A sweet escape for fans of classical music.

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TIME WITH ELISE

A PIANO STUDENT'S TIME TRAVEL INTO THE LIFE OF BEETHOVEN

Schilling, in her debut work of historical fiction, combines Beethoven with a charming bit of time travel.

Eighteen-year-old Annalisa Helfing, known to her closest friends as Elise, is a brilliant, hardworking student of classical piano. But just how gifted she is, and why, isn’t clear until she steps in front of a fast-moving car. The impact not only knocks her off her feet—it also knocks her out of time, transporting her back to a 19th-century version of her home village of Heiligenstadt. There, the notoriously cantankerous Ludwig van Beethoven has just arrived in town, where he’s trying to come to terms with his worsening hearing loss. The nuns at a nearby convent nurse Elise back to health, but her independent spirit gets her into trouble. Soon she’s put to work as “Mr. Ludwig’s” housekeeper, getting her out of the convent and within reach of a piano. The rest is, as they say, history—a rather lovely imagining of the story behind Beethoven’s famous composition “Für Elise.” Although Schilling sometimes resolves conflicts a little too easily, such as town gossip over young Elise’s living in Beethoven’s home, she steers past most potential clichés to create sympathetic, likable characters. The romance is sweet and, considering the era, a little scandalous, and when Elise’s musical ability catches the eye and ear of wealthy patrons, it’s thanks to hard work and endless practice, not some mystical, time-travel–related gift. “Elise, I cannot help you live in any other time than this one,” Beethoven says. “But if it comforts you, I want you to follow your dream and see it come to fulfillment.” It’s hard to say if Elise really knows what she wants: to return to her own time or to stay in the 19th century and explore a life as wife, musician and music teacher. Eventually, the choice is made for her, but not before she and Beethoven leave indelible marks on each other’s lives in Schilling’s fanciful novel.

A sweet escape for fans of classical music.

Pub Date: July 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1499301472

Page Count: 162

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2014

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Archer will be a great series character for fans of crime fiction. Let’s hope the cigarettes don’t kill him.

ONE GOOD DEED

Thriller writer Baldacci (A Minute to Midnight, 2019, etc.) launches a new detective series starring World War II combat vet Aloysius Archer.

In 1949, Archer is paroled from Carderock Prison (he was innocent) and must report regularly to his parole officer, Ernestine Crabtree (she’s “damn fine-looking”). Parole terms forbid his visiting bars or loose women, which could become a problem. Trouble starts when businessman Hank Pittleman offers Archer $100 to recover a ’47 Cadillac that’s collateral for a debt owed by Lucas Tuttle, who readily agrees he owes the money. But Tuttle wants his daughter Jackie back—she’s Pittleman’s girlfriend, and she won’t return to Daddy. Archer finds the car, but it’s been torched. With no collateral to collect, he may have to return his hundred bucks. Meanwhile, Crabtree gets Archer the only job available, butchering hogs at the slaughterhouse. He’d killed plenty of men in combat, and now he needs peace. The Pittleman job doesn’t provide that peace, but at least it doesn’t involve bashing hogs’ brains in. People wind up dead and Archer becomes a suspect. So he noses around and shows that he might have the chops to be a good private investigator, a shamus. This is an era when gals have gams, guys say dang and keep extra Lucky Strikes in their hatbands, and a Lady Liberty half-dollar buys a good meal. The dialogue has a '40s noir feel: “And don’t trust nobody.…I don’t care how damn pretty they are.” There’s adult entertainment at the Cat’s Meow, cheap grub at the Checkered Past, and just enough clichés to prove that no one’s highfalutin. Readers will like Archer. He’s a talented man who enjoys detective stories, won’t keep ill-gotten gains, and respects women. All signs suggest a sequel where he hangs out a shamus shingle.

Archer will be a great series character for fans of crime fiction. Let’s hope the cigarettes don’t kill him.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5387-5056-8

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2019

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The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as...

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THE TATTOOIST OF AUSCHWITZ

An unlikely love story set amid the horrors of a Nazi death camp.

Based on real people and events, this debut novel follows Lale Sokolov, a young Slovakian Jew sent to Auschwitz in 1942. There, he assumes the heinous task of tattooing incoming Jewish prisoners with the dehumanizing numbers their SS captors use to identify them. When the Tätowierer, as he is called, meets fellow prisoner Gita Furman, 17, he is immediately smitten. Eventually, the attraction becomes mutual. Lale proves himself an operator, at once cagey and courageous: As the Tätowierer, he is granted special privileges and manages to smuggle food to starving prisoners. Through female prisoners who catalog the belongings confiscated from fellow inmates, Lale gains access to jewels, which he trades to a pair of local villagers for chocolate, medicine, and other items. Meanwhile, despite overwhelming odds, Lale and Gita are able to meet privately from time to time and become lovers. In 1944, just ahead of the arrival of Russian troops, Lale and Gita separately leave the concentration camp and experience harrowingly close calls. Suffice it to say they both survive. To her credit, the author doesn’t flinch from describing the depravity of the SS in Auschwitz and the unimaginable suffering of their victims—no gauzy evasions here, as in Boy in the Striped Pajamas. She also manages to raise, if not really explore, some trickier issues—the guilt of those Jews, like the tattooist, who survived by doing the Nazis’ bidding, in a sense betraying their fellow Jews; and the complicity of those non-Jews, like the Slovaks in Lale’s hometown, who failed to come to the aid of their beleaguered countrymen.

The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as nonfiction. Still, this is a powerful, gut-wrenching tale that is hard to shake off.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-279715-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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