• XX Chromosomes
  • Advertisements

Review & Giveaway of Marlene: A Novel by C.W. Gortner


About Marlene

Raised in genteel poverty after the first World War, Maria Magdalena Dietrich dreams of a life on the stage. When a budding career as a violinist is cut short, the willful teenager vows to become a singer, trading her family’s proper, middle class society for the free-spirited, louche world of Weimar Berlin’s cabarets and drag balls. With her sultry beauty, smoky voice, seductive silk cocktail dresses, and androgynous tailored suits, Marlene performs to packed houses, and becomes entangled in a series of stormy love affairs that push the boundaries of social convention.

For the beautiful, desirous Lili Marlene, neither fame nor marriage and motherhood can cure her wanderlust. As Hitler and the Nazis rise to power, she sets sail for America. Rivaling the success of another European import, Greta Garbo, Marlene quickly becomes one of Hollywood’s leading ladies, starring with legends such as Gary Cooper, John Wayne, and Cary Grant. Desperate for her return, Hitler tries to lure her with dazzling promises. Marlene instead chooses to become an American citizen, and after her new nation is forced into World War II, tours with the USO, performing for thousands of Allied troops in Europe and Africa.

But one day she will return to Germany. Escorted by General George Patton himself, Marlene is heartbroken by the war’s devastation and the evil legacy of the Third Reich that has transformed her homeland and the family she loved.

An enthralling and insightful account of this extraordinary legend, Marlene reveals the inner life of a woman of grit, glamour, and ambition who defied convention, seduced the world, and forged her own path on her own terms.

My Review

Gortner gives readers the undeniable enigmatic Marlene Dietrich in all her glory reading more nonfiction than fiction. With certitude Gortner is a talented writer with a creative eye possessing a knack celebrating iconic women.

Marlene’s story is detailed and alluring. Nothing new brought to light for those familiar with the mysterious lady, although his emphasis on Dietrich’s aiding the allies during wartime by entertaining military personnel on the home front and abroad might be a revelation to readers. Her love affairs with both men and women were plenty. A public figure yet achingly private. Her childhood somewhat of a challenge, her relationship with her mother turbulent.

Marlene was a nonconformist, she lived her life her way without apology, excuses or regret, Marlene did not bend for the world despite societal expectations. A progressive woman in thought, choices and actions clearly ahead of her time.

I wasn’t a fan of the clunky sex scenes, awkwardly descriptive. I did appreciate the vivid atmospheric taste of Germany, its people and concerns of Hitler and pre/post WWII. Kudos for the thorough research, as always Gortner crafts a story of a woman of strength, independence holding on to her individuality. A man who understands women exploiting them in their individual exuberance.

About C.W. Gortner169656

Bestselling author C.W. Gortner holds an MFA in Writing, with an emphasis in Renaissance Studies. Raised in Spain and half Spanish by birth, he currently lives in Northern California. His books have been translated in over 20 languages to date.

He welcomes readers and is always available for reader group chats. Please visit his website for more information.


Enter to win my ARC of Marlene. US residents only. Ends 5/11/16

Expected publication: May 24th 2016 by William Morrow


Review: I’ll See You in Paris by Michelle Gable

Lavender and book

About I’ll See You in Paris

After losing her fiancé in the Vietnam War, nineteen-year-old Laurel Haley takes a job in England, hoping the distance will mend her shattered heart. Laurel expects the pain might lessen but does not foresee the beguiling man she meets or that they’ll go to Paris, where the city’s magic will take over and alter everything Laurel believes about love.

Thirty years later, Laurel’s daughter Annie is newly engaged and an old question resurfaces: who is Annie’s father and what happened to him? Laurel has always been vague about the details and Annie’s told herself it doesn’t matter. But with her impending marriage, Annie has to know everything. Why won’t Laurel tell her the truth?

The key to unlocking Laurel’s secrets starts with a mysterious book about an infamous woman known as the Duchess of Marlborough. Annie’s quest to understand the Duchess, and therefore her own history, takes her from a charming hamlet in the English countryside, to a decaying estate kept behind barbed wire, and ultimately to Paris where answers will be found at last.

My Review

I found Gladys Deacon utterly fascinating. In fact I remember reading an article on her in 2011. Needless to say I was interested in reading this book, curious to read Gable’s version with fiction and non-fiction aspects of Gladys Deacon.

Deacon’s story was fascinating. I was impressed with Gable’s weaving of Vietnam, 9/11 and Gladys Deacon, I was skeptical at first, however, ultimately pleasantly surprised.

The narrative was fascinating but dragged a bit, also the level of predictability was high, no surprises throughout for this reader, I knew what was coming including the ending, therefore lacking a mystery factor.

On the fence with the ending, I wish an epilogue was included compensating for the ambiguous and abrupt finish.

An entertaining read, I found Deacon alluring, in fact I would extremely curious to learn more about this creature from Gable’s interpretation if I didn’t already know of her tragic story.

About Michelle Gable558089

Michelle Gable is the international bestselling author of A PARIS APARTMENT. When not dreaming up fiction on the sly, she works in finance, specializing in investor relations. A College of William & Mary graduate, Gable currently resides in Cardiff by the Sea, California with her husband, two daughters, and one lazy cat.

Expected publication: February 9th 2016 by Thomas Dunne Books

Review & Giveaway: Outback Promise by Maggie Bolitho

About Outback Promise

Sometimes before you can find yourself, you must lose yourself in the desert.

Can Ros and Grady move on from the past, or will their pain drive them apart? Six years ago, the Balfours lost their son Cadel to a hit-and-run driver.

A few months ago, Ros discovered Grady’s affair. With their marriage fast disintegrating, they decide to take a three-month camping trip into the heart of Australia to try and mend deep wounds and rekindle the fire that once fused them close.

This trip will decide the fate of their relationship: do they have enough strength and enough love left to accept what life has put them both through?

But trust and forgiveness don’t come easily, and Ros and Grady have to navigate not only the wilderness of the Outback and the challenges of other travellers, but also the chasm of grief and bitterness they have sunk into over the last six years. Their only hope for survival lies in facing the secrets they have both tried to keep buried.

My Review

Incredible heartfelt story. Bolitho’s writing is absolutely lovely. Her words capture Rosalyn’s profound grief of her child, the demise of her marriage along with flashbacks of her abusive mother. Using the forgiving and punishing elements of the brutal Australian Outback serves as the perfect setting. Bolitho delves into Rosalyn’s pain, fear, denial, regrets and the acknowledgment of this and more makes this story painfully beautiful. I rooted for this couple from the start, suffering severe starts and stutters added to the depth and compelling nature of this couple.

Bolitho masterfully penned an emotional read, you are invested from the start, you feel the pain, the depth of sorrow. Have your tissue box handy and prepare yourself for an emotional rollercoaster ride, quite a compelling journey. Outstanding piece of work from Maggie Bolitho, looking forward to more from this gifted authoress.

About Maggie BolithoIMG_2126+sm+&+cropped

A free range child, I grew up on an island in Canada’s Pacific Northwest. I spent my formative years flying under the radar, building alternative universes, and longing to be somewhere far, far away.

Shortly after my 17th birthday I set out to see the world, or at least large parts of Canada. I lived in four of Canada’s major cities before eventually moving to Australia where I married the love of my life.

While living Down Under, I explored the Outback and started writing fiction. Some of my adult short stories have been included in different anthologies in Australia, the US, and Canada. My poetry has been published in Quills Canadian Poetry magazine.

In 2007 my husband and I returned to Canada. We settled in a leafy suburb on the island where I grew up. We divide our time between Victoria and Salt Spring Island where we enjoy forest hikes and walks along rocky beaches. We no longer wish to be anywhere else, except when memories of Australia’s golden shores and beautiful bushland rise in our hearts.

November 2015 my adult novel, Outback Promise, will be released by HarperCollins Australia.

In 2014 my debut novel, Lockdown, was released by Great Plains Teen Fiction.

Connect with Maggie:  Website | FacebookTwitter  | Goodreads


Enter for a chance to win a digital copy (EPUB only) copy of Outback Promise. Open Internationally. Ends 12/15/15

Published November 1st 2015 by HarperCollins Australia

ARC: Dollbaby by Laura Lane McNeal

Laura Lane McNeal
Pamela Dorman Books July 3, 2014
Pages 352
ISBN13: 978067001436
A copy was provided in exchange for an honest review
Recommendation: 3/5
Reviewer: Melinda

From Goodreads:
When Ibby Bell’s father dies unexpectedly in the summer of 1964, her mother unceremoniously deposits Ibby with her eccentric grandmother Fannie and throws in her father’s urn for good measure. Fannie’s New Orleans house is like no place Ibby has ever been—and Fannie, who has a tendency to end up in the local asylum—is like no one she has ever met. Fortunately, Fannie’s black cook, Queenie, and her smart-mouthed daughter, Dollbaby, take it upon themselves to initiate Ibby into the ways of the South, both its grand traditions and its darkest secrets.

For Fannie’s own family history is fraught with tragedy, hidden behind the closed rooms in her ornate Uptown mansion. It will take Ibby’s arrival to begin to unlock the mysteries there. And it will take Queenie and Dollbaby’s hard-won wisdom to show Ibby that family can sometimes be found in the least expected places.


My Thoughts
McNeal left quite an impression with her debut novel Dollbaby (more…)