All about Books, Book review

Book Review: The Hidden Village by Imogen Matthews

Today I’m pleased to share my book review for a historical fiction novel The Hidden Village by Imogen Matthews.

Book Review: The Hidden Village by Imogen Matthews

Book cover for the The Hidden Village by Imogen Matthews
The Hidden Village by Imogen Matthews

Title: The Hidden Village

Author: Imogen Matthews

Publisher: Bookouture

Genre: Historical fiction

Release Date: 17th Jan 2022

Purchase: https://geni.us/B09LVLB82Fsocial

Blurb

A Nazi soldier slams his rifle into her father’s head. From her hiding place, Sofie stifles a scream as tears roll down her face. Suddenly she can’t take it any more. ‘Stop, stop!’ she sobs, rushing out and pushing the soldier away. And then freezes, as he snarls and whips the gun round to point at her…

Holland, 1943: the Nazis are in occupation. German soldiers patrol the streets, and each week more families disappear without trace, never to be seen again. So when armed soldiers storm Sofie’s house and threaten her father at gunpoint, she knows their time – and luck – has run out.

Fleeing in the middle of the night to hide in a neighbour’s secret attic, the constant threat of a German raid means they can’t stay long. So Sofie’s parents make the heart-rending decision to send their daughter away. Concealed in the woods is a secret village, built by the town as a haven for Jewish families like Sofie’s. Remote, cold and bleak, yet filled with the hopeful laughter of children playing, it is the one place Sofie has the chance to live.

But rumours of the hidden village have been swirling, and the Nazis are determined to find it. As soldiers patrol the woods in ever-greater numbers, snow cuts the villagers off from the outside world and starvation sets in. Sofie knows what she must do, even though it means putting herself in danger. And when the worst happens, Sofie is faced with a terrible decision – save the village, or save herself…

An absolutely heart-breaking and gripping WWII historical novel based on the true story of an entire town who put themselves in danger to keep strangers safe. What happens will restore your faith in humanity. Fans of Fiona Valpy, The Tattooist of Auschwitz and The Choice will never forget this incredibly moving tale and the real-life heroes who inspired it.

My Thoughts

It is not often I read historical fiction unless it is in a dual timeline, but this book begged to be read. A friend has Norwegian roots and listening to her family stories made me interested in reading more about this time. The Hidden Village threw me straight into the action with children playing innocently and Germans approaching the village. I continued reading with a sense of trepidation because we all know the atrocities they bring with them.

Told in third person, this story focuses on three main characters; young Jan who is still in his childhood but longs to be seen as older, Sofie a teenager whose future is looking bright until she is forced to hide and Sara Jan’s mother, whose husband helps set up the hidden village. The three viewpoints give a good overview of life because of their different stages of their lives and place in the community. Through Sofie’s eyes we see live in the forest, Sara experiences the goings on in the town battling to keep the Jews safe and Jan is a go between connecting the two.

Community is a key theme in this novel and despite the never ending threat of discovery, it was uplifting to read how powerful this sense of community was, which enabled the village to stay safe and fed during this time. Though the novel was harrowing in places, it was never graphic in it’s portrayal of the Nazi brutality and relied on the reader’s imagination and description of the sounds of hobnailed boots on floorboards to rank up the tension.  

The villagers’ loss of liberty and possessions and having to rebuild a community made me reflect on the important things in my life and be more grateful for what I have.

Would I recommend?

Yes, The Hidden Village gives a fascinating insight into life in Holland during the second World War and shows the horror of the time and the courage displayed by those who stood up against the evil of the Nazi regime. It is uplifting and shows love, and everyday things and emotions still occurred despite the dangerous threat of discovery. Perfect for those who love historical fiction and WW2 memoirs.

Author Biography

Imogen Matthews

Imogen Matthews writes novels based on true stories about the Netherlands during the German occupation in World War 2. Some stories she discovered by chance, others are based on her Dutch mother’s own experiences of hardship and survival during the Hunger Winter of 1944-45.

Her first novel, The Hidden Village, is set in the Veluwe woods, a beautiful part of Holland that Imogen has visited frequently over the past 30 years. It was in these woods that she discovered the story of the real hidden village which provided shelter in underground huts for Jews during WW2. Imogen retells the story of the hidden village with characters drawn from real life and from her imagination.

Within weeks of publication in 2017, The Hidden Village became an international bestseller, ranking at the top of a number Amazon’s most-read book lists.

Following on from The Hidden Village comes Hidden in the Shadows, which has the pace of a thriller yet is also a love story. It tells the story about two young people who are brutally torn apart and must find a way to be together against all odds.

Imogen’s third WW2 novel, The Girl Across the Wire Fence, is set in Amersfoort, Netherlands, and is based on the unforgettable tale of two young lovers who risked everything to keep hope alive in the very depths of hell – the little known Dutch concentration camp called Kamp Amersfoort.

Imogen’s WW2 novels are published by Bookouture, a digital imprint of Hachette.

Learn more about Imogen’s story in this video: https://youtu.be/2YO0IWJSjj0

Author social media

www.imogenmatthewsbooks.com

Facebook: @theHiddenVillagenovel

Twitter: @ImogenMatthews3

Thank you Bookouture for inviting me to this tour and providing an advanced copy for me to review and give my honest and unbiased opinion.

Love

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All about Books, Book review

Book Review: The Book of Magic by Alice Hoffman

My first book review of the year is a book I looked forward to ever since I knew it was written, The Book of Magic by Alice Hoffman. This is book four and the conclusion of the Practical Magic series but with a witchy world full of wonderful characters with many backstories to explore a reader can always wish for more.

Book Review: The Book of Magic by Alice Hoffman

Book cover for The Book of Magic by Alice Hoffman
The Book of Magic by Alice Hoffman

Title: A Book of Magic

Author: Alice Hoffman

Publisher: Simon and Schuster

Genre: fiction, fantasy, witchlit

Release Date: 6th Jan 2022

Blurb

‘Full of Hoffman’s bewitching and lucid prose and vivid characters, The Book of Magic is ultimately about the very human magic of family and love and actions that echo through generations… it casts a spell’  —Matt Haig

THE STUNNING, UNFORGETTABLE CONCLUSION TO THE BELOVED PRACTICAL MAGIC SERIES

For centuries, the Owens family has been cursed in matters of love. When beloved aunt Jet Owens hears the sound of the deathwatch beetle, she knows that it is a signal. She has finally discovered the secret to breaking the curse, but time is running out. She has only seven days to live.

Unaware of the family’s witchcraft lineage and all it entails, one of the young sisters of the new Owens generation has fallen in love. As the curse strikes once again, her love’s fate hangs in the balance, spurring three generations of Owens to venture back to where it all began and use their gifts to break the spell that has marked all their lives.

But doing so threatens to destroy everything the family has fought so hard to protect. How much will they give up for the greatest gift of all?

My Thoughts

I had high hopes for this book, and it didn’t let me down. From the moment Jet heard the death-watch beetle and begins a mission to stop the 300-year-old curse for good, I was hooked back into the world where reality is blended seamlessly with magic to discover whether this could be achieved.

The Rules of Magic, which follows the siblings Franny, Jet and Vincent, is my favourite novel in the series so I loved meeting them again, even if they were in their 80s. The journey to find a cure for the Owens’ curse brings the characters to Essex in England, and the descriptions and sense of place reignited my desire to visit there. It has been on my literary tour wishlist since I read Hiding from the Light by Barbara Erskine.

The strength of these books are the original characterisation, depth of magical world building and the lyrical prose that is littered with references to herbal references. This all adds to the central witchy theme.

It is a strong conclusion to a series about curses, forbidden love and redemption and this one in particular is an ode to books and libraries.

Though it could be read out of sequence, you will enjoy it more and be less confused with the multitude of characters if read in order. This could be done in order of the release dates  – Practical MagicThe Rules of MagicMagic LessonsThe Book of Magic – or chronologically –Magic LessonsThe Rules of MagicPractical MagicThe Book of Magic.

Would I recommend?

If like me and those at The Enchanted Emporium you love books about magic, witches and books, this is a series to read. With magical prose and storytelling, a unique collection of characters and immersive worldbuilding this novel gives a satisfying conclusion to a wonderful tale of revenge, love and redemption.

I look forward to having a physical copy on my forever bookshelf for rereads and I know as soon as a copy is put on the Enchanted Emporium bookshelf, it will be on permanent loan by the witches of Whitby and beyond.

Thank you Simon and Schuster via NetGalley providing an advanced copy for me to review and give my honest and unbiased opinion.

Have you read this series or watched the film Practical Magic starring Nicole Kidman and Sandra Bullock? Let me know in the comments below.

Trailer for Practical Magic

Happy reading!

Love

All about Books, Book review, The Enchanted Emporium's Bookshelf

Best Books of 2021: The Year of the Witches

It’s a new year so time for me to share my favourite books of 2021 before I leap into reading this year’s offerings. 2021 galloped by and threw many obstacles my way, but it produced some amazing books though for me, the world of witches and magic have shone above the rest.

In no particular order here are my best books of 2021:

Threadneedle book cover

Threadneedle by Cari Thomas

The book cover for The Woman and The Witch

The Woman and the Witch by Amanda Larkman

The Shape of Darkness by Laura Purcell

Book cover for Witches of Barcelona

Witches of Barcelona by Caedis Knight

The Dream Weavers by Barbara Erskine

Midnight in Everwood by M.A Kuznair

The Coven by Lizzie Fry

Other books without a glimmer of magic but I adored anyway are:

The Imperfect Art of Caring by Jessica Ryn – review coming shortly

The Christmas Bookshop by Jenny Colgan

Dear Grace by Clare Swatman

2022 looks like it will also be a wonderful year for magic and romance with the publication of the final instalment of the Practical Magic series, The Book of Magic by Alice Hoffman and the future publication of Miranda Dickinson’s The Start of Something.

What were your favourite reads in 2021 and what are you looking forward to this year? Let me know in the comments below.

A huge thank you to Rachel’s Random Resources, Random Things Tour, all the publishers who have supported my blog and allowed me early access to these wonderful books and of course, you my readers.

Happy New Year!

Happy reading and writing.

Love

All about Books, Book review, The Enchanted Emporium's Bookshelf

Book Review: Midnight in Everwood by M.A Kuznair

As we head towards Christmas and the traditional time of watching The Nutcracker at the theatre, now is the ideal time to review Midnight in Everwood by M.A Kuznair. Beneath this stunning book cover is a story loosely based on The Nutcracker, a ballet I discovered after reading this. Scroll down to see if the story lives up to the promise the delightful cover makes.

Title: Midnight in Everwood

Author: M.A Kuzniar

Publisher: HQ

Genre: Fantasy

Release Date: 28th October 2021

Blurb

In the darkness of night, magic awaits…

Nottingham, 1906

Marietta Stelle longs to be a ballerina but, as Christmas draws nearer, her dancing days are numbered – she must marry and take up her place in society in the New Year. But, when a mysterious toymaker, Dr Drosselmeier, purchases a neighbouring townhouse, it heralds the arrival of magic and wonder in Marietta’s life.

After Drosselmeier constructs an elaborate theatrical set for her final ballet performance on Christmas Eve, Marietta discovers it carries a magic all of its own – a magic darker than anyone could imagine. As the clock chimes midnight, Marietta finds herself transported from her family’s ballroom to a frozen sugar palace, silent with secrets, in a forest of snow-topped fir trees. She must find a way to return home before she’s trapped in Everwood’s enchanting grip forever.

In the darkness of night, magic awaits and you will never forget what you find here…

My Thoughts

This book is everything I ever wished for and more. I love ballet, strong female characters and magic and this novel blends all of those elements perfectly. Highly visual, the scenes appear fully formed in the mind from the start with the introduction of strong willed and determined Marietta fighting against the social norms of the time to continue ballet lessons but they become technicolour when she arrives at Everwood. The words capture the musicality and gracefulness of the ballet, The Nutcracker, which is based but takes on a darker, haunting and thrilling form as secrets are revealed.

In reality, there is no way I can convey how much I love the wonder and world building in this book. It is one of those reads you wish you can wipe from your memory so you can have the childish delight of reading it fresh so you can discover it all over again. I first read a digital advanced copy but loved it so much I had to order a physical copy to own. And wow, what a treat the physical copies are with its distinctive illustrated dust jacket that hides the gorgeous blue cover embossed with a gold ballerina underneath. My only regret is I was too late to buy a Waterstone’s edition too with the added essay on The Nutcracker, but since my copy is personally signed, I can’t grumble at all.

Midnight in Everwood is an unforgettable story that deserves to be cherished.

Would I recommend?

Yes. Yes. Yes. Not only is Midnight in Everwood a fantastic read that will become a classic in the future, the cover adds to its elegance, making it an ideal gift for fantasy lovers or those who adore ballet and The Nutcracker. Full of strong characters, set in an extravagant and magical location, the danger and suspense underpinning the beauty makes you unable to put this book down until the end. The impact of the story and Marietta lingers long after the last page.

It is one for my foverever shelf and will be reread during the festive season but it is also sits proudly on the Enchanted Emporium bookshelf.

Author Biography

M.A. Kuzniar spent six years living in Spain, teaching English and travelling the world which inspired her children’s series The Ship of Shadows. Her adult debut novel Midnight in Everwood was inspired by her love of ballet and love of The Nutcracker. She lives in Nottingham with her husband, where she reads and writes as much as can and bookstagrams as @cosyreads.

SOCIAL MEDIA:

Twitter

Instagram

Love

All about Books, Book review

BOOK REVIEW: THE POST BOX AT THE NORTH POLE BY JAIMIE ADMANS

Christmas is coming so I thought I’d share a review for one of my favourite festive books this year The Post Box at the North Pole by Jaimie Admans.

BOOK REVIEW: THE POST BOX AT THE NORTH POLE BY JAIMIE ADMANS

The Post Box at the North Pole by Jaimie Admans

Title: The Post Box at the North Pole

Author: Jaimie Admans

Publisher: HQ Digital

Genre: Festive romance

Release Date: 18th Oct 2021

Purchase Links

Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B09DFHFNW3

Amazon US: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B09DFHFNW3

BLURB

Dear Santa,

I wish I could believe in magic again.

From, Sasha.

Sasha Hansley hates Christmas. As a child, it was her favourite time of year, but ever since the tragic death of her mother, it has completely lost its magic.

But when she gets an unexpected phone call from her eccentric estranged father, she’s forced to dust off her snow boots.

He has been running a Lapland-style Christmas village in Norway and after suffering a heart attack, he is on strict doctor’s orders to slow down. Eager to reconnect with her dad, Sasha books the next flight out there. Only she has never actually been on a plane before, let alone to the Arctic Circle.

 Met at the runway by drop-dead-gorgeous Taavi Salvesen, they sleigh ride through the snow with the Northern Lights guiding their way.

 When Sasha uncovers sacks of unopened Santa mail – letters that children and adults from all over the world write to Santa every year – she realises that she can send a little bit of magic out into the world by replying to some of them.

 With Taavi on hand to help, will Sasha rediscover her own excitement for Christmas and find love among the letters?

The Post Box at the North Pole is like one big romantic mug of hot chocolate with extra whipped cream and a splash of Christmas magic! Fans of Holly Martin, Sarah Morgan and Heidi Swain will love this novel!

MY THOUGHTS

Oh heck! What a Christmas novel, it’s like a perfect festive movie, full of cheer, snow, emotion and everything I love about them.  Not only is the stunning location a character itself and I could imagine myself there happily Sasha is easy to relate to and Taavi with his childish wonder at the Christmas season took my breath away. I loved the descriptions of the North Pole village and as the story unfolded my love for it grew but it was the chemistry between Taavi and Sasha, and her troubled relationship with her father that drew me in. I needed to know how things could be resolved.

Despite being full of warmth, festive spirit and sprinkled with the magic of nisse, there is an undercurrent of deep emotions, secrets and darkness throughout. Without this depth, the idyllic nature of the scenery and theme of this novel could have veered towards sickly sweet but instead was a joy to read.

WOULD I RECOMMEND?

Yes. I’ve still have a few festive books in my stash but this is an exquisite journey to a magical place with a swoonsome love interest and realistic heroine to relate to. With a stunning location that oozes the seasonal magic, this is pure Christmassy escapism with romance, family drama and Santa. It  has to be one of my top festive books on my forever shelf and I’ll be visiting Taavi, the nisse and the North Pole again and again.

With the magic of Christmas and nisse in the background, The Enchanted Emporium Bookshelf is excited to sneak this novel on to its shelf on a technicality.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY

Jaimie Admans

Jaimie is a 36-year-old English-sounding Welsh girl with an awkward-to-spell name. She lives in South Wales and enjoys writing, gardening, watching horror movies, and drinking tea, although she’s seriously considering marrying her coffee machine. She loves autumn and winter, and singing songs from musicals despite the fact she’s got the voice of a dying hyena. She hates spiders, hot weather, and cheese & onion crisps. She spends far too much time on Twitter and owns too many pairs of boots.
She will never have time to read all the books she wants to read.

She is the author of several romantic comedies for HarperCollins – The Chateau of Happily Ever Afters, The Little Wedding Island, It’s a Wonderful Night, The Little Vintage Carousel by the Sea, Snowflakes at the Little Christmas Tree Farm, The Little Bookshop of Love Stories, The Wishing Tree Beside the Shore, The Little Christmas Shop on Nutcracker Lane, and The Post Box at the North Pole.

Social Media Links –

Twitterhttp://www.twitter.com/be_the_spark

Facebookhttp://www.facebook.com/jaimieadmansbooks

Thank you HQ Digital for providing an advanced copy for me to review and give my honest and unbiased opinion.

Love

P.S This review originally appeared on the From Under the Duvet blog.