The Romanov Cross by Robert Masello

Book Description:

Published: March 5, 2013

Format: Audio/Audible

Nearly one hundred years ago, a desperate young woman crawled ashore on a desolate arctic island, carrying a terrible secret and a mysterious, emerald-encrusted cross. A century later, acts of man, nature, and history converge on that same forbidding shore with a power sufficient to shatter civilization as we know it.

Army epidemiologist Frank Slater is facing a court-martial, but after his punishment is mysteriously lifted, Slater is offered a job no one else wants—to travel to a small island off the coast of Alaska and investigate a potentially lethal phenomenon: The permafrost has begun to melt, exposing bodies from a colony that was wiped out by the dreaded Spanish flu of 1918. Frank must determine if the thawed remains still carry the deadly virus in their frozen flesh and, if so, ensure that it doesn’t come back to life.

Frank and his handpicked team arrive by helicopter, loaded down with high-tech tools, prepared to exhume history. The colony, it transpires, was once settled by a sect devoted to the mad Russian monk Rasputin, but there is even more hiding in the past than Frank’s team is aware of. Any hope of success hinges on their willingness to accept the fact that even their cutting-edge science has its limits—and that the ancient wisdom of the Inuit people who once inhabited this eerie land is as essential as any serum. By the time Frank discovers that his mission has been compromised—crashed by a gang of reckless treasure hunters—he will be in a brutal race against time. With a young, strong-willed Inuit woman by his side, Frank must put a deadly genie back in the bottle before all of humanity pays the price.

The Romanov Cross is at once an alternate take on one of history’s most profound mysteries, a love story as unlikely as it is inevitable, and a thriller of heart-stopping, supernatural suspense. With his signature blend of fascinating history and fantastic imagination, critically acclaimed author Robert Masello has once again crafted a terrifying story of past events coming back to haunt the present day . . . and of dark deeds aching to be unearthed.

Review –

“A former Army epidemiologist contends with greedy locals and the harsh Alaskan terrain in order to prevent the recurrence of a deadly pandemic. . . . Masello weaves several disparate genres—medical thriller, historical novel, ghost story—into a coherent whole. A delicious sense of creeping dread permeates the first act, greatly enhanced by its setting in the stark but beautiful landscape of northwestern Alaska. . . . Tense, taut and impossible to put down.”—Kirkus Reviews 

Couldn’t have said it better myself.  Fantastic book !  I definitely be reading more by this author.

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The Cottingley Secret by Hazel Gaynor

Book Description:

Published: August 1, 2017

Format: Audio/OverDrive

The author of The Girl Who Came Home turns the clock back one hundred years to a time when two young girls from Cottingley, Yorkshire, convinced the world that they had done the impossible and photographed fairies in their garden. Now, in her newest novel, international bestseller Hazel Gaynor reimagines their story.

1917… It was inexplicable, impossible, but it had to be true—didn’t it? When two young cousins, Frances Griffiths and Elsie Wright from Cottingley, England, claim to have photographed fairies at the bottom of the garden, their parents are astonished. But when one of the great novelists of the time, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, becomes convinced of the photographs’ authenticity, the girls become a national sensation, their discovery offering hope to those longing for something to believe in amid a world ravaged by war. Frances and Elsie will hide their secret for many decades. But Frances longs for the truth to be told.

One hundred years later… When Olivia Kavanagh finds an old manuscript in her late grandfather’s bookshop she becomes fascinated by the story it tells of two young girls who mystified the world. But it is the discovery of an old photograph that leads her to realize how the fairy girls’ lives intertwine with hers, connecting past to present, and blurring her understanding of what is real and what is imagined. As she begins to understand why a nation once believed in fairies, can Olivia find a way to believe in herself ?

Review –

I would classify book as “historical fiction” because the basic story is true. It’s hard to believe today  in our world of instant gratification, social media, iPhones, and fake news but in 1917 it was a very different time and people needed a distraction from the seriousness of war and hard times and so found it easier to believe in the fairy story and also it happened in England, where fairies, gnomes and “the wee little people” were often discussed.

“In 1917, while the world was in the midst of a war, cousins Frances Griffiths and Elsie Wright staged photographs to make it appear that Frances was surrounded by fairies. Although they never intended for the faked photographs to be seen by anyone outside their family, the photos became famous enough that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle publicly claimed they were real. With so much attention directed toward them, Elsie and Frances promised to keep the truth a secret. One hundred years later, in the present day, Olivia Kavanagh inherits her grandfather’s bookshop in Ireland. But Olivia’s grandfather didn’t just leave her the bookshop—he also left a manuscript written by Frances, and it details exactly how (and more importantly, why) she and Elsie staged their photographs and maintained their hoax for so many years. Olivia has her own troubles to deal with—extracting herself from an unhappy engagement, caring for her ill grandmother, and facing a diagnosis of infertility—but she soon discovers that, as her grandfather told her, stories choose “the right readers at the right time.” Just as Frances realized that people needed to believe in fairies to find hope during WWI, Olivia finds that believing in a little bit of magic helps her reconnect with the woman she used to be. The insight into the true story of the Cottingley fairies is interesting, and it’s easy to understand why two girls might play along with an innocent trick that became a worldwide sensation. Olivia’s struggles are never quite as compelling, and readers may find themselves eager to slip back into the world of the fairies.” from Kirkus Review

It was a joy to read and if you want to read more about the actual story, here is a link complete with the photographs.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cottingley_Fairies

 

Between Shades of Gray by Rita Sepetys

Book Description:

Published: March 22, 2011

Format: Audio/OverDrive

Lina is just like any other fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl in 1941. She paints, she draws, she gets crushes on boys. Until one night when Soviet officers barge into her home, tearing her family from the comfortable life they’ve known. Separated from her father, forced onto a crowded and dirty train car, Lina, her mother, and her young brother slowly make their way north, crossing the Arctic Circle, to a work camp in the coldest reaches of Siberia. Here they are forced, under Stalin’s orders, to dig for beets and fight for their lives under the cruelest of conditions.

Lina finds solace in her art, meticulously–and at great risk–documenting events by drawing, hoping these messages will make their way to her father’s prison camp to let him know they are still alive. It is a long and harrowing journey, spanning years and covering 6,500 miles, but it is through incredible strength, love, and hope that Lina ultimately survives. Between Shades of Gray is a novel that will steal your breath and capture your heart.

Review –

“They took me in my nightgown.” The opening sentence of this superlative first novel by Ruta Sepetys demonstrates the strength of its unembellished language. Thus, 15-year-old Lina Vilkas, along with her mother and younger brother, is deported from her Lithuanian home by the Soviet secret police in 1941, and begins a cattle-car journey through a series of forced-labor camps that will span 12 years and 6,500 miles.

Apart from a few overly dramatic metaphors, Lina recounts her story with a straightforward clarity that trusts readers to summon images of starvation, disease and death, and grounds them in a reality young adults can understand.

As expected in Y.A. fiction, Lina has both a love interest and a special skill. Her relationship with another refugee is one of attraction amid desperation, their physical desire tamped down only by the limits of their emaciated, louse-­ridden bodies. Lina’s talent for drawing likewise plays a role: in her attempts to get a coded message to her father; in the assignments she is given by her Soviet captors for map-­copying and portraiture; in the flashbacks to her life as a promising art student.

The book does not lead us through the entire twelve years of the horrible conditions at the labor camp but does give us a glimpse into the life she had after being freed, and for that I was grateful. Parts were very heart-wrenching and seemed almost to horrible to have really happened .

I truly enjoyed this book but not as much as her second book, Salt to the Sea, which I rated FIVE STARS and think everyone should read. This one too, will leave you thinking for some time to come.

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Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Book Description:

Published: February 2, 2016

 

 

World War II is drawing to a close in East Prussia and thousands of refugees are on a desperate trek toward freedom, many with something to hide. Among them are Joana, Emilia, and Florian, whose paths converge en route to the ship that promises salvation, the Wilhelm Gustloff. Forced by circumstance to unite, the three find their strength, courage, and trust in each other tested with each step closer to safety.

Just when it seems freedom is within their grasp, tragedy strikes. Not country, nor culture, nor status matter as all ten thousand people—adults and children alike—aboard must fight for the same thing: survival.

Told in alternating points of view, this masterful work of historical fiction is inspired by the real-life tragedy that was the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff—the greatest maritime disaster in history. As she did in Between Shades of Gray, Ruta Sepetys unearths a shockingly little-known casualty of a gruesome war, and proves that humanity and love can prevail, even in the darkest of hours.

Review – 

Five-star-feedback-on-oDesk

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Although this book is technically a young adult book ( and I highly recommend it to ALL young adults because they must know what can happen when the person in charge of a country has no respect for human life – they see things like this on television and movies but most of them don’t care enough to learn the truth behind he images) I, as an adult, found it haunting, captivating, heart wrenching and hard to believe. 

I don’t want to give too much away, but all of the main characters in the book do not survive and it broke my heart . I had the audio version and had to turn it off in some places while driving because of the tears forming in my eyes.

It is the best historical fiction that I had read or listened to in a very long time and although the characters were not real  people, I’m fairly certain that out of the ten thousand  people crammed onto the evacuation ship there were stories just like the ones in this book. 

The sinking of the MV Wilhelm Gustloff is the single greatest maritime disaster in history yet, to many, the story remains unknown .It is a poignant, heart-breaking and should be on everyone’s TBR list.

For more information on  Operation Hannibal and this disaster check out the following link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MV_Wilhelm_Gustloff

^Side Note:

I have not read Between Shades of Gray, by this author, mentioned in the blurb above, but I intend to very soon.

Five stars *****

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The Stranger I Married by Sylvia Day

Book Description:

Published: August 28, 2012

EVERY MARRIAGE HAS ITS SURPRISES…

Gray was beautiful before, four years ago when he asked Isabel to wed him in a marriage of convenience. Now there are no words to describe him. He is no longer a boyish rogue, not by any stretch of the imagination, but a tormented man, driven by secrets, silent about what he’s done since he disappeared.

Isabel knew how to handle the reckless youth he’d been, but this new husband of hers… this darkly passionate man is not tamable. Does she dare explore the places inside herself that Gray demands to possess? Does she trust him enough to bare herself completely to a lover who is an irresistible stranger?

Review –

I’m finding out I’m not a fan of historical fiction or at least I haven’t found one that I really like.

This one takes place in England during the 1800’s.

The story line  for this book was okay but very predictable but made bearable because of the hot sexual chemistry between Isabel and Gray. The sex scenes were well done and very explicit. If it’s true that few women allowed themselves the freedom to genuinely feel the passion that comes along with sex in this time period, I don’t know how they stood it.

Communication is key in all things sexual and both characters had to learn that and be able to be honest with one another about their feelings and what they wanted out of sex. Once they had, they were much much happier and very well satisfied.

Good read but the narrator got on my nerves.

Adult

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Cross Bones by Kathy Reichs

When bodies in Montreal are too decayed or in too many pieces, or the cause of death too complex for the coroner’s office, forensic anthropologist Tempe Brennan is called. A seemingly routine examination of a gunshot victim leads Tempe to a case that will take her from Canada to Israel in search of the bones the victim may have been killed for. Soon, the ancient and mysterious bones take center stage as Tempe, along with Detective Andrew Ryan and archeologist Jake Drum, try to learn who this ancient skeleton really was so that no one else will have to die trying to steal or hide it.

At the center of the story are several theories about the life of Jesus as well as the details about the Jewish freedom fighters at Masada: Did Jesus survive the crucifixion and live many years afterward? Did he have a family with many siblings or perhaps children of his own? Did he actually end up at Masada? Reichs’s story is not really like THE DA VINCI CODE although it skirts around some of the same theories. In fact, it actually refers to Dan Brown’s novel a few times. Reichs is instead interested in ancient history as known through anthropology and archaeology, and the murders are a way to get us all to Israel and give urgency to the quest to understand the skeleton.

Fans of murder mysteries, detective fiction and forensic drama, as well as those interested in religious fiction, all will find something to enjoy in CROSS BONES. The forensic anthropology aspect is detailed without being very gruesome or overly scientific. It is a fun and interesting whodunit with religious implications but without being preachy or even very religious in nature itself. The writing is solid and the pace is just right, perhaps a bit slower and less dramatic than similar novels or even Reichs’s previous Tempe Brennan books. Tempe Brennan is a likeable and, for the most part, realistic character.

Reichs bases some of her story on actual archaeological finds (and frauds) in Israel, giving just enough truth to make it quite interesting and unique. She references the work of archaeologist James Tabor as well as the controversial James Ossuary, supposedly discovered by Oded Golan in Israel several years ago. Indeed, you can find a plethora of information about many of the artifacts, archeology and theories she refers to online or in the library.

Review-

This is the first book by Kathy Reichs that I have read (or listened to) and I love it from start to finish. The characters seem very real and the interaction of the main ones made for a wonderful and pleasant reading (and listening)experience.

  I think I will have to find more Tempe Brennan books to add to my collection.

 If you like a good murder mystery with some historical fiction thrown in-give this a try.

 

 

Nora, Nora by Anne Rivers Siddons

Synopsis

It is summer, 1961, and Lila Lee Bayliss, motherless since birth and now 13, doesn’t quite know what to make of Nora Findlay. Nora smokes, swears, wears short shorts, and when she listens, she looks at you as if she’s never heard a human voice before. She also laughs a lot, something that’s been missing for a long time in the Bayliss household, and she seems to have done just about everything fun there is to do in the world. Soon, even Lila’s somber father is humming while he shaves. When Nora takes a teaching job at the local high school, it seems like she might stay on in Lytton forever, despite her outlandish ways and the snide comments made about her by some of the neighbors. As time foes on, Lila begins to realize that underneath Nora’s high-spirited, feisty façade, something is troubling her, something from her past. And though Nora has tried to run away from the life she had before, a secret follows her, on that is so shocking, it will stun the residents of this small, segregated town and forever change the life of young Lila. The mesmerizing story of an independent woman caught in a provincial place and time, Nora, Nora is destined to become Anne Rivers Siddons’s

Review –

This is a historical fiction story that is character driven with not a lot of action.   Fast paced and a good read.

 



The Man Who Never Returned by Peter Quinn

Product Description

From Booklist

In August 1930, New York State Supreme Court Judge Joseph Crater left a Manhattan restaurant and was never seen again. Less than a year after the crash of the stock market, Crater became the embodiment of the fears, and perhaps the frail hopes, of Americans facing the Great Depression and soon to face WWII and the cold war. Was Crater rubbed out by the Mob, or did he simply disappear to find happiness as an ordinary Joe? Twenty-five years later, a Rupert Murdoch–like newspaper publisher hires private investigator Fintan Dunne to do what the NYPD couldn’t do: solve the mystery of Crater’s disappearance. Freely mixing history, mystery, and novelistic license, Quinn offers a noirish tale of Tammany Hall politics, sex, crime, Broadway moguls, and cops, populated by more than a dozen interesting characters. Dunne’s detection seems to come a bit too easily, but Quinn’s rich, insightful, evocative descriptions of New York, both in Crater’s time and in 1955, will certainly please fans of historical crime novels. –Thomas Gaughan
 
 
 
Review-
 
My husband loves historical fiction and ordered this book for himself but was reading another book when it arrived so he offered it to me.  Normally this wouldn’t have been a  book I would have chosen but told him I’d read it and I found the first two-thirds a bit slow  and wordy but the last third was great. It is an amazing story of the disappearance of a Judge in New York in 1930 and  not even a trace has ever been found.  If you like mysteries and/or historical fiction, give this one a try.