Category Archives: WWII

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein (GET THIS BOOK NOW!)

A unique gem of a gut wrenching war story
(Originally published February 6th 2012 by Egmont Press )

  Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
Hyperion reissue May 15 2012
Young Adult Literature Ages 14 +
Hardcover 352 pages
Review copy from NetGalley
Burton Book Review:

I have two weeks. You’ll shoot me at the end no matter what I do.

That’s what you do to enemy agents. It’s what we do to enemy agents. But I look at all the dark and twisted roads ahead and cooperation is the easy way out. Possibly the only way out for a girl caught red-handed doing dirty work like mine — and I will do anything, anything, to avoid SS-Hauptsturmführer von Linden interrogating me again.

He has said that I can have as much paper as I need. All I have to do is cough up everything I can remember about the British War Effort. And I’m going to. But the story of how I came to be here starts with my friend Maddie. She is the pilot who flew me into France — an Allied Invasion of Two.

We are a sensational team.

Warning: My thoughts below cannot do the book justice. I apologize. Simply put, read this book.

‘Young adult’ is not a genre I would normally reach out to read.. but I saw Code Name Verity on several bloggers’ sites and I had to see what the hype was. Some were really over the moon loving this one, so it was serendipity that NetGalley sent out a promo and said to download it now, and I did. I loved the tone of the novel in spite of the evil atmosphere of the Gestapo interrogating young ladies.. this young lady for the first half of the novel we’ll call Queenie.. she is indeed of royal descent and is seemingly royally capable of doing covert operations during World War II, until she is captured.

The story begins with Queenie dictating everything she knows to her captors, who want all the secrets she can give regarding her British operations. She is a tough girl, though we can’t really tell how old she is. Her voice is what you see in the synopsis: it is captivating, sad, haunting and yet still witty. She could make you cry and laugh in the same sentence. She writes of her comrade, Maddie, who is an awesome pilot despite being female and halfway through the book we switch to Maddie’s story. And she spews her hatred of her captors that we have no choice but to hate them, too. It was really well done, with how everything going on around Queenie was impressed upon. And hovering throughout is the knowledge she is either going to be shot, burned alive or sent to some Nazi camp.. and it is just a silent torture that you keep reading and loving this story and loving these girls and knowing that this is not going to have a happy ending.. how could it?! You just want to curse out Engel and von Linden and his lackeys with the torture cigarettes… one of my thoughts while reading this was ‘Sort of funny in a creepy sadistic kind of way’.. because of the brave voice of Queenie as she writes out this confession of sorts, as she knows with each word she prolongs her ultimate demise… yet she doesn’t really want to give information to the enemy. And there I go, giving off too much information myself. I must stop.

Bring on Maddie’s voice for the second half of the book. I already knew her because Queenie told us how she was the Ultimate FlyGirl. But what happened to her after they crashed? We know Queenie was captured. Did Maddie go down in a comet of flames? Did Maddie know that Queenie was captured by the Nazis and could she get her Secret Allied friends to save Queenie? So many options. And I am not about spoil it.

I can say that at this point I was on the edge of my seat, with an anxious stomach as I awaited the fate of these Awesome Gestapo Hating Fly Girls. My adrenaline pumped for them till I couldn’t stand it and I wanted to cry. And then I did cry.

I want to say something provocative like this is the sh*t, gosh darn it… but intelligent words fail me. I feel completely ravaged after this adventure. Something like ‘f-ing Gestapo’ went through my head a zillion times and that is the prevalent thought in my brain. And I loved the French phrases that were scattered throughout. “Vite! Vite!” Quickly!

Utterly gripping story that I could not stop thinking about. Completely imaginative and creative way the author chose to portray this story, absolutely brilliant. Author’s note explains inaccuracies, and I say brava! to this great story.  Kudos to Disney-Hyperion for recognizing this gem and reissuing it. As soon as I can get my heart and stomach back in their right places, I’m buying this and re-reading it. Though Amazon Best Teen Books of the Month, May 2012: I think I’ll wait till my daughter is about sixteen to share this gem.

Buy Code Name Verity 




Filed under 2012 Releases, 2012 Review, Best of 2012, WWII, Young Adult

Come a Little Closer by Dorothy Garlock

A bit of chilly suspense and sparkly romance in this quick read.

 Come a Little Closer by Dorothy Garlock
Grand Central Publishing, November 2011
ISBN 0446540161
Review copy provided by the publisher via HNR, thank you!
Review originally posted in Historical Novels Review Magazine
Burton Book Review Rating:3.5 Stars

America’s Heartland, 1946. World War II has ended, and everyone is pursuing peacetime’s bright promise with fresh energy and hope. Newly-arrived in a small Wisconsin town, Christina Tucker now dares to chase her long-cherished dreams: put her wartime nursing skills to use and reconnect with country life. But helping a shell-shocked veteran recover soon tests her determination and disturbs town memories best left buried. She has no choice but to turn to her patient’s seemingly-irresponsible brother, Tyler Sutter. A restless ex-soldier, Tyler can’t believe this pretty ladylike nurse can heal his family. Yet as Christina begins to understand Tyler’s own fears, the two grow close, then closer still-as a terrible secret sparks one man’s violent, vengeful spree. With both the guilty and innocent alike in harm’s way, Tyler and Christina must face all their fears . . . or never live to see the future.

Author Dorothy Garlock is known for her novels set among America’s Heartland, just as this novel continues a series with the Tucker sisters (the previous novel focusing on Charlotte in Keep A Little Secret), this novel focuses on Christina Tucker. The set-up and plot are easy to follow as a stand-alone, as Garlock creates a new storyline following Christina’s path as a nurse in a new town.

Christina meets the nephews of her employer, and right away we know that there will be a love triangle that dominates the book. Tyler and Holden Sutter each take a liking to Christina and she has feelings for both of them for which she must deal with. Each of the boys has their own issues after returning from WWII, and Christina tries to help both without getting hurt in the emotional crossfire between the brothers. Instead of straight romance, though, there is a thriller side to it when Christina becomes subjected to the contemptible folks of her new town, as Christina becomes a prime target for revenge on those she becomes close to. The main characters could have used a bit more dimension and spark, although there was enough insanity amongst the two murderers in Christina’s midst. A quick and light read, there was a bit of predictability of the events but this is still good escapist fiction.

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Filed under 2011 Releases, 2012 Review, Historical Romance, Inspirational, WWII

Review: Blue Skies Tomorrow by Sarah Sundin (Wings of Glory Book #3)

Can be read as a stand-alone, makes me want to read the others!

Blue Skies Tomorrow by Sarah Sundin (Wings of Glory Book #3)
Revell, August 2011
427 pages, paperback
Review copy provided by the publisher via HNR, thank you!
Review originally posted in Historical Novels Review Magazine
Burton Book Review Rating:3.5 stars

Lt. Raymond Novak prefers the pulpit to the cockpit, but at least his stateside job training B-17 pilots allows him the luxury of a personal life. As he courts Helen Carlisle, a young war widow and mother who conceals her pain under a frenzy of volunteer work, the sparks of their romance set a fire that flings them both into peril. After Ray leaves to fly a combat mission at the peak of the air war over Europe, Helen takes a job in a dangerous munitions yard and confronts an even graver menace in her own home. Will they find the courage to face their challenges? And can their young love survive until blue skies return?

Filled with daring and romance, Blue Skies Tomorrow will capture readers’ hearts.

Helen Carlisle is almost the merry widow, until secrets of her heroic husband who died in WWII start coming back to haunt her. Helen was always happiest doing volunteer work, yet she worked for a paycheck which became commandeered by her in-laws. Wanting to leave the stressful situation behind, Helen strives to better herself and her situation. Ray Novak, older brother to the Novak brothers featured in previous Wings of Glory books, is happiest being a pastor. With a war going on, Ray feels obligated to face his fears of combat and signs on for combat duty where things take a drastic turn.

What could have been a wonderful relationship developing between Helen and Ray becomes close to impossible given all the obstacles that continually worked against each of them. As a woman in the forties, Helen faced issues of the times such as the plights of women and black people, while Ray ended up fighting for his life in his enemy’s hands. Sundin’s writing is fluent and natural, with a story of many facets that is entertaining and emotive. World War II enthusiasts would learn a bit from Ray’s experiences, while the romantic reader will enjoy the journey of Helen and Ray. Enjoyable enough to make me want to look up the first two novels in the series.

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Filed under 2011 Releases, 2012 Review, Christian Fiction, Historical Romance, Inspirational, Revell, WWII

13, rue Thérèse by Elena Mauli Shapiro

13, rue Thérèse by Elena Mauli Shapiro
Hardcover, 278 pages
Published February 2nd 2011 by Hachette/Reagan Arthur Books
Review copy provided by publisher, thank you!
Burton Book Review Rating: 4 stars

 American academic Trevor Stratton discovers a box full of artifacts from World War I as he settles into his new office in Paris. The pictures, letters, and objects in the box relate to the life of Louise Brunet, a fiesty, charming Frenchwoman who lived through both World Wars.
As Trevor examines and documents the relics the box offers up, he begins to imagine the story of Louise Brunet’s life: her love for a cousin who died in the war, her marriage to a man who works for her father, and her attraction to a neighbor in her building at 13 rue Thérèse. The more time he spends with the objects though, the truer his imaginings of Louise’s life become, and the more he notices another alluring Frenchwoman: Josianne, his clerk, who planted the box in his office in the first place, and with whom he finds he is falling in love.

This book is a visual delight. Photos of correspondence, photos of the people discussed, a treasure hunt of a puzzle. The writing is another intriguing factor.. flits in and out of “present” and the past.. which could either be construed as a confusing mess or instead a fun jaunt into adventure unlike any other book you’ve read. The entire premise is original and rare, and I embrace it.

This is one of those books that to review it without spoiling the delight for the new reader is very difficult, as each little discovery of the plot and the people were slowly unwrapped via the narration as we peruse the contents of a mysterious box. I shall not spoil it. There are many themes here, from family loyalty and trust, marriage and infidelity, war and its dizzying effects, and finally a bit of time travel or reincarnation or spiritualism that just may be the definition of whether you enjoy or hate this book. And the fact that there is infidelity which brings explicit sexual content could go either way: love it or hate it.

For me, I normally dislike abundance of sex. And I certainly do not promote infidelity, nor do I do so now. It was not full of sex scenes, but full of thoughts of them. In a cemetery, in the hallway, etc. And still, this book as a package, was a winner for me, for the sheer unconventionality of it all. I loved the different visuals of  memorabilia: the jewelry, postcards, letters, and photos as they were examined piece by piece in the story. I loved the very different and very creative way the story played itself out. And in the very end, there is a ‘twist’ that could make you exclaim “how contrived!”.. but it could also shiver you with delight with its ingenuity.

13, rue Thérèse by Elena Mauli Shapiro spoke to the vintage lover in me, the creative side of me, the French language lover in me and to the mystery lover in me. The history of the family behind the artifacts was an intriguing story, as was the story of the narrator himself, Trevor Stratton. Trevor himself was a bit annoying to me. His documentation (with footnotes!) to whom he was writing was not apparent to the very end, and the very end.. was.. you’ll have to read it to see… but I dropped a star because of it. And yet, eccentricities are alive, and if your mind is feeling open today, you should open 13, rue Thérèse as well.

There is an intriguing website with some of the images from the book, and I even had fun using the iPhone QR code reader at the back of the book. You’ll have to check it out!


Filed under 2011 Releases, 2011 Reviews, France, Inspirational, World War I, WWII

The Sisters: The Saga of the Mitford Family

Even if the six daughters, born between 1904 and 1920, of the charming, eccentric David, Lord Redesdale, and his wife Sydney had been quite ordinary women, the span of their lives – encompassing the most traumatic century in Britain’s history – and the status to which they were born, would have have made their story a fascinating one. But Nancy, Pamela, Diana, Unity, Decca and Debo, were, and are, far from ordinary.

The Mitfords’ unconventional childhood and adolescence, growing up in a rambling country manor, deprived of formal education and at the mercy of their father’s titanic rages and obsessions, has long been immortalised in Nancy’s masterly comedies of aristocratic manners, The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate. The girls’ lives were the stuff of headlines. Nancy, the merciless tease turned brilliant, subversive novelist; Diana, the most beautiful woman of her generation, reviled for her abandonment of her gilded marriage and hated and imprisoned for her love of Oswald Mosely; rebellious Decca, who eloped at nineteen to the Spanish Civil War with Churchill’s communist nephew and went on to become a ground-breaking civil rights campaigner; sweet Debo who became Duchess of Devonshire and chatelaine of Chatsworth; even feminine, domesticated Pamela, known as ‘Woman’, was enough of a Mitford to have John Betjman at her feet and her Raeburn stove painted blue to match her eyes. And at their dark heart, beloved but unstable Unity, in love with Hitler and obsessed with Nazism, who shot herself as war was declared.

In The Mitford Girls, Mary Lovell’s extensive research traces the development of each of these remarkable women from the nursery to maturity, recording the terrible losses they suffered and the rifts that opened between them; uncovering often uncomfortable details of their politics and personalities and revealing the truth to be more complicated, but no less extraordinary than Nancy’s fiction.

This is not a review, as I sadly have not read the book yet but it came via Paperbackswap and I cannot wait to get to it. I read Bess of Hardwick by the same author and I enjoyed it so much that Bess became a sort of heroine of mine. And what a life these Mitford sisters have had! Many of us may have heard of them, as I have, but I never truly knew who they were and what they stood for. And one of those sisters, Diana, was anti-semitic but don’t let that horrific fact deter you from the total story. And will we ever have the total story? It seems like I will have a lot to learn about these girls who had style and presence, who had outspoken views on politics.

In my quest for google-like knowledge, I found this charming little spot on NY Times which dictates some letters between Nancy Mitford and a dear friend, Evelyn Waugh. How quaint! Yet, underneath the talk of books and general gossip, there were air raids nightly thanks to World War II. Jessica was a communist, Diana was a gorgeous woman who cheated and was universally disliked, even by her sisters, Debo was a Duchess of Devonshire, Pamela was another anti-semite, Nancy was a popular writer and Unity idolized Hitler.

Interestingly enough, Chatsworth House was the scene of my first blog headers. Chatsworth has origins with Bess of Hardwick, Pride and Prejudice, and Deborah (a Mitford girl) Duchess of Devonshire.


Filed under Chatsworth, Mitford, WWII

(Giveaway!) Book Review: 22 Britannia Road by Amanda Hodgkinson, a debut novel of postwar England

22 Britannia Road by Amanda Hodgkinson
Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: Penguin/Viking/Pamela Dorman Books (April 28, 2011)
ISBN-13: 978-0670022632
Review copy provided by the publisher, thank you!
The Burton Review Rating:Four Stars

A tour de force that echoes modern classics like Suite Francaise and The Postmistress.

“Housekeeper or housewife?” the soldier asks Silvana as she and eight- year-old Aurek board the ship that will take them from Poland to England at the end of World War II. There her husband, Janusz, is already waiting for them at the little house at 22 Britannia Road. But the war has changed them all so utterly that they’ll barely recognize one another when they are reunited. “Survivor,” she answers.

Silvana and Aurek spent the war hiding in the forests of Poland. Wild, almost feral Aurek doesn’t know how to tie his own shoes or sleep in a bed. Janusz is an Englishman now-determined to forget Poland, forget his own ghosts from the way, and begin a new life as a proper English family. But for Silvana, who cannot escape the painful memory of a shattering wartime act, forgetting is not a possibility.

One of the most searing debuts to come along in years, 22 Britannia Road

Light, witty, fun and entertaining this is not. Provocative, emotive and despairing it is. 22 Britannia Road follows the effects of World War II on a wife and husband who were apart for six years because of the war. Silvana and Janusz were newlyweds in Poland when Janusz goes to become a soldier, and both meet up with horrific circumstances that are beyond their control. Silvana and her son Aurek survive in the forest, making acquaintances along the way, and Janusz travels throughout Europe during the war. The novel is more character driven and not focused on the details of the war, but it was a backdrop for why these two were put in the position they were in.

Finally the two reconnect and attempt to rebuild their lives in Ipswich, England. Silvana is no longer the svelte redhead, but a gray haired mess who lived on twigs and bugs for the last six years. Their son Aurek is not quite the social butterfly. The family needs to adjust to each other, to England, and communicate through the secrets that have built walls between them. The novel’s title is the address of the house that Janusz buys in England, hoping for a renewed life as an English family with English roses. They have pleasant neighbors, Janusz works hard at his job, and there should be no issues. However, there are secrets that they both keep, and the boy himself creates a lot of havoc as he doesn’t fit it in at school and is not used to sharing his mother with anyone. A fantastic feature to the present story is the back and forth between time lines of the struggles during the war from each of Janusz’s and Silvana’s viewpoints. Sometimes this switching back and forth becomes jarring, but the author did it so well and cohesively as the underlying tone of each chapter merged with the next, it was a seamless transition.

Not just about the themes of love, friendship and loyalty, it holds the darkness of secrets and the quiet tremors of fear of one’s future. The novel, along with its beautiful cover, brings about a sense of hope along with the silent plea for normalcy after such a horrific time. They all just want to be a family, but there are more than just emotional scars that hinder their progress. Laced with suspense as we watch the characters develop and self-destruct, 22 Brittania Road is a formidable page-turning debut novel that tugs at your heartstrings.

The publisher is generously offering one lucky follower their own copy of 22 Britannia Road by Amanda Hodgkinson!
To enter, leave a comment with your email address.
For extra entries, (+1) tweet this post, or (+1) facebook the link.
Open to USA, ends May 2nd. Good luck!


Filed under 2011 Releases, 2011 Reviews, WWII

>Book Review: The Matchmaker of Kenmare by Frank Delaney


The Matchmaker of Kenmare: A Novel of Ireland by Frank Delaney
Hardcover, 416 pages
Random House February 8, 2011
ISBN: 978-1-4000-6784-8
Review copy provided by the publisher, thank you!
The Burton Review Rating:

“And there’s a legend—she had only vague details—that all couples who are meant to marry are connected by an invisible silver cord which is wrapped around their ankles at birth, and in time the matchmaking gods pull those cords tighter and tighter and draw the couple slowly toward one another until they meet.” So says Miss Kate Begley, Matchmaker of Kenmare, the enigmatic woman Ben MacCarthy meets in the summer of 1943.

As World War II rages on, Ben remains haunted by the mysterious disappearance of his wife, the actress Venetia Kelly. Searching for purpose by collecting stories for the Irish Folklore Commission, he travels to a remote seaside cottage to profile the aforementioned Matchmaker of Kenmare.

Ben is immediately captivated by the forthright Miss Begley, who is remarkably self-assured in her instincts but provincial in her experience. Miss Begley is determined to see that Ben moves through his grief—and a powerful friendship is forged along the way.

But when Charles Miller, a striking American military intelligence officer, arrives on the scene, Miss Begley develops an intense infatuation and looks to make a match for herself. Miller needs a favor, but it will be dangerous. Under the cover of their neutrality as Irish citizens, Miss Begley and Ben travel to London and effectively operate as spies. As they are drawn more deeply and painfully into the conflict, both discover the perils of neutrality—in both love and war.

Steeped in colorful history, The Matchmaker of Kenmare is a stirring story of friendship and sacrifice. New York Times bestselling author Frank Delaney has written a lush and surprising novel, rich as myth, tense as a thriller, and like all grand tales—harrowing, sometimes hilarious, and heartbreaking.

*Be careful reading other reviews of this book on Goodreads, because major plot twists were given and spoiled some of the book’s suspense for me before I had started the book. I have flagged that review so perhaps it will be officially flagged with a spoiler alert.* This Review is Spoiler Free.

This is another one of those books that I just could not refuse after reading that synopsis. I forgive the editors for creating such a long synopsis, because there is so much going on behind the scenes that calling this a World War II love story would be completely remiss. The book is a sort of anomaly for me: vague, opaque, labyrinthine.. yet still hypnotic, engrossing, suspenseful. There is love, romance, whimsy, tragedy, loss, and everything in between. Upon opening the book you are setting one foot into the riddle of an unknown story, not knowing which way you are supposed to go, as each piece of the puzzle is slowly lifted and you become more and more interested in the events of Miss Kate Begley and Ben MacCarthy. And the prominent side note throughout: is Ben falling in love with Kate? Too bad for him if he is, because Kate is in love with the dashing USA Military Hero Prototype Charles Miller.

Kate is the Matchmaker (happily setting Irish folks up for marriage), and Ben is the returning main character from author Frank Delaney’s previous work, Venetia Kelly’s Traveling Show (Feb. 2010). Although I had not read any of the author’s previous works, I had no problems enjoying this on its own, though questions posed with the previous book become answered with this new book. Frank Delaney has an impressive voice that he imbibes with Ben the narrator, who was an intriguing and likeable character on his own and a perfect narrator. We get to observe Ben’s reactions to the people he meets in Ireland, London and France as he follows along on a somewhat insane chase after Kate’s ex-neighbor who could be a German spy. Then the next adventure comes along, and another.. as he is inextricably tied to Kate Begley in soul mate fashion.

The feel of certain countries during the war was also a major part, standing in as a character on its own was the War and how Ireland was trying very hard to be neutral. The prose the author uses is one of those that embodies the term lyrical, and I am not using it loosely here. I was very impressed with the writing style, where in reality not a lot was happening, yet the words were giving it just enough meaning to make me guessing and wanting more. The suspense and mystery behind the entire quest, with it being during the war, gave it enough of a tense sort of danger lurking beneath each character as we slowly learned bit by bit who was really who.

The major impression of the story was the way it was narrated, as Ben was telling a memoir of sorts for his children. He recounts snippets from his writings during the time the story was taking place, and once he recited the piece he offers a bit of foreshadowing and more of a clue of what is going on, as we never really know exactly what it is that is the proverbial bomb that Ben keeps alluding to throughout his adventures with Kate, the matchmaker of Kenmare. Kate is a complex character, but someone you know you would love the moment you sat down with her. The phrases and beliefs she displays make her seem intelligent, perfect, yet her heart is hidden somewhere beneath her own demons.

The plot is not a fast moving one, as the author is establishing more of a relationship between the reader and the characters, so it was a little tough in the very beginning to get my head into the intricacies of the story. Once the events started picking up and I was able to get invested with the characters and setting, I was eager to move the pages to see where The Matchmaker of Kenmare would take me. Recommended for those in the mood for an engaging mystery involving Ireland, polished with historical insight regarding World War II. I am off to discover Frank Delaney’s backlist which focuses on an Ireland that he describes with an infectious glittering adoration. He has a gift with words that I am eager to be entertained with.


Filed under 2011 Releases, 2011 Reviews, Frank Delaney, Ireland, WWII

>Book Review: ROSES by Leila Meacham


Roses by Leila Meacham

Roses by Leila Meacham
Category: Historical Fiction
Publish Date: 1/6/2010
Price: $24.99
ISBN: 978-0446550000
Pages: 624
Review copy provided by the publisher
The Burton Review Rating:Four and a Half HUGE Stars!

“Spanning the 20th century, the story of Roses takes place in a small East Texas town against the backdrop of the powerful timber and cotton industries, industries controlled by the scions of the town’s founding families. Cotton tycoon Mary Toliver and timber magnate Percy Warwick should have married but unwisely did not, and now must deal with the deceit, secrets, and tragedies of their choice and the loss of what might have been–not just for themselves but for their children, and children’s children.”

The title “Roses”, by Leila Meacham, originates from the symbolism of the heritage of the founding families of the fictional town of Howbukter, Texas. Descendants from England’s white rose of York and the red rose of the house of Lancaster, were young men immigrated from South Carolina to Texas in the 1800’s. Taking with them from New Orleans was Henri DuMont. Thus begins the town of Howbukter, and Mary Toliver, a descendant from one of these founding families, widow to Ollie DuMont, is age 85 and dying.. many many years later as our novel begins. She worked her whole life on the plantation of Somerset, and poured her blood, sweat and tears into it. So why, after all of this back breaking and sacrificial work so her great-niece can carry on the tradition, why does Mary decide to throw it all away with a puzzling codicil to her will?

The novel’s point of view changes from Mary, to her niece Rachel, and jumps back and forth in time as the reader begins to put together the puzzle that forms Mary’s reasons for wanting the plantation of Somerset to finally be taken out of the Toliver’s hands. After generations of work and production on the cotton farm, it is a decision that stuns the family and causes serious rifts between the surviving family members and friends. There are secrets about Mary’s past and the other families, and the climax comes when Rachel is forced to discover the truth behind Mary’s final decisions which threatens to tear asunder all bonds that have formed after years of friendship, especially between the Warwick family. Percy and Mary have secrets and a hidden love that doesn’t come out to the family members until after Mary dies. Before we even get to that point, we are treated to the tears and triumphs of Mary Toliver’s life, her romances, marriage, her child, and her friends. But first and foremost, there was Somerset. The one thing that everyone knew that defined Mary Toliver was one word: “Somerset”, dismissing the love that Percy held for her. And that is what Rachel had groomed herself to emulate, yet Mary at age 85 changes her mind about leaving the land to Rachel and dies before she has a chance to explain about the Toliver Curse.

Focusing on Mary’s life, using flashbacks taking us from 1985 to the roaring twenties and further, the story blends the lives of the three original families that founded Howbukter: The Dumonts, Tolivers, and the Warwicks. Each family focused their businesses on different areas but were still close through the many years as their families grew. This novel features everything you could want in a good historical saga; from broken hearts to death and rebirth and faith in humanity, and there were plenty of roses in this story. The rose was now symbolic of friendship and forgiveness between the families, and the theme was dominant throughout the story.

I was swept away to another time, to a time where the car was called a horseless carriage, and where women were bred to run a houseful of servants. There were men going off to war, some men going more than once.. some men sending their boys to war and it was so sad to think of my ancestors and our heritage, the way the author portrayed the hopelessness for the families as they watched the boys come and go.. those that returned were broken, those that didn’t return broke their families. And this was the reality of America back then, and yet, this is still the reality of today. As the author trapped me into this story I began to feel caught up within the family saga of it all as if it were my own family. I sobbed throughout the chapters as I plodded through, I still needed to know more. But it wasn’t the fact of slowly becoming familiar with the story as it slowly touched my heart. That’s not the case at all. My heart was gripped at page ten, as I was tearing up already. I cried at several points in the book. I am not going to tell you where.. or who or what.. because you just need to get this book and see for yourself.

We are knee deep in the story at page 15. The history, the blend of humanity, the description of the changes of society as Mary witnessed it in her hometown, everything is a perfect blend of a family saga that haunts your soul, sets it on fire, blows it out, and does it all over again. There is love and passion, sorrow and grief all in the American pursuit of happiness. After the page flipping frenzy that the novel absorbed me in, I was a bit underwhelmed at the ending, but it could have just been the disappointment that I had finished it. But it wasn’t fireworks and rainbows like I think the author wanted it to be, though I still obviously enjoyed the journey that Leila Meacham took me on. I also loved the fact that the story is set in Texas, probably pretty darn close to my home at that. My town subsisted on cotton farming and its beginnings mirror that of what Leila describes for her town of Howbukter. All in all, this novel was the epitome of an epic family saga that is unforgettable; the emotions that you go through reading it will cause this book to be engraved in your memory.

The crazy thing about it all is that this author, Leila Meacham, is a retired school teacher and this is her debut historical novel. She has dabbled in the writing business in eighties with a few obscure romances. I anxiously await her next novel and her next and her next… no pressure, Leila!! Already compared to epic sagas such as Gone With the Wind and The Thorn Birds, this is definitely going to be an author to watch. If you enjoy the sweeping style of these sagas, you will definitely enjoy the story of Roses. I also must mention that the packaging of the hardcover was a sight to behold.. the inside covers are also bedecked in vines of roses which was a beautiful touch. This one is a keeper and I can’t wait to have Leila sign mine!

Meet Leila 2/10/2010 at Legacy Books in Plano, TX!
Read my article on Examiner about Leila
Become a Fan on Facebook
BlogTalkRadio Live Interview with Leila Meacham (courtesy of Grand Central Publishing)

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Filed under 2010 Releases, 2010 Review, Leila Meacham, New Release, Wars of the Roses, WWII

>Mailbox Monday~ I won ALL these!!

>Edited to Add that I am ecstatic to announce that Claire from The Anne Boleyn files won the Cleaopatra’s Daughter!
Congrats, Claire!

Welcome to The Burton Review Mailbox Monday Mailbox Monday is hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page. We share what books that we found in our mailboxes last week. And I am adding what I purchased, swapped, etc.

This week, all SEVEN of my new books came from Giveaways I won, I had a great lucky streak in August & early September, and here they come. And it may seem like I just enter giveaways randomly given the way I have all these books all of a sudden, but I promise that I don’t take the opportunity from other readers unless I really do want to read the books!! So here we go:

From So Many Precious Books, So Little Time!
I won The Blue Star: A Novel by Tony Earley:

“Seven years ago, readers everywhere fell in love with Jim Glass, the precocious ten-year-old at the heart of Tony Earley’s bestseller Jim the Boy. Now a teenager, Jim returns in another tender and wise story of young love on the eve of World War Two. Jim Glass has fallen in love, as only a teenage boy can fall in love, with his classmate Chrissie Steppe. Unfortunately, Chrissie is Bucky Bucklaw’s girlfriend, and Bucky has joined the Navy on the eve of war. Jim vows to win Chrissie’s heart in his absence, but the war makes high school less than a safe haven, and gives a young man’s emotions a grown man’s gravity. With the uncanny insight into the well-intentioned heart that made Jim the Boy a favorite novel for thousands of readers, Tony Earley has fashioned another nuanced and unforgettable portrait of America in another time–making it again even realer than our own day.”

From A Novel Menagerie I won The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (Random House Reader’s Circle) by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows.

January 1946: writer Juliet Ashton receives a letter from a stranger, a founding member of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. And so begins a remarkable tale of the island of Guernsey during the German occupation, and of a society as extraordinary as its name.

From Dan’s Journal I won some books that would be perfect for Serena and Anna’s War Through The Generations challege:
On The Bluffs by Steven Schindler
SOMETIMES THE BIGGEST LIES ARE THE ONES WE LIVE While Brian DeLouise was working the graveyard shift at a conspiracy theory-crazed radio station his wife was alley-catting around Washington, DC. But a cheating wife and a dead-end job no longer made him angry or depressed. He was just numb. It took a daring brush with death to awaken his senses and a few clicks on Google to begin a journey to recapture a love he believed was gone forever. Brian finds his lost lover in a rundown mansion on the windswept bluffs of Cape Cod, where he must confront a fast approaching evil while he risks losing everything he now cherishes.”

The Sentinels: Fortunes of War by Gordon Zuckerman
In this riveting amalgam of political intrigue, poignant romance, and bare-knuckled action, six friends risk everything to thwart an international Nazi conspiracy. In the financial devastation of the 1930s, a greedy, power-hungry group of German industrialists plot to usher in the National Socialist Party in order to rearm Germany and reap the financial rewards. Thus rises Hitler. With Hitler in power, the Six Sentinels, graduates of an elite American doctoral program, uncover the industrialists’ plan to hoard hundreds of millions of dollars in illegal war profits. Using their financial and familial connections around the globe, they work to foil the machinations of the financiers of the Third Reich. In a daring strategy of Robin Hood style thievery, the sentinels put their lives on the line to serve justice–and thus become embroiled in a dangerous and violent international conspiracy.
A gripping story that escalates at every turn, The Sentinels: Fortunes of War is the first in a series that follows the Six Sentinels as they continue to alter the course of history.”

Giv: The Story of a Dog and America by Boston Teran
My name is Dean Hickok, sergeant, late of the U.S. Marines. I nearly ran down a dog one night on a back road during a Kentucky rainstorm. The dog, it turned out, had been made to suffer and left to die in a crate. But his will to survive, his determination to overcome the many cruelties inflicted upon him, and the ultimate and unabated goodness that abided in him afterward, are the actual reason these pages bearing my name exist at all. I was profoundly wounded of heart and empty of purpose as I drove through the Kentucky darkness that night. I had recently returned from Iraq, the lone survivor of my squad, when my headlights bore through a sweeping rain to find him there, stumbled and fallen. Both of us being on that same road, on that night, and at that moment, was not an accidental happenstance but the poetry of fate. For as much as I saved a dogs life, he saved mine.”

From Reading the Past, Sarah had a fantastic title game and all of her participants were winners. Entrants had a puzzle to work from to find current titles and authors, and the top winner found 106 books! I only found 75, I told myself to stop there and I had no idea there would really be so many more! But it was great fun! The books I chose as a participant were:

East of the Sun: A Novel by Julia Gregson “As the Kaisar-i-Hind weighs anchor for Bombay in the autumn of 1928, its passengers ponder their fate in a distant land. They are part of the “Fishing Fleet” — the name given to the legions of Englishwomen who sail to India each year in search of husbands, heedless of the life that awaits them. The inexperienced chaperone Viva Holloway has been entrusted to watch over three unsettling charges. There’s Rose, as beautiful as she is naïve, who plans to marry a cavalry officer she has met a mere handful of times. Her bridesmaid, Victoria, is hell-bent on losing her virginity en route before finding a husband of her own. And shadowing them all is the malevolent presence of a disturbed schoolboy named Guy Glover.
From the parties of the wealthy Bombay socialites to the poverty of Tamarind Street, from the sooty streets of London to the genteel conversation of the Bombay Yacht Club, East of the Sun is graced with lavish detail and a penetrating sensitivity — historical fiction at its greatest.”

And this one looks awesome:
Sand Daughter by Sarah Bryant“A fascinating snapshot of the world of the Crusades.”
Khalidah faces an arranged marriage at the behest of her father, a Bedouin Clan chief. But when a mysterious stranger named Sulayman reveals the machinations behind her pending union, she suddenly finds herself a pawn in a deadly plot involving her own feuding tribe and the powerful Templar Knights. Faced with certain death, Khalidah runs away with Sulayman, a man she barely knows. Their journey, and the desire that grows between them, will thrust Khalidah toward unimaginable adventure, and the echoes of a past that somehow connect her to the Jinn-the mysterious Afghan warriors who may hold the key to the coming battle for the Holy Land.”

I think I am most excited about The Blue Star and the last two.. but thanks to everyone who held these giveaways! I hope I add a few more via some BBAW giveaways, but time will tell. What did you get this past week in your mailbox?


Filed under Mailbox Monday, Meme, WWII

>Book Review: "Anne Frank Remembered: The Story of the Woman Who Helped to Hide the Frank Family" by Miep Gies


Book Review: “Anne Frank Remembered: The Story of the Woman Who Helped to Hide the Frank Family” by Miep Gies

Published June 1st 2009 by Pocket Books, an imprint of Simon and Schuster
Paperback, 320 pages
isbn 1847398227 (isbn13: 9781847398222)
The Burton Review Rating: 4.5 stars

The Blurb: “For the millions moved by Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, here is Miep Gies’s own astonishing story. For more than two years, Miep and her husband helped hide the Franks from the Nazis. Like thousands of unsung heroes of the Holocaust, they risked their lives every day to bring food, news, and emotional support to its victims. From her remarkable childhood as a World War I refugee to the moment she places a small, red-orange-checkered diary — Anne’s legacy — into Otto Frank’s hands, Miep Gies remembers her days with simple honesty and shattering clarity. Each page rings with courage and heartbreaking beauty.”

I can’t think of anyone who has not heard of Anne Frank or her diary that depicts the tragic story of the little girl who did not survive the holocaust. This is not another Anne Frank’s Diary story, this is a memoir of a woman who met Anne Frank and her family during the horrors of Hitler’s reign in Germany. This is the same woman who actually rescued the pages of the diary before it was trampled by the Germans when they were taken from their hiding place.

The woman who is nicknamed Miep briefly touches on her childhood of being adopted by a Dutch family out of her Austrian home due to malnourishment, though not a direct fault of her biological family. Miep writes of her growing up in the Dutch school and then when she later works in an office for Otto Frank. Otto Frank is the father of Margot and Anne Frank, and in 1940 the girls were 14 and 10 years old when Miep had already socialized with them for a few years. At this point, Hitler was Fuhrer of Germany for 6 years and his Nazi ways were beginning to strike more serious fears with onlookers. Miep mentions when England and France had declared war on Germany; while not deeply affected politically yet by these events, Miep explains how she had not hated another person as much as she had begun to hate Hitler then.

Miep details her personal life in this memoir, from her social life to advancing career in the growing office under Otto Frank and she writes in a casual tone of how she had reacted to the things going on around her. She realizes that the trouble in Germany has hit closer to home when her Austrian passport gets changed to a German passport complete with a Swastika stamp. Suddenly events turn for the worse with the increasing raids on the Jewish people, who had once found solace in the Netherlands, were now being pulled out of their homes and the streets and taken to Hitler’s ‘labor’ camps. For years the war raged on, with the Jewish sympathisers being persecuted and tortured for information on the resistance. I was astonished and horrified as the story went on as to the treatment of all of the Dutch civilians.

For several years Miep helped to hide the Frank family in the upper floors of the office building of the company that Miep had worked at for Otto Frank. She then became a source of food, friendship, news and entertainment as two families and an eighth man were hidden in the cramped quarters. The scrounging for food became a daily struggle for Miep to procure for herself and those she helped to hide, but she did it without complaining. The details of the war via the information waves were slow to come and sometimes inaccurate but still there was little hope. Finally they hear of the Allies, that the British were coming, that America had joined the war and there was at last a glimmer of hope that perhaps Hitler would be stopped. But it did not impact the horrific way of living that the people had to survive, and my heart broke for them as Miep details simply the hardships she and her friends endured.

Otto Frank seems like a father figure to Miep and her husband, who was very calm, patient and exact with all things that occurred around him. I could feel the admiration Miep held for Otto. But Anne, how she affected Miep with her big saucer like round eyes, and how she probably haunted Miep every time she closed her own eyes. The bond the two had shared was palpable and heartbreaking; despite the age differences, Anne and Miep were close and had respect for each other, their choices of friends were limited due to their situation. Miep speaks of the little characteristics of Anne that continue to make her a real person to us today, and modestly yet powerfully she tells this story of how Miep survived the war, but others did not.

I learned about the ordeals the Dutch endured during the German Occupation, and I enjoyed looking at the pictures that were included of Miep, her friends and family, and Anne and the Frank family. I devoured this book even when my heart was breaking for Anne’s family and yet I still wanted to know more of the compelling story. I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in how one woman and her husband helped bring solace to many while risking their own lives to do so. Miep Gies was a wonderfully passionate woman, someone we can only hope to have on our side when sides needs to be chosen.

Miep Gies writes the afterword in this newly reissued edition, as she reaches her 100th birthday, where she also dispels some of the facts that had misconstrued previously through Anne Frank’s Diary. She writes with conviction and authority, and anyone who wants to learn more about the personal ordeals of the Holocaust, and Anne Frank, this is an absolute must read. She has toured the world telling the story, although at times it seems she would rather not. She realizes that this is a story that needs to be told, over and over, lest we forget the personal horrors of one dictator.

I took Miep’s advice and I have ordered “The Diary of a Young Girl: The Definitive Edition” by Anne Frank. Although extremely sad, the story is still fascinating due to the nature of Anne Frank’s personality, and the wonder of what was lost. Through Anne’s diary, millions have felt her words and her story that should never be forgotten. And again, Miep has done the world a service by offering us her personal experiences with Anne, who is seen as one face of many who perished during the Holocaust.

Miep’s official Website


Filed under Review, WWII