Thursday, August 28, 2008

Copper Fire by Suzanne Woods Fisher

In 1945, in the aftermath of World War II, former Resistance worker, Louisa, flees war-ravaged Germany to make a new life for herself in Copper Springs, Arizona. Once there, she falls in love and marries Robert Gordon, the small town’s pastor. Louisa finds herself with a ready made family as Robert has a young deaf son he is raising after a failed marriage and an elderly, persnickety, straight-laced Aunt Martha whom he takes care of.

Their quiet existence is interrupted when Louisa receives notification from the Red Cross that her young cousin Elizabeth has survived Dachau, one of the most brutal concentration camps. As her only living relative, the Red Cross wants her to take responsibility for the orphaned girl. Louisa wonders how the International Red Cross traced her to Copper Springs because she had changed her name and identity upon arrival in the U.S. When she arrives in Germany and attends the Red Cross, her question is answered. It was her former boyfriend, Karl Schneider, now an employee of the Red Cross. Karl recognized Elisabeth and then searched for Louisa.

Louisa and Karl were childhood sweethearts and in love until he betrayed her and her family. The betrayal was so horrendous, Louisa swore never to forgive him. But forgiveness is exactly what Karl seeks. As a means towards making him atone, she offers to forgive him if he tracks down Friedrich Mueller, a Nazi who cheated and embezzled residents of Copper Springs .

When Louisa and Elizabeth return to the U.S., the young girl does not easily settle into her new life. In fact, life with Elizabeth proves very challenging for the Gordon family. She is angry and abused and does not trust easy. It takes all their patience and every shred of love and understanding to help assimilate Elizabeth into a new, safe life. Soon, Louisa learns she is expecting a baby, adding even more to the colourful assortment of family members.

Copper Fire by Suzanne Woods Fisher is the sequel to Copper Star, the recipient of three literary awards by Reader Views. But rest assured, you do not need to read the previous book to understand and enjoy the sequel. The backstory is brilliantly interweaved into the current story and it easily stands alone.

This new inspirational novel by Suzanne Fisher is a fantastic read. With compelling characters, a plot with plenty of twists and turns, and an unforgettable contrast between a quiet peaceful town in the U.S. and a a destroyed Germany, this novel offers something for everyone. A must read historical novel likely destined for more literary awards.

Monday, August 11, 2008

To Dance With Kings by Rosalind Laker

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Jeanne Dremont lives in the shadow of the palace of Versailles. As she lays giving birth to her daughter, a group of drunken young noblemen make their way into her home and witness the birth of her daughter, Marguerite. One picks up the baby and promises to return to her one day. Jeanne believes this is pure destiny. She is certain that Marguerite will one day belong to him. When Marguerite comes of age, the young nobleman returns and Jeanne arranges for her to become his mistress. But the country is plagued by religious turmoil and he is forced to flee the country without Marguerite. Marguerite soon meets and marries Laurent, an architect to the King. She bears him a daughter named Jasmin.

Laurent loves Jasmin, his only child, and there is nothing that he can deny her. Raised in the proximity to the palace, Jasmin ultimately meets the new young King of France. A mutual friendship develops between them. Their closeness comes to the attention of the Deputy Ruler. He forces her to marry a dishonored courtier named Sabatin. e two are banished from court and from Versaille to a secluded country home.

Sabatin is a dark, morose, angry man who blames Jasmin. He is a cruel man who treats her badly and rapes her regularly. Even worse, he keeps her in seclusion, forbiddng any contact between Jasmin and her parents. Years pass and in desperation, Marguerite and Laurent send a painter to her home in the country. Love soon blossoms. The painter cannot stay forever, and he soon must part. Unbeknownst to him, Jasmin is pregnant. Fearful for the life of the baby she carries, she keeps the pregnancy secret from Sabatin. When Jasmin gives birth to a daughter, she sends the child to a a family who lives in the country a comfortable distance away.

Violette grows into a beautiful young woman, angry at Jasmin for depriving her of a more prominent life. Sabatin dies and Jasmin rushes to reclaim her daughter, but Violette has run away from home. Jasmin seeks her daughter, but never finds her. Years thereafter, Jasmin’s banishment is lifted and she is permitted to return to Versaille once more where she finally reunites with her lost daughter, now a woman grown.

Violette has not led an easy life. After a trail of abuse, she became mistress to the king and bore him a child. The King arranged for her to marry an Austrian nobleman, but her new husband refused to accept her baby who she has named Rose. As a last resort, Violette seeks out her mother to hand the child over to her to raise.

Under the loving care of her grandmother, Rose lives a contented life. At the tender age of sixteen, she is commanded to become lady-in-waiting to the new queen, Marie Antoinette. She learns that it was her late father who arranged this for her. When she learns the secret of her true parentage, she blames her grandmother.

Four generations of women live and dance in the shadow of the palace of Versailles. It is an intricately told tale starting with the creation and splendors of the French court and culminating with the turbulence of the French Revolution. The novel is a testament to historical detail and a tribute to the brilliance of author, Rosalind Laker.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The Witch's Trinity by Erika Mailman

In the 16th century, a great famine ravages the town of Tierkinddorf, Germany. As the villagers slowly starve, a ruthless Dominican friar arrives. He has been on a mission, travelling from location to location to town to purge Germany of witches. The villagers are desperate to blame the famine on someone or something.

Gude, an old woman, lives with her only son, Jost the miller, his wife Irmeltrud, and their children Alke and Mattern. Irmeltrud deeply resents having to share what little food they have with her old mother-in-law and is cruel-hearted towards her behind Jost’s back.

Meanwhile, the witch hunt continues and Kunne, the village healer and herbalist and Gude’s dearest friends is accused of witchcraft. She is blamed for turning milk sour and for someone’s hen refusing to lay eggs. Gude can do nothing as she watches her friend burned at the stake on false accusations. And still, the famine continues.
While Jost is away hunting for food with several other men from the village, suspicion and hatred turn and point on Gude, fuelled by the false testimony of her own daughter-in-law, Irmeltrud. The accusation lands Gude in the witch’s tower to await trial. Soon, the witch hunt turns upon Irmeltrud when a barren neighbour blames her for witchery to claim the children as her own.

Sprinkled with elements of paganism, mystical dreams, dementia, and hatred, Erika Mailman explores the effect of starvation and fear upon the human spirit in this marvellous novel about witch trials in the late middle ages. Mailman’s passion for witches and witch trials is born from her own heritage where one of her own ancestors was accused of witchcraft during the early years of American history. A deeply moving book which churns the emotions and keeps you turning the pages.