Publisher: Doubleday

+Blog Book Tour+ Love & Treasure by Ayelet Waldman

Posted Thursday, 3 July, 2014 by jorielov , , , , 3 Comments

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Love & Treasure by Ayelet Waldman

Love & Treasure by Ayelet Waldman

Published By: Alfred A. Knopf (),
an imprint of DoubleDay and part of Random House Publishing Group 1 April, 2014
Official Author Websites: Site | Twitter | Facebook
Available Formats: Hardcover, Audiobook, Ebook Page Count: 334

Converse on Twitter: #LoveandTreasure & #LoveandTreasureBlogTour

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Acquired Book By: I was selected to be a tour stop on the “Love & Treasure” virtual book tour through HFVBT: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours. I received a complimentary hardback copy of the book direct from the publisher Alfred A. Knof, in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.comBook Synopsis:

A spellbinding new novel of contraband masterpieces, tragic love, and the unexpected legacies of forgotten crimes, Ayelet Waldman’s Love and Treasure weaves a tale around the fascinating, true history of the Hungarian Gold Train in the Second World War.

In 1945 on the outskirts of Salzburg, victorious American soldiers capture a train filled with unspeakable riches: piles of fine gold watches; mountains of fur coats; crates filled with wedding rings, silver picture frames, family heirlooms, and Shabbat candlesticks passed down through generations. Jack Wiseman, a tough, smart New York Jew, is the lieutenant charged with guarding this treasure—a responsibility that grows more complicated when he meets Ilona, a fierce, beautiful Hungarian who has lost everything in the ravages of the Holocaust. Seventy years later, amid the shadowy world of art dealers who profit off the sins of previous generations, Jack gives a necklace to his granddaughter, Natalie Stein, and charges her with searching for an unknown woman—a woman whose portrait and fate come to haunt Natalie, a woman whose secret may help Natalie to understand the guilt her grandfather will take to his grave and to find a way out of the mess she has made of her own life.

A story of brilliantly drawn characters—a suave and shady art historian, a delusive and infatuated Freudian, a family of singing circus dwarfs fallen into the clutches of Josef Mengele, and desperate lovers facing choices that will tear them apart—Love and Treasure is Ayelet Waldman’s finest novel to date: a sad, funny, richly detailed work that poses hard questions about the value of precious things in a time when life itself has no value, and about the slenderest of chains that can bind us to the griefs and passions of the past.


Praise on behalf of the novel:

“Love and Treasure is something of a treasure trove of a novel. Its beautifully integrated parts fit inside one another like the talismanic pendant/ locket at the heart of several love stories. Where the opening chapters evoke the nightmare of Europe in the aftermath of World War II with the hallucinatory vividness of Anselm Kiefer’s disturbing canvases, the concluding chapters, set decades before, in a more seemingly innocent time in the early 20th century, are a bittersweet evocation, in miniature, of thwarted personal destinies that yet yield to something like cultural triumph. Ayelet Waldman is not afraid to create characters for whom we feel an urgency of emotion, and she does not resolve what is unresolvable in this ambitious, absorbing and poignantly moving work of fiction.”
—Joyce Carol Oates

Author Biography:

Ayelet Waldman Photo Credit: Reenie Raschke
Photo Credit: Reenie Raschke

Ayelet Waldman is the author of the newly released Love and Treasure (Knopf, January 2014), Red Hook Road and The New York Times bestseller Bad Mother: A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities and Occasional Moments of Grace. Her novel Love and Other Impossible Pursuits was made into a film starring Natalie Portman. Her personal essays and profiles of such public figures as Hillary Clinton have been published in a wide variety of newspapers and magazines, including The New York Times, Vogue, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal. Her radio commentaries have appeared on “All Things Considered” and “The California Report.”

For more information please visit Ayelet’s website . Her missives also appear on Facebook and Twitter.

Her books are published throughout the world, in countries as disparate as England and Thailand, the Netherlands and China, Russia and Israel, Korea and Italy.

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My Review of Love & Treasure:

Of all the ways in which I had an illusion of how this novel would open and begin, I think the first paragraph for me was an eye opener, as it did not quite match where my mind felt this novel would start. The rest of the first page was a bit jolting as well, as I found I had trouble finding my feet in the narrative. Where I thought the narrative voice would be empathic and soft, I found myself reading a sharpened edge of sound and vision. When Waldman starts to focus on the heart of the story centered around the lost possessions and valuable heirlooms of the Jewish families from World War II, her writing finds its clarity and knits together in a way that is a bit more fluid for me than the opening bits of dialogue being exchanged between a grand-daughter and her grand-father. She writes more into the historical bits than the everyday moments, which lends me to thinking her writing voice is hitched inside the historical elements to where she could write full-on historicals without the modern era attached.

The most tender scenes were exchanged between Jack Wiseman and Ilona Jakab, as each of them during the war were attempting to keep their sanity intact by not losing their humanity. Wiseman deferred to showing kindness during the rehousing of those who were returning from internment camps, and Ilona was electing to show her true strength and spirit, but deflecting her fears as she interacted with Wiseman. I appreciated how they met quite accidentally due to the train Wiseman was in charge of shifting its cargo to a warehouse. It reminded me a bit of a ‘meet cute’ in motion picture, despite the tragedy of their paths crossing during the Allied Occupation of Hungry. They each took each other by a surprise which refreshed their spirits and gave a kind grace to their situations.

I kept finding myself falling in and out of step with this story, because I am not one for crude humour nor crude expressions, and as I tried to continue to read the story with an open mind towards the time and era the story is set, I kept finding myself wishing Waldman had chosen different ways to express what was happening. I have read plenty of stories set during both World Wars, and the writers were not buckling down to this level of bare boned narration. The bits and bobbles I appreciated were starting to grow pale against the increasing tide of what either made me flinch or had my eyes adverting reading the paragraphs completely.

For me the story is told in a bit of a gritty and stark reality vein of dialogue and narrative voice; which made this difficult to read for my own readings tend to be towards a different vein of tact. I appreciate stories set during the wars, as war dramas and war romances are ones I tend to gravitate towards, but there is something different inside this one. I felt there was an undertone that I could not quite put my finger on but it wasn’t something that I felt I wanted to continue to read. I left the story fully intact without reaching the middle because to do so would have not proved enjoyable. I believe this story is best for readers who can appreciate the tone and dictation of action with a language presence that would not affect someone as much as it did me. I was truly disappointed as I was hoping to discover a historical mystery inside of a war drama; leading me through passages of research and provenance of personal property and giving me a historical epic of humanity.

Fly in the Ointment:

There are times where I give a pass on vulgarity but in this particular instance, the inclusion of strong language does not sit well with me because I could think of at least a handful of expressions or phrases to elicit the same manner of empathsis as found on page 6. The most obvious word instead is ‘muddled’. I am not an advocate for vulgarity in literature, and the few times I have given leeway to an author’s choice of inclusion is few and far between; the reasons were valid and if you go through the “Topics, Subjects, & Genres” cloud in the lower sidebar area of my blog, you will discover the reasons why I find strong language offensive and why in certain instances I did not wrinkle a brow over them. This novel kept pushing my envelope for tolerance.

I happen to know a bit about the setting of the story (the state of Maine) and what disrupted me a bit were the observations knitted into the backdrop, most especially about Bangor. I found myself with conflicting information, to where I was thinking to myself, that’s not true! The way in which Maine is represented in the book and specifics such as only one restaurant is open in Bangor during the long Winter months, in all honesty surprised me? I felt like there was a ‘fictional’ representation of Maine happening in this book, rather than an honest window into life in Maine.

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.comThis book review is courtesy of: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

Virtual Road Map of “Love & Treasure” Blog Tour:

Love & Treasure Virtual Tour with HFVBTs

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.comas I am happily honoured to be a blog tour hostess for:

Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours - HFVBTPlease visit my

Bookish Events badge created by Jorie in Canva

to stay in the know for upcoming events!

Previously I  hosted Ms. Waldman in an interview attached to this tour!

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Love and Treasure (book trailer) by Ayelet Waldman via KnopfDoubleday

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{SOURCES: Book cover for “Love & Treasure”, Author Biography, Book Synopsis, and the quoted praise by Joyce Carol Oates  were provided by HFVBT – Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours and used with permission. Author Interview badge provided by Parajunkee to give book bloggers definition on their blogs.   Post dividers badge by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination. The book trailer for “Love & Treasure” via KnopfDoubleday had either URL share links or coding which made it possible to embed this media portal to this post, and I thank them for the opportunity to share more about this novel and the author who penned it. Bookish Events badge created by Jorie in Canva.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2014.

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Posted Thursday, 3 July, 2014 by jorielov in 20th Century, Aftermath of World War II, Art, Blog Tour Host & Reviewer, Book Trailer, Fly in the Ointment, Historical Fiction, Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours, History, Judaism in Fiction, Maine, The World Wars, Vulgarity in Literature

+Blog Book Tour+ The Shadow Queen by Sandra Gulland

Posted Friday, 25 April, 2014 by jorielov , , 2 Comments

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The Shadow Queen by Sandra Gulland

The Shadow Queen Virtual Book Tour with France Book Tours

Published By: DoubleDay (), 8 April, 2014
Official Author Websites: Site | Twitter | Facebook | Pin(terest Boards | GoodReads
Available Formats: Hardback & Ebook
Page Count: 336

Converse on Twitter: #TheShadowQueen & #FranceBT

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.comAcquired Book By: I was selected to be a tour stop on the “The Shadow Queen” virtual book tour through France Book Tours. I received a complimentary ARC copy of the book direct from the publisher Doubleday, in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

First Impression of the Novel:

What appeals to me about this novel is the intense study of history during a time in France I do know anything about! I love well researched historical fiction stories and this one, appears to be one that I will have trouble putting down!

The Shadow Queen by Sandra Gulland

From the author of the beloved Josephine B. Trilogy, comes a spellbinding novel inspired by the true story of a young woman who rises from poverty to become confidante to the most powerful, provocative and dangerous woman in the 17th century French court: the mistress of the charismatic Sun King.

1660, Paris

Claudette’s life is like an ever-revolving stage set. From an impoverished childhood wandering the French countryside with her family’s acting troupe, Claudette finally witnesses her mother’s astonishing rise to stardom in Parisian theaters. Working with playwrights Corneille, Molière and Racine, Claudette’s life is culturally rich, but like all in the theatrical world at the time, she’s socially scorned.

A series of chance encounters pull Claudette into the alluring orbit of Athénaïs de Montespan, mistress to Louis XIV and reigning “Shadow Queen.” Needing someone to safeguard her secrets, Athénaïs offers to hire Claudette as her personal attendant.

Enticed by the promise of riches and respectability, Claudette leaves the world of the theater only to find that court is very much like a stage, with outward shows of loyalty masking more devious intentions. This parallel is not lost on Athénaïs, who fears political enemies are plotting her ruin as young courtesans angle to take the coveted spot in the king’s bed.

Indeed, Claudette’s “reputable” new position is marked by spying, illicit trysts and titanic power struggles. As Athénaïs, becomes ever more desperate to hold onto the King’s favor, innocent love charms move into the realm of deadly Black Magic, and Claudette is forced to consider a move that will put her own life—and the family she loves so dearly—at risk.

Set against the gilded opulence of a newly-constructed Versailles and the blood-stained fields of the Franco-Dutch war, THE SHADOW QUEEN is a seductive, gripping novel about the lure of wealth, the illusion of power, and the increasingly uneasy relationship between two strong-willed women whose actions could shape the future of France.

Sandra Gulland
Photo Credit: James Brylowski http://www.jamesbrylowski.com/

{: Author Biography :}

Sandra Gulland is the author of the Josephine B. Trilogy, internationally best-selling novels about Josephine Bonaparte which have been published in over seventeen countries. Her forth novel, Mistress of the Sun , set in the 17th-century court of the Sun King, was also a bestseller and published internationally. Her most recent novel is The Shadow Queen, also set in the era of the Sun King, published in April of 2014 by HarperCollins in Canada and Doubleday in the U.S.

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.comGetting to Know Author Sandra Gulland

via Simon & Schuster

A novel befit a bookish soul:

The little extra inclusions within the scope of a novel is what set my mind aflame with gratitude for the author who gave us such a lovely little extra glimpse into their creative process. This comes to the reader in all different ways and mannerisms, but inside The Shadow Queen there are the delights of finding a Dedication to Ms. Gulland’s father who inspired character quirks to nestle inside the cast of characters; a lovely disclosure of contents set to the tone and pitch of a play on the stage; and a Historical Note to elude to the greater circle of knowledge we ought to realise about 17th Century France on the expeditious hour of our arrival in the story. A bemuseful quotation taunts us with a fevering of expectation of where we might be led.

In the back of the novel, one discovers An Author’s Note of which I hesitated to read ahead of the story and thus kept my curiosity at bay ever justly muted; a Glossary of Terminology & an index blueprint of currencies. A full list of the Cast of Characters replete with a biographical sketch on each of their behalf (I had to wink a smile seeing this section!) turnt out the Appendixes as my copy is a bound galley remiss of the Author’s Acknowledgement Notes and Author Biography.

And, here is what I happily discovered after the story absorbed into my mind’s eye and found a cosy place to occupy my wonton thoughts on its behalf. Each time young Gaston is portrayed, I  could not help but notice he was either Down Syndrome or had a variation of autism. By all counts, Gaston teaches humility, pure joy, and an appreciation for kindness. He is written well for the era in which the story lives, but I wish I had found a bit more about him in the Cast of Characters Appendix. Gulland goes a step further to explain the differences between fictional accounts and the real-life histories of the main protagonists which I was thankful to see were included in the ARC!

My Review of The Shadow Queen:

We enter Claudette’s life at the turbulent hour of her family arriving on the larkspur hope of gaining a performance for the King as he is sequestered away from Paris. Her young heart is not only full of pride on behalf of her family’s innovative spirit of self-sufficiency but in her abilities to walk a line of honour as she has entered into a time of shifting away from her girlhood and into womanhood. Her maternal affection towards her dear brother Gaston is as honest as her approach to her theatrical craft of living. A girl her age is not oft full of grace towards a sibling nor one who has a bit of a disadvantage in how he observes and learns about the world. She draws out his innocent love of others and of life itself.

Gulland has stitched into the subtext a tone of 17th Century living, striving to give the modern reader a point-of-reference whenceforth to deposit them into the time and setting of where The Shadow Queen evolves into being. A bittersweet image of a dichotomy of difference between the caste sets of class and how the struggles of the commoners were out of alignment with the aristocrats who true to their nature did not feel empathy of their misfortunes. A barring of diffidence set against the rippling tides of mistrust from the Crown downward. Theatre in the 17th Century was such a curious period of ingenuity, in how troupes brought stories to life and kept the audience animated by their efforts. Even the holiday celebrations of Mardis Gras were an elaborate display of theatrical masking of character performance! The only downside is how horridly misunderstood and mistreated the players of the stage were often attacked by those of the upper classes. Curiously to me, was the belief in their falsehood performance was a direct influence against faith and how being an actor was in some reference a defiance of God. Historical stories such as The Shadow Queen bring into light the superstitious ways of the past and how perception can alter a person’s ability to thrive or besotted by poverty.

Caught in a world of varying influences and consequences, Claudette finds that her best method of advancing is keeping herself hugged to the shadows of those of whom she’d envision walking alongside in full equality. It is in the shadows she starts to see how she can alter her stars and re-align her position to lead a comfortable life compared to her poverty stricken childhood, yet in order to do so, she has to shake off the disillusioned reality of not always being in agreement with the practiced actions of the aristocracy.

Gulland split her novel into separate acts as though we were attending a large production set to stage rather than walking through a portal leading to the court in 17th Century Paris!  Her deft hand to illuminate the delicacy needed to make bold choices and daring a glimpse at the consequences, her story propels you forward into a world glinted by masquerade.The masks are both illusionary and tangibly real, as they belie the front of which the heart attempts to dis-sway.

The agility of theatre to be an elixir of reincarnated joy out of the sorrow acts of grief, and the metamorphosis of personality entertain the notion of not allowing our past to ever be a vindication of our future. The theatre heals the soul by igniting the spirit back into the caress of emotion and of humanity dignity. I found Claudette to be a woman who always tried to listen to her heart and to honour her family by standing by them at all costs. Her own life and dreams were put on hold in order to keep the balance. The position Athénaïs puts her in is not one that can be condoned because she was only thinking of her own selfish desires and not the welfare of her confidante. I applauded her small successes and moments of feeling truly free as herself, as she never could quite break out of the pattern her life had taken. The most happiness she always protected and yielded to were wrapped inside the cosy confines of family. As true freedom is always hinged to love and is set free on the wings of hope.

 

Claudette’s self-confidence was her best gift:

And, yet it was one of her virtues that nearly overtook her ability to perform, not merely on the stage, but whilst she was out with others. She faltered a bit when she was presented with a situation outside her comfort zone, but she rebounded by adhering to the lessons of her father and in the notion that even if your cast out from what is familiar, you can find common ground. I appreciated seeing how she was keen to find an anchoring with her father’s whispered truths and how these truths guided her throughout her life after he had long since passed.

Claudette has given me a pause and urge to speak the expression “mon dieu!” As it is quite a fitting expression for a variety of situations! Most especially a blessed way of showing exasperation! Gulland is most surely a wordsmith in arms, as she has given such wonderful forgotten words and phrases a shining light of candescence! Words you must allow soak into for a bit of measure and absorb back to a time when the spoken language was slightly more curling of eloquence than our modern dialect has befallen!

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The Shadow Queen Book Trailer via KnopfDoubleDay

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Virtual Road Map for “The Shadow Queen” Blog Tour:

The Shadow Queen Virtual Book Tour with France Book Tours

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Please take note of the Related Articles as they were hand selected due to being of cross-reference importance in relation to this book review. This applies to each post on my blog where you see Related Articles underneath the post. Be sure to take a moment to acknowledge the further readings which are offered.

Be sure to scope out upcoming tours I will be hosting with:

France Book Tours

on my Bookish Events page!
Be sure to drop back on 30 April for my Author Interview with Ms. Gulland!
Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.com
On Beginning to Write my Next Novel by Sandra Gulland via Sandra Gulland
{ of which I presume was the jump-start of “The Shadow Queen” }

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{SOURCES: Cover art of “The Shadow Queen”, book synopsis, author photograph of Ms. Gulland, author biography, and the tour host badge were all provided by France Book Tours and used with permission. The book trailer by KnopfDoubleDay & personal video by Sandra Gulland had either URL share links or coding which made it possible to embed this media portal to this post, and I thank them for the opportunity to share more about this novel and the author who penned it. Blog Tour badge provided by Parajunkee to give book bloggers definition on their blogs. Tweets were able to be embedded by the codes provided by Twitter. Post dividers by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination. France Book Tours badge created by Jorie in Canva.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2014.

Related Articles:

Claude de Vin des Oeillets – (en.wikipedia.org)

Claude de Vin des Oeillets – (thisisversaillesmadame.blogspot.com)

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Posted Friday, 25 April, 2014 by jorielov in 17th Century, ARC | Galley Copy, Biographical Fiction & Non-Fiction, Blog Tour Host & Reviewer, Book Trailer, Claude de Vin des Oeillets, Clever Turns of Phrase, France, France Book Tours, French Literature, Geographically Specific, Historical Fiction, Interviews Related to Content of Novel, Passionate Researcher, Sociological Behavior, Wordsmiths & Palettes of Sage

+Blog Book Tour+ A Star for Mrs. Blake by April Smith

Posted Wednesday, 22 January, 2014 by jorielov , , , , 1 Comment

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A Star for Mrs. Blake by April Smith

A Star for Mrs. Blake by April Smith

Published By: Alfred A. Knopf,
an imprint of DoubleDay and part of Random House Publishing Group,
14 January 2014
Official Author Websites: Facebook | Twitter | Site
Converse on Twitter: #AStarForMrsBlake
OR Tweet @AprilSmithBooks

Available Formats: Hardback and E-Book
Page Count: 352

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.comAcquired Book By:

I was selected to be a stop on “A Star for Mrs. Blake” Virtual Book Tour, hosted by TLC Book Tours in which I received a complimentary ARC direct from the publisher Alfred A. Knopf in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

Inspired to Read:

Apparently, 1929 was far more historic than I ever imagined possible!!  My own family went through the collapse of the market, the death of my great grandmother’s beloved husband and the Depression,  yet sadly few of the stories of that era were passed down! This is a unique chance for me to not only learn more about the late 20s, but to see how the lives of the mothers of fallen soldiers were knit together! Its a beautiful arc of a storyline! I am especially keen on the lives of military families, as not only are we honoured to have servicemen and women serve our country with such sacrificial hearts, but I have had members of my own family serve in different generations. Including a civilian grandfather, a Navy grandfather who went through Normandy & Japan, as well as a USO dancing & singing Aunt who kept the liveliness and joy alive and well on the dance floor! The endurance of great loss and the sympathies of those we may never know the full story of, knows no bounds. We are always blessed with a mirth of grace in acknowledging those who have walked before us and those who gave more than most. We are indebted to all who serve in the name of peace and goodwill.

There is a beautiful testament of Ms. Smith’s approach on writing on her website, whereupon she endeavours to explain to readers the motivation and the inspiration behind creating the stories you find in not only her novels, but all novels in which the writer left a piece of themselves behind!

I volunteer to give back to our deployed servicemen and women each chance I can, as a small measure of gratitude for how blessed I am for their service. I hope to extend my abilities to allow more men and women of the armed services know how loved and honoured they are by the families who might not have active heroes in their lives, but who cherish the ability to lift the spirits of those who do!

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World War I | Mums of the Fallen Soldiers:

I smiled inwardly seeing the setting of Cora Blake’s story was set on an isolating island off the Coast of Maine! I instinctively knew a bit about what I would be finding inside as her story would be laid bare for all of us to absorb, resonate internally, and appreciate on such a deep level of sincerity. Mrs. Blake might be a fictional character in a story which draws a breath of clarity and light on living American Gold Star Mothers; but she is as real to me as though she were able to draw breath! Her determined spirit of plucky spunk doesn’t surprise me being she’s a Mainer! In Maine, there is a living code of not only seeking to appreciate life as its being lived, but to live well with what you have, and find the everyday joys to not only sustain you but to carry you forward through the adversities life is surely going to bring! I was most delighted in seeing the true “Maine spirit” threaded throughout the opening chapters, as Smith allows us this curious window of understanding Mainers from a singular focus of their lives turnt inward and reflective.

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“They Shall Live” a clip of the documentary of American Gold Star Mothers
by They Shall Live

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They not only make do and make good on what they have on hand, they have this determination inside their bones to not allow the worst of what life can bring to them hold them down for very long. I think it was the perfect metaphor of spirit to launch a story of the insurmountable strength it takes for all mothers of fallen soldiers to emerge out of the swallows of grief and realise that they not only have a heap of self-worth to give back to others’ but they can find honour and respect for their fallen children in the eyes of those of us who support them from afar. I am ever so thankful tonight to find that the organisation which led the World War I mothers to France to visit their sons graves is still very active in present day! What greater blessing than to be surrounded by other mothers who can directly understand the loss and the pain of having a child pass on from this world at such a young age. Grief is better when shared as it ebbs away the darkness and allows the light to be reflected back in. Memories which were once difficult to process and accept, I would imagine start to bubble back to life, drawing smiles and fierce hugs from all who listen. Everyone has a story to share, because each of us is writing our stories each day we live. We must not allow those stories of the soldiers become forgotten in the annals of time.

I am hopeful as this book gains momentum and exposure, it will alight into the hands of all the Mums who have given the greatest gift: their sons and daughters who elected to fight for our rights of freedom. They walked through their children’s service, fully equal to the emotions and the experiences, as Mums are always instinctively connected to their children. Let us give gratitude to their strength, their courage, and their ability to find each other to help others carry-on when they felt their grief would overtake their beings. Let us remember to shine our internal light on those who feel as though we are not even aware of their loss.

My Review of A Star for Mrs. Blake:

A Star for Mrs. Blake opens by introducing you to Mrs. Cora Blake, the mother of a soldier who died during World War I in France. She’s on the brink of having to decide what is the best resting place for her son,… France or America!? The resounding response deep within her is to allow him the freedom of choosing to lay to rest in the country and battlefield where he was attempting to keep everyone’s liberties and freedoms intact. He chose to be brave and to allow courage to help him forge through all doubt in order to serve in a war he may not survive. His Mum, Mrs. Blake is the cornerstone character who acts as a catalyst who brings everyone else together in her group of ‘pilgrims’ sponsored by the US government to give them a first class tour of Paris as well as the French countryside. It is through this hodgepodge group of women she develops a spontaneous sisterhood bond.

Mrs. Russell the proud Southern mama who doesn’t trust people easily, Kate the bold Irishwoman with the brooding family, and Minnie the Jewish lady who walked with a proud countenance. Then, there was the benefactor of the rail-line which brought Cora into Boston down from Bangor, Mrs. Olsen! Each of the women had a colourful family life as much as experiences to fill your ear over a hearty cuppa tea! The sad part is prior to boarding the ship setting sail for France, Mrs. Russell was mistaken for another Mrs. Russell and was forced to switch ships. Each of the mothers start to re-live different memories of their children, and of the prejudices they might have faced in life. The memories start to trigger and set-off moments of high-octane drama which starts to affect the tone of the trip. I knew at some point there would be a shift in the emotional keel, but some of the shiftings were brought on by secondary characters or bystanders.

In the backdrop, you have the men assigned to the whole affair itself, the military overseers who are worried the mothers and widows might not be able to handle the overseas crossing much less the rigors of the experience itself! I found the back-story of the planners to be a bit hysterical, as if a mother could find the courage to bury their sons ahead of their living years exulted, I do believe they had the strength necessary to carry them across the North Atlantic! Sometimes I think certain men do not realise how much women have to constantly dig in their heels and do things they may not foresee where their internal strength arises from but they can draw on it as though it is a life-force of its own.

As with most journeys that we find ourselves taking in life, it’s very rarely the destination which is the key component of our trip. As these women journey back to say a final farewell to their sons, it’s what they find inside themselves and in each other that has more of an effect on them personally. They weren’t expecting to live half a lifetime in their wanderings through France, but it’s within those wanderings greater truths started to emerge and come into the light. This is a story for anyone who has been touched by war and loss. For giving a voice to those who anguish over the tragedy as much as try to make peace with the dead. There are moments inside the story where Smith doesn’t shy away from the harsher realities each of her characters need to face head-on. She allows the reader to take the story as far as they are willing to go.

Style of Ms. Smith’s writing:

AprilSmith_authorSmith is a screenwriter in her other life by day, where she knits together stories set to an entirely different pace than her mysteries of Ana Grey! She has the blessing of studying the craft of writing through different facets of integrity and design. Using a sharp lens of carving out the bits and bobbles of the human heart as she endears to convey the poetic narratives which bring A Star for Mrs. Blake fully to life! She allures you with the gentle gliding hand of walking alongside Mrs. Blake as she goes about her everyday joys and obstacles. You feel ‘inserted’ into her life as though you’ve become a participant rather than a mere observer, and for this, I credit to the styling of story-telling in which Smith has etched into the novel. This is one aspect of telling stories by screen and by motion pictures I can attest to having a deep appreciation and preference of passion! Throughout different blog posts I have alluded to my passion for motion pictures, as much as how my tweets of late (the past nine weeks!) have reinstated this fact quite keenly! There is the ability for a viewer to feel as though they have abandoned their own living reality and exchanged it out to live inside the shoes of a character they have only just become acquainted with… compelled to see, hear, feel, and visionalise everything the character is going through. In this way, motion pictures and novels are entwined together, because it’s the heart of a solidly constructed narrative in spilt words on a page that can wring out such a hearty connection to the reader as the screenwriter can bleed out our emotions by how the story evolves through the actors who perform.

A Star for Mrs. Blake is an uplifting narrative on how even during our greatest losses, we can overtake our fears and re-discover hidden joys in a life we felt we could never again be surprised with a smile of gladness! She even thought to include the adage of ‘going up to Portland’ rather than ‘down’ as Mainers give directions by road via the nautical ques of the sea! In direct reference to a passage which explains how you go ‘up’ in order to ‘go’ down in a southerly direction!

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.comInspired to Share:

To bring forward the extraordinary lives of those who serve and sacrifice and of whom are brought to the forefront of our minds throughout A Star for Mrs. Blake. This is a film of interviews and memories stitched together by heart and soul of the Mums who have lost their sons and daughters. They shine such a powerful light on the human condition towards enduring the unfathomable in order to see the light of the approachable. Those mothers who have found the American Gold Stars group, I can only imagine found new footing in being able to light small candles towards recognition of their children’s achievements as well as stirring a social conscience towards acceptance that for each battle we fight, there are losses who deserve to be known and held in thought. Secured in our resolute resolve to not merely carry-on but to live onwards through the dedicated service of those we shall never meet.

American Gold Star Mothers by Elizabeth Shaw

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.comThe “A Star for Mrs. Blake” Virtual Book Tour Roadmap:

This post marks my first role as tour hostess with:

TLC Book Tours | Tour Host

Be sure to scope out my Bookish Upcoming Events to mark your calendars!!

{SOURCES: Cover art of “A Star for Mrs. Blake” as well as April Smith’s photograph, and the logo badge for TLC Book Tours were all provided by TLC Book Tours and used with permission. The clip of the documentary “They Shall Live” and the “American Gold Star Mothers” video had either URL share links or coding which made it possible to embed this media portal to this post, and I thank them for the opportunity to share more about this novel and the author who penned it. Blog tour badge provided by Parajunkee to give book bloggers definition on their blogs. Post dividers by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2014.

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Posted Wednesday, 22 January, 2014 by jorielov in 20th Century, American Gold Star Mothers, Blog Tour Host & Reviewer, Bookish Films, Boston, Death, Sorrow, and Loss, Documentary on Topic or Subject, France, Historical Fiction, Interviews Related to Content of Novel, Maine, Military Fiction, Mother-Son Relationships, New York City, The World Wars, TLC Book Tours

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