The Nightingale

The NightingaleThe Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If I were a “romance” reader I would undoubtedly have given this book a higher rating. It is the story of two sisters navigating life during the Nazi occupation of France. Although I wouldn’t call it a romance, it is written like a romance – told in a highly dramatic fashion. The plot is ultimately satisfying. Although the first half of the book was rather slow (I’ve abandoned other books by Hannah for the same reason), I stuck with it and by the second half I was thoroughly invested in the characters and what happened to them. There were some errors with facts (hummingbirds in France?) that left me wondering what historical facts I could trust. But nothing was so jarring that it threw me out of the story. The framework is “true” and is based on real people who risked their lives to save downed pilots and Jewish children. This would make a marvelous movie.

Book description: In the quiet village of Carriveau, Vianne Mauriac says goodbye to her husband, Antoine, as he heads for the Front. She doesn’t believe that the Nazis will invade France … but invade they do, in droves of marching soldiers, in caravans of trucks and tanks, in planes that fill the skies and drop bombs upon the innocent. When a German captain requisitions Vianne’s home, she and her daughter must live with the enemy or lose everything. Without food or money or hope, as danger escalates all around them, she is forced to make one impossible choice after another to keep her family alive. Vianne’s sister, Isabelle, is a rebellious eighteen-year-old girl, searching for purpose with all the reckless passion of youth. While thousands of Parisians march into the unknown terrors of war, she meets Gäetan, a partisan who believes the French can fight the Nazis from within France, and she falls in love as only the young can … completely. But when he betrays her, Isabelle joins the Resistance and never looks back, risking her life time and again to save others.

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Wars of the Roses: Stormbird

Stormbird (Wars of the Roses, #1)Stormbird by Conn Iggulden

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I finished the audiobook of this several weeks ago, but had been finding it difficult to follow, so began reading the book alongside. There is such a density of impressions in the writing that seemed to go right over my head listening to it. This is a book that might even require several readings. I have puzzled over the title, wondering who or what is the “Stormbird” or what does the term signify. I may be wrong, but I have decided that Richard of York, whose personal device was a falcon with outstretched talons, deserves that honor. While this is an ensemble piece involving many “main” characters, Richard is always there in the background, manipulating people and events to his own favor, becoming all but king in the end. Along with the mostly absent Richard of York, we have Derry Brewer (fictional)- the king’s spymaster, Margaret of Anjou and Henry VI, William de la Pole – the Duke of Suffolk, Jack Cade – who instigated a rebellion, and Thomas Woodchurch – a fictional archer who is acquainted with both Derry and Jack, first fighting in France for England and then, after the loss of his land in France, joining Jack Cade’s rebellion. Lots of Errol Flynn daring-do for those who like action and battle scenes. The four stars is mainly for entertainment value. I do get a bit frustrated with historical fiction writers who don’t stick with the historical timeline! At least he admits it in the end notes. My other caveat is that there are gratuitous scenes and characters with no bearing on the overall arc of the story. Still, it’s a jolly good romp and I’m looking forward to the next book.

Book description:
In 1437, the Lancaster king Henry VI ascends the throne of England after years of semi-peaceful regency. Named “The Lamb,” Henry is famed more for his gentle and pious nature than his father’s famous battlefield exploits; already, his dependence on his closest men has stirred whispers of weakness at court. A secret truce negotiated with France to trade British territories for a royal bride—Margaret of Anjou—sparks revolts across English territory. The rival royal line, the House of York, sees the chaos brought on by Henry’s weakness and with it the opportunity to oust an ineffectual king. As storm clouds gather over England, King Henry and his supporters find themselves besieged abroad and at home. Who or what can save the kingdom before it is too late?