Church of Spies by Mark Riebling

Church of Spies: The Pope's Secret War Against HitlerChurch of Spies: The Pope’s Secret War Against Hitler by Mark Riebling

Pope Pius XII is perhaps the most detested pope in modern history, vilified for allegedly appeasing Hitler and betraying the Jewish people by remaining silent during the Holocaust. But this conventional narrative is not the full story.

In Church of Spies, the intelligence expert Mark Riebling draws on a wealth of recently uncovered documents to argue that, far from being Hitler’s lackey, Pius was an active anti-Nazi spymaster. He directed a vast network of Vatican operatives—priests and laypeople alike—who partnered with the German resistance, tipped the Allies off to Hitler’s invasions of France and Russia, and involved themselves in three separate plots to assassinate Hitler.

A fast-paced and gripping tale of secrecy, danger, and self-sacrifice, Church of Spies takes readers from hidden crypts beneath the Vatican to Nazi bunkers in Germany to chart the true legacy of Pius’s secret war. Although these revelations do not excuse Pius’s public silence during the war, they provide us with a deeper understanding of the man reviled by so many.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was both surprised and enthralled by this book from the beginning. Whilst I expected the author to have a compelling argument and evidence to support his ideas, he also managed to craft a book that was interesting and kept my attention throughout.

As someone who loves history, it is hard for me to pass up a title that promises to look at something from a new angle. Mark Riebling offered that, and did an excellent job of supporting his claims. I have to say, after reading this, I agree with his assessment of the situation.

There was a lot I didn’t know about the Pope’s standpoint on the Nazi movement and the involvement of the Catholic Church, and I walked away feeling better informed after having read this.

If you are a history buff, I definitely recommend that you pick this book up. You will be rewarded with the writing of an author who knows his stuff and meets a high standard of literary integrity.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher, provided through Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

The Determined Heart by Antoinette May

The Determined Heart: The Tale of Mary Shelley and Her FrankensteinThe Determined Heart: The Tale of Mary Shelley and Her Frankenstein by Antoinette May

The Determined Heart reveals the life of Mary Shelley in a story of love and obsession, betrayal and redemption.

The daughter of political philosopher William Godwin and feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary Shelley had an unconventional childhood populated with the most talented and eccentric personalities of the time. After losing her mother at an early age, she finds herself in constant conflict with a resentful stepmother and a jealous stepsister. When she meets the Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, she falls deeply in love, and they elope with disastrous consequences. Soon she finds herself destitute and embroiled in a torturous love triangle as Percy takes Mary’s stepsister as a lover. Over the next several years, Mary struggles to write while she and Percy face ostracism, constant debt, and the heartbreaking deaths of three children. Ultimately, she achieves great acclaim for Frankenstein, but at what cost?
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is an excellent book, there is no doubt of that. I was pleasantly surprised–no, that doesn’t cover it. I was supremely shocked that this book was so well thought out and written. I love historical novels based on real people, but many of them tend to lack the crucial research that makes them feel authentic. This author made certain to remain true to the characters, whilst still being imaginative enough to write a book that also keeps the reader’s attention.

Mary Shelley surely was an interesting person and she is depicted that way here, but it was the descriptions of Lord Byron and Bysshe that really captivated me more than anything else.

This book brings to life all of the loss, excitement, many moves and struggles of this infamous historical couple and shows both the beautiful and uglier aspects of their lives together and apart. The author did a wonderful job of describing each setting she used and taking her characters from flat to three-dimensional, emotional beings that you feel sorrow for having to part with when the story is complete.

The only thing that annoyed me, and would have annoyed me even if this were non fiction, was Mary’s tolerance for Claire. Not the author’s fault, as she was remaining as true to life as possible, but still–I wanted to punch Claire.

More than just some simple filling in of the gaps in knowledge, I felt Antoinette May really out her heart and soul into the creation of this book and strongly encourage you to give this book a try. It will not disappoint.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

The Lost Girl by R.L. Stine

Generations of children and teens have grown up on R.L. Stine’s bestselling and hugely popular horror series, Fear Street and Goosebumps. Now, the Fear Street series is back with a chilling new installment, packed with pure nightmare fodder that will scare Stine’s avid fan base of teen readers and adults. New student Lizzy Palmer is the talk of Shadyside High. Michael and his girlfriend Pepper befriend her, but the closer they get to her, the stranger she seems… and the more attractive she is to Michael. He invites her to join him on a snowmobile race that ends in a tragic accident. Soon, Michael’s friends start being murdered, and Pepper becomes convinced that Lizzy is behind the killings. But to her total shock, she and Michael are drawn into a tragic story of an unthinkable betrayal committed over 60 years ago. Frightening and tense in the way that only this master of horror can deliver, The Lost Girl is another terrifying Fear Street novel by the king of juvenile horror.
The Lost Girl (Fear Street Relaunch, #3)The Lost Girl by R.L. Stine

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

For being a reboot of an old series, I was impressed that the author didn’t seem to lose any steam in between. This book has all of the characteristics that made the series popular the first time. The characters are interesting, the plot thickens as the book progresses and the horror aspects are truly horrifying.

I liked all of the obviously fifties-themed things that the author used to make the atmosphere seem more believable. This was a good choice to start a new wave of this series.

Both long time fans and new readers will likely get enjoyment from this story. It was good to get back to fear Street.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher, provided through Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

The Good Neighbor by Amy Sue Nathan

The Good NeighborThe Good Neighbor by Amy Sue Nathan

When small lies have big consequences…

Things are a little rough for Izzy Lane. Still reeling from the break-up of her marriage, the newly single mom moves back to the Philadelphia home she grew up in, five-year-old Noah in tow. The transition is difficult, but with the help of her best friends—and her elderly neighbor, Mrs. Feldman—Izzy feels like she’s stepping closer to her new normal. Until her ex-husband shows up with his girlfriend. That’s when Izzy invents a boyfriend of her own. And that’s when life gets complicated.

Blogging about her “new guy” provides Izzy with something to do when Noah’s asleep. What’s the harm in a few made-up stories? Then, her blog soars in popularity and she’s given the opportunity to moonlight as an online dating expert. How can she turn it down? But when her friends want to meet the mysterious “Mac,” someone online suspects Izzy’s a fraud, and a guy in-real-life catches her eye, Izzy realizes just how high the stakes are. That’s when Mrs. Feldman steps in, determined to show her neighbor the havoc that lies can wreak. If Izzy’s honest, she could lose everything, and everyone. Is the truth worth any cost?
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

For the most part, I really liked this book. The main character had a strong presence and I enjoyed getting to know her son and the other characters.

I, personally, did not see that what she did during the book was as big of a deal as it was made out to be, and since that was the main conflict, I struggled a little at times to understand why it was so important.

This book has some great quotes, especially during the points where the MC is reflecting on her life and her choices. The tension with her ex husband was very well written.

Overall, this is the kind of book that you can lose yourself in and enjoy. The side characters were created in such a way that you got more than just a glimpse at their lives and especially the neighbour, added a lot to the overall book.

The end was sweet without being overly sticky-sweet or leaving too many questions unanswered. I am looking forward to seeing what else this author does.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided by Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

Sunday Dinner: Coming of Age in the Segregated South by Ann Boult Walling

Sunday Dinner: Coming of Age in the Segregated SouthSunday Dinner: Coming of Age in the Segregated South by Ann Boult Walling

Ann Walling grew up in Nashville, Tennessee, in the 1940s and 50s in a family with deep roots in Mississippi and a history tightly bound to the Old South. To a small girl’s sensibility, her family’s lavish Sunday dinners were a liturgy that reinforced strict Southern mores she was taught never to question. But lurking behind the fine china were troubling contradictions, racial injustice, and tightly guarded family secrets. Told with clear-eyed empathy, Sunday Dinner is the remarkable story of a young woman’s moral awakening amidst a society’s painful reckoning with its history. The book poignantly outlines the struggle that each one of us faces in deciding which aspects of our past we must embrace, and which aspects we must leave behind.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sunday Dinner is the kind of memoir that makes you want to read memoirs. This is an honest look at the harsh realities as well as fond memories of a childhood in a very tense time in America.

The author has done a good job not only telling her audience about her experiences, but ensuring that she takes the reader along for the journey as well. The writing is heartfelt and honest.

I found myself enthralled by the idea of so many things going on within the family of the author that they would not speak about openly and in public. The differences between what we see as neighbours and friends and what is really going on behind the scenes was really highlighted well here, and I have great respect for Ann Boult Walling for coming forward to discuss these difficult issues.

Sometimes I feel that memoirs are more personal journals that the author has chosen to share with the world, and that they should have stayed personal as they have little value for the rest of us. I didn’t feel that way about this book. I think this will be interesting no matter who you are, whether you are southern or not, regardless of race or gender.

The writing is clear and concise and intelligent, and I encourage you to give it a try. Well edited, smart and meaningful.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publicist in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

The Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich

The Dead HouseThe Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich

Part-psychological thriller, part-urban legend, this is an unsettling narrative made up of diary entries, interview transcripts, film footage transcripts and medical notes. Twenty-five years ago, Elmbridge High burned down. Three people were killed and one pupil, Carly Johnson, disappeared. Now a diary has been found in the ruins of the school. The diary belongs to Kaitlyn Johnson, Carly’s identical twin sister. But Carly didn’t have a twin . . .

Re-opened police records, psychiatric reports, transcripts of video footage and fragments of diary reveal a web of deceit and intrigue, violence and murder, raising a whole lot more questions than it answers.

Who was Kaitlyn and why did she only appear at night? Did she really exist or was she a figment of a disturbed mind? What were the illicit rituals taking place at the school? And just what did happen at Elmbridge in the events leading up to ‘the Johnson Incident’?

Chilling, creepy and utterly compelling, THE DEAD HOUSE is one of those very special books that finds all the dark places in your imagination, and haunts you long after you’ve finished reading.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I liked parts of this book. The concept is very interesting and I liked that I couldn’t figure out exactly what was going on in the very beginning of the book–unfortunately, I still couldn’t figure out what was going on well into the book either.

Ever read a book where there are so many different ideas competing for space that none of them really get fully explored? That was what I thought about this. The writing was good, the characters were interesting, but there were just so many different things going on that it all mashed together and became…something. Not something that I could figure out.

This is a rather long book, and in the end, I didn’t really get why things happened as they did or why it required so much space. I didn’t hate this book, but I would say that liking it as a whole would be being a bit generous.

If you enjoy reading very unusual books, then this might be a good one for you to check out.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

Two Years, eight months and twenty-eight days

Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight NightsTwo Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights by Salman Rushdie

In the near future, after a storm strikes New York City, the strangenesses begin. A down-to-earth gardener finds that his feet no longer touch the ground. A graphic novelist awakens in his bedroom to a mysterious entity that resembles his own sub–Stan Lee creation. Abandoned at the mayor’s office, a baby identifies corruption with her mere presence, marking the guilty with blemishes and boils. A seductive gold digger is soon tapped to combat forces beyond imagining.

Unbeknownst to them, they are all descended from the whimsical, capricious, wanton creatures known as the jinn, who live in a world separated from ours by a veil. Centuries ago, Dunia, a princess of the jinn, fell in love with a mortal man of reason. Together they produced an astonishing number of children, unaware of their fantastical powers, who spread across generations in the human world.

Once the line between worlds is breached on a grand scale, Dunia’s children and others will play a role in an epic war between light and dark spanning a thousand and one nights—or two years, eight months, and twenty-eight nights. It is a time of enormous upheaval, where beliefs are challenged, words act like poison, silence is a disease, and a noise may contain a hidden curse.

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Pretty, Pretty words. This author is good at language and has a history of writing some of the most beautifully arranged sentences out there. That happened somewhat in this book as well, but to me, it seemed like there was a lot of effort put into contrasting and a lot less effort put into creating a story that was exciting and readable.

Honestly, there are some really long sentences in this book and sometimes that is okay with me, but for parts of this–they were so long and wordy that I forgot what the author was originally talking about.

There are two stories going on in this book simultaneously and I think it is highly possible(it was for me anyway,) That you will really like one and not find much meaning in the other.

As far as being magical realism, this book pushes the envelope toward fantasy. The world is not exactly what one expects to see in magical realism and one of the main stories revolves around a mythical being.

I didn’t think this was a bad book and I’m sure there are many who will love it, but for me, it was just okay.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

Black Earth by Timothy Snyder

Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and WarningBlack Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning by Timothy Snyder

A brilliant, haunting, and profoundly original portrait of the defining tragedy of our time.

In this epic history of extermination and survival, Timothy Snyder presents a new explanation of the great atrocity of the twentieth century, and reveals the risks that we face in the twenty-first.  Based on new sources from eastern Europe and forgotten testimonies from Jewish survivors, Black Earth recounts the mass murder of the Jews as an event that is still close to us, more comprehensible than we would like to think, and thus all the more terrifying.
The Holocaust began in a dark but accessible place, in Hitler’s mind, with the thought that the elimination of Jews would restore balance to the planet and allow Germans to win the resources they desperately needed.  Such a worldview could be realized only if Germany destroyed other states, so Hitler’s aim was a colonial war in Europe itself.  In the zones of statelessness, almost all Jews died.  A few people, the righteous few, aided them, without support from institutions.  Much of the new research in this book is devoted to understanding these extraordinary individuals.  The almost insurmountable difficulties they faced only confirm the dangers of state destruction and ecological panic.  These men and women should be emulated, but in similar circumstances few of us would do so.
By overlooking the lessons of the Holocaust, Snyder concludes, we have misunderstood modernity and endangered the future.  The early twenty-first century is coming to resemble the early twentieth, as growing preoccupations with food and water accompany ideological challenges to global order.  Our world is closer to Hitler’s than we like to admit, and saving it requires us to see the Holocaust as it was — and ourselves as we are.  Groundbreaking, authoritative, and utterly absorbing, Black Earth reveals a Holocaust that is not only history but warning.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Rarely do I give any book having to do with the Holocaust more than three or four stars, as I usually feel like the information has just been recycled. This book, however, deserves all five stars.

Whether you are an historian or simply have an interest in this subject, ‘Black Earth’ will be very eye opening. In this detailed account, the author offers a broader look at the events leading up to the more commonly discussed and recounted Holocaust.

Instead of starting at the height of the Nazi regime and continuing forward, Timothy Snyder gives his readers a basis of information to help them understand how one event led to another and ultimately changed the face of history.

This is an extremely well-researched, very organised book that will answer your questions and leave you feeling more knowledgeable for having read it. I was greatly impressed by the depth of information available here and the way it was presented.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who wants to know more of the story of the Holocaust and the people affected by it. Very provoking, very interesting.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

Convalescence by Maynard Sims

ConvalescenceConvalescence by Maynard Sims

Who will protect the children?

Fourteen-year-old James has seen his family wiped out by tuberculosis in the England of the 1960s. When he is sent to the country to convalesce with his Uncle Thomas it seems a welcome respite. But his uncle is strange, and clearly has a dark secret. The huge house is secretive too, with whispers and cries in the night. Gradually James meets other children, some real, some apparently ghosts, but all of whom have been hurt by the uncle. Will James be next?

In an eerie novella of repressed depravity, Maynard Sims conjures nightmares from the fears of childhood.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book follows the old style of terror, where things are slowly revealed, allowing the reader to wait in suspense for what is going to happen next. From the beginning it is hinted that there is something strange going on in the large house where the main character has been sent to recover from an illness, but it is not said exactly what.

For the most part, I thought this was a really interesting book with just enough suspense and unusual qualities to keep me excited about turning the pages. It isn’t a terribly long book, but that serves it well. The reader has enough of a chance to get to know the characters, without the length seeming oppressive.

The one thing that bothered me about this book, is that I felt like due to the repeated use of the word “almost,” that things were only kind of happening or about to happen, rather than actually happening. Some examples are “almost palpable,” and “almost tangible.” I like it when my characters just go ahead and do things, rather than when they almost do.

Otherwise, I thought this was a good read and that it was worth the time to check out. Recommended for those who like mysterious, spooky tales.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

the Three-Nine Line by David Freed

The Three-Nine Line (A Cordell Logan Mystery, #4)The Three-Nine Line by David Freed

More than forty years after their release from the notorious “Hanoi Hilton,” three American prisoners of war return to Vietnam to make peace with their most brutal former captor, a guard whom they’ve dubbed, “Mr. Wonderful.” The U.S. State Department hopes reconciliation will help cement a major trade agreement between Washington and the Vietnamese. But when Mr. Wonderful is found murdered, the three ex-POWs are accused of the crime and the multi-billion dollar deal threatens to unravel. Enter pilot, still-aspiring Buddhist, and former military assassin Cordell Logan.

Working with a newly formed covert intelligence unit that answers directly to the White House, Logan is dispatched to Hanoi to identify the real killer as the trade agreement threatens to implode. What he soon uncovers proves to be a vexing and increasingly dangerous mystery. Who really killed the guard and why? Unlocking the answers will test every ounce of Logan’s ingenuity and resolve, while risking his life as never before.

Like its three predecessors in the Cordell Logan mystery/thriller series Flat Spin, Fangs Out, and Voodoo Ridge, The Three-Nine Line is a classic, pulse-pounding page-turner. Legions of loyal readers and critics alike, from Booklist, Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, and Library Journal to Noir Journal and the Associated Press, have hailed the series for its taut writing, finely wrought characters, flashes of wry humor, and full throttle pacing. The Three-Nine Line may well be the best yet.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was thrilled to see another book in this series and it didn’t let me down. If you haven’t started reading these books yet, hurry up and do so, what are you waiting for?

David Freed has brought us another interesting Cordell Logan mystery. The main character has already been through the wringer in the previous books and lived to tell about it, and what the author has in store for him this time around will excite you and make you nervous for him all at the same time.

I loved that Kiddiot made a big appearance at the beginning and that even though the story changed, some of the familiar elements were kept. Reading these books make you feel like you are returning home.

This novel has the perfect measure of danger, intensity and intelligent and quirky writing. Recommended to those who love to live at the edge of their seat.

Looking forward to seeing what David Freed does next.

This review is based on a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

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