Book Review – The Perfume Thief

The Perfume Thief by Timothy Schaffert / Genre: Historical Fiction

Synopsis

A Gentleman in Moscow meets Moulin Rouge in this stylish, sexy page-turner about Clementine, a queer American expat and notorious thief of rare scents, who has retired to Paris, only to return to her old tricks in hopes of protecting the city she loves when the Nazis invade in 1941.

Clementine is a seventy-two year-old reformed con artist with a penchant for impeccably tailored suits. Her life of crime has led her from the uber-wealthy perfume junkies of belle epoque Manhattan, to the scented butterflies of Costa Rica, to the spice markets of Marrakech, and finally the bordellos of Paris, where she settles down and opens a legitimate shop bottling her favorite extracts for the ladies of the cabarets.

In 1941, as the German’s stranglehold on the city tightens, Clem’s perfume-making attracts the notice of Oskar Voss, a Francophile Nazi bureaucrat, who comes to demand Clem’s expertise and loyalty in his mysterious play for Hitler’s favor. Clem has no choice but to surrender fully to the con, but while she knew playing the part of collaborator would be dangerous, she never imagined it would be so painfully intimate. At Oskar’s behest, and in an effort to win his trust, Clem recounts the full story of her life and loves, this time without the cover of the lies she came to Paris to escape.

Complete with romance, espionage, champagne towers, and haute couture, this full-tilt sensory experience is a dazzling portrait of the underground resistance of twentieth-century Paris and a passionate love letter to the power of beauty and community in the face of insidious hate.

Thoughts

Thank you to NetGalley and Doubleday for providing me with an advanced e-copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

I enjoyed that this book was unlike anything I’ve read from this time in history in that it followed the LGBTQ community in Paris during WWII. The story was good, but I felt like there were some parts that were too long and dragged out.

I gave this book 3 stars.

Book Review – Where the Crawdads Sing

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens / Genre: Historical Fiction

Synopsis

For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. She’s barefoot and wild; unfit for polite society. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark.

But Kya is not what they say. Abandoned at age ten, she has survived on her own in the marsh that she calls home. A born naturalist with just one day of school, she takes life lessons from the land, learning from the false signals of fireflies the real way of this world. But while she could have lived in solitude forever, the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. Drawn to two young men from town, who are each intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new and startling world–until the unthinkable happens.

A novel about a young woman determined to make her way in the wilds of North Carolina, and the two men that will break her isolation open.

Thoughts

I have not read a book that has made me this emotional since The Nightingale, and just like The Nightingale, I will talk about Where the Crawdads sing for the rest of my days.

If you are one of the few who haven’t read Where the Crawdads Sing, I implore you to do it!!

This book received 5 stars from me.

Book Review – The Forest of Vanishing Stars

The Forest of Vanishing Stars by Kristin Harmel / Genre: Historical Fiction

Synopsis

After being stolen from her wealthy German parents and raised in the unforgiving wilderness of eastern Europe, a young woman finds herself alone in 1941 after her kidnapper dies. Her solitary existence is interrupted, however, when she happens upon a group of Jews fleeing the Nazi terror. Stunned to learn what’s happening in the outside world, she vows to teach the group all she can about surviving in the forest—and in turn, they teach her some surprising lessons about opening her heart after years of isolation. But when she is betrayed and escapes into a German-occupied village, her past and present come together in a shocking collision that could change everything.

Inspired by incredible true stories of survival against staggering odds, and suffused with the journey-from-the-wilderness elements that made Where the Crawdads Sing a worldwide phenomenon, The Forest of Vanishing Stars is a heart-wrenching and suspenseful novel.

Thoughts

I was provided an advanced ecopy of this book from NetGalley and the opinions expressed here are my honest thoughts.

I’ve read my fare share of WWII books but never knew that there many Jews in Poland who fled into the woods near their communities in order to escape and hide from the Nazis. The heart of this story is about survival and family and discovering that family isn’t always about what you’re born into but rather about the people you surround yourself with.

It did take me until Chapter 3 to really get into the story but from that point forward the story moved along at a steady pace. It’s definitely an emotional read and I would strongly encourage anyone who reads the book to also read the author’s note at the end of the book.

I would think anyone who enjoys historial fiction (WWII in particular) would enjoy this book.

I gave this book 4 stars.

Book Review – Sparks Like Stars

Sparks Like Stars by Nadia Hashimi / Genre: Historical Fiction

Synopsis

Kabul, 1978: The daughter of a prominent family, Sitara Zamani lives a privileged life in Afghanistan’s thriving cosmopolitan capital. The 1970s are a time of remarkable promise under the leadership of people like Sardar Daoud, Afghanistan’s progressive president, and Sitara’s beloved father, his right-hand man. But the ten-year-old Sitara’s world is shattered when communists stage a coup, assassinating the president and Sitara’s entire family. Only she survives. 

Smuggled out of the palace by a guard named Shair, Sitara finds her way to the home of a female American diplomat, who adopts her and raises her in America. In her new country, Sitara takes on a new name—Aryana Shepherd—and throws herself into her studies, eventually becoming a renowned surgeon.

New York, 2008: Thirty years after that fatal night in Kabul, Aryana’s world is rocked again when an elderly patient appears in her examination room—a man she never expected to see again. It is Shair, the soldier who saved her, yet may have murdered her entire family. Seeing him awakens Aryana’s fury and desire for answers—and, perhaps, revenge.

Thoughts

I loved this book!!

The story started out a little slow but that isn’t a bad thing as it quickly picked up and kept me interested until the very end.

This book will definitely tug at your heartstrings as it is pretty emotional throughout and I gave it 5 stars.

Book Review – The Final Revival of Opal & Nev

The Final Revival of Opal & Nev by Dawnie Walton / Genre: Historical Fiction

Synopsis

Opal is a fiercely independent young woman pushing against the grain in her style and attitude, Afro-punk before that term existed. Coming of age in Detroit, she can’t imagine settling for a 9-to-5 job—despite her unusual looks, Opal believes she can be a star. So when the aspiring British singer/songwriter Neville Charles discovers her at a bar’s amateur night, she takes him up on his offer to make rock music together for the fledgling Rivington Records.

In early seventies New York City, just as she’s finding her niche as part of a flamboyant and funky creative scene, a rival band signed to her label brandishes a Confederate flag at a promotional concert. Opal’s bold protest and the violence that ensues set off a chain of events that will not only change the lives of those she loves, but also be a deadly reminder that repercussions are always harsher for women, especially black women, who dare to speak their truth.

Decades later, as Opal considers a 2016 reunion with Nev, music journalist S. Sunny Shelton seizes the chance to curate an oral history about her idols. Sunny thought she knew most of the stories leading up to the cult duo’s most politicized chapter. But as her interviews dig deeper, a nasty new allegation from an unexpected source threatens to blow up everything.

Thoughts

I had heard this book was being compared to Daisy Jones & The Six. In my opinion, the only similarity was that this book is done in an interview format.

I liked this story and the characters. The only problem I had was that there were parts of the story that were slow for me (mainly in the first half). Other than that, this was a good debut novel!

I gave this book 4/5 stars.

Book Review – Their Eyes Were Watching God

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston / Genre: Historical Fiction

Synopsis

Fair and long-legged, independent and articulate, Janie Crawford sets out to be her own person — no mean feat for a black woman in the ’30s. Janie’s quest for identity takes her through three marriages and into a journey back to her roots.

Thoughts

An extremely heavy story following a woman’s journey through life and love and loss.

I did not realize that this book was written in the 1930’s. I won’t lie, I ended up downloading the audio version because the dialect was hard for me to follow. I’m glad I did that because Ruby Dee did an outstanding job narrating. I would definitely recommend listening to the audio version!

A powerful story that will stay with me for awhile.

I gave this book a 4 star rating.

Book Review – Pachinko

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee / Genre: Historical Fiction

Synopsis

In the early 1900s, teenaged Sunja, the adored daughter of a crippled fisherman, falls for a wealthy stranger at the seashore near her home in Korea. He promises her the world, but when she discovers she is pregnant — and that her lover is married — she refuses to be bought. Instead, she accepts an offer of marriage from a gentle, sickly minister passing through on his way to Japan. But her decision to abandon her home, and to reject her son’s powerful father, sets off a dramatic saga that will echo down through the generations.

Richly told and profoundly moving, Pachinko is a story of love, sacrifice, ambition, and loyalty. From bustling street markets to the halls of Japan’s finest universities to the pachinko parlors of the criminal underworld, Lee’s complex and passionate characters — strong, stubborn women, devoted sisters and sons, fathers shaken by moral crisis — survive and thrive against the indifferent arc of history.

Thoughts

This book was long, but it moved at a very steady pace for me and I loved it! It gives the reader a glimpse into 20th century Korean history and the multigenerational storyline is filled with love and sacrifice. There’s a part of me that felt like the book ended abruptly; however, that just could be I didn’t want it to end!

A beautifully written book that earned 4.5 stars from me!

Book Review – The Four Winds

The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah / Genre: Historical Fiction

Synopsis

Texas, 1934. Millions are out of work and a drought has broken the Great Plains. Farmers are fighting to keep their land and their livelihoods as the crops are failing, the water is drying up, and dust threatens to bury them all. One of the darkest periods of the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl era, has arrived with a vengeance.

In this uncertain and dangerous time, Elsa Martinelli—like so many of her neighbors—must make an agonizing choice: fight for the land she loves or go west, to California, in search of a better life. The Four Winds is an indelible portrait of America and the American Dream, as seen through the eyes of one indomitable woman whose courage and sacrifice will come to define a generation.

Thoughts

To me, a great story teller is someone who transports the reader and makes them feel as if they are in the story watching it unfold within the pages and that is exactly what Kristin Hannah did to me with her latest book. I couldn’t help thinking as I read this story that even though it took place in the thirties it was so relatable as to what is taking place in our country today. I knew nothing of the dust storms that ravaged the Great Plains during this time in history. It broke my heart to learn that people who had lost so much went to a place they thought could provide them a new beginning but they were instead met with such hatred and made to feel less than. If this book isn’t on your radar, add it NOW, and in case you couldn’t tell, this one earned all the stars from me (5/5)!

Book Review – Lovely War

Lovely War by Julie Berry / Genre: Historical Fiction

Synopsis

It’s 1917, and World War I is at its zenith when Hazel and James first catch sight of each other at a London party. She’s a shy and talented pianist; he’s a newly minted soldier with dreams of becoming an architect. When they fall in love, it’s immediate and deep–and cut short when James is shipped off to the killing fields.

Aubrey Edwards is also headed toward the trenches. A gifted musician who’s played Carnegie Hall, he’s a member of the 15th New York Infantry, an all-African-American regiment being sent to Europe to help end the Great War. Love is the last thing on his mind. But that’s before he meets Colette Fournier, a Belgian chanteuse who’s already survived unspeakable tragedy at the hands of the Germans.

Thirty years after these four lovers’ fates collide, the Greek goddess Aphrodite tells their stories to her husband, Hephaestus, and her lover, Ares, in a luxe Manhattan hotel room at the height of World War II. She seeks to answer the age-old question: Why are Love and War eternally drawn to one another? But her quest for a conclusion that will satisfy her jealous husband uncovers a multi-threaded tale of prejudice, trauma, and music and reveals that War is no match for the power of Love.

Thoughts

Complete honesty – – – I totally bought this book because of the cover! I’m so glad I did because this book was beautifully written. I couldn’t get enough of the characters and their storylines. Don’t be intimidated by the length of the book because it reads very fast.

I gave this book 5/5 stars.

Book Review – The Tattooist of Auschwitz

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris / Genre: Historical Fiction

Synopsis

In April 1942, Lale Sokolov, a Slovakian Jew, is forcibly transported to the concentration camps at Auschwitz-Birkenau. When his captors discover that he speaks several languages, he is put to work as a Tätowierer (the German word for tattooist), tasked with permanently marking his fellow prisoners.

Imprisoned for over two and a half years, Lale witnesses horrific atrocities and barbarism—but also incredible acts of bravery and compassion. Risking his own life, he uses his privileged position to exchange jewels and money from murdered Jews for food to keep his fellow prisoners alive.

One day in July 1942, Lale, prisoner 32407, comforts a trembling young woman waiting in line to have the number 34902 tattooed onto her arm. Her name is Gita, and in that first encounter, Lale vows to somehow survive the camp and marry her.

A vivid, harrowing, and ultimately hopeful re-creation of Lale Sokolov’s experiences as the man who tattooed the arms of thousands of prisoners with what would become one of the most potent symbols of the Holocaust, The Tattooist of Auschwitz is also a testament to the endurance of love and humanity under the darkest possible conditions.

Thoughts

I have always been drawn to historical fiction and WWII stories and had heard such good things about this book. I liked that the story focused on the real life relationship that developed between Lale and Gita and how they helped each other survive the horrors of being in a concentration camp. The book didn’t blow me away but it was good and I’m glad I read it.

I gave this book 3/5 stars.