Review of A Motherland’s Daughter, A Fatherland’s Son by Ellie Midwood

motherlandDescription: Poland, 1939. 

A country, torn by the occupation of two unlikely allies – Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. 
On the border of this newly divided territory, a young Wehrmacht Unteroffizier, Werner and a Soviet Military Interpreter, Kira meet and fall in love against all odds. 
Both forced into the military against their will, they wish for one thing only – a peaceful life together. Everything is set for Kira to defect and marry Werner… 

But the German army invades the Soviet Union, and now the two lovers are forced to fight against each other on the opposite sides of the frontline; trying to keep their humanity as more and more atrocities are committed by both armies. They have to decide if their love is stronger than the devastation surrounding them or succumb to the hate as sworn enemies should.

Partially based on true events, this novel will take you on the unforgettable journey through war-torn countries, where hope can be lost in no-man’s-land, and one will have to go to great lengths not to lose sight of it.

I have had the pleasure of reading two of Ellie Midwood’s books previously and enjoyed them thoroughly, and A Motherland’s Daughter, A Fatherland’s Son is no different. Reading one of her books is a total-immersion experience into life during World War II. Midwood’s vast knowledge of that time period is remarkable and is a big part of what gives her stories depth: the intensity of the backdrop of a horrific war. She doesn’t skimp on the details of the brutality of war, either. What she writes is gut-wrenchingly real.

The second element that gives her stories amazing depth is her characters. She develops them to such a degree that I cannot help but laugh, cry, and scream with them. In this story, we follow the lives of lovers Kira and Werner, a Russian woman and a German man who fall in love in 1939 right before Germany declares war on Russia.

The story is told in an alternating point-of-view style, where one chapter is told from Kira’s point of view and the next chapter from Werner’s. From this first-person perspective, I get into the head of the characters even more. They start out as idealistic young people, who believe in love and that they have their whole lives ahead of them to do what they wish. They will marry and be happy. The war devastates their lives, throwing them into the pile with millions of others whose lives are also being ruined by the horror of war.

Can they still come out of all this after the war is through as the same people? After seeing and performing awful deeds? After experiencing some of the worst moments of humanity and their own lives? Lovers whose countries dictate they are enemies?

Kira is enlisted as a sniper in the Red Army. Werner serves as a lieutenant in the Wehrmacht. The story follows the events of the war through its end in 1945 on the eastern front. It’s easy to look back at history and want to blame the Germans, to mark them at the bad guys, but when you realize that many of these soldiers were just young man, pretty much boys, it breaks my heart. So much loss of life for both sides, which is clearly shown in this story. So much senseless death. It’s no wonder both Kira and Werner question if they are who they were when they met, if love and hope still hold any meaning in a world shattered by such darkness.

The stakes are high, ridiculously, impossibly high. I kept turning the pages because I needed to believe that the inherent goodness in people, especially Kira and Werner, would win, that victory of the Allies during the war is one thing, but getting down to the level of person-to-person, victory of the heart matters, too. Love wins, right?

I happily give this book five stars!

Favorite quotes:

“You’re somebody’s son too. Under those uniforms, you’re all the same.” That simple Russian peasant knows more about life than the most enlightened of our philosophers…

A truly strange phenomenon war is, which always starts due to a lack of understanding. Yet, once former enemies find each other in such close proximity and strike a conversation for the first time, when the first bread is broken to feed yesterday’s foe, all animosity suddenly loses its power over the men who used to tear into each other’s throats, and humanity renews its hope in itself once again.

Purchase a copy of this book on Amazon.

Review of Happy Couples by Rick Monddarrell

happycouplesDescription (from Amazon): When you hear the words HAPPY COUPLES you naturally think of two people in LOVE. Part of this book is about that kind of couple. But, it’s also about the fact that on this planet there are a COUPLE OF GENDERS, not just one. And it’s about the fact that if all members of this couple enjoyed true equality it would make for a Happier couple – all over the world. Because this would make a better world for all of us.

As I write in the book, in my opinion, the greatest tragedy that we never talk about, is the almost complete suppression of female ability since the beginning of time. When half the human race is suppressed and kept from being all it could be,the entire human race is suppressed and prevented from being all it should be – all over the world. When everyone has equality, and are allowed to be all they can, the result is a better world for all of us. So no, this book isn’t anti my Father’s gender. It’s pro My Mother’s gender. But please remember that because equality makes a better world for all of us, this book is actually pro both my parents gender – all over the world.

THANK YOU

Note: I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Gender inequality still exists today, as hard as that may be for some to believe in 2018, especially in a country like the United States. Just start talking to women, however, and you will quickly discover that women are still paid less than men to do the same types of jobs. Certain kinds of work, especially related to raising children and managing the home, are often referred to as “women’s work.” There are men who still exhibit inappropriate behavior toward women in the workplace and on the street.

Happy Couples is filled with poetry and short stories about gender equality and also about appreciating women. The fact that this book was written by a man is touching to me, a woman, reviewing it. I appreciate a man taking the time to write a book on this important topic. Although the principles behind the stories should be obvious, sadly, there are still many in the world who would disagree or who are ignorant.

The stories are simple and direct, sometimes a bit too direct, as the author explains in clear prose the message he is conveying. I appreciate him working these messages into stories, however.

There are some punctuation and grammatical issues with the book, which could easily be fixed if the book is read by an editor, but they don’t detract from the central message of the book.

Happy Couples is a short, easy read and is food for thought.

4 out of 5 stars

Purchase Happy Couples on Amazon.

Excerpt from A Laughing Matter of Pain (Chapter 25)

 

harrykathy“Can you believe it? We’re married.” Her eyes dance in the low light from the bedside lamp.
I lean in and kiss her. “I’m the luckiest guy alive.”
The smile falters on her lips. Her eyes go glassy. A tear slips past, trailing down her left cheek.
“What’s wrong, doll?” I cup that cheek and kiss her again.
“I-I never thought this day would come.”
“What? Why not?” My heart hammers, afraid she’s having doubts.
A tiny, nervous laugh escapes. “Not because of you. You misunderstand. I mean, I didn’t think I’d ever get married, period. I couldn’t imagine anyone wanting me.” Her gaze shifts to the mattress.
I wipe another tear away with my thumb, kiss the spot where it fled from her eye. “You remember what I said all those months ago? That you’re the most beautiful person I know?”
She lifts her gaze and tries to smile. “Yeah.”
“I meant that, Kath. Every word. I ain’t romantic. I mess up a lot. But you’re the one thing I know I got right. You deserve to be treated like a queen. To never hurt again.”
“I don’t deserve you, Harry.”
“Hush, now. None of that.” I pull her to me.
Our kisses deepen. Her hands caress the length of my exposed back. Our breathing heavy, we pull apart, resting our foreheads on each other’s.
“We don’t hafta do anything you ain’t ready for,” I whisper.
“No, Harry. I…I’m ready.” Her smile seems uncertain.
“You sure?” I run my hand through her curls.
“It’s you. It’s time we made our own memories.”
I kiss her again, then ease her down onto the mattress, with the deliberate care of handling something sacred. I close my eyes and let my heart and body show her my love.

A Laughing Matter of Pain
by Cynthia Hilston
(coming fall 2018)

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My novel, Lorna versus Laura, is available for $4.99 here.

My novel, Hannah’s Rainbow: Every Color Beautiful, is available for $5.99 here.

Review of The Other Half of Me by Jennifer Sivec

theotherhalfSummary: Maggie and Sam’s love was forever, until it wasn’t.

Is it ever too late to go back home?

Maggie Whitaker had always dreamed about the same boy even though she’d never met him.

A loner, with an overly critical mother and a head full of self-doubt, she has spent most of her life isolated. That is, until she meets Trip. He becomes her only friend until he cruelly betrays her, making her feel even more alone.

Sam has endured far more than anyone has ever realized. When he meets Maggie, he feels as though he knows her immediately. They fall for each other hard and fast and Maggie feels as though she’s been waiting for him her entire life.

Their life together is beautiful as they make plans for a future together, until Sam is in a horrible accident and suddenly everything changes.

When Maggie finds herself alone with no explanation, she does her best to move on with her life. She realizes that erasing Sam from her heart is close to impossible, until Dylan.

As she’s finally about to have her chance at love, the unexpected happens and Maggie must decide if love is ever just enough, or if she needs more to be complete.

Caution: This story contains themes of sexual assault, addiction, and mild sexual situations.

Note: I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I am the first to admit that I am a sucker for a good romance and a big fan of damaged characters who are trying to rebuild their lives. Being an author myself, I write about these themes, so as I opened this book and knew that it was highly rated, I was looking forward to a great story.

What I came away with was a good story, not a great one. I didn’t feel the ground move beneath me the way I was expecting when going into this.

Maggie lacks self-confidence because of her critical mother. Her mother is passive-aggressive. I often wanted to smack her for the rude tone and underlying jabs in what she says to her own daughter, even if her words hold some good stuff. So when unpopular Maggie, at age 15, finally attracts the attention of a boy at school, she is completely taken in. Poor Maggie is ruined by Trip, a boy who wanted one thing and one thing only from her.

That type of encounter leaves a scar on a girl’s heart, making it hard to open up to another guy. I felt badly for her and wanted her to find real love.

A few years pass and she goes to college, where she meets Sam. Sam is a jock who doesn’t think he’s smart and asks her to tutor him. He is popular with the girls, so Maggie is cautious when she agrees to help him. Their relationship quickly grows deeper, and they express that they feel they have always known each other. Next thing you know, Sam and Maggie are engaged and a few more years have passed.

This is the point where I felt disappointed. I would have loved to have read more about their relationship over those years. As this is a novella and therefore not a long story, it would have benefited from being developed more and made into a novel. I just didn’t believe their feelings and claims of having always felt a connection. That was too cliche, cheapening the bond that could have been expanded through more storytelling. There was a lot of telling and not a lot of showing, making the pacing off during this part of the book.

Then Sam is in a terrible car accident and is laid up in bed, unconscious. Maggie is left wondering if he will ever wake up. This tragedy pulled at my heartstrings. Then Maggie goes through a dreamlike sequence of visiting different parts of Sam’s childhood and seeing how his father walked out on them when he was young and how is mother had drug problems. Sam never felt like he deserved Maggie.

I don’t want to spoil too much, but more years pass. Maggie loves again, but as before, the pacing was off. The author seems to rush to get to the part of the story she wants to tell the most and skips over years of Maggie’s life where she could have shown the reader how her heart healed (although not completely) and how she managed to fall in love again. I feel cheated by not being given these details.

However, the end does save a lot of my criticisms. There is some lovely dialogue between Maggie and Sam, some downright gut-wrenching, raw emotion. The story delivered in the end. This was a short, easy read, but I wanted more of a good thing. I wanted this love story to be something that tore my heart to pieces and then mended it back together again. What I got was some damage to my heart and an easy fix.

4 out of 5 stars

Purchase The Other Half of Me (The Coming Home Series Book 1) on Amazon

 

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Like what you’ve read?  Please subscribe to my blog, where I post book reviews, poetry, excerpts from my books, updates on my writing projects, and the occasional blog. 

My novel, Lorna versus Laura, is available for $4.99 here.

My novel, Hannah’s Rainbow: Every Color Beautiful, is available for $5.99 here.

Staying in Love Long-term

I have been married for thirteen and a half years.  That may not seem like long to someone who’s been married many more years, but it’s not uncommon for someone to tell me that I’ve already stayed married longer than a lot of couples.  Reaching the ten year mark is quite the accomplishment, I guess!

Believe it or not, 2016 marked a low in divorce rates since the early 1980s, when it peaked.  While some 40-50% of marriages still result in divorce, there are still plenty of couples who have stayed together long term.  My own parents will be married 47 years in May.

Back to my own marriage for a minute… On my wedding day, I was only 23.  Part of the reception involved the wedding dance where couples who have been married the longest stay on the dance floor the longest.  My husband, Erik’s, great uncle and aunt had just celebrated 50 years in 2003.  I remember watching them as they held each other on that dance floor, the way they looked into each other’s eyes after so many years and were still as much in love as they were when they first met.  After the dance ended, we hugged them, and I told them that I hoped my marriage would be as blessed as theirs and would last as long as theirs.  They smiled and thanked us, saying that it wasn’t too roses and butterflies in those 50 years, but that yes, they were still in love.  Since that time, they have celebrated their 60th anniversary and are still alive at 63 years of marriage.

Wow.

Can you imagine?

So, how do couples like my husband’s great aunt and uncle do it?

It’s not easy, but nothing worthwhile is easy.

We just celebrated Valentine’s Day this month.  It’s sort of funny that we have to have a holiday to celebrate love or being in love, as if this weren’t something we should be celebrating every day.  I realize that Valentine’s Day isn’t just about romantic love, but this blog’s focus will be on that sort of love.

hearts

When I asked others how they stayed in love long-term, I received many answers.  There is not magical, one-size-fits-all solution.  Different strategies work for different couples.

Also, let me be clear that I am not limiting staying together as a couple to just marriages.  Whatever your opinion on marriage, on cohabitation, or on gay or straight couples, the purpose of this blog is to cover all couples and how they remain in love for the long haul.  At the end of the day, it is commitment that matters.  Plenty of people are married and unfaithful.  Commitment, I believe, is the cornerstone upon which you build your love and marriage.  Without a full “yes, I do” to the other person, how can anything else grow upon what would be an unstable foundation?

Falling in love is easy.  Staying in love is hard.  That requires a choice to be made on a daily, almost moment-by-moment, basis.  Sometimes words of affirmation can help remind us of our commitment.  By saying “I love you” often and meaning it, we are reminded of our love.  Saying what you love about the other person and being grateful for all that they do and who they are also goes a long way.  But words only go so far.

Physical touch is also important.  For all you might hear that physical intimacy isn’t as important as the emotional piece, this just isn’t true.  Holding hands, hugging, and kissing are great ways to express your love, but having sex regularly is vital to any committed relationship.  It shouldn’t be a chore.  It is one of the ways people experience love, so sex is crucial to staying in love.  A relationship that’s run dry will likely not have much sex in it.  Of course, I am not saying that sex alone is enough!  Sex between two people who love each other is love, not lust.

Also go on regular dates, at least once a season, but try for once a month!  It doesn’t have to cost a lot.  An hour away from the kids (if you have them) to walk on the beach is free.  Paying a sitter for a few hours is worth keeping your marriage or relationship healthy.  Dating isn’t just for people when they first meet.

Staying in love requires perseverance.  Life is full of ups and downs.  You’ve probably heard something akin to a marriage or a long-term relationship being like a marathon and not a sprint.  You are in this for the long haul, so there are going to be times when you will have to buckle in and hunker down, knowing that through good times and bad, your relationship is worth keeping alive.  This may mean giving space when it’s needed.  This could be appreciating the little things and remembering to express gratitude for them.  Most of all, being a constant support, your spouse’s or significant other’s best friend, is going to be an essential building block for your foundation as a couple.

Seeing things through together, no matter what the crisis, can make a marriage or relationship stronger.  Bad things are bound to happen.  How do we deal with them?  Alone and cowering in a corner?  Blaming the other person, holding a grudge, being angry and bitter?  Or standing as a united front?  The marriage or relationship as a whole is bigger than the parts.  Stronger together than apart.  You know the old saying: United we stand, divided we fall.

Communication, communication, communication.  Talk about it.  Don’t keep things to yourself or expect your mate to read your mind and/or know what you’re thinking.  Be honest but fair.  Know when to compromise, but don’t compromise your love.  Ask yourself if what’s bothering you is really worth potentially ending a marriage or long-term relationship.  If it’s because your man or woman doesn’t put their socks in the laundry and it annoys you, it’s not worth blowing up about.  While true that little things can add up to big things, be mindful for what the big things really are.  Abuse of any sort, infidelity, or addiction are not okay.  These are the big roadblocks to any marriage.

Nothing should ultimately come between two people who are in love.  There will always be new challenges just around the bend in the road of life, but together, you drive the bumps and turns.

I am sure most of the things I’ve said are common sense or things you have heard before.  There is nothing new about this list, but it’s good to be reminded sometimes.  The stress of life can lead a person to feeling alone, like no one understands what they’re going through, and they may start to pull away from their partner.  To the partner who needs to be the strong one during times like this, push through it.

It will hurt.  It won’t be easy.  But I guarantee you, it will be worth it.  Stay in love.

Like what you’ve read?  Want to read more?  Consider downloading the e-book or ordering a paper copy of my original book, Hannah’s Rainbow, available on Amazon: Hannah’s Rainbow: Every Color Beautiful

This blog will be updated at the end of every month.  Stay tuned for March’s blog: having an attitude of gratitude!

04/07/17 update: My apologies for no blog in the month of March.  Life happens, but in the month of April, I will be reblogging two previous autism-related posts due to April being Autism Awareness Month, and I will also be writing a new blog post by the end of April related to autism.  Stay tuned for a future blog post on the topic of having an attitude of gratitude!