“The debt of Tamar” by Nicole Dweck

Rated 5 stars ***** St. Martin’s Press (Thomas Dunne Books) 2015.

The debt of TamarIn 1544 Portugal José, his rich aunt Doña Antonia, and his cousin Reyna find themselves caught up in the “Death by burning” of six Jews condemned as heretics in the Portuguese Inquisition. Deeply moved José tries to get involved, but his aunt forcibly restrains him. Later she reveals that they’re Jewish – including the parents he’d never known. Stunned by the knowledge his aunt had kept secret for so many years, José dedicates himself to learning everything he can about his Jewish faith.

When it’s discovered that the family is Jewish, they’re forced to run for their lives. Eventually they arrive in Istanbul, where the reigning Sultan allows Jews to safely worship. In time José marries Reyna. Their child Tamar falls in love with the Sultan’s son, but José is unable to bear the thought of her marrying outside of the faith. He banishes her to an unsettled land, allowing everyone to believe she died from a fever. With that act a curse is placed upon his ancestors that isn’t broken until centuries later when readers are introduced to the last Sultan of Istanbul.

Reading how all the generations since José were tied together, of loves lost and found, and learning about the Ottoman Empire was fascinating. I was glad the Sultan allowed his land to be a place of refuge for the Jews when other countries were kicking them out. It’s too bad that goodwill between the two countries has been deteriorating in the past few years.

Recommended for Adults.

“The glittering hour” by Iona Grey

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. ebook. St. Martin’s Press. To be published December 10, 2019.

The glittering hourIn early 1936, nine-year-old Alice was confined to her grandparent’s estate while her beloved Mama goes on a business trip with Papa. Polly, her Mama’s former servant, is the only one to show her kindness as most of her time is spent with her Governess or in the nursery. Grandmama doesn’t want her around, while the only bright moments in her dreary life is receiving letters from Mama where she recalls her time as a young flapper in 1925. Her letters contain clues to a treasure she has to find – just like her Mama used to do when she was younger.

In 1925 Selina spent her days and nights drinking and partying with her rich friends. They traipse from one wild party to another, as she tried to forget the pain of losing her brother in the War and to break away from her parent’s tight grip. They want her to stop scandalizing the family name and settle down, but Selina wants to live her life as outrageously as possible. It was during one of her boisterous nighttime hijinks that Selina met Lawrence, a poor painter and photographer, earning his way through portrait commissions. Though they came from two vastly different places in society, they were instantly smitten with each other and fell madly in love.

Told in alternating viewpoints between the past and present, Selina and Lawrence’s love story draws you deep into the emotional whirlwind of their lives. Theirs is a love story that will leave you longing for a Lawrence of your own, someone who will love you forever and whose love is deeper than the deepest sea. I laughed. I cried. I couldn’t put it down. You will feel the same way. My only criticism is the cover. It, as well as the flowery UK cover, are too bland as neither captures the emotions this book generates.

This cover (see below) was the best of the three. download

Highly recommended for Adults.

I received an advance copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

“Big lies in a small town” by Diane Chamberlain

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. ebook. To be published Jan. 14, 2020. St. Martin’s Press.

Big lies in a small townIn 1939 twenty-two year old Anna Dale was excited to have been chosen by the government to paint a post office mural in the little town of Edenton, North Carolina. When she moved there from New Jersey she was excited to learn more about the town, but soon learned not everyone was happy she’d gotten the job. She took on three teens to help her, but Southern tradition soon began to raise its ugly head. Young Jesse Williams was amazingly gifted, and Anna knew if he went to art school he could set the art world on fire. She was happy to mentor him while he helped her, but townspeople were spreading rumors because she was working with a colored teen.

In 2018, Morgan Christopher had been in jail for a year. She was surprised to get a visit from the daughter and lawyer of the famous artist Jesse Williams, telling her his will stipulated she must restore a Depression-era mural within two months. Desperate to get out of jail, she agreed to the strange transaction. As she began to work on cleaning the mural, Morgan began to discover strange things, leaving her to wonder if Anna Dale, the mysterious artist, had become insane.

Chamberlain seamlessly wove through time in alternate chapters, as she told Morgan and Anna’s stories. As more and more of the mural’s clues were revealed, what had been happening while she painted was described through Anna’s point of view. This chilling story of betrayal, murder, vindication and hope will keep readers turning pages until its very satisfying conclusion.

Highly recommended for Adults.

I received an advance copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

“Beyond the moon” by Catherine Taylor

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. ebook. Published June 25, 2019. The Cameo Press.

Beyond the moon

Louisa, devastated at her beloved grandmother’s death, was drunk and a little confused at the top of a cliff during a foggy evening. Unsure of her footing, she fell partway down. The doctors were convinced she was suicidal, and admitted her to a psychiatric hospital against her will. A ruthless and uncaring staff ran the hospital, with patients left to fend for themselves.

During a smoke break a friend showed her how to sneak into the abandoned part of the hospital, which dated back to Victorian times. There Louisa discovered Robert, a soldier recovering from World War I injuries. She’s shocked to discover that when she’s with him it’s 1917, but when she leaves his presence she returns to her own time period – one hundred years later. It doesn’t take long before the two of them fall in love but how can their relationship work when they’re separated by time, and only Robert sees her?

After an unpleasant parting back to her own time period, Louisa somehow manages to travel back in time again. Her name is now Rose, a VAD nurse caring for wounded soldiers in France. Her desperate work as a nurse, and her hopes to be reunited with Robert are interspersed with his story as a British Prisoner of War in Germany as the author weaves seamlessly from 2017 to 1917 and back as she tells their wartime love story.

I was absolutely enthralled with this book, and couldn’t put it down. I loved reading about World War I, and was really upset at the way psychiatric patients were treated in 2017. The head nurse Louisa and her friends nicknamed Nurse Enema reminded me of Nurse Ratched from the movie “One flew over the cuckoo’s nest.” If you’re interested in historical fiction, time travel and romance, then this book is for you.

Highly recommended for Adults.

 

“The cholo tree” Daniel Chacón

Rated 3 stars *** 2017. Arte Público Press. 248 pp.

TheCholoTreeFourteen-year-old Victor is an aspiring artist and cook in his low income, gang filled neighborhood and, like most kids his age, doesn’t like school. He was very close to his father who was killed when Victor was very young, and holds his mother at an emotional distance. Though not a cholo (gang member) she believes he is one, and doesn’t trust him.

Victor doesn’t know what he wants to do with his life and is reluctant to choose a path, despite direction from a teacher he trusts and a very smart girlfriend who gives him some inspiration. As he aimlessly wanders through the life he’s chosen for himself, Victor has to sort through layers of experiences to decide if he already is a cholo. Does he want to be a cholo, or does he want to break free of the mold he created for himself in order to live the way he was meant to live?

Don Quixote-type fantasies intermingled with Victor’s hazy memories of his father, along with stories of his life, are pieced together to show four years of his struggles to discover who he is and what he wants to be. Though I wasn’t a big fan of the book, I did enjoy the author’s portrayal of Iliana as a strong, independent woman. She knew what she wanted, and went for it full speed ahead, the complete opposite of Victor. She didn’t let feelings get in the way of her future, and I admire her for having a goal and sticking to it.

Recommended for ages 14 and older.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.