originally from Mexico City, Mexico. Catalina has lived in various countries and is fluent in four languages; Spanish, English, French and Swedish.
Her first book The Bridge of Deaths revolves around her maternal grandfather’s death in 1939. A true-life pre-WWII event. It has over 200 footnotes with the resources of her extensive search through Archival materials as well as the use of psychometry and past life regressions. It is more fact than fiction.
The revised edition of The Bridge of Deaths; A love Story and a Mystery focuses on the story-line as opposed to fact, but all footnotes and facts are available through the website for any curious minds. http://www.thebridgeofdeaths.com
Defined by Others taps into the dark quirky side found even in the best of people. With the 2012 American elections as a backdrop and the fearless reassurance that the world might end on December 12, 2012, as predicted by the Mayan Calendar.
Death of a Sculptor; in Hue, Shape, and Color is a novella written in sixteen different voices. It is a murder mystery. She is currently working on a sequel; Bruce (title subject to change).
M.C.V. Egan lives and works in South Florida. She loves cooking and crafting. She is married and has a son. Aside from writing Astrology is one of her passions and careers she pursues.
You can find M.C.V. Egan everywhere online

$15 Amazon

Follow the tour HERE for special content and a giveaway!
0 mcv egan books teaser 1
Death of a Sculptor in Hue, Shape and Color 
by M.C.V. Egan
Genre: Suburban Women’s Fiction
Color coded love stories and revealing female anatomies lead to the murder of world renowned sculptor, Bruce Jones.
In life, the artist loved women, almost as much as women loved him. Adored for his art and colorful personality, Bruce is mourned by the world at large. The tale is launched with the multifaceted perspectives of four ex-wives, the current wife, and his new love interest and their children.
Mary , Bruce’s wealthy first love, is always in perfect pink; the color of love. Mother of Clair the famous actress and Aaron the corporate lawyer.
Leslie The Second’s color is yellow for her sunny nature as much as for her fears and insecurities. Her only son Bobby is vulnerable and lost. Mourning his father’s death, he finds himself.
Petra The Third, is outstanding in orange, representing not only her native Holland but also her love of the fruit. Cherished her freedom and had no children of her own.
Toni The Fourth is a vibrant passionate Italian red and part of the eventual glue that creates and solidifies this dysfunctional Jones family. Her teenage daughters Tina and Isa are as different as night and day.
Brooke The Fifth a gold-digger. Green, her color, reflects the color of money and envy. Her young son’s Kyle and Caleb are too young to understand why their world has been turned upside-down.
Mara, as blue as the ocean was the last woman to steal Bruce’s heart. Mother to newborn Baby Peter is the unexpected gift and surprise.
Bruce Jones’ eight children speak out, too. They are as distinctive as the women he loved, their mothers.
Loose ends are tied up by the insights of Sylvia, Aaron’s wife and a trusted keeper of secrets; Scott, the private investigator and family friend; Nona, the quintessential grandmother everyone loves but to whom few are truly related; and Detective Jim Miller who will not rest until he discovers Bruce Jones’ murderer.
Defined By Others
Defining Ways Series Book 1
by M.C.V. Egan
Genre: Suburban Women’s Fiction
A word, a single word defines a moment for Anne. She needs to find a new one when her spouse, Frank, leaves her at the age of forty-seven, coming out of the closet literally in a closet.
She finds herself back in her hometown of Skvallerby, Connecticut among her high school friends which she had left in her past.
An inheritance from a frenemy leaves her with the means to meddle and spy on the lives of mutual acquaintances.
In an attempt to run from her reality Anne becomes engrossed in a game of fun and flirtation with her friend and fellow sufferer Connie.
Their fun games turn into a deadly reality. It is no longer a game. Life, death and not even a defining word can stop the reality of manipulation.
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Reblog: Olga’s Review of “A Champion Cyclist Against the Nazis”

Thanks Olga NM 
for sharing her review of this fascinating book. I’m a keen cyclist and interested in the era so will definitely check this out. Not this is Olga’s review re-blogged. It was  originally posted on: http://www.authortranslatorolga.com/2020/07/27/a-champion-cyclist-against-the-nazis-the-incredible-life-of-gino-bartali-by-alberto-toscano-penswordbooks-inspiring-and-informative/
A Champion Cyclist Against the Nazis: The Incredible Life of Gino Bartali by Alberto Toscano

A Champion Cyclist Against the Nazis: The Incredible Life of Gino Bartali by Alberto Toscano

Italy,1943. Although allied with Hitler, there were those who refused to accept the fascist policies of racial discrimination and deportation. Among them was Gino Bartali.

A champion cyclist, he won the Giro d’Italia (Tour of Italy) three times and the Tour de France twice. But these weren’t his only achievements. Deeply religious, Bartali never spoke about what he did during those dark years, when he agreed to work with the Resistance and pass messages from one end of the country to the other. Despite the dangers, Bartali used his training as a pretext to criss-cross Italy, hiding documents in the handlebars and saddle of his bicycle, all the while hoping that each time he was searched they wouldn’t think to disassemble his machine.

As a result of his bravery, 800 Jews — including numerous children — were saved from deportation. He died in Florence in 2000 and was recognized as one of the ‘Righteous Among the Nations’ in 2013. In this book, Alberto Toscano shares the incredible story of this great sportsman and recalls the dramatic moments in Italy and Europe in the twentieth century.

https://www.amazon.com/Champion-Cyclist-Against-Nazis-Incredible/dp/1526753391/

https://www.amazon.com/Champion-Cyclist-Against-Nazis-Incredible-ebook/dp/B089H2WNR3/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Champion-Cyclist-Against-Nazis-Incredible-ebook/dp/B089H2WNR3/

https://www.amazon.es/Champion-Cyclist-Against-Nazis-Incredible-ebook/dp/B089H2WNR3/

https://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/A-Champion-Cyclist-Against-the-Nazis-Hardback/p/17794

Author Alberto Toscano

About the author:

Alberto Toscano was born in Novara, Piedmont, and graduated in political science from the Università Statale in Milan, Italy, in 1973 with a thesis on the war in Indochina. From 1974 to 1982, he worked as a researcher at the Istituto degli Studi di Politica Internazionale (ISPI) in Milan and served as the editor of the ISPI weekly review Relazioni Internazionali. In 1977 and 1978 he received journalism training from the CFJ journalism school in Paris, France. Appointed International Bureau chief of the Italian weekly Rinascita in 1982-1983, he was then editor and special correspondent of the daily newspaper L’Unità until 1986, when he became the Paris correspondent of the daily economic magazine ItaliaOggi.

He is the author of over 5000 articles on France, published by Italian newspapers of several political tendencies: ItaliaOggi, L’Indipendente, Il Giornale.

He works as a journalist and political commentator for several media outlets — in Italy with the press agency Agenzia Giornali Associati (AGI), the RAI public radio and the private television group Mediaset, and in France with Nouvel Observateur, RFI, France Culture, France Inter and TV5. It also collaborates with the daily La Croix and served as president of the Foreign Press Association in France in 1996-1997, and currently serves as the president of the European Press Club since 2000 and President of the cultural association Piero Piazzano di Novara since 2001. Finally, since 2008, he is a member of the Board of Directors of the French Section of the Union of Francophone Press (UPF).

He is visiting professor in Political Science at Sciences-Po in Bordeaux. He is a member of the Training and Research Unit of Italian Language and Literature at the Sorbonne University in Paris.

He was received into the French National Order of Merit.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alberto_Toscano_(journalist)

Olga’s review:

I received an early hardback copy of this non-fiction book from Rosie Croft, from Pen & Sword, which I freely chose to review.

My father loved cycling, both watching it and jumping on a bike, and he belonged to a local cycling club. He could talk about cycling and bicycles for hours on end, and he inspired others to take it up as well (not me, I must hasten to add, but several of his brothers and nephews). That was partly the reason why I was attracted to this book in the first place, although I had never heard about Gino Bartali. But let me reassure you: you don’t need to be a fan of cycling to enjoy this book. Although there is plenty about Bartali’s cycling career and achievements (he dedicated most of his life to it, even after he retired from sporting events), this book is not a manual on cycling techniques, full of information about bicycle manufacturers, and painstakingly detailed descriptions of the individual races. You don’t need to be very knowledgeable about Italian politics or history to enjoy it either.  Toscano, the author, manages to combine biographical information about the protagonist of the book with a solid background of the socio-historic-political situation in Italy at the time. I’m not an expert on Italian history, but I felt I gained perspective on the Italian experience during WWII, especially on the efforts of a part of the population to save not only Italian-Jews but also Jews arrived from other areas to Italy in that period. I have come across many books on the experience of the French Resistance (particularly historical fiction set there) but not so many on what happened in Italy, and it offered me a new perspective. And non-fictional as well.

What I most liked of the book was the way the author manages to place the story of Bartali in the context of the era. The personality of the man comes across in the book. He was determined, a fighter, very religious (Roman Catholic and devoted), with high moral standards, who would do the right thing, even if it meant putting himself at risk, and although he did not shy away from popularity (he regularly appeared on TV with Fausto Coppi, his eternal rival while cycling but also a good friend), he never wanted to discuss his role in helping save many Jews as part of the efforts of the DELASEM (Delegation for the Assistance of Jewish Emigrants) in collaboration with Catholic priests, bishops, nuns, and many Italian civilians who helped in any way they could (housing them, providing papers, money, etc.). The book uses translated quotes from Bartali’s own autobiographies and also from the book his son, Andrea, wrote about his father (and the originals in Italian are provided also as Endnotes) to illustrate events and to make us feel as if we could hear him and had met him. There are also a few B&W pictures included. As I have said, I felt I learned a lot about the era, the politics, the importance of cycling as a sport in Italy at the time, and how sports and politics become enmeshed (and sports and national identity).  Bartali was not a sympathiser of Mussolini and fascism, and that resulted in difficult situations for him, but he was well known and respected, and that put him in a great position to be able to help others. I also enjoyed the writing style, which is fluid and provides the right amount of information for people without in-depth knowledge to follow the narrative without becoming overwhelming. Toscano achieves a good balance between the general and the detail, and the book offers a good overview of the era and of Bartali’s life and achievements.

If I had to mention something I disliked, or rather, I missed, is a full bibliography. The book provides plenty of information on the subject (Bartali) and on Italian history and politics, but there is no bibliographical section that could help people interested in those topics to research further. Some films and the books about Bartali are mentioned within the text, but there is no separate reference to them. The preface and the afterword, on the other hand, highlight the importance of Bartali and of this book, and there is information within the text about newspaper headlines and articles that would make them easy to trace back.

I recommend this book to people interested in WWII stories, particularly those about the home front and about individuals whose war efforts have not been recognised until recently. People interested in cycling, Italian history and politics, and anybody who wants to read about a fascinating character that more than rose to the challenges of his time will enjoy this book. And I’m sure my father would have loved it as well.

I had to conclude with a quote that, according to the book, Bartali shared with his son, Andrea, about why he kept silent about his role in WWII:

I want to be remembered for my sporting achievements and not as a war hero. The heroes are the others, those who suffered in body, mind, and in their loved ones. I just did what I did best. Ride a bike. Good must be done discretely. Once it is spoken of, it loses its value because it is as if one is trying to draw attention away from the suffering of others. They are the medals you can hang on your soul that will count in the Kingdom of Heaven, not on this earth.

Thanks to Rosie Croft and Pen & Sword for this opportunity, thanks to all of you for writing, and remember to like, share, comment, click, review, keep smiling, keep safe, and never forget.

The Coffee Pot Book Club feature on THE HEALER

Thanks to Mary Ann Yarde and The Coffee Pot Book Club
Link to the original feature: https://maryanneyarde.blogspot.com/2020/07/check-out-christoph-fischers-fabulous.html

Check out Christoph Fischer’s fabulous book — The Healer (Fraud or Miracle? Book 1) #Thriller #Medical #Supernatural @CFFBooks @WriterCFischer

The Healer
(Fraud or Miracle? Book 1)

By Christoph Fischer
When advertising executive Erica Whittaker is diagnosed with terminal cancer, western medicine fails her. The only hope left for her to survive is controversial healer Arpan. She locates the man whose touch could heal her but finds he has retired from the limelight and refuses to treat her. Erica, consumed by stage four pancreatic cancer, is desperate and desperate people are no longer logical nor are they willing to take no for an answer. Arpan has retired for good reasons. casting more than the shadow of a doubt over his abilities. So begins a journey that will challenge them both as the past threatens to catch up with him as much as with her. Can he really heal her? Can she trust him with her life? And will they both achieve what they set out to do before running out of time?

Praise for The Healer (Fraud or Miracle? Book 1

“Touching thriller that raises many profound questions”

Katie

“…a wonderful insight into the world of alternative healing and the conflict between holistic medicine and Western medicine”
Deborah A. Bowman
“A psychologically astute book that will make you think about your own mortality. And what an ending!”

Olga NM

Excerpt

The tired, small hatchback hit a rock next to the edge of the road and came to an unexpected and abrupt stop. Erica had not seen the bulky thing hidden underneath the uncut grass. She switched off the engine and got out. There seemed no significant damage to her old banger but she couldn’t care less right now, to be honest, and decided she would leave it parked here anyway. She must be close.

Quite frankly, she considered herself lucky to have made it this far; the roads had been bumpy and her car was in a dire condition, too. It wouldn’t be much longer before it would have to be scrapped. Living in London she rarely needed it and had often been tempted to sell it anyway.

This was deepest Wales, the countryside – something that the Londoner in her had not seen for years and certainly hadn’t missed. Poor phone reception, miles to the nearest supermarket with its supplies of cigarettes and bubbly: that’s what the countryside meant to her.

She guessed the car was sufficiently off the road and out of the way. Who would come here, anyway? It was unlikely that two cars would find this remote corner of Wales at the same time, she reckoned. Erica looked around: not a living soul in sight, no houses or vehicles; she was totally off the beaten track. She could see no significant landmarks; all views were blocked by large trees and hedges. It was drizzling a little and although it was past lunchtime, there was mist that reminded her of early mornings. The wind had made the spring temperatures drop more than she had anticipated and she was chilly in her inadequate city clothing.

She searched her purse for the map, which her assistant Hilda had drawn for her. It seemed as if she was in the right place; there was the small path at the foot of the hill, and the two opposing gates leading to fields with horses and sheep. Since leaving her nearby B&B, all the road junctions she had come to had been easy to recognise and here was the little shoulder by the side of the road, where Hilda had recommended she should park the car.

She assured herself once more that it was the right path and then she psyched herself up for the walk up the steep hill. The tricky part, Hilda had explained, was finding the hidden gate, which would lead her to the man himself. However, Hilda didn’t have pancreatic cancer and was not recovering from a course of chemo and so she had no idea how difficult it would be for Erica to walk up that hill. It seemed by no means the easy climb her assistant had called it. For all her recent goodness, that woman could drive her mad.

Erica looked at herself in the outside mirror of her car before getting ready to face the man. Her hair had not fallen out from the chemo but it had turned grey and made her look much older than she was. There were still crow’s feet and wrinkles despite being facially bloated – it really wasn’t fair; the worst of both worlds. People used to think of Erica as at least five years younger than she actually was, but now people thought she was five years older. Overnight it seemed, she had aged from 40 to 50 but given her current situation she would be lucky to reach 45. Additionally, she had lost a lot of weight, despite the effect that the steroids had had on her. With her mere 5’ 4’’ frame, she looked tiny and felt thin and weak.

Only this man might be able to improve her chances and she desperately hoped the trip here would be worth it. If the man really was who Hilda thought, there was a slight chance for her. If she could make him speak to her, then she was sure she could persuade him to help – if he still possessed those powers. There suddenly seemed a lot of ifs.

 

Pick up your copy of

The Healer

Amazon UK • Amazon US

Also available on Audio

 

Christoph Fischer

USA Today and Amazon No 1 bestselling author Christoph Fischer was born in Germany as the son of a Sudeten-German father and a Bavarian mother. Not a full local in the eyes and ears of his peers he developed an ambiguous sense of belonging and home in Bavaria. He moved to Hamburg in pursuit of his studies and to lead a life of literary indulgence. He now lives in a small town in West Wales with his husband and three Labradoodles.

Christoph worked for the British Film Institute, in Libraries, Museums and for an airline.
‘The Luck of The Weissensteiners’, the first of 5 historical novels was downloaded over 100,000 times on Amazon and reached No in Historical Fiction. “Time to Let Go”, his first contemporary work was published in May 2014.
His medical thriller “The Healer” was released in January 2015 and reached No 1 in medical thriller category on Amazon and became a USA Today bestseller in 2019. Other popular books of his are “Ludwika” and “Murder at Eurovision” , the second in his Bebe Bollinger cozy mystery series.

Connect with Christopher: Blog • Twitter • Facebook • Goodreads • Amazon Author Page.

Movie review: Eurovision Song Contest – The Story of Fire Saga

Thanks Andrew for this review. Eurovision is my musical passion and what better way to celebrate my very special birthday than to post this review

Source: Movie review: Eurovision Song Contest – The Story of Fire Saga

(image courtesy IMP Awards)

The Eurovision Song Contest, whether you love it, hate it or are blissfully indifferent to it, is almost impossible to ignore.

Taking place usually in May in the nominated city of whichever country won the event the year before (COVID-19 plagued years like 2020 aside), and established in the wake of World War Two as a way of bringing the fractured continent of Europe together, Eurovision is a singing contest unlike any other.

It is bright, brash and gleefully over the top, a singing contest that might appear comical in certain respects – even fans of the event such as this reviewer will acknowledge that the cheese factor is strong with this event, which is as well known for its over-the-top theatrics as it is for its (mostly) catchy songs – but which also exhibits a tremendous amount of heart and soul and an inspirational quality which even the most cynical among us find hard to dismiss.

Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga, the Will Ferrell-helmed film that was originally supposed to receive a theatrical release until a certain virus intervened, celebrates both the cheesiness and the humanity of a contest in ways that will defy any expectations you may have of such an undertaking, leaving a smile on your face and a song in your heart much like the event itself.

The reason why the film succeeds so abundantly well is that it eschews any attempt to parody the event.

Certainly, you could have gone down that route and had a ton of fun doing so; even the organisers of the contest will admit that the event is ripe for a well-execute satire.

But you suspect that the end result, once the “haha, it’s bit cheesy” angle had been exploited in what would have felt like an overdone one-joke effort, would have come across as mean-spirited and patronising, the kind of attitude that has plague Eurovision for much of its recent, more colourfully exhuberant history.

(image via YouTube (c) Netflix)

For all of its more gloriously offbeat attributes and its propensity for going to excess in just about every facet of its execution (an excess, by the way, that its ardent fans, and they are legion, love every step of the way), Eurovision is at heart all about people achieving their dreams.

While it may not necessarily have been solely responsible for uniting Europe, and you could well argue, especially when the votes are rolling in that a contest may not be the best to encourage selfless international bonhomie, what Eurovision delivers in spades is the sense that here are a select group of performers realising their dreams which, unless your heart is made of concrete, is a pretty inspiring thing.

Just how inspirational becomes apparent in Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga which Ferrell co-wrote, produced and stars in, when we meet Lars Ericksonssong (Will Ferrell) as a young boy in 1974 who has just lost his mother and is finding too much about life to love.

That is until ABBA, who famously won Eurovision in that year, come on stage belting out the wondrously uplifting and defiantly melodic strains of “Waterloo” and Lars is transformed into an ambitious dynamo who is determined to win the contest and bring glory to his home country of Iceland (which has never won the event) and to his small northern town of Húsavík.

Doggedly hanging onto his dream in the face of scornful dismissal by his father Erick (Pierced Brosnan) and the mocking laughter of almost every one of his fellow townsfolk, Lars sole source of support is his childhood friend Sigrit Ericksdóttir who, apart from supporting him every step of the way on his seemingly quixotic dream, also holds a candle for him so large it would make an effective Eurovision pyrotechnic prop for any act.

Together, they are Fire Saga, a middling band in a town of two thousand or so people on the far northern coast of Iceland who have next to no chance of ever representing their country, despite some gorgeously cheesy songs like “Volcano Man” and “Double Trouble”, until a brilliantly over-the-top twist of explosive fate sends them to Edinburgh, Scotland for the 2020 contest (which in real life was going to be staged in Rotterdam, The Netherlands until COVID-19 forced its cancellation).

Scrupulously observing the rules that govern the contest, such as no song being longer than three minutes and each act only being allowed to have a maximum of six people on stage, Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga gently and affectionately parodies its namesake without once veering into condescension or cruel ridicule, held aloft by a tremendous amount of heart and soul which Ferrell et al prosecute without a (welcome) trace of irony.

(image via YouTube (c) Netflix)

It helps that the film, which features cameos from a who’s who of past Eurovision contestants, including past winners Norway’s Alexander Rybak (2009), Sweden’s Loreen (2012), Ukraine’s Jamala (2016), Austria’s Conchita Wurst (2017) and Israel’s Netta (2018), has been produced by someone who is an ardent fan of the event.

That’s right – Will Ferrell, thanks to his Swedish wife Viveca Paulin, has been watching the contest for a great many years, counting himself among those who love the event and who, while they can find plenty to affectionately mock should they be so inclined, see far more good in the contest than ridiculous bad.

His ardent appreciation of the event in reflected in every scene of Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga which while it has more than its share of silly, offbeat fun, with elves, overwrought song productions and visual slapstick all making an hilarious appearance, never once veers into cruel, overblown parody.

This restraint is matched by a commitment to honouring the dream of its protagonist and the woman who loves him; everyone else in his hometown and in the Iceland committee which oversees selection of the country’s Eurovision contestant may be laughing at him, but the film never does, and while there is a great deal that is amusing about Lars’s singleminded devotion to his lifelong goal and his oblivious disregard of Sigrit’s affection for him, Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga holds back from turning every last element of the film into a rip-roaring, larger-than-life joke.

It’s this nuance and humanity that gives the film a solid, emotional core, the kind which is affecting in all the right ways without once being treacly or twee and which is calibrated at just the right level that it sits easily alongside the more adroitly-executed absurdist elements (which include Dan Stevens as flamboyant Russian representative Alexander Lemtov who comes close to stealing the film).

Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga is an unexpected gift – a film that is quite at home happily parodying the event around which it is centred but not in a cruelly derisive way that would have leached any sense of fun to be had with the premise.

For more clips and review head over to Andrew’s post

Movie review: Eurovision Song Contest – The Story of Fire Saga

Book Review: The Last Pilgrim by Noelle Granger

This book is a rich resource of well researched historical facts and a concise re-telling of the story of one of many Mayflower pilgrims.

Noelle describes the characters in a series of narratives that depict the crossing with its difficulties, the landing, the search for a suitable location, the troubles establishing themselves as a village, as neighbours to natives and as a community.

Through a variety of characters different perspectives illustrate the hardships, the obstacles, dangers, tragedies and the fight for survival.

Exploitation by the land owners, religious differences and politics also come into play but all is wrapped around the central character Mary Allerton.

As European I feel I learned an enormous amount about those early days of settlement, how natives and settlers interacted and how many people didn’t make it.
Knowing Noelle as an academic writer I felt safe in her hands to trust the historical accurateness, everything felt plausible and informative.

Last but not least, Mary is a strong character and her spirit is admirable.

It was difficult to let her go

******

The Last Pilgrim: The Life of Mary Allerton Cushman captures and celebrates the grit and struggle of the Pilgrim women, who stepped off the Mayflower in the winter of 1620 to an unknown world – one filled with hardship, danger and death.  The Plymouth Colony would not have survived without them.

Mary Allerton Cushman was the last surviving passenger of the Mayflower, dying at age 88 in 1699. Her unusually long life and her relationships with important men – her father, Isaac Allerton and her husband, Thomas Cushman – gave her a front row seat to the history of the Plymouth Colony from its beginnings as the first permanent settlement in New England to when it became part of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1691.

Mary’s life is set against the real background of that time. The Last Pilgrim begins from her father’s point of view – she was, after all, only four when she descended into the cramped and dank living space below deck on the Mayflower – but gradually assumes Mary’s voice, as the colony achieves a foothold in the New England’s rocky soil. Hers is a story of survival – the daily, back-breaking work to ensure food on the table, the unsettled interactions with local native tribes, the dangers of wild animals, and the endless challenges of injury, disease and death.

What was a woman’s life like in the Plymouth Colony? The Last Pilgrim will tell you.

You may also want to check out her blog https://saylingaway.wordpress.com/2020/06/11/things-i-discovered-while-researching-for-the-last-pilgrim/

******

This book was a labor of love for several years, and I am in awe of what the Separists – now called the Pilgrims – endured to follow their conscience and their dream. That strength and belief in God is the bedrock of this country. And they were among our first immigrants.

Mary lived to the end of the 17th century and much went on during those years. My learning curve was steep and there was much to tell.

I hope you enjoy Mary’s and my journey.

Amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B089G9J83K/ref=sr_1_5?dchild=1&keywords=The+Last+Pilgrim&qid=1591018556&s=books&sr=1-5

BOOK REVIEW: AWAY WITH THE PENGUINS BY HAZEL PRIOR

I heard first about this book through the ever so fabulous Andrew Gillman and his splendid blog http://www.sparklyprettybriiiight.com/book-review-away-with-the-penguins-by-hazel-prior

His recommendations are always ones to take seriously. He warned me the main character would not be very likeable and he was right. It took a while to warm to Veronica, 86 year old woman who hates almost everyone and everything.

By chance she discovers a penguin research project in the Antarctica that all of a sudden gives her the sense of purpose.

Her recently discovered long lost grand son Patrick was a disappointment when she met him so she decides to check out said research station to see if they are more worthy to inherit her millions.

Once in the Antarctica she is challenged in many ways, physically and emotionally and more than the outside ice gets a crack and starts to melt.

As we discover more about Veronica’s past and background we see a different side to her. Old diaries and changing narrators cast extra light on to the story, then and now.

The book is quirky, well written and has a variety of odd and memorable characters. While some parts of the story are predictable, others aren’t, and they all are moving, heart warming and delightful.

I listened to this on audio book and enjoyed it much more than I had hoped for.

Here is more from Andrew’s post, who has such a great way with words: 

“Is it ever too late to change your life?

If you were to ask Veronica McCreedy at the start of Hazel Prior’s (Ellie and the Harp Maker) charmingly redemptive novel Away With the Penguins, you would likely receive a snappy, tart reply that “Of course it is! How could you think otherwise?”

The abrasive 86-year-old millionaire occupant of stately seaside mansion the Ballahays, Aryshire, Scotland, is a woman of stentorianly articulated firm opinions who knows her own mind and isn’t afraid to say what she thinks.

Alone in the world after the death of her husband many years earlier and with no family to speak of and with only her assistant Eileen for company, Veronica is a woman who has fallen into some rather pronounced life habits than she is loathe to break.

Fastidious about her appearance to the point where she instructs Eileen to take down all the mirrors in the house, an instruction she revokes the next day when she forgets her orders from the day before – she is nimble and with it but her mind doesn’t always keep pace with her active body – Veronica is happiest munching on ginger thins and watching documentaries such as those on penguins with which she becomes obsessed (once she gets over the fact that they have supplanted her usual TV program of choice).

Her life is a very well-worn one that brooks no change and which seems destined to keep shuffling along without much to distinguish it until the day Veronica shuffles off this mortal coil.”

“The clock strikes seven. Eileen has gone and I am alone in the house. Being alone is supposed to be an issue for people such as me, but I have to say I find it deeply satisfying. Human company is necessary at times, I admit, but it is almost always irksome one way or another.” (P. 5)

Hazel Prior (image courtesy Penguin Books Australia)

If you are a fan of books that challenge the notion that life is immutable once settled on a particular course and which sing the praises of re-invention and renewal then you will adore the beguiling wonder of Away With the Penguins.

To be fair, the book is a little tough going at first because Veronica McCreedy is not a pleasant person to be around and there are times when you wonder if it is worth persevering with a person who responds to the normal social niceties with a tone so acidly brusque and razor-sharp rude that you begin to wonder how someone like Eileen has stayed in her employ as long as she has.

But as Prior begins to pull back the layers of Veronica’s life and we are given insight via old diary entries, penned by a 15-year-old Very (her dad’s nickname for her) during the early years of World War Two, into her achingly painful past, and as the penguins work their considerable charm on her (including one in particular), we begin to see a very different side of a woman who simply wants to feel loved and wanted.

Thankfully, Prior never allows the book to descend into treacle-y, twee inspirationalism, and while there are copious moments of human warmth and wonder that make reading Away With the Penguins a total joy, Veronica McCreedy is allowed to retain enough rough edges to make her feel like a real, authentic human being.

The genius of this approach is that for all the redemptive elements to the story, Away With the Penguins never feels like some confected tale of change and growth that sounds like it could never happen in the real world.

“… Two days later I am still sitting here. We haven’t been able to venture outside at all. It is mind-numbingly tedious and suffocatingly claustrophobic. I miss the earth, the air, the sky. I miss the penguins. I can’t stand Mike any more, can’t stand Dietrich and at times I even can’t stand Terry.

The Worst Journey in the World does little to make me feel better about it.” (P. 167)

Granted, it’s highly unlikely that scientists would take an 86-year-old into their base nor let her roam around the penguin rookery with them, and you’d have to wonder if there would be anyone left in Veronica’s life after a lifetime of virulently acerbic treatment of others, but these narratively convenient elements are tempered by the fact that Veronica never once comes across as a saint.

And thank goodness for that because for all her rough edges, Veronica is actually a lot of fun to hang around with, especially as her cranky old lady persona begins to be ameliorated by an awakening of long-repressed memories and the consequential emotional flood they unleash, and she becomes far more rounded and relatable as a human being.

Away With the Penguins is a gem – it offers up the kind of story that reassures us that while life might seem irredeemably bitter, broken and twisted, that it can be turned around no matter how old you are or entrenched in your ways you are.

It does with a protagonist who is deliberately positioned as a lot to handle at first but who becomes softer and far more in touch with the very essence of who she is without relinquishing all those parts of her, the good and the bad, that have accumulated over nearly nine decades of life.

This inspired strategy by Prior means that in Away With the Penguins we get to watch a real person change in a host of believable ways while still offering some cosy and charming reading that dares cynicism and disillusionment to be gone, the perfect mix of the grimly real with the charmingly, joyfully fantastical which places this beautiful book as one of the most accomplished recent entries in a very crowded, and often far less faithful to the vagaries of life, genre.

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