Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Orphan #8 by Kim van Alkemade

Opening Paragraph:  From her bed of bundled newspapers under the kitchen table, Rachel Rabinowitz watched her mother's bare feet shuffle to the sink. She heard water filling the kettle, then saw her mother's heels lift as she stretched up to drop a nickel in the gas meter. There was the sizzle of a struck match, the hiss of the burner, the whoosh of catching flame. As her mother passed the table, Rachel reached out to catch the hem of her nighdress.

Synopsis:  In this stunning new historical novel inspired by true events, Kim van Alkemade tells the fascinating story of a woman who must choose between revenge and mercy when she encounters the doctor who subjected her to dangerous medical experiments in a New York City Jewish orphanage years before.
In 1919, Rachel Rabinowitz is a vivacious four-year-old living with her family in a crowded tenement on New York City’s Lower Eastside. When tragedy strikes, Rachel is separated from her brother Sam and sent to a Jewish orphanage where Dr. Mildred Solomon is conducting medical research. Subjected to X-ray treatments that leave her disfigured, Rachel suffers years of cruel harassment from the other orphans. But when she turns fifteen, she runs away to Colorado hoping to find the brother she lost and discovers a family she never knew she had.
Though Rachel believes she’s shut out her painful childhood memories, years later she is confronted with her dark past when she becomes a nurse at Manhattan’s Old Hebrews Home and her patient is none other than the elderly, cancer-stricken Dr. Solomon. Rachel becomes obsessed with making Dr. Solomon acknowledge, and pay for, her wrongdoing. But each passing hour Rachel spends with the old doctor reveal to Rachel the complexities of her own nature. She realizes that a person’s fate—to be one who inflicts harm or one who heals—is not always set in stone.
Lush in historical detail, rich in atmosphere and based on true events, Orphan #8 is a powerful, affecting novel of the unexpected choices we are compelled to make that can shape our destinies.

Review by Mirella Patzer

Do you enjoy though-provoking books that have such heart-wrenching plots, such shocking storylines, that it moves you for many days to come? This gripping novel, based on actual, true events, provokes a plethora of deep thoughts and emotions. They are brought to the New York City Hebrew Orphans Home that existed in the early 1900’s. Rachel soon finds herself subjected to alarming medical experiments that leave Rachel scarred for life. The author does not shy away from describing the horrendously cruel experiments that included force feeding, physical restraints, and over exposure to radium through x-rays that left them bald. But Rachel survives and years later, she becomes a nurse. One of her patients, dying of terminal cancer, is the female doctor who subjected her to the medical trials. Now in a position of power over her previous tormenter, Rachel becomes obsessed with revenge.

The plot becomes rich with a bevy of emotion and thought-provoking twists regarding forgiveness, hate, love, trust, vengeance, and more. At the end of the book, the author has included photographs acquired in research. Tremendously stirring, this is one novel not to miss. So human, so real, so true!

Thank you to the author and publisher. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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Port of No Return by Michelle Saftich

Opening Paragraph: "Finally he sleeps," Ettore grumbled as he dipped a chunk of hardened bread into a shallow dish of olive oil. His arms rested upon the wooden kitchen tabletop. A lit candle cast no warmth and only enough light to reach his calloused hands. The oil caught the flame's reflection and glowed; he gazed past the golden orb, unseeing."


Contessa and Ettore Saforo awake to a normal day in war-stricken, occupied Italy. By the end of the day, however, their house is in ruins and they must seek shelter and protection wherever they can. But the turbulent politics of 1944 refuses to let them be.
As Tito and his Yugoslav Army threaten their German-held town of Fiume, Ettore finds himself running for his life, knowing that neither side is forgiving of those who have assisted the enemy. His wife and children must also flee the meagre life their town can offer, searching for a better life as displaced persons.
Ettore and Contessa's battle to find each other, and the struggle of their family and friends to rebuild their lives in the aftermath of a devastating war, provide a rich and varied account of Italian migration to Australia after World War II.
What can you do when you have nowhere left to call home? Port of No Return considers this question and more in a novel that is full of action, pain and laughter - a journey you will want to see through to the very end.

Review by Mirella Patzer

When it comes to stories set during World War II, I am always more interested in those that focus on the plight of the civilians rather than the military experience. This is why I was drawn to this novel as it reflects some of what my own family experienced before my parents immigrated to Canada. The story is set in the north east area of Italy in a city named Fiume which became part of Yugoslavia, or today's Croatia. Through the experiences of two families, the author does a great job of introducing the hardships the civilians faced living under the auspices of danger and war and occupation. The loss of home, displaced refugees, unbearable acts of terror and cruelty, and the severe hunger caused by enemy seizures. It is how many Italians of that era found themselves contemplating relocation as refugees to safer havens such as Australia, Canada, or the U.S. In this novel, it is Australia they seek. 

Through the eyes of the protagonists, Ettore and Contessa, we experience the danger, the many kindnesses, the poignanat and painful moments of war. These characters represent thousands of Italians forced to flee their beloved homeland.  The author did a wonderful job of describing the effects of the war, along with the history of how that area of Italy was affected. 

This novel is definitely a worth reading, especially for those whose roots are deeply embedded in Italy, like me! Recommended!

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Thursday, August 13, 2015

Going Home by James D. Shipman

Opening Paragraph: Joseph woke to the high-pitched shrieking of the rebel yell. His heart nearly pounded out of his chest while he groped for his rifle in the rain and the mud. He grasped wood and steel, releasing his breath as he found his weapon. The screaming drew closer. He heard panicked shouting from the trenches of officers trying desperately to rouse the men. He peeked his head over the lip of the trench but could see nothing., not even a few feet in front of him. It had to be the middle of the night. Something was terribly wrong, but he couldn't focus.

Synopsis:  Brought to the New World from Ireland, young Joseph Forsyth is soon betrayed by his alcoholic father and separated from his beloved family. As he grows older, he finds his kind nature exploited by others—including an alluring young woman named Lucy—until he gets swept away by the conflict that divides a nation.

After the bloody siege of Petersburg, Joseph floats in and out of consciousness at a Union army hospital. Keeping vigil at his side is Rebecca Walker, a nurse and widow all too familiar with the horrors of war. As Joseph fights for his life and Rebecca struggles to follow her heart, both face a devastating choice: whether to hang on to the wounds of the past or move on to an uncertain future.

From the fields of Ireland to the metropolis of Quebec to the battlefields of Virginia, Going Home follows one man’s quest for his place in a world still healing from the wreckage of war.



As I began reading this novel, it became immediately apparent why this has been a #1 Bestseller on Amazon. Based on a true story, author James D. Shipman has brought to life an utterly compelling protaganist by the name of Joseph Forsyth. The plight of this character from his childhood throughout the novel is at times heart-wrenching, victorious, and amazingly impressive, a very true and believable hero.

The characters in the story are so real, so believable, I could not help but become totally engrossed in many conflicts and trials they faced during the Civil War era. More importantly, the author has introduced the plight of the Irish immigrant who fled extreme poverty only to find themselves face to face with prejudice and new hardships.

More importantly, this is a story about a man of honor and great character, one who earned his respect and teaches us all what it means to truly be of high moral standard, perseverence, tolerance, and many more lessons. I urge you to purchase this rich and vibrant novel. You won't be sorry.   

Thank you to the author and publisher. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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