The Ration Card by Eric K. Augspurger

Every so often, I’m privileged to review a book written by someone I know. Sometimes it’s someone I’ve just become friends with recently; sometimes it’s someone I’ve known a long time. On this occasion, I get to present a WWII novel written by someone I’ve known over 20 years (wow, now I feel old. Thanks, Eric).

The Ration Card Front Cover (Tin Whiskers Books)

The Ration Card Front Cover (Tin Whiskers Publisher)

THE PLOT: Josephine Troyer is like many other young war brides. She and her husband, Al, quickly married between high school graduation and his enlistment in the marines. Jo grew up in an orphanage and has been living with Al’s parents while he’s fighting in the Pacific, but she starts to feel the need to contribute something to the war effort. One day, Jo shocks her in-laws by announcing her intention to apply for a job at the local factory as so many other women are doing.

Even though the work is strenuous and dirty, Jo finds satisfaction in being useful. She makes new friends at the plant, including Roz, a woman of Japanese descent, and Pete, a man who isn’t fighting because of a prior injury. As Jo becomes more independent, she begins to wonder if she’ll be the same person Al married when he comes home.

MY TWO CENTS: If you read this blog, you know that historical fiction is my favorite genre, although WWII isn’t my usual pick. But this is a perfect example of why historical fiction appeals to me so much: you can learn details about the time period while connecting with characters that make you care about their story.

This story is very much about Jo’s journey from a teenage girl to a young woman reaching her potential. She begins by feeling helpless while her husband is fighting the war and wanting to do anything to contribute to his safety. After she begins the job, though, and becomes good at it, she starts to become proud of her work. She’s excited to earn her own money and even buy a car, which adds to her independence.

The plot’s tension comes from her evolving relationships with others, especially Pete. While Jo gets along well with her in-laws, they don’t entirely approve of her new-found independence, and her mother-in-law especially begins to become suspicious of her friendship with Pete. In the meantime, Jo naturally matures through events such as supervising her crew, dressing up (including fake stockings) and going out with the girls, enjoying baseball games with Roz and Pete, and dealing with rationing. Jo also faces her share of heartache. The novel brings up something often glossed over in American history: the treatment of Japanese-Americans during WWII.

While there is definitely romance in this book, it is not primarily a romance. All the romance is very clean. While the romance plays a part in Jo’s growth, Pete’s character also grows and changes through his relationship with Jo. Even Jo’s mother-in-law, Pearl, changes over time. Although this is primarily Jo’s story, the growth of other characters add to the richness of the realism already experienced through the setting details.

BOTTOM LINE: A lovely coming-of-age story with fabulous period details of the WWII home front. I enjoyed it a great deal and am very much looking forward to the book about Roz, But for the Blood I Bear.

TEACUP RATING: Five out of five teacups.

ON SALE DATE: The Ration Card is available now in hardcover and eformats. (Please note that the hardcover version includes samples of the Blooming Grove newspaper, which give even more details about events of the time. These do not appear in the eformats.) Eformats can only be purchased through; hardcovers can be purchased there or through Amazon.

FIRST CHAPTER SAMPLE: You can read the first chapter and view a sample of the Blooming Grove Review in PDF format here.

Note: Review is based on a copy gifted to the reviewer by the author.

At the Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen

Full disclosure: I have not read Water for Elephants or any other book by Sara Gruen. I haven’t seen the movie. A friend highly recommends Water for Elephants, and it’s on my “to read” list. So I thought when I had the chance to read the author’s new book, At the Water’s Edge, I would request it. I’m glad I did; I enjoyed it very much.

At the Water's Edge Front Cover (Random House)

At the Water’s Edge Front Cover (Random House)

THE PLOT: Maddie Hyde grew up with a crazy mother and detached father, so she made a “society” marriage to escape. Her husband’s parents don’t approve of the marriage, and fear that Maddie will end up mentally ill like her mother. They ought to be more concerned about their son, though, whose obvious addiction is only the tip of the iceberg of his secrets. Ellis has avoided service in WWII by being conveniently colorblind. His and Maddie’s best friend, Hank, is also conveniently flat-footed, so the three of them spend their time partying while other people their age are at war. After a final, devastating falling-out with Ellis’s father on New Year’s Day 1945, the three friends leave Philadelphia for Scotland to search for the Loch Ness monster. This isn’t a random event; Ellis’s father was obsessed with hunting for the monster and was disgraced after being accused of fabricating his evidence. Ellis figures if they can get proof, his wealthy father will welcome him back into the fold.

Of course, traveling across the Atlantic during wartime is no picnic, and “accommodations” in Scotland are sketchy at best. The trio stay in a tavern run by Angus, a man who was previously believed killed in action. He has little use for Ellis and Hank’s shenanigans, but Maddie starts to grow up as she makes startling discoveries about her husband and marriage. She enjoys making her first female friends ever in the tavern workers and gradually begins to understand that despite her partying lifestyle, she hasn’t really been living at all. As Ellis becomes more and more sinister, Maddie begins to fear he’ll have her declared insane and locked up for good to take control of her money.

MY TWO CENTS: I wasn’t sure what to expect with this book, and I had a little trouble getting into the first two chapters. After that, I became really involved and didn’t want to stop reading. I found Maddie a sympathetic character who grew throughout the book. I felt her situation becoming more desperate, and hoped she would eventually have the courage to get away from Ellis. I did feel that the storyline with Angus was predictable. Wondering how everything would be resolved kept my interest, though. I hoped Maddie would get a happy ending and Ellis would get what he deserved, and I wasn’t disappointed.

BOTTOM LINE: A really good read that I didn’t want to put down once I was into it. A little predictable toward the middle, but satisfying in the end.

TEACUP RATING: Four out of five teacups.

ON SALE DATE: Available March 31, 2015, in hardcover and eformats.

Note: Review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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