Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Whither Thou Goest by Anna Belfrage

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Read: December 14, 2014

Whither Thou Goest is the seventh book in Anna Belfrage’s series featuring time traveller Alexandra Lind and her seventeenth century husband, Matthew Graham. In their rural home in the Colony of Maryland, Matthew and Alex Graham are still recovering from the awful events of the previous years when Luke Graham, Matthew’s estranged brother, asks them for a favour. Alex has no problems whatsoever ignoring Luke’s sad plea for help. In her opinion Matthew’s brother is an evil excuse of a man who deserves whatever nasty stuff fate throws at him. Except, as Matthew points out, Luke is begging them to save his son – his misled Charlie, one of the Monmouth rebels – and can Charlie Graham be held responsible for his father’s ill deeds? So off they go on yet another adventure, this time to the West Indies to find a young man neither of them knows but who faces imminent death on a sugar plantation, condemned to slavery for treason. The journey is hazardous and along the way Alex comes face to face with a most disturbing ghost from her previous life, a man she would much have preferred never to have met. Time is running out for Charlie Graham, Matthew is haunted by reawakened memories of his days as an indentured servant, and then there’s the eerie Mr Brown, Charlie’s new owner, who will do anything to keep his secrets safe, anything at all. Will Matthew deliver his nephew from imminent death? And will they ever make it back home?

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Readers often talk about escaping into novels, about stepping into the shoes of another and living a thousand different lives between the pages of their books. It's an interesting concept and one I certainly subscribe to, but it takes new meaning with each installment of The Graham Saga. Where most authors capture a moment, Anna Belfrage recreates a lifetime, an intimate portrait that few of her peers can rival. 

On the surface, Wither Thou Goest is an adventure. A quest that takes the Grahams from their comfortable colonial home to the turmoil of the West Indies. It is a rescue mission complete with danger, heartbreak and intrigue. Pretty straightforward stuff, until one looks beneath the surface. Behind the scenes, every member of the family is struggling with personal demons, the ripple effects of events seen in earlier installments of the series and while I love the drama created by Charlie's situation, I found the emotional foundation of the book far more captivating.

Sarah's plight was a challenge for me, as were Ian's struggle with responsibility, Matthew's private pain and Samuel's divided loyalties. Alex's attempts to navigate the storm while managing her own conflicts represented yet another obstacle, but the dynamic illustrated by the family's interactions created an engaging and intricately complex portrait of loyalty and honor and I love the inherent contrast it bore in comparison to Luke's branch of the Graham family as well as the Burley/Connor relations. 

Beautifully written, thought-provoking and intense, Whither Thou Goest lives up to its predecessors in every possible way. A must read for any fan of historic fiction. 

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His mouth stretched into a mirthless smile. No doubt Graham thought him well and truly dead, for how was someone to survive disfigurement and pain such as the one he had been subjected to?
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Check Out All the Stops on Anna Belfrage's Whither Thou Goest Blog Tour Schedule


Tuesday, December 2
Review at Broken Teepee
Spotlight & Giveaway at Teddy Rose Book Reviews Plus More
Wednesday, December 3
Review at Just One More Chapter
Thursday, December 4
Review at Oh, For the Hook of a Book
Review at With Her Nose Stuck in a Book
Friday, December 5
Guest Post at Oh, For the Hook of a Book
Monday, December 8
Review at So Many Books, So Little Time
Guest Post at What Is That Book About
Tuesday, December 9
Review at Book Nerd
Wednesday, December 10
Review at CelticLady’s Reviews
Thursday, December 11
Review at Griperang’s Bookmarks
Review at A Bibliotaph’s Reviews
Friday, December 12
Review at Dianne Ascroft’s Blog
Monday, December 15
Review at Kincavel Korner
Review at Beth’s Book Nook Blog
Tuesday, December 16
Review at Layered Pages
Review at A Chick Who Reads
Wednesday, December 17
Review at Flashlight Commentary
Thursday, December 18
Interview at Flashlight Commentary

Interview with Jay Curry, author of Nixon and Dovey

Author interviews are one of my favorite things to post which is why I am super excited to welcome author Jay Curry to Flashlight Commentary to discuss his latest release, Nixon and Dovey. 

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Welcome to Flashlight Commentary Jay. Great to have you with us. To start things off, please tell us a bit about Nixon and Dovey.
Erin, your passion for books and your support for both readers and writers alike, makes this a real delight for me.  When you ask about Nixon and Dovey, you are asking about my passion.  Nixon and Dovey is the accumulation of hundreds and hundreds of hours of genealogical research, planning and plotting, and, of course, writing.  It’s the accumulation of 25 years of work.  You see, Nixon and Dovey is more than historical fiction; it is biographical fiction meaning about a real person.  It is about Nixon Curry who was arguably the most notorious and wildly publicized criminal in America’s first forty years.  It is also about his passion and unrelenting love for Dovey Caldwell.

Fascinating! Do you mind if I ask exactly how you found Nixon's story?
I first found James Curry’s 1805 will in the North Carolina archives.  He was Nixon’s father and my great-great-great-great uncle. Ten years later two of James’ children, Nixon and James Jr. were still elusive. Then in the Oklahoma archives I found a 150-year-old memoir about the history around Iredell County including the chapter, The Murder of Ben Wilson. The article said Nixon Curry “surely killed him but the law could never prove it.” I turned to court records and I found Nixon frequently.  Then, wandering through the Kansas archives I discovered Blum’s Centennial Almanac of 1876.  The widely popular almanac highlighted stories touted as the most remarkable and strange stories in America’s first hundred years.  The saga of Nixon Curry was one of those stories.  The story exploded and became a national phenomenon as Blum made Nixon Curry the Jesse James of his day. I refocused on newspaper articles written after the almanac exposure and found that there were bursts of articles about every 25 years until the Great Depression (1930s).  The story faded into obscurity and was lost.

How did you approach writing about a relative? Was it difficult? Did you feel pressure in balancing history against a familial legend?
Before I uncovered the Nixon’s saga I studied both fiction and nonfiction writing, co-authored three internationally successful nonfiction books and won awards for my short fiction.  Once I discovered Blum’s Centennial Almanac, I was driven to make Nixon and Dovey my first full-length novel.  I’ll admit, at first there was the temptation to make Nixon a superhuman hero but I had an outstanding fiction writing teacher and joined a serious critique group and, believe me, any bias in the story was severely dealt with by my cohorts.  Three years ago when I sat down to perfect and finalize the story, I was well disciplined to focus only on the legendary feats of this remarkable man.

The antebellum era is a fascinating period of American history. What did you enjoy most about writing a story set in this period? 
In America the definition of antebellum is the period between the end of the War of 1812 (1815) and the inauguration of Abraham Lincoln (1861). Nixon and Dovey is set in the early antebellum years (1814 – 1824). The people and stories that emerge from the antebellum era are fascinating. The Nixon Curry story is only one of thousands. This period saw emergence of the women’s movement, which exploded after the Civil War, the culture clash between the economics and the moral inhumanity of slavery, which failing a political consensus required our nation’s bloodiest war. We have the industrial North and the slave-powered plantation life of the South.  Crafting a story about real people who lived and experienced the dichotomies and conflicts of life in the antebellum South was pure joy.

Mac is an interesting character and my personal favorite of those in who make up the cast in your novel. Where did his character come from? Is he historical or a product of your imagination? 
Mac was a particularly fun character to write.  Is he historical? Yes!  Is he a product of my imagination? Yes!  You see in the real life saga Latta McConnell was the cousin of Ben Wilson, one of our villains. When the Wilson aristocracy threatened Ben Wilson and Latta McConnell to either be charged for the crime or testify against Nixon, Ben agreed to testify but Latta refused.  Even with all Nixon’s legal problems, Latta McConnell never turned on him.  So when I had to separate the heroes from the villains, I made Latta, Nixon’s good friend and confidant, and I paired Ben Wilson with John Stimson who also testified against him.  As to Mac’s being Scottish, I was looking to add more color, so I played with Latta’s Scottish name, gave him the nickname “Mac”, and made him a Scotsman.  His entire personality and role was my imagination. We don’t know anything about his personality but we know he chose Nixon over his own cousin.  So his characterization came very much from my imagination based upon what little we knew of the real Latta McConnell.

Nixon finds himself caught between two women over the course of the novel. What does he see in Morning Sun and how does that compare to his interest in Dovey?  
Although Nixon first sees Dovey at the plantation fire, he doesn’t meet her until after his encounter with Morning Sun. The two women represent the two stages in a man’s development: first, the onset of puberty where physical attraction is a strong driver, and second after maturity when a deep, more emotional bond is sought.  As a youth, Nixon responds to his strict religious upbringing by making a promise to himself to not drink, gamble, and especially not to allow a woman to change him like they changed his married brothers.  An important element of my writing is to show the main character’s development.  I needed a caring but evocative woman, like Morning Sun, who could, in a special situation, overcome Nixon’s resistance and show him the ways of adulthood.  Nixon’s interest in her started as a simple effort to rescue her from a mob and then, as he hides her, he discovers her beauty. She excites him for the first time and he breaks his promise.  I used Morning Sun to display Nixon’s emergence from childhood and his caring, softhearted soul. She also was a vehicle to bring the Indian connection into the story.  Later, Mac urges Nixon to make a choice, which opens the plot to a deeper, more emotional and romantic relationship. Morning Sun was entirely a character from my imagination.

Dovey, on the other hand, was Nixon’s actual love interest and partner, so she was critical to the story.  Newspaper reports at the time often mentioned Nixon’s devotion to Dovey as the only reason he wouldn’t leave the state after his many jailbreaks.  We also know that she helped him in his most challenging escape.  To me, that was enough to give her equal billing to Nixon.  Their love was recognized in articles written decades later as a deep and passionate love. 

Both romances played important roles and were particularly fun to create and write.

Horse culture plays a prominent role in the early part of the book. In terms of research, what went into developing this aspect of story? 
We know from several Wanted Ads that Nixon was a popular jockey. Horseracing became an important element to the story from the very first plotline.  My daughter owned a horse most of her high school years so we had frequent discussions of stable activities, training techniques, and competition; but I can’t say that was a major source.  Also, I live in Texas and grew up in Oklahoma where one can’t help but be exposed to horses.  Still, I have to say that most of the details in the book came from talking to people who actually train horses, reading books of the time period, which is a passion for me, and from pure bookish research.

Your narrative touches on many themes. Which is your favorite and why? 
Erin, you are correct.  There are several motifs but the theme I like to think applies across the entire work would be: Good people can be driven to do bad things.  I think it applies not only to Nixon’s era but is equally true today.  

What impression do you hope your characterization of Nixon leaves on your readers?
While being thoroughly entertained, I hope the readers will first become aware of this old legend and many of the myths behind it, and second come to understand how a good man can be driven to do bad things. 

You probably have many, but is there a scene you particularly enjoyed writing?
In chapter three where Dovey is introduced during the plantation fire, Nixon catches a glimpse of her as she is hurried off to safety. But the scene I particularly enjoyed writing was the scene two chapters later when she becomes an active part of the story.  Dovey and Nixon’s nemesis, Ben Wilson, are walking down the boardwalk at the state capital enjoying the pre-race festivities for the season’s climatic race. Here I introduce Dovey as the beautiful daughter of the state’s wealthiest senator.  I wanted the reader see her as a naive, somewhat headstrong, cocky yet kind young lady who is animated about the festivities and is eager to mingle with the aristocracy. I also needed to show Ben as a shallow, ego-centric jerk. Crafting their intertwined contrasts was fun.

What scene posed the greatest challenge for you as an author? Why was it troublesome and how did you work through it?  
The most difficult challenge in the entire writing process was to create characters and plot lines that would allow the hero to commit murder without losing the support of the reader. The scene had to be realistic and believable, and, at the same time, provide an airtight alibi for Nixon that would drive the plot to a grand climatic scene. I would compare it to performing a magic trick.  The cast of characters, e.g. the judge, jury, and gallery, needed to believe what Nixon did was impossible.  On the other hand the reader, knowing how he pulled it off, needs to see it as plausible.  Numerous props and elements had to come together.  It was for this scene that I created Nixon’s relationship with the local Catawba Indian tribe, and it was peaking Nixon’s emotional state to the level needed and putting the escape elements together that was the most difficult to write.

Sometimes fiction takes on a life of its own and forces the author to make sacrifices for the sake of the story. Is there a character or concept you wish you could have spent more time with or expanded on?
Actually, there were several.  The book is full-length at about 370 pages but I initially wrote well over four times as many pages.  While I wanted the toughness and closeness of the pioneering Curry clan to play out more, I settled for giving Nixon’s youngest sister, Jenny, a minor but critical role that foreshadowed the closeness of the family and the caring, loving side of Nixon as a youth.  I also had a chapter that highlighted Dovey’s upbringing on an often brutal, slave-dependent plantation.  Here again I settled for one scene of slave brutality that can make the readers cringe as they experience how little some plantation bosses valued slaves, especially the woman. The actual saga of Nixon Curry was centered on a real slave named Cyrus Johnson and his death. I wanted to develop his personality and life situation, which would demonstrate the inhumanity of slavery from a true story.

Historical novelists frequently have to adjustment facts to make their stories work. Did you have to invent or change anything while writing Nixon and Dovey and if so, what did you alter? 
You are so right about adjusting the facts.  The story of Nixon Curry’s life was regaled in the late 1800s.“… there has never been a more tragic foundation for thrilling romance …”, “Where truth is stranger than fiction … ,” “One of America’s strangest sagas … ,” etc.  All the elements for an inspiring love story and action thriller are there, but they cover a lifetime, and the characters and events are too numerous to smoothly craft a story without fudging on the timeline, the characters’ roles, personalities, etc.  The life story of Nixon Curry will make a riveting biography where plots and subplots, and hooks and continuity are not a requirement.  As a novel, though, considerable license was necessary to weave a coherent plot with exciting and diverse characters.  In the case of Nixon and Dovey the biggest alteration was taking the four actual characters from the real events of 1818 and dividing them into two opposing camps.  Thus we have Nixon Curry and his Scottish sidekick, Latta ‘Mac’ McConnell, as our protagonists, and Ben Wilson and John Stimson as our antagonists.  In reality one could cast them in totally different roles.  The truth is, other than Nixon who was frequently written about, we know nothing of their personalities or motives. We don’t know the real villains or the actual good guys. You could argue that none of them were heroes. But that would not make for a very interesting, engrossing novel! And without adjusting the facts the novel wouldn’t have been very interesting.

If you could sit down and talk with one of your characters, maybe meet and discuss things over drinks, who would you choose and why?
From a purely personal point of view, Nixon’s father, James Curry, was my great-great-great-great grandfather.  Who wouldn’t want to spend time with an ancestor born 250 years ago?  But from an author’s point of view, I would enjoy a casual evening with retired judge Archibald ‘Baldy’ Henderson.  Baldy played a major role as Nixon’s crusty lawyer in both real life and in the novel.  Turns out Baldy Henderson actually presented several cases to the US Supreme Court, and the famous Chief Justice John Marshall called Henderson the finest attorney to emerge from North Carolina.  Oh, how exciting it would be to enjoy one of Mac McConnell’s mugs of ale with Nixon’s lawyer Baldy Henderson.

Just because I’m curious, if you could pick a fantasy cast of actors to play the leads in a screen adaptation of Nixon and Dovey, who would you hire? 
Wow!  Now you are in an area where I am not comfortable.  Like most people, I love movies, but I’m not a “movie star” fanatic.  I did have a book club president tell me that it wouldn’t make any difference who played the leading roles because any older, experience actor would steal the show as Baldy Henderson.  I could see Anthony Hopkins playing that role, but otherwise I’ll pass on casting roles. 

And finally, what's next for you? Do you have a new project in the works? 
Like most serious authors I’m working on several projects. But for the next six months I plan to focus on getting the word out about Nixon and Dovey.  When I co-authored three successful non-fiction books twenty years ago, the publishers had the skills and contacts to get the books noticed. Today that’s up to the author.

In the meantime I’m outlining the biography of Nixon Curry and have a preliminary plot scheme for a book about Nixon’s second life.  I also have pieces of a memoir titled Love’s Fate and Other Stories Growing Up in Small Town America.  Life’s good!

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PRAISE FOR NIXON AND DOVEY

"The depth of these characters and the way they are developed throughout the novel is one of the real strengths of this work. I felt I could identify with all of the characters, even the villains whom I didn't want to enjoy reading about but somehow captured my interest." - Julie Palm, Amazon Reviewer

"In reading history or historical novels I like to get a sense of what it was like to live in the period of the narrative, in this case the immediate post-revolutionary period. Curry has delivered while creating colorful and memorable characters and a truly interesting story." - Robert Hughes, Amazon Reviewer

"Witnessing Dovey evolve from the demure, naive, compliant daughter of a U. S. Senator into a strong and fiercely devoted young woman as she struggles to discern the truth about the sacred and the sacrilege, is a journey you will not want to miss!" - Susan Palm, Amazon Reviewer

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Jay W Curry is a former Big-4 consulting partner, business coach, and award-winning author. When he is not coaching, fly-fishing or writing he facilitates a Vistage CEO roundtable in Houston. Jay has co-authored three internationally successful books and has won honors for both his short fiction and non-fiction work. When the heat of Texas summer arrives, Jay and his wife, Nancy, head to their Colorado home (http:/CurryBarn.com) or visit their three children and seven grandchildren. Nixon and Dovey is the first of a three-book passion to bring the 200-year-old story of Jay’s relative, Nixon Curry, back to light.

Website ❧  Facebook   Twitter ❧  LinkedIn


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Format: eBook
Publication Date: November 14, 2014
Released by: Smashwords
ASIN: B00OBIS324
Length: 362 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
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Check Out All the Stops on Jay W. Curry's Nixon and Dovey Blog Tour Schedule


Monday, December 1
Spotlight at Flashlight Commentary
Friday, December 5
Spotlight at Teddy Rose Book Reviews Plus More
Monday, December 8
Guest Post at What Is That Book About
Wednesday, December 10
Spotlight at Caroline Wilson Writes
Monday, December 15
Guest Post at Mina’s Bookshelf
Tuesday, December 16
Review at Flashlight Commentary
Wednesday, December 17
Interview at Flashlight Commentary
Thursday, December 18
Spotlight at Boom Baby Reviews
Tuesday, December 23
Spotlight at CelticLady’s Reviews
Saturday, December 27
Spotlight at Layered Pages
Monday, December 29
Review at Forever Ashley
Tuesday, December 30
Review at Book Nerd
Wednesday, December 31
Review at Svetlana’s Reads and Views

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Nixon and Dovey by Jay W. Curry

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Read: December 2, 2014

Before he met Dovey, it was just a heated feud. Now, in the backdrop of southern antebellum slavery, it’s a deadly game of passion, murder, and revenge. Facts: In 1818 Nixon Curry became entangled in one of the most sensationalized murder/love stories in early American history. As a result, Nixon Curry became arguably the most notorious and widely publicized criminal in America’s first half century. His fame derived not from the brutality or number of his crimes but from the determination of the Charlotte aristocracy to hang him. His remarkable talents, undying love for Dovey Caldwell, and the outright audacity of his exploits made him an early American legend. Story: Nixon Curry, a talented farm boy, accepts a job at a horse racing stable, where his riding skills soon rival those of his mentor, Ben Wilson. The fierce rivalry becomes confrontational at the 1816 Race of Champions. During prerace festivities, the dashing, young Nixon meets the beautiful Dovey Caldwell, daughter of the state’s wealthiest and most influential senator. Finding Nixon unworthy of Dovey’s affection, Senator Caldwell betroths his daughter to Nixon’s nemesis, Ben. The announcement sets in motion a clash of cultures, talents, and passions leading to murder, mayhem, and revenge.

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In a lot of ways, Jay Curry's Nixon and Dovey took me back to my roots. Early America captivated my imagination during my teenage years and played a significant role in my love affair with historic fiction. Curry's work played on those emotions and effectually rekindled that affection and interest. 

I was not familiar with Nixon's story prior to picking up this book which is why I think it makes such great fiction. I'm a big fan of little known histories and love being able to immerse myself in something that can both enlighten and entertain. Nixon and Dovey takes place in a period many readers will recognize, but its title characters have a certain mystic about them, an enigmatic quality that draws on the imagination and keeps one turning the page. 

There is also a lot of really interesting thematic material in this piece which is something I found particularly appealing. Race relations, for example, are a topic usually reserved for stories of the latter half of the 1800s and I really liked Curry's ability to tackle the subject in a nontraditional setting. Nixon's story is part of a larger picture and I admire the manner in which Curry wove that type of intense subject matter into the fabric of his story.

A fun read that broadens one's understanding of the past, Nixon and Dovey is a delightful novel of love, loyalty and spirit. 

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"Sounds like you’re at the fork. It’s the good me–bad me fork. For you, it’s either escape into a new life or return for revenge.”
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Check Out All the Stops on Jay W. Curry's Nixon and Dovey Blog Tour Schedule


Monday, December 1
Spotlight at Flashlight Commentary
Friday, December 5
Spotlight at Teddy Rose Book Reviews Plus More
Monday, December 8
Guest Post at What Is That Book About
Wednesday, December 10
Spotlight at Caroline Wilson Writes
Monday, December 15
Guest Post at Mina’s Bookshelf
Tuesday, December 16
Review at Flashlight Commentary
Wednesday, December 17
Interview at Flashlight Commentary
Thursday, December 18
Spotlight at Boom Baby Reviews
Tuesday, December 23
Spotlight at CelticLady’s Reviews
Saturday, December 27
Spotlight at Layered Pages
Monday, December 29
Review at Forever Ashley
Tuesday, December 30
Review at Book Nerd
Wednesday, December 31
Review at Svetlana’s Reads and Views

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Oblate’s Confession by William Peak

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Obtained from: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours
Read: December 15, 2014

England, the 7th century. Petty Anglo-Saxon kingdoms make war upon one another and their Celtic neighbors. Christianity is a new force in the land, one whose hold remains tenuous at best. Power shifts back and forth uneasily between two forms of the new faith: a mystical Celtic Catholicism and a newer, more disciplined form of Catholicism emanating from Rome. Pagan rites as yet survive in the surrounding hills and mountains. Plague sweeps across the countryside unpredictably, its path marked by death and destruction. In keeping with a practice common at the time, an Anglo-Saxon warrior donates his youngest child to the monastery of Redestone, in effect sentencing the boy to spend the rest of his life as a monk. This gift-child, called an oblate, will grow up in the abbey knowing little of his family or the expectations his natural father will someday place upon him, his existence haunted by vague memories of a former life and the questions those memories provoke. Who is his father, the distant chieftain who sired him or the bishop he prays for daily? And to which father, natural or spiritual, will he owe allegiance when, at length, he is called upon to ally himself with one and destroy the other? These are the dilemmas the child faces. The answers will emerge from the years he spends in spiritual apprenticeship to a hermit who lives on the nearby mountain of Modra nect – and his choices will echo across a lifetime.

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I'm not sure what I expected from William Peak's The Oblate's Confession, but the book proved a pleasant surprise. I found the introspective tone of the narrative intriguing, but I felt Peak's decision to write from a child's perspective a stroke of genius. The questions Winwæd asks about faith and the things that capture his interest within the monastery are fascinating, but watching him piece these concepts together as his understanding matures allowed me unique insight to his situation.

On that note, I really appreciated Peak's treatment of religion. I feared the subject might overwhelmed the narrative, but was delighted to discover the author's subtle handling of the material allowed it to flow naturally through the story as easily as the social hierarchy of the monastery or the politics of the day. 
I was similarly impressed with the Winwæd's inner conflicts and appreciated the authenticity in his emotions over the course of the narrative. 

Peak's writing was a little difficult for me to get into and the pacing was tad slow for my particular tastes, but I certainly enjoyed the time I spent with this story. The Oblate's Confession isn't my usual fare, but it is a thought-provoking piece that I'd certainly recommend to fans of medieval fiction. 

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"Simple people—rustics, fools—see this as proof the man is special. They think he is a holy man, some kind of saint.” Father looked at me. “Foolishness, vanity. Everyone wants to think they know a saint, it makes them feel important."
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Check Out All the Stops on William Peak's The Oblate’s Confession Blog Tour Schedule


Monday, December 1
Review at Broken Teepee
Tuesday, December 2
Spotlight & Giveaway at Passages to the Past
Wednesday, December 3
Review at Back Porchervations
Review at A Fantastical Librarian
Thursday, December 4
Spotlight at What Is That Book About
Friday, December 5
Interview at Back Porchervations
Monday, December 8
Review at A Book Geek
Tuesday, December 9
Review at The Writing Desk
Spotlight at Historical Tapestry
Monday, December 15
Review at Flashlight Commentary
Tuesday, December 16
Spotlight at Bibliophilic Book Blog
Thursday, December 18
Review at 100 Pages a Day…Stephanie’s Book Reviews
Guest Post at Books and Benches
Friday, December 19
Review at Book Nerd
Review at bookramblings
Saturday, December 20
Interview at Forever Ashley
Monday, December 22
Spotlight at Let Them Read Books
Tuesday, December 23
Review at Just One More Chapter
Wednesday, December 24
Review at With Her Nose Stuck in a Book
Monday, December 29
Review at The Never-Ending Book
Tuesday, December 30
Spotlight at Historical Fiction Connection
Friday, January 2
Review at Library Educated
Monday, January 5
Review & Interview at Words and Peace
Tuesday, January 6
Spotlight at CelticLady’s Reviews
Wednesday, January 7
Review at A Bibliotaph’s Reviews
Thursday, January 8
Review at Impressions in Ink
Friday, January 9
Review at The True Book Addict
Review & Interview at Jorie Loves a Story

Friday, December 12, 2014

Newborn Nazi by Rhoda D'Ettore

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Read: December 11, 2014

Germany, 1934 -- SS officers entered the house of Hedwig Schultz and ripped her 14 year old brother, Edmund, from her arms. He has been selected for an elite division of the Hitler Youth that will train him for indoctrination into the feared SS. Horrified, Hedwig enlists the help of her brother in America to thwart Nazi plans regarding the Final Solution of the Jewish people. It becomes a cat and mouse game as the family enters a world of Nazi spies, double agents and the Underground movement. All the while, Hedwig must prevent their brother, Edmund, from becoming suspicious. One report of treason to his Hitler Youth instructors would result in death... or worse. 

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I put little thought into taking on Rhoda D'Ettore Newborn Nazi for review. I don't mean to minimalize the book in any way, but drawn as I am to WWII, it wasn't exactly a hard sell. In fact the only aspect that gave me pause was the cover. Not to get too far off track, but I don't feel the image does justice to the narrative and strongly urge readers to look below surface when considering the title themselves.

In looking back, there were a lot of things I really liked about this piece. D'Ettore achieves a great balance between the masculine and feminine elements of the story and that's not something I can say about many fictional accounts of the period. She put a great deal into chronicling the experiences of Germans who opposed the Nazi Party both in America and the fatherland and crafted a very tangible sense desperation around those caught in the crossfire.

I liked the insight she offered to the Hitler Youth program and felt the contrary allegiances suffered by Edmund particularly well-drawn. I appreciated the contrast in characters like Gustav and Johann, Hedwig and Heidi, and even Jacob and Alois. Through her complex characterizations, D'Ettore challenges readers to think in shades of grey and I personally found that rather extraordinary, especially in an era that is commonly painted in black and white. 

There are moments in which I felt there was simply too much happening at once, but those were few and far between. Ideally, I'd also have liked to see an author's or historical note. I thought D'Ettore's incorporation of the Hindenburg disaster fascinating and would have enjoyed reading more about her decision to utilize that material, but I questioned her treatment of Ramsay MacDonald and feel an explanation might have put that uncertainty to rest. 

All in all, I found Newborn Nazi a surprisingly enjoyable read. An intense, but moving piece about family and sacrifice. 

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Hedwig never took her eyes from Hitler. “He is not famous, he is infamous. His officers killed my husband, and I curse him with all that is good and holy.”
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Check Out All the Stops on Rhoda D'Ettore's Newborn Nazi Blog Tour Schedule


Monday, December 8
Guest Post at Historical Fiction Connection
Tuesday, December 9
Spotlight & Giveaway at Passages to the Past
Wednesday, December 10
Spotlight & Giveaway at Teddy Rose Book Reviews
Friday, December 12
Review at Book Nerd
Review at Flashlight Commentary
Spotlight at Book Babe

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