Review: “With Love, Wherever You Are” by Dandi Daley Mackall

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Bonus trivia: That’s a photo of the real-life Helen and Frank on the cover!

This book review features a book that is as interesting as it is riveting because much of the story is based on the true-life events of a couple who met, married, and served in Europe during WWII. The book, With Love, Wherever You Are, by Dandi Daley Mackall, is a recent release from Tyndale House.

About the BookEveryone knows that war romances never last . . .
After a whirlwind romance and wedding, Helen Eberhart Daley, an army nurse, and Lieutenant Frank Daley, M.D. are sent to the front lines of Europe with only letters to connect them for months at a time.

Surrounded by danger and desperately wounded patients, they soon find that only the war seems real—and their marriage more and more like a distant dream. If they make it through the war, will their marriage survive?

Based on the incredible true love story, With Love, Wherever You Are is an adult novel from beloved children’s author Dandi Daley Mackall.Review

“Based on a true story”, “WWII era”, and “letters” were all I needed to know I really wanted to read this novel. With flowing style, intriguing settings around the US and the war theater of Europe, and a love story that transcends all kinds of obstacles, this book kept me hooked late into the night.

For starters, this book is based on the real life love story of the author’s parents. While some elements and characters were understandably fictionalized for heightened story tension, the personalities of Frank and Helen clearly shine through as observed by Dandi, their daughter. Fast forwarding to the end and the author’s note section, readers learn what parts of the story are identical to the real-life situation– and those were the most incredibly interesting elements of the story!

I was impressed with the contrasting humor and wit of the relationship between Frank and Helen compared to the dramatic responsibilities, convictions, and events depicted in the book. To quote an author friend, I felt like I was reading the script of a Cary Grant movie sometimes! These personalities really come out in the real-life letters, notes, telegrams, etc. included all throughout the novel—they were a treat!

The pain and destruction of World War II was not shied away from, yet a lens of eternal hope was applied to the gravity of loss experienced by the world. In the middle of it all, this beautiful romance and subsequent relationship was formed, tested by fire, and proved a lasting legacy for Dandi and a story of inspiration to me. It reminded me of the individual sacrifice many men and women have made for their countries. It made me all the more thankful for the generations, past and present, who have held strong to liberty and freedom. Veterans, I thank you.

If you are a fan of history, WWII/military fiction, (slightly) epistolary novels, or romance, I highly recommend this book.

Thank you to Tyndale House Publishers for the complimentary review copy. This is my honest review.

What is your favorite book with letters or your favorite WWII novel?

 

Review: “Maggie Bright” by Tracy Groot Blog Tour

After my overwhelming love of The Sentinels of Andersonville by Tracy Groot, I was very excited to get my hands on her latest book, Maggie Bright. While it was not as epic as Sentinels (I don’t think any book can top that in its genre!), it was very good!

maggie brightBook Summary: “England, 1940.” Clare Childs knew life would change when she unexpectedly inherited the “Maggie Bright”–a noble fifty-two-foot yacht. In fact, she’s counting on it. But the boat harbors secrets. When a stranger arrives, searching for documents hidden onboard, Clare is pulled into a Scotland Yard investigation that could shed light on Hitler’s darkest schemes and prompt America to action.Across the Channel, Hitler’s “Blitzkrieg” has the entire British army in retreat with little hope for rescue at the shallow beaches of Dunkirk. With time running out, Churchill recruits civilian watercraft to help. Hitler is attacking from land, air, and sea, and any boat that goes might not return. Yet Clare knows “Maggie Bright” must answer the call–piloted by an American who has refused to join the war effort until now and a detective with a very personal motive for exposing the truth.The fate of the war hinges on this rescue. While two men join the desperate fight, a nation prays for a miracle.

Tracy Groot skillfully writes vivid characters. From the first few pages of the book and glimpses of the characters, their unique personalities are established. Along with Clare, the story features American Murray Vance and Detective Inspector William Percy from Scotland Yard in England. While their story unfolds, a contrasting storyline of Private Jamie Elliot under siege, making his way to Dunkirk, France, immerses the reader in the action on the continent. The banter between the characters, particularly that of Clare and Detective William, was a fun and bright spot in the midst of drama.

The Maggie Bright brings these characters together – sometimes with surprising revelations – and unites them with a courageous purpose. I enjoyed seeing how the different characters realized they could contribute to the war efforts and make sacrifices, no matter their age or abilities.

Tracy confronted a unique subject within this story. And, featured the rescue at Dunkirk – an aspect of WWII I was previously unaware of.  Within this story, the importance of belief in bolstering courage and faith in the power of prayer were highlighted and central to the story. I look forward to whatever is next from Tracy – I will be reading it!

One thing I love about reading historical fiction is that, while being entertaining, it often sheds light on interesting historical events or persons. Do you have any favorite examples of books like this? Have you heard of the rescue at Dunkirk?

Thank you to Tyndale House Publishers for a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Review: The Butterfly and the Violin by Kristy Cambron

The debut novel The Butterfly and the Violin (“Hidden Masterpiece” series #1) by Kristy Cambron uncovers the story behind a painting of a young German girl during the Holocaust. It does this both through the eyes of Adele, the girl in Auschwitz, and through the story of a contemporary art gallery owner, Sera, searching for the painting.

In the world of reading, it’s common to come across stories told through multiple points of view, usually the viewpoints of 2-3 main characters. Sometimes a secondary character gets some story time, too. Rarely do you come across a story with more than one main character who lives in a different era. I can only think of one other book I’ve read (Karen Kingsbury’s Even Now) that features characters in different eras – – even that one could be considered “contemporary only”. This one by Kristy, though, is skillfully set in two eras — two genres, even — both contemporary and historical.The Butterfly and the Violin by Kristy Cambron

Plot Summary

“Today.” Sera James spends most of her time arranging auctions for the art world’s elite clientele. When her search to uncover an original portrait of an unknown Holocaust victim leads her to William Hanover III, they learn that this painting is much more than it seems.

“Vienna, 1942.” Adele Von Bron has always known what was expected of her. As a prodigy of Vienna’s vast musical heritage, this concert violinist intends to carry on her family’s tradition and play with the Vienna Philharmonic. But when the Nazis learn that she helped smuggle Jews out of the city, Adele is taken from her promising future and thrust into the horrifying world of Auschwitz.

The veil of innocence is lifted to expose a shuddering presence of evil, and Adele realizes that her God-given gift is her only advantage; she must play. Becoming a member of the Women’s Orchestra of Auschwitz, she fights for survival. Adele’s barbed-wire walls begin to kill her hope as the months drag into nearly two years in the camp. With surprising courage against the backdrop of murder and despair, Adele finally confronts a question that has been tugging at her heart: Even in the midst of evil, can she find hope in worshipping God with her gift?

As Sera and William learn more about the subject of the mysterious portrait–Adele–they are reminded that whatever horrors one might face, God’s faithfulness never falters.

This is a moving, beautiful, and at times, gripping story. The perfectly balanced historical and contemporary settings serve to weave together the story of Adele with Sera and William’s, both building to the conclusion of Adele’s story piece by piece. Sera and William’s professional — and potentially romantic– relationship has its twists and turns as each of their characters learn important lessons about trust, responsibility, and God’s call. Against those very relevant struggles, the horrors of the holocaust period still serve as a contrast at times, exploring the strength that only God can provide. With some “flashback” moments for Adele, the reader learns of her friendship and love story with orchestra member Vladimir. The reader eagerly anticipates both the fate of Adele and what has become of Vladimir during her time there.

The beauty of the art world and classical music is an uncommon treat in a novel. Kristy uses it to add interest and a poetic element as well as being a symbol of worship amidst chaos. The art is also used to tie the present with the past, in a mystery unknown to Sera and William for much of the story.

Overall, I really enjoyed this debut from Kristy. I look forward to her next release in the “Hidden Masterpiece” series, A Sparrow in Terezin, releasing in April 2015. Reading this story was a very unique experience (after all, I love a good historical or contemporary – this was the best of both!). With a great plot full of accurate historical details, it left me considering the goodness and provision of God, even through circumstances we may not understand.

Note: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.com> book review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Thank you to BookLook and the publisher, Thomas Nelson, for providing a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review.

Have you read any books with characters set jn different eras? What was it?

Review: “Saving Amelie” by Cathy Gohlke

The best books leave you satisfied with the conclusion, but still wanting a little bit more of the characters when the last page is read. The latest novel from Cathy Gohlke, Saving Amelie, is like that. It’s an exciting, heart pounding – and often heart wrenching – story set in Germany during World War II.

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Rachel Kramer, adopted daughter of a prestigious genetics researcher, returns to Berlin with her father in 1939 to find it much changed from her growing-up years. At first naïve and preoccupied, she takes little notice of the presence of SS Officers, Adolf Hitler’s “supermen”, and their impending threat to the citizens of Germany. When a childhood friend reaches out to Rachel for help in saving her daughter Amelie, deaf since birth, Rachel begins to realize the true plans of the Nazis and her father’s entangled involvement with them. Hitler wishes to rid the world of anyone with a disability, such as Amelie, and others he declares unfit by ghastly means. As she uncovers the secrets of her father’s research, Rachel realizes the threat of the Nazis and the power they have over the unsuspecting German people.

Jason Young, an American reporter stationed in Berlin, is waiting for his big break with a first rate news story. After meeting Rachel Kramer and helping her solve some of the puzzling facts about her biological family, he becomes the only person she can turn to to rescue Amelie and help her flee a frightening new realty that is closing in fast. When more secrets come to light, Rachel must find a place to hide while evading the SS officers desperately searching for her.

Rachel and Jason’s characters both grow and mature as a result of their circumstances and the people around them. As Jason questions his motives in helping Rachel, he discovers the meaning of sacrifice and selflessness, and the possibilities of faith in God. When Rachel’s life suddenly changes, she goes through a time of disappointment and unhappiness. However, her character begins to find new hope, even in the midst of her trials, because of the love and care of the people around her.

Gohlke conveys the emotions of the characters effectively through her writing style. The reader experiences the terrors and heartache of the wartorn time, and is caught, as the characters are, right in the middle of the action. With small glimpses into the supporting characters’ journeys along the way, the reader is privy to more than just the viewpoints of the main characters. Additionally, small bits of the characters’ personalities, habits, and mannerisms are well-placed, aiding in making the characters realistic.

Numerous historical facts are woven into this story, with some characters or their actions modeled after real people. There are great examples of people helping each other, in small ways, doing whatever they can to help bear the burden and plight of their people. German Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a renowned theologian who spoke out against Nazi persecution, even makes a few appearances in the story. These characters reinforce the strength of setting Gohlke establishes, engrossing the reader in WWII Germany, in a time of food rations, blackouts, confiscation of personal property, and genocide.

Saving Amelie communicates an important message through the journeys of Rachel, Jason, Amelie, and others. Through these struggling characters’ stories, the reader sees that God loves everyone, even through uncertainty and trails. His strength is there, even when His children are weak and powerless. Sacrifice is a decision. As the characters experience firsthand, it is often easier to turn one’s back on the suffering and wrongs of this world – but that is not what Jesus did. He sacrificed the ultimate price because of his love, providing this “costly grace” freely to any who would believe.

Note: Thank you to Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., for the complimentary ARC copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Learn more about author Cathy Gohlke and her books at her website.