Berlin Hungers by Justine Saracen

When you pick up a Justine Saracen novel you know that you will undoubtedly finish the book with a respect for her historical detailedness and more knowledge than you had before. I love that her stories are so intricate and well, smart.

The Berlin Hunger takes us to the direct chaos that directly followed World War II. The horrors that took place in “peacetime” are tragic and hard to stomach. There is blatant brutality and at times it is hard to read.

Gillian Somerville was a pilot for the Air Transport Axillary during the war. She loved flying for her country but when the war ends Gillian suddenly finds herself with no work as a pilot. The women are not needed for that duty anymore. Unable to just go home, her whole family has passed, she decides to join the WAAF to become an air traffic controller.

Erika Brandt was a musician before the war. Now as the Russians have control of Berlin, she is scavaging for food to keep from starving to death. The Russians men portrayed in this book are animals and Erika faces unspeakable horrors to survive in this desperate time.

Erika and Gillian meet by chance a couple of times in the book and strike up a friendship born out of kindness. As the book progresses more feelings develop. This is a star-crossed lover romance though. These two have a lot going on and cannot see each other often for a multitude of reasons. So a lot of longing from afar.

Overall, I loved the historical aspect of the book. I felt as if Saracen dropped my in Berlin post-war and I was right there with the characters. The romance wasn’t my favorite. I loved the characters don’t get me wrong, and I was absolutely rooting for their happiness. I just felt like it dragged a bit. This is more historical fiction than your hot burning romance. Still a very good read!

3 out of 5 stars

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The Sniper’s Kiss by Justine Saracen

Justine Saracen writing is very in-depth. You know going into them they are superbly well researched and you most likely will be a bit smarter by the time you finish. Saracen’s attention to detail and an inclusion of historical facts in her novels, help make the stories and characters riveting.

Mia Kramer immigrated to the United States as a young girl. Mia, 29, comes into the story with a lot of baggage. She was raised by an emotionally abusive father, upon his highly questionable death, (was it murder or suicide), Mia takes control over her life and flees her father’s home to work for the government to support the war effort. Her vast knowledge the Russian language and culture ends her a prime job as an accountant for the Lend-Lease program under Harry Hopkins and right inside the Whitehouse.

The other main player in the book is Alexia Vassilievna Mazarova. A former teacher, Alexia enlists in the Red Army to help her country anyway she can. Striking good looks leads her to a plush assignment guarding the Kremlin and or course, Joseph Stalin. This is how she meets the Mia, and they strike up an unlikely friendship.

This book is a fascinating tale of history and friendship’s born out of horrifying circumstances. A historical fiction with just a hint of romance, while at times a bit unrealistic, overall this was a fantastic read.

4 out of 5 stars

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Dian’s Ghost by Justine Saracen

Dian’s Ghost is a captivating tale that takes place in the heart of the Virunga Mountains in Rwanda. Everything about this book is unique. I must say I have never read anything quite like it. This book is very well done, and amazingly well written. It will make you ask yourself the question would you kill a human to save an animal?
This book is centered around the story of Dian Fossey and her efforts of gorilla conservation. Personally, until reading this book I only knew bits and pieces of Fossey’s story, and mostly it came from snippets of the Sigourney Weaver movie adaptation. Dian’s Ghost will weave you into Fossey’s legacy while introducing you to fictional characters, Dana Norland and Dr. Kristen Wolfe.

We first meet Dana as she has just murdered two men in a basement in New York City. Whoa nelly! She has her reasons, I assure you, but you have to read it to find out why. Dana on the lamb from NYPD runs into Dr. Wolfe giving a presentation at Columbia University. Kristen is trying to get students to volunteer/work for the Karisoke Institute. What better place to escape the police than Africa?

While this book is a romance, it is so much more than than just a love story of two women. This book beautifully describes the harshness of Rwanda, and the struggles the people as well as the gorillas endured. Dian’s Ghost is set in the early 1990s and Rwanda is on the precipice of a civil war and in turn a mass human genocide. The lives of of so many were lost during that time, and you will be thrown right into the center of chaos.

This book is devastatingly wonderful. It’s tragic but it is hopeful, and it has characters that are strong, intelligent and so kind. It makes us ponder hard questions, and see that there is a grey area in terms of moral rights and wrongs. So, don’t judge this book by it’s cover. The pages between it are so, so good.

4.5  out of 5 stars