Wunderland by Jennifer Cody Epstein

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The time period for most of this book is WW II, the viewpoint and setting is Germany. Usually I gravitate toward England and occasionally France for novels set in the WW II era. This was, at times, difficult to read.

The first chapter starts in 1989, the setting New York. Ava Fischer sits on her bed crying after learning about her mother’s death and past life. Ava had banished her mother, Ilse von Fischer, from her life ten years prior. You’ll learn why as you read on.  She receives a box from Ilse’s attorney with her mother’s ashes and a cache of letters addressed to Renate Bauer.  Bauer isn’t a name Ava has ever heard and doesn’t know who the woman.  Why would her mother be writing to Bauer?

Ava discovers unsettling things about her mother’s involvement with the Ilse BDM (Bund Deutscher madel) in Nazi Germany.  The chapters go back and forth mainly between Ilse and Renate in the early 1930’s. Ava’s chapters are interspersed.

Ilse and Renate were very good friends. They shared secrets, books, loved one another without question. There was one scene where they defied the German soldiers and went into a Jewish bakery together. The boycott of Jewish businesses didn’t bother these two young ladies as they strode past the soldiers in search of sweets. Such boycotts were ridiculous for these headstrong teenagers.

But as you read on there is a sadness that such a wonderful friendship could be severely strained and eventually fractured over one being Jewish. Perhaps it’s the political climate in America today but this book had my mind drifting to the hate crimes and gang mentality I currently see in the news. While it was well written it was at times hard to read.

Reading how Ilse and Renate’s friendship was tested because Renate was Jewish was uncomfortable. Reading how relationships could change in a snap because of one’s heritage was sad.

Foodie book – no way. There were delectable bakery items and a traditional German meal mentioned.
Buttery poppyseed cakes, stolen, fruit pies, apple cakes, doughnuts, Schweinebraten in a crackling glaze of paprika, mustard and caraway seeds.

Publication date for this historical fiction novel is April 23, 2019. Check it out at your local bookstore or online book store.

Thank you very much  Netgalley for this digital copy of the book. I received this complimentary copy and was not compensated for my opinion/review.

NetGalley

The Huntress by Kate Quinn

huntressOnce again, Kate Quinn has written a story with compelling characters.  Quinn’s previous novel, The Alice Network, was hard to put down and she’s done it again with The Huntress.  We have several unique points of view telling their stories about WW II.

Ian Graham was a war correspondent but he’s burnt out after witnessing so much horror.  Currently Ian and his partner Tony are Nazi hunters.  The big score would be the elusive Die Jägerin – a female killer (the Huntress) who mercilessly killed anyone in her path, including women and children. Ian Graham has a personal interest in her as she is evidently responsible for his young soldier brother’s death. 

Nina is a Russian aviator with quite an interesting back story. She is a Siberian “night witch” who flies with her all female comrades in WW II.  I really felt for Nina, all she endured, yet she’s the toughest of the bunch. Dangerous, skillful, sexy and extremely driven.  Our author did her homework about the Russian female aviators.  There really was a “night witch” group who served their country.

Last and certainly not least is Jordan McBride.  She’s a young woman living with her widowed father in Boston.  She has a passion for photography, her dream job would be a photographic journalist, traveling the world.   In the 1950’s a career is not encouraged, as much as sh’d love to attend college her father doesn’t approve.  When dad meets a young German widow his life changes, as does Jordan’s life.  Her story dovetails with the other three mentioned above.

I enjoyed every story line, every perspective and can recommend this to anyone who enjoyed The Alice Network.  Once again Kate Quinn hits it out of the park.

Foodie references weren’t abundant but Nina could tuck into a hamburger with such gusto that Ian enjoyed watching her enthusiasm. She had a style of putting jam in tea (I’m not trying that) and there were mentions of borscht, a Thanksgiving dinner and 1950/60’s comfort food from the McBride’s kitchen.

For Nina

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Thanks to LibraryThing for the advanced readers copy of this book.
Sharing with Heather for her March Foodie Reads event.

2019 Foodies Read

The Alice Network – Historical fiction laden with female spies

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I couldn’t put this down.  If I wasn’t making time to read it at home, the book made it’s way into my purse in case I could read at work during breaks and lunch.

The story goes back and forth between 1947 and 1915 with Evelyn Gardiner heavily featured in both time lines. Eve  Gardiner, Charlotte “Charlie” St. Clair and Finn Kilgore are well written, complex characters.

The Alice Network was real.  This story incorporates the heroic character of Louise de Bettignies aka “Alice BuBois” and Lili,  into a fascinating character – a spy for the English military.  She was dubbed Queen of Spies and in real life, saved hundreds, maybe thousands of lives, passing on pertinent intel.

She had a network of females working with her, all joined in resisting the Germans and spying for the Allies.  There were parts of this story dealing with espionage and trauma that were such page turners.  I sat up late a few times to read and it blows me away that these women endured so much.

Early in the story, as you are getting to know Eve (a drunken bitter woman…..at first) you also meet Finn Kilgore.  This quiet Scotsman is Eve’s driver and master of what he calls the one-pan breakfast.  There wasn’t a lot of food mentioned but this breakfast comes up a few times.

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The main characters change, they have transformations as they start working together and it’s wonderful to be along for the ride.

I have to say, this goes on list as one of the best books I have read this year.  There are scenes in London but most are in France.  Eve’s London home figures prominently in the beginning and later in the book too – that’s why I am linking up with British Isles Friday.

Kate Quinn has found a new fan and I plan to look for her other publications.

Linking up with Joy’s British Isles Friday and Heather’s Foodie Reads for August.

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