Wednesday, November 22, 2017

What I'm Reading Wednesday: The Crooked Path by Irma Joubert

Today I finished reading The Crooked Path by Irma Joubert.  It's yet another World War II historical that I've read this year, but this one is very different because there are two settings: Italy and South Africa.  I can't recall ever having read one based in South Africa before, and I enjoyed it because of the unique setting and culture.

According to Goodreads:

As retired physician Lettie Louw looks back upon her life, she recounts her coming of age in WWII-era South Africa in this compelling story of delayed love, loss, and reconciliation.

Lettie Louw is the daughter of the town physician in their South African village. She spends her childhood in the warm African days playing with her friends and being adored by her doting parents. When she becomes a teenager, she experiences her first taste of unrequited romantic love in the form of her best friend’s older brother, De Wet Fourie. When De Wet pursues the beautiful and wealthy Annabelle, Lettie’s dreams are crushed, and she moves to Johannesburg to pursue her studies in medicine.

Life in Johannesburg feels strange to Lettie, and the world around her is in profound upheaval as the Second World War rages. Her feelings for De Wet never waver, and Lettie is heartbroken when he marries another of her childhood friends. Lettie soon meets Marco Romanelli, an Italian immigrant, and they marry and raise two daughters, as the racial and political tensions in South Africa swirl about them.

Lettie never forgets her first love, even as the ravages of time, war, and illness play upon her life and the lives of those she loves. In their later years, Lettie and De Wet are thrown into one another’s company again, and they are given another chance at a life together.

My Review:

Although this book is Lettie's story, a big chunk of it belongs to Marco.  Marco is a brilliant Italian who risks his life and ultimately sacrifices his health for Rachel, his Jewish girlfriend, and her family.  He hides them for years in the Italian Alps before they're found by Nazis and sent to a camp in Northern Italy and eventually to Poland.  Marco's work in the camp's factory damages his lungs, and he suffers from bouts with pneumonia annually.  He eventually leaves Northern Italy's harsh winters and immigrates to South Africa for the climate.  

There are several sections in this novel, and I enjoyed the sections featuring Marco and Lettie together.  Reading about the Afrikaans culture is very interesting, but there isn't as much politics in the book as I anticipated.  One thing that bothers me about the book is that Lettie and her friends seem vapid (even when they were older), focusing way to much on their looks rather than their intelligence (most of them are smart women).  However, Lettie is very brave, and no one's perfect.  I love the faith element in the book, and it's apparent that Irma Joubert is a former history teacher because she inserts a lot of history into not only the plot but the characters' dialogue as well.  She also includes a Cast of Characters, a glossary for words that can't be easily translated from Afrikaans to English, and a bibliography.  I highly recommend this novel if you're looking for WWII fiction with an interesting setting and historical accuracy.

Disclosure:  I received a copy of The Crooked Path from the publisher via TLC Book Tours in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Happy Thanksgiving, My Sweet Lovelies!  Come back early Friday morning for an important Black Friday shopping tip!

Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill

Monday, November 20, 2017

Little Broken Things by Nicole Baart *plus* a Giveaway

Happy Monday, My Lovelies!  I'm thrilled to be the first stop on this tour promoting Nicole Baart's Little Broken Things.  If you're looking for a remarkable, suspenseful book to read during the holidays, your search is over.

According to Goodreads:

An engrossing and suspenseful novel for fans of Liane Moriarty and Amy Hatvany about an affluent suburban family whose carefully constructed facade starts to come apart with the unexpected arrival of an endangered young girl.

I have something for you. When Quinn Cruz receives that cryptic text message from her older sister Nora, she doesn’t think much of it. They haven’t seen each other in nearly a year and thanks to Nora’s fierce aloofness, their relationship consists mostly of infrequent phone calls and an occasional email or text. But when a haunted Nora shows up at the lake near Quinn's house just hours later, a chain reaction is set into motion that will change both of their lives forever.

Nora’s “something” is more shocking than Quinn could have ever imagined: a little girl, cowering, wide-eyed, and tight-lipped. Nora hands her over to Quinn with instructions to keep her safe, and not to utter a word about the child to anyone, especially not their buttoned-up mother who seems determined to pretend everything is perfect. But before Quinn can ask even one of the million questions swirling around her head, Nora disappears, and Quinn finds herself the unlikely caretaker of a girl introduced simply as Lucy.

While Quinn struggles to honor her sister’s desperate request and care for the lost, scared Lucy, she fears that Nora may have gotten involved in something way over her head—something that will threaten them all. But Quinn’s worries are nothing compared to the firestorm that Nora is facing. It’s a matter of life and death, of family and freedom, and ultimately, about the lengths a woman will go to protect the ones she loves.

My review:

I almost read this entire book in one sitting: It.  Is.  That.  Good.  I was completely intrigued with the book's premise (via the Goodreads synopsis) and it didn't disappoint.  The action of the story takes place in less than a week's time (Wednesday through Saturday), from the time Nora sends her sister Quinn the first cryptic text message requesting that Quinn "keep something safe for her" until the emotional conclusion.  What makes this book so incredible are the family dynamics and drama between the sisters and their mother Liz.

The "something" is Everlee, and her story breaks my heart.  Nora is insistent on keeping her safe from one of the most vile predators ever to grace a book's pages.   Quinn loves children, and she wants to teach (her degree is in secondary education), however Quinn is disappointed that she wasn't offered a job at a local preschool.  Although Nora and Quinn have never been close, Nora trusts Quinn with Everlee, insisting that she's "one of us."  This and the fact that Everlee has "Sanford eyes" leads to a couple of misunderstandings.

I enjoyed getting to know Liz; she's much more complex and capable than I thought at the beginning of the story. It's one element that makes this book a compelling read: Nicole Baart gives us information about Liz like peeling and onion.  She removes one layer, and you think you have Liz all figured out until she removes the next one.  Liz is a widow, but her late husband Jack Sr. was such an ass in life that his ghost is all over the place in this book.  Thank goodness that in spite of horrible, predatory men in the book there are a few sweet, kind, loving men, like Quinn's husband Walker, her ex-fiancé Bennett, and Nora's friend, Ethan.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys books with: family drama and dynamics; very well-drawn, complex characters; and suspenseful plots.  I figured out a major plot point early in the book, but it did not impede my enjoyment of this book at all.  Plus, the "After" or epilogue is so brilliant that I smiled all afternoon thinking about it.  It's one of the best-written epilogues I've ever read, and it epitomizes how beauty can stem from little broken things.

Disclosure:  I received a copy of Little Broken Things from the publisher via TLC Book Tours in exchange for a fair and honest review.  And thanks to TLC, I have a copy to giveaway as well.  The giveaway is open to readers living in the United States.

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Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill

Below please find the Goodreads link, purchase links, and links for Nicole Baart's social media:

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Purchase Links

Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble

Nicole Baart’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:

Monday, November 20thThe Sketchy Reader
Tuesday, November 21stFrom the TBR Pile
Tuesday, November 21stKritter’s Ramblings
Wednesday, November 22ndBooks a la Mode – author guest post
Friday, November 24thBooks & Bindings
Friday, November 24thJathan & Heather
Monday, November 27thSnowdrop Dreams of Books
Tuesday, November 28thA Bookish Affair
Wednesday, November 29thReadaholic Zone
Friday, December 1stThe Baking Bookworm
Monday, December 4thKaty’s Library blog and Instagram
Wednesday, December 6thLit Wit Wine Dine
Friday, December 8thMs. Nose in a Book
Monday, December 11thBewitched Bookworms
Monday, December 11thNovel Gossip blog and Instagram
Tuesday, December 12thWest Metro Mommy Reads
Wednesday, December 13thLaura’s Reviews
Monday, December 18thGirls in Books blog and Instagram
Monday, December 18thPatricia’s Wisdom
Wednesday, December 20thThoughts on This ‘n That
Friday, December 22ndNot in Jersey