Book Review: Henry: A Polish Swimmer’s True Story by Katrina Shawver

RATING: 5 out of 5 Stars

HENRY: A POLISH SWIMMER’S TRUE STORY OF FRIENDSHIP FROM AUSCHWITZ TO AMERICA by Katrina Shawver is a memoir/biography that had me turning the pages and finishing this memorable read in just two sittings.

Katrina Shawver was trying to come up with a new story for her column in ‘The Arizona Republic’ when she heard about a former Polish swimming star who survived the death camps of WWII Germany. After her column ran, she knew she had to continue meeting with Henry and tell his entire story. He had an amazing cache of original documents and pictures with stories for them all. This book documents Henry’s story in his own words and the author interjects her own research that verifies Henry’s stories.

Henry tells his story to Ms. Shawver over many taped meetings. With gallows humor and always a sense of hope, Henry recalls his youth and capture by the Germans as they rounded up all Polish young men after their invasion. Henry was a strong young man who was a champion swimmer and water polo player for the Krakow YMCA team at the time of his arrest. Catholic and a proud Pole, Henry was sent to Auschwitz 1 as a political prisoner.

There are several instances when Henry should have died, but he always seemed to know someone who would find him at just the right time to help him survive. Henry knows he was incredibly lucky. From Auschwitz to Buchenwald, Henry details camp life. Even with all the killing and death, there are stories that sound absurd to the situation, but were small moments to forget where and what they were living through so that they could hope and survive for another day.

I have read many stories of the camps from Jewish survivor stories, but this book is through the eyes of a Polish political prisoner. I learned that they could and did send and receive mail, that there were underground activities ongoing in the camps and that the prisoners were segregated from the Jewish prisoners. Buchenwald held mainly German communists, criminals, Jehovah Witnesses, gypsies and the 1000 political prisoner Poles sent from Auschwitz until almost the end of the war.

Henry survives to live under communist rule in Poland because he returns home to his mother. After she is gone, he and a friend have the chance to escape to freedom in the west and they take it.

You will not be able to resist Henry. He is an ordinary young man who survived and lived an extraordinary life. If you are like me and devour books about WWII, this one should definitely be on your list.

Thanks very much to Koehler Books and Net Galley for allowing me to read this eARC in exchange for an honest review. I could not have enjoyed it more.

Book Review: Hard Lessons by Annie Oakfield

RATING: 3 out of 5 Stars

HARD LESSONS (The Dungeon Book 1) by Annie Oakfield is an erotic sexual romp through a safe adult playground called The Dungeon. This story contains voyeurism, multiple combinations of participation, but always safe condom use.

Angie Henderson has worked as a mall security guard until she hears of a job opening at The Dungeon. Angie is excited and nervous to be interviewed, but she wants this job to add some excitement to her life. Brothers, Sam and Daniel hire her, but the one rule they say cannot be broken is that she cannot participate. With temptation and inspiration in every area of The Dungeon, how is Angie going to be able to resist?

This is a fun, hot, and steamy erotic read for a fantasy filled evening. Sexual tension release without BDSM or other fetishes. Enjoy!

Written for and posted first on The Romance Reviews.com.

Book Review: The Saboteur by Andrew Gross

RATING: 5 out of 5 Stars

THE SABOTEUR by Andrew Gross is an intense historical fiction based on the true life stories of the Norwegian Freedom Fighters assigned the seemingly impossible task of destroying the Nazis’ supply of heavy water before it could be used to produce an atomic bomb.

Kurt Nordstrum was an engineering student in Oslo in 1940 when the Nazis invaded. His whole life changes as he fights with his friends in the Norwegian resistance. The friendships, bravery and strength of these men and women is highlighted in this story.

Dieter Lund is a Captain in the Quisling, which is an arm of the Gestapo made up of Norwegian collaborators. Kurt and Dieter attended school together in their small hometown. With the murder of another Quisling onboard a ferry, the long resentment and envy that Dieter feels towards Kurt manifests itself and the chase is on. Good versus evil, protagonist versus antagonist.

In 1943, Kurt and his highly trained fellow Norwegian teammates are parachuted back into Norway from England for the specific purpose of destroying a heavily fortified hydro plant’s capability of producing heavy water and destroying any already produced. They must also stop any from leaving Norway and making it to Germany.

Between the seemingly impossible missions that this team takes on and the continual chase of the Quisling it was hard to put this book down.  The tragedies and triumphs of ordinary people during a horrific world war are highlighted in this book. As the author notes in the end, this story is based on real people, which makes it all the more amazing.

*(I want to make one personal comment on this book and other reviews I have read. I agree with everyone that this author’s previous book “The One Man” was an exceptional historical thriller. I feel that any comparisons to this book though short changes this book. This book is based on true people and is a historical fiction novel. Yes, it has thrills and suspense throughout, but there is a difference between the two types of books. I did not compare the two when I rated my review.)

Thank you very much to St. Martin’s Press, Minotaur Books and Net Galley for allowing me to read this eARC.

Book Review: The Hamilton Affair by Elizabeth Cobbs

RATING: 4 out of 5 Stars

I have always been a history lover. Give me a factual, scholarly, historical tome or a historical fictional story of a time, place or person and I can sit and disappear into that time or place for hours.

Due to the Broadway musical “Hamilton” many people are being introduced or reintroduced to one of the brilliant founding architects of our republic and THE HAMILTON AFFAIR by Elizabeth Cobbs is an enjoyable historical fiction overview of Alexander and Elizabeth Hamilton’s lives and their love.

The beginning of the book alternates between Alexander’s harsh life on St. Croix as a boy. He and his brother were declared bastards as they were born into a second marriage by his mother. He refused to let anything stop his ambitions and arrived in the colonies to educate and better himself after his mother’s death. In the alternate chapters we get to meet Elizabeth “Eliza” Schuyler and her privileged family of wealth. From her life on the family farm and love of animals to her very open and honest opinions.

When the two come together in marriage, the book follows the couple through the remainder of the Revolutionary War and the author does an informative, yet entertaining, job of describing the establishment of our federal government with all of Hamilton’s achievements and also all of the political intrigue and mud-slinging. This is balanced well by the author’s descriptions of the Hamilton home life, children, extended family and friends. Hamilton’s affair that almost destroyed his marriage and most definitely put a stop to his further political ambitions is also covered.

I really enjoyed this book. It is well written and covered Alexander and Elisabeth’s lives in an easy to read historical fiction format.

Thank you to Skyhorse Publishing, Arcade Publishing and Net Galley for allowing me to read this eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: The Mortal Falls by Anna Durand

RATING: 3 out of 5 Stars

THE MORTAL FALLS (Undercover Elementals, Book One) by Anna Durand is the first in her new fantasy romance series. This story is full of mythical supernatural characters in a parallel realm to ours, a steamy romance and murder.

Lindsey Porter finds a dead body in the woods. From there things get a little crazy for her. An almost naked man runs from the scene and disappears. When the sheriff shows up, the body is gone, but a blood pool remains. He hauls Lindsey in as a suspect and we learn she has a past with this sheriff who has followed her from Texas.

Nevan is an immortal sylph and the almost naked man who keeps popping from thin air into Lindsey’s life. He was turned into a Guardian when trapped into a bargain a century ago by his king, Skeiron. Linsey has to trust this magic wielding man to help her solve the murder she is charged with and both need to learn to trust each other with their pasts. The fate of the mortal and elemental realms depend on these lovers.

The dialogue between Lindsey and Nevan in the first part of the book is somewhat juvenile. I didn’t care that Lindsey was a 32 year old virgin, I felt she should have been more mature in her language and attitude, virgin or not. That said, the relationship between these two takes off when they have sex. The sex scenes are hot and steamy and what I expect in an Anna Durand book.

The beginning of the story has a lot of world-building and character backstory, which I feel bogged down the first part of the book. The interesting characters and their interactions kept me reading on. It was a good fantasy read and a steamy romance read.

Written for and posted first on The Romance Reviews.com.