Recent Reviews...

Monday, February 17, 2020

Book Review! Wolf: A Novel by Herbert J. Stern & Alan A. Winter

Wolf: A Novel by Herbert J. Stern & Alan A. Winter
Genre: Adult Fiction (Historical Fiction)
Date Published: February 11, 2020
Publisher: Skyhorse

In the Great Tradition of Herman Wouk, Author of Winds of War and War and Remembrance, Wolf is a Thoroughly Researched and Illustrated Historical Novel about a Man who is Not Yet a Monster . . . but Will Soon Become the Ultimate One: Adolf Hitler.

Perhaps no man on Earth is more controversial, more hated, or more studied than Adolf Hitler. His exploits and every move are well-documented, from the time he first became chancellor and then dictator of Germany to starting World War II to the systematic killing of millions of Jews. But how did he achieve power, and what was the makeup of the mind of a man who would deliberately inflict unimaginable horrors on millions of people?

Meet Friedrich Richard, an amnesiac soldier who, in 1918, encounters Hitler in the mental ward at Pasewalk Hospital. Hitler, then a corporal, diagnosed as a psychopath and helpless, suffering from hysterical blindness, introduces himself as Wolf to Friedrich and becomes dependent upon Friedrich for assistance, forming an unbreakable bond between the two men.

Follow Friedich—our protagonist—who interacts with real people, places, and events, through the fifteen-year friendship that witnesses Hitler turn from a quiet painter into a megalomaniacal dictator. Using brand-new historical research to construct a realistic portrait of the evolving Hitler, Wolf will satisfy, by turns, history buffs and fiction fans alike. And as this complex story is masterfully presented, it answers the question of how a nondescript man became the world’s greatest monster.

This is a special review, because I've invited my husband to the blog today as a guest reviewer. He was a High School History and Geography teacher for 14 years and is one of the smartest people I know. When I saw this book, I knew it was right up his alley. WWII is one of his favorite areas of study, so who better to review this book? I'm very excited to have him here today, so I'll get out of the way now and let him take over.

Wolf was an interesting novel that, quite honestly, continued to get better the further into the book I read. I applaud the authors for giving us real historical characters that were well researched. This gives them a depth not normally found in many historical fiction novels. The handful of fictional characters each had their place and helped give the protagonist, Friedrich Richard, purpose and meaning beyond his relationship with Hitler. 

Hitler, while the titular character, is a character throughout the book who disappears at times only to resurface at the most inopportune times for our protagonist. This is essential as it gives us a clear third party look at the rise of Adolph Hitler, from unknown Austrian corporal to leader of a nation. The novel also goes through great pains to show why the Nazi party was appealing to a number of Germans, but also did not hide the fact that it never had true majority support of the entire nation on its own. The up and down struggle of the Nazi party and its leaders throughout the 1920’s is well portrayed.

The main character of Friedrich is a great choice as a protagonist. Being a purely fictional character, the authors are able to develop him unhindered by a true history. I also applaud using his wounding at the Battle of the Somme as the starting point. The Somme was one of the bloodiest battles in human history. Germany alone suffered almost 600,000 casualties. That a man could come through with no memory and no identification is plausible. One would think that someone might have recognized a 6’7’’ giant of a man in the Freikorps. Once again though due to the large number of casualties Germany suffered in the final two years of the war, it is possible that none in his unit survived the conflict. I also enjoyed the fact that Friedrich was conflicted with some of the Nazi party’s key beliefs. This put him into believable conflict with key Party members, which added to the richness of the story.

Overall this is a solid read. If you want a different perspective on the Nazi rise to power, that while fictional, is based in fact then I think you will enjoy Wolf. I hope that the authors will pen a sequel that is as well researched and believable. 

Thanks to my wonderful, beautiful wife for giving me a chance to steal a little space on her blog!

The ARC of Wolf: A Novel by Herbert J. Stern & Alan A. Winter was kindly provided to me by RABT PR for review. The opinions are my own.

I had my own sessions with Dr. Forster. “Tell me, Friedrich, what have you learned about your friend, the one they call Wolf?”
“Is it correct for me to discuss another patient with you?”
“I don’t see why not,” Forster answered. “You would be helping me understand him better.”
Dr. Forster saw I was skeptical.
“Let me share what I can,” Forster said. “Wolf came from a dysfunctional family. His father was a cruel, brutal man incapable of loving his son or anyone else. A drunkard and a wife beater who openly philandered. When he died, Wolf experienced a great sense of relief. But this respite was short-lived. Soon after, his mother became sick. She had a most painful death.”
I tried to remember something Wolf had said. “He did mention a Dr. Bloch to me. He said that the doctor did everything he could to make her comfortable, but that nothing worked.”
Dr. Forster leaned closer, a conspirator sharing a secret. “That is part of his problem, Friedrich. On the one hand, this Jewish Doktor Bloch was the kind father Wolf never had. Indeed, Wolf continued to have an emotional tie to Bloch long after his mother passed. He sent Dr. Bloch paintings—street scenes—that he painted when he moved to Vienna.”
I was impressed. “He didn’t have to do that.”
“Ah . . . but there’s another side to this. Subconsciously, Wolf also resents the doctor because he could not relieve his mother’s pain.”
“I don’t see how any of this bears on his blindness after a gas attack.”
“Before I explain, there is something else you should know. Wolf recited a poem from memory that he claims to have written in homage to his mother. It’s a touching poem. It talks about a mother growing older and what used to be easy for her now takes a greater effort. The poem goes on to describe that as the mother travels on her last journey, growing weaker and sicker, she may no longer be able to understand what her son says anymore, but the son should remain joyful until the last, bitter hour.”
“That is how he described his mother’s death to me. But, Dr. Forster, what does this have to do with the fact that Wolf cannot see?”
Forster grew animated as he explained. “Don’t you see? Wolf has linked Germany losing this war to his mother’s slow death. As a result he transferred his mother’s pain to his eyes.”
“How can you possibly connect his blindness to his mother dying and Germany’s defeat?”
“Because it’s not real.”

“What’s not real?”

“The poem.” Forster tapped the side of his head. “That’s not how I meant to say it. The poem is very real. The sentiments are beautiful.”
“Then what’s the problem?”
“Wolf didn’t write the poem. Georg Runsky wrote it more than a dozen years ago.”
 “I don’t understand. What are you saying?”
“It means that Wolf’s problem is more difficult to treat than I first imagined. He suffers from hysterical blindness. A French physician—Paul Briquet— first described a syndrome seventy years ago in which the mind can do strange things in order to cope with emotional and psychological stresses. Wolf has never gotten over his mother’s death and now he is challenged with Germany’s metaphorical death. This dynamic translates into Wolf shutting down a sensory organ. In his case, it’s his eyes. And to make matters worse, he has taken a poem written by someone else and convinced himself that he is its author.”
I followed Dr. Forster’s explanation as best I could. “Is there nothing you can do for him?”
Before answering, Forster struck a match and said through a stream of smoke, “Wolf will remain blind for the rest of his life . . . unless something gives him permission to see again.”
“Could my memory loss be a variation of what Wolf is experiencing?”
Forster shook his head. “No, it’s different. His issues are deeply personal and psychological. Given the head trauma you received, yours appears to be organic. I haven’t given up on you. There are still treatments available to try.” 

Herbert J. Stern, formerly US attorney for the District of New Jersey, who prosecuted the mayors of Newark and Atlantic City, and served as judge of the US District Court for the District of New Jersey, is a trial lawyer. He also served as judge of the United States Court for Berlin where he presided over a hijacking trial in the occupied American Sector of West Berlin. His book about the case, Judgment in Berlin, won the 1974 Freedom Foundation Award and became a film starring Martin Sheen and Sean Penn. He also wrote Diary of a DA: The True Story of the Prosecutor Who Took on the Mob, Fought Corruption, and Won, as well as the multi-volume legal work Trying Cases to Win.

Alan A. Winter is the author of four novels, including Island Bluffs, Snowflakes in the Sahara, Someone Else’s Son, and Savior’s Day, which Kirkus selected as a Best Book of 2013. Winter graduated from Rutgers with a degree in history and has professional degrees from both New York University and Columbia, where he was an associate professor for many years. He edited an award-winning journal and has published more than twenty professional articles. Winter studied creative writing at Columbia’s Graduate School of General Studies. His screenplay, Polly, received honorable mention in the Austin Film Festival, and became the basis for Island Bluffs.

To learn more about these authors, visit their website.You can also find them on Goodreads, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, Google+, YouTube, Pinterest, and Twitter.

Buy this book at:

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Book Review! Mine to Five by Tara September

Mine to Five by Tara September
Genre: Adult Fiction (Contemporary Romance)
Date Published: October 30, 2019
Publisher: Plus it Up

'Tis the season for an office romance!

Working beyond nine to five and barely getting by, Melanie Thomas is eager to celebrate the impending holiday season and to toast the start of her dream marketing job over drinks with her boyfriend. Unfortunately, he has different plans—like seeing other women.

Indulging in a pity party with tequila, Melanie confides in a sexy stranger at the bar. It’s almost Christmas, one night of letting go won’t hurt anything, right? Turns out it just might—when the stranger is her new boss. Determined to succeed at her job, Melanie won’t be scared away. This is her chance, even if her hot boss has her feeling all merry and bright and wishing for a less than professional relationship.

Matthew Ryans is burned out and on thin ice at the company he helped build unless he gets his head back in the game. Yet, his head, both upper and lower, are quickly becoming obsessed with his new assistant. Still, he can’t seem to fully begrudge Melanie’s distracting presence and the Christmas joy she brings with it. Especially considering that her enthusiasm has him reenergized. For once, he is longing for Mondays, but with his heart and job on the line he can’t risk blurring the lines no matter how strong the lure of holiday mistletoe is.

Will their holiday passion be able to fuel mutual career success, or will it only get in their way in the New Year?

Mine to Five by Tara September was a fun little romantic comedy that was super quick to read. Matthew and Melanie have heaps of chemistry, and it doesn't take them long to realize it either. They try to ignore it at first.. well.. almost at first. *wink* They were adorable and funny. I thoroughly enjoyed their story. The narrator spoke clearly and portrayed Malanie perfectly with her attitude and spunk. It takes place around the holidays, so this is the perfect time of year to read it, but I would enjoy it no matter the season. This one was quite entertaining.

Mine to Five by Tara September was kindly provided to me by AudioBookworm Promotions for review. The opinions are my own.

This or That 

Waffle fries or curly fries? -  Neither. I like crispy steak frites … or McDonald’s fries, I know, but they are sooo good.
GIF with a hard g or soft g?  - Hard, like my men, lol.
Fantasy or science-fiction? Hmm both, but if pressed I’d say Sci-Fi. Love me some Star Wars.
Superman or Batman?  - Superman! He’s super, it’s in his name after all. This is actually a debate the hero and heroine have in my holiday office romance, Mine to Five.
Text message or call? - TXT! I have a phobia about having to sort out issues over the phone with strangers.
Contest a bill or having to call customer service? Ugh the worst. So if I can just send a strongly worded email instead, even better! Even my besties have accepted that I’m not the friend that will chat on the phone for hours. Rather do that in-person or on my blog.
Pancakes or waffles? - Waffles. It comes with built-in grooves to hold my syrup, whip cream and other toppings.
Doctor Who or the Walking Dead? I haven’t seen either *ducks for cover*
TV Shows or movies? Movies. I saw every film on the AFI 100 list before I graduated high school. My favorite actress is Katharine Hepburn.
Facebook or Twitter? Twitter for fun, Facebook for business.
Alice in Wonderland or Robinson Crusoe? Meh to both. But since Robinson Crusoe is technically considered the first novel ever, much is owed to Defoe for paving the way for today’s literature. <Tara tips imaginary hat and puts on imaginary opera gloves>
Being too warm or too cold? I live in Florida for a reason.
Netflix or Hulu?  Netflix. I’m OG like that. I used to have their DVD rental service, lol.
Work Hard or Play Hard? Play on player!
Passenger or Driver? Driver, because in our family that means I have control of the radio and can play an audiobook or Yacht Rock Radio. Plus, I can never sleep in the car anyway, so I might as well drive.
Amusement Park or Day at the Beach?  In Florida we can do both ;) I’m a huge Disney addict. Used to work for Disney corporate out in LA.
Honesty or Other’s Feelings? Other’s feelings!
Movie at Home or Movie at the Theater?  Theater. About two-thirds of the way back, in the center of the row. If not, I’ll wait in the lobby eating nachos and sour patch kids until the next showing. My husband meanwhile will likely have given up and will see something else solo.  Oh, and I LOVE previews. If we arrive after the previews, I’ll wait for the next showing, lol.
Tara September is an award-winning... and losing contemporary romance writer living in Southwest Florida.

Tara is proud to be the world's most okayest mom to clones (identical twin boys). When not writing out her daydreams, she blogs over at When Tara Met Blog @tarametblog, a lifestyle and parenting blog of 14 years.

Holding a master's degree in journalism from NYU, she previously was the Corporate Communications Manager at WWE and PR Manager for The Walt Disney Company, Consumer Products.

To learn more about Tara September and her books, visit her website.You can also find her on Goodreads, Facebook, Instagram, BookBub, and Twitter.

Verla Bond is an American actor, improvisor, and storyteller, who makes her home in Los Angeles, California. She enjoys performing on the stage and screen, but especially loves recording audiobooks, where she gets the privilege of playing all kinds of diverse characters, such as British vampires, Irish leprechauns, and Southern gentlemen.

To learn more about Tara September, visit her on Facebook and Twitter.

Buy this book at:

Book Review: Updrift by Errin Stevens

Updrift (The Mer Chronicles #1) by Errin Stevens 
Narrator: Sean Posvistak
Genre: Young Adult (Romantic Fantasy)
Date Published: November 2, 2015
Publisher: Liquid Silver Books

For Kate Sweeting, love isn’t in the air. It’s in the water.

Since her father died, Kate Sweeting’s home life has been in the pits, her well-being on life support. Her future looks desolate until she and her mother, Cara, make another plan: abandon their shriveled existence for more promising prospects on the coast, where Cara can play small-town librarian-bachelorette and Kate can figure out what’s up with that secretive Blake family from the beach.

Everyone is eerily captivated with Kate and her mother, and Cara is the first to figure out why when the man of her dreams arrives all dripping and devoted and closed-mouthed about what he intends. Kate is willing to go along with their subterfuge for a while, but eventually makes a charge for the water to learn what her mother is hiding. Gabe Blake is there waiting for her…and so is someone considerably less friendly. By the time Kate navigates her way home, everything will have changed for her—what she feels, what she wants, and what she’ll risk to be with the man she loves.

Updrift is the first book in the Mer Chronicles by Errin Stevens. The premise was interesting, and I enjoy mermaid/siren stories; however, this one just wasn't for me. The pacing was very slow, which made it hard to really feel invested in the story until things started happening towards the end. The narrator was a swift reader, so that helped speed things up a bit, but I needed some more something within the plot. The sirens were a bit obsessed with procreating, it seemed. That was something that actually was very quick about this story. Most met their mate, married immediately, then got knocked up. Which was fine. They are supernaturals. It's how these guys roll. I get that, and I even liked that they were a little odd and different, but even the humans needed babies. There was a particular two career driven humans who soon 'came to their senses' and realized they too wanted children afterall, or their life wouldn't be fulfilled. Honestly, this bugged me a bit. While yes, most want children to feel complete, not everyone wants or needs the same things to be happy. So, that was all a bit awkward and unrealistic to  me. Also, after years of secrets.. of everyone, including her mother, not letting her in on what was going on around her, Kate had to blindly commit to Gabe to marry him. She didn't know much about what he was or the lifestyle she'd have to live. How could she love him that much when she really knew nothing about him? I've seen the reviews. I know this story appeals to many folks out there, so don't listen to me. It just wasn't my cup of tea.

Updrift by Errin Stevens  was kindly provided to me by Audiobookworm Promotions for review. The opinions are my own.

Errin Stevens writes paranormal romantic suspense stories from her home in Minnesota. When not wrestling with unruly narrative - or reading literary and commercial fiction like a fiend - you’ll find her poring over seed catalogues (winter) or gardening (the other three days of the year).

To learn more about Errin Stevens and her books, visit her website.You can also find her on GoodreadsFacebookInstagram, and Twitter.

Sean is an aspiring game developer who's used his years of work on Youtube to excel at audiobook narration.

Buy this book at: