"The Bloodletter's Daughter" by Linda Lafferty
Four out of Five Stars
I have absolutely no idea how I ran across this book on the Kindle -- but I'm glad I did!
It's the early 1600's, in Prague and Bohemia. Emperor Rudolf II has no legitimate heirs, but his illegitimate first-born son is much-loved, if only by the Emperor and his mistress. This son, Don Julius, suffers from what is undoubtedly schizophrenia -- he hears voices, he has mad rages, he acts completely recklessly and inappropriately (and illegally). To keep the townspeople from revolting, the emperor sends his son to be held in a castle in a small town in Bohemia.
In this town, the barber surgeon (or blood-letter) is tasked with bleeding Don Julius to get his "humors into balance". His daughter, Marketa, is headstrong and wants what no girl is allowed -- to be a doctor. Marketa does assist her father, handling tools and such, and when Don Julius sees Marketa, he realizes the voices in his head go quiet.
That's the main gist. There's also a mysterious Book of Wonder that no one can translate, and several interesting side stories. The ending is exciting and fascinating, considering the book is based upon a real murder of the time.
I was captivated by the characters (even when they irritated me) and it's a unique story worth reading.
"War Brides" by Helen Bryan
Five out of Five Stars
I had to think for a bit about the rating on this one. On the one hand, I had a hard time putting it down. On the other hand, the ending had parts that were completely unrealistic, and one of the themes in the story was a bit hard to digest. HOWEVER -- the characters stayed with me past closing the book, and I was genuinely surprised and delighted with a couple of the endings, even if some would say they were too neatly tied up. I don't care -- I liked it.
The story is about a group of women during WWII in a small town in England. It's about sacrifice and love, bravery and secrets. There's a bunch of back story which has been off-putting to some readers, so you have to be able to mentally jump from here to there and back again. My copy didn't have the spelling and grammatical errors that others found, but there are some historical inaccuracies -- for instance, the Air Force wasn't the Air Force when Bryan says it is (and I say this as a USAF veteran). I can overlook that, though.
However, I have to give the book five stars because it stuck with me and I was sad to see it end, even if the ending was a little sloppy. I actually got into the characters and their lives and maybe it was just the right time for me to read this sort of thing, but I enjoyed it. The best WWII fiction book ever? No. Worth reading? Yes!