THE GOOD AT HEART by Ursula Werner (Audiobook)


Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Release Date: February 21, 2017
Source: Review copy from the publisher
Rating: ★★★


Based on the author’s discoveries about her great-grandfather, this stunning debut novel takes place over three days when World War II comes to the doorstep of an ordinary German family living in an idyllic rural village near the Swiss border.

When World War II breaks out, Edith and Oskar Eberhardt move their family – their daughter, Marina; son-in-law, Franz; and granddaughters – out of Berlin and into a small house in the quiet town of Blumental, near Switzerland. A member of Hitler’s cabinet, Oskar is gone most of the time, and Franz begins fighting in the war, so the women of the house are left to their quiet lives in the picturesque village.

But life in Blumental isn’t as idyllic as it appears. An egotistical Nazi captain terrorizes the citizens he’s assigned to protect. Neighbors spy on each other. Some mysteriously disappear. Marina has a lover who also has close ties to her family and the government. Thinking none of them share her hatred of the Reich, she joins a Protestant priest smuggling Jewish refugees over the nearby Swiss border. The latest “package” is two Polish girls who’ve lost the rest of their family, and against her better judgment, Marina finds she must hide them in the Eberhardts’ cellar. Everything is set to go smoothly until Oskar comes home with the news that the Führer will be visiting the area for a concert, and he will be making a house call on the Eberhardts.

Based on the author’s discoveries about her great-grandfather, this extraordinary debut, full of love, tragedy, and suspense, is a sensitive portrait of a family torn between doing their duty for their country and doing what’s right for their country, and especially for those they love.


I love historical fiction set during World War II, and this one was a bit different since it focused on a German family whose patriarch is a member of Hitler’s cabinet. Oskar Eberhardt has moved his family – wife, daughter, and granddaughters – to a small village close to the Swiss border called Blumental. Here they’ll be protected from most of the horrors of the war, or so it seems. Within the town, there are people who support the Führer or seem apathetic, and those who oppose the Nazis and will fight back however they’re able, which of course puts their lives in danger. Oskar’s daughter Marina is part of the secret resistance.

While I liked the story involving the rescue of two Jewish girls, overall I just wasn’t riveted. The plot moved along slowly, and I was expecting more suspense or drama considering the subject matter. I was pleased and surprised at the bittersweet ending though. “Good at Heart” was a fitting title, taken from an entry in Anne Frank’s diary.


Audiobook • 9 hrs, 44 mins • Gibson Frazier, Narrator

I like Gibson Frazier’s voice. He performed the narration for GOOD AT HEART in a straightforward way without a lot of emotion, which I suppose fit with the book. A little more inflection might have made the story more exciting.


Disclosure: I received a copy of this audiobook from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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STOLEN BEAUTY by Laurie Lico Albanese (Audiobook)


Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Release Date: February 7, 2017
Source: Review copy from the publisher
Rating: ★★★★★


From the dawn of the 20th century to the devastation of World War II, this exhilarating novel of love, war, art, and family gives voice to two extraordinary women and brings to life the true story behind the creation and near destruction of Gustav Klimt’s most remarkable paintings.

In the dazzling glitter of 1900 Vienna, Adele Bloch-Bauer – young, beautiful, brilliant, and Jewish – meets painter Gustav Klimt. Wealthy in everything but freedom, Adele embraces Klimt’s renegade genius as the two awaken to the erotic possibilities on the canvas and beyond. Though they enjoy a life where sex and art are just beginning to break through the façade of conventional society, the city is also exhibiting a disturbing increase in anti-Semitism, as political hatred foments in the shadows of Adele’s coffee house afternoons and cultural salons.

Nearly 40 years later, Adele’s niece Maria Altmann is a newlywed when the Nazis invade Austria – and overnight, her beloved Vienna becomes a war zone. When her husband is arrested and her family is forced out of their home, Maria must summon the courage and resilience that is her aunt’s legacy if she is to survive and keep her family – and their history – alive.

Will Maria and her family escape the Nazis’ grip? And what will become of the paintings that her aunt nearly sacrificed everything for?

Impeccably researched and a “must-read for fans of Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale and Paula McLain’s Circling the Sun” (Christina Baker Kline, number-one New York Times best-selling author), Stolen Beauty intertwines the tales of two remarkable women across more than a hundred years. It juxtaposes passion and discovery against hatred and despair and shines a light on our ability to love, to destroy, and, above all, to endure.


I’m a longtime fan of Gustav Klimt’s works, so I knew I had to give STOLEN BEAUTY a listen when it came across my audiobook radar. The title refers to Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I, one of Klimt’s most famous paintings during his “Golden Phase.” (Take a look at the painting HERE.) At the heart of STOLEN BEAUTY are two remarkable women: Adele Bloch-Bauer and Maria Altmann.

At the turn of the last century, Adele Bloch-Bauer was a wealthy Austrian woman, a patron of the arts, and Gustav Klimt’s muse. In her adulthood, she studied and hosted salons on philosophy, science, and art, all the subjects that were forbidden to her as a girl. She was a strong, intelligent, and passionate woman who fought to break through the limitations that society placed on her.

Decades later, Adele’s niece, Maria, is living in Vienna when the Nazis invade Austria, and her strength is put to the test. She must find a way to save herself, her family, and ultimately Adele’s legacy.

I enjoyed STOLEN BEAUTY very much. It was compelling, heartbreaking, and completely absorbing. It was also a well-researched account of the Viennese art world during Klimt’s time. This book would appeal to art lovers as well as historical fiction buffs.

Books about Nazis and their atrocities are not easy to read, especially since there are things going on today that mirror what happened during Hitler’s rise, like blaming immigrants or a religious group for society’s problems. But, it’s important to keep reading these books and stay in the know. Stay angry and aware.

(Side note: I wasn’t aware of this before, but there’s a movie called WOMAN IN GOLD (2015) starring Helen Mirren as Maria Altmann. I requested it from the library. Looking forward to viewing!)


Audiobook • 9 hrs, 25 mins • Narrators: Gabra Zackman , Madeleine Maby , Gibson Frazier

Listening to the audiobook of STOLEN BEAUTY was wonderful. Gabra Zackman performed the part of Adele, while Madeleine Maby was the voice of Maria. Gibson Frazier took more of a narrator’s role with short snippets between the women’s characters’ parts. Zackman and Maby, in particular, had to tackle several characters and different accents, and both handled it beautifully.


Disclosure: I received a copy of this audiobook from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.