Review: The Map of Salt and Stars

August 31, 2018

The Map of Salt and Stars by Jennifer Zeynab Joukhadar

The Map of Salt and Stars 2

Genre/Categories: Historical Fiction, Mythology, Folk Tale, Magical Realism, Coming of Age, Syrian

Summary:

The Map of Salt and Stars is really two stories. One story is contemporary and the other is a mythological folk tale that takes place 800 years earlier. In the contemporary story, Nour’s mother, a Syrian-American, a cartographer and painter of beautiful maps, decides to move Nour and her sisters from New York City back to Syria after the death of Nour’s father. The mother feels a strong desire to live closer to her family. After they arrive in Syria, they experience effects of the civil war evidenced by protests and shelling in their quiet neighborhood. When a shell destroys Nour’s home and neighborhood, she and her family and a close family friend of her father’s are forced to flee as refugees across seven countries of the Middle East and North Africa in search of safety.

The story within the story is a favorite folk tale that Nour’s father told her over and over again as a young girl. Nour loves the main character in the folk tale, Rawiya, who becomes an apprentice to al-Idrisi, commissioned by King Roger II of Sicily to create a map of the region. Rawiya follows al-Idrisi on a journey across the Middle East and the north of Africa where they encounter a mythical beast and fight epic battles.

There are strong connections between the two stories as Nour and her family are forced from their home to travel the identical route that Rawiya traveled eight hundred years earlier. Throughout the journey, Nour remembers and is inspired by the heroine of her favorite folktale as she faces similar challenges and fears.

Early Amazon Rating (August): 4.5

My Thoughts:

There’s a lot to like about this story!

Favorite Quote: “[King Roger] explained that he often came to the library at night. He motioned to the shelves of books, their spines polished gold, tawny brown, and russet leather. ‘Anyone who wants company and knowledge will find what they seek here,’ he said. ‘We are among friends.’ ”

Connections. Throughout the larger story, the two separate stories are connected in several ways. A few examples:

  • The characters in each story take a journey, have adventures, experience heartache, redefine the meaning of family, and hold out hope for ‘home.’
  • Both characters disguise themselves as boys.
  • Both girls grieve over the loss of a beloved father.
  • Nour’s mother is a map maker and painter while Rawiya is an apprentice to a map maker.
  • Both girls leave home and face grief on their journey.
  • The stories have some similar plot devices (one example among many is that Nour leads her family to safety [remembering the way to her father’s friend’s house] after their neighborhood was bombed and Rawiya saves her small expedition from a huge white attacking bird).

Themes. The story is filled with poignant themes including grief, beloved fathers, dangerous journeys, the comfort of stars, faith, and the search for home.

The Writing. Beautiful descriptive writing and sensory details fill every page of this story creating a memorable sense of place. Readers who appreciate figurative language will enjoy creative and descriptive phrases including fresh and unique similes, metaphors, and personification. The symbolism of salt and stars also encourages thoughtful reflection.

compelling character

Each month I designate the most compelling character of the month, and in August I’m honoring Nour and Rawiya  from The Map of Salt and Stars as this month’s most memorable characters. ***Link Up below

Meet Nour and Rawiya

Both main protagonists in The Map of Salt and Stars are young girls (coming of age). Nour and Rawiya are strong females with leadership qualities and are compelling characters (Cooler reviewers than me would call them “badass girls.”)

  • Nour is a bit melancholy, seriously reflective and thoughtful, has color Synesthesia, appears to have a photographic memory, exhibits leadership abilities, and is brave and daring.
  • Rawiya is fearlessly confident. She is best described in the following quotes:

When Khaldun (a young man) doubts that he can throw a stone high enough to kill Roc, the giant white mythological bird, Rawiya quietly and confidently says, “Perhaps I can.”

When she was discovered as a girl, she challenged her critics, “You once said I had courage, heart. That heart still beats. The body that cradles it is no large matter.”

…and my favorite….

I am a woman and a warrior,” Rawiya said, her blade cutting into his club. “If you think I can’t be both, you’ve been lied to.

Recommended. I highly recommend The Map of Salt and Stars for readers who appreciate historical fiction and stories set in diverse cultures, for those who seek stories of strong, independent, confident girls, for readers who would like an ambitious blending of a contemporary and a mythological story (with a bit of magical realism added to the mix), and definitely for readers with Syrian heritage. Even though this story is categorized adult fiction, I think mature middle grade girls and young adults who are looking for literary role models would be engaged by this story and be inspired by the female protagonists.

My Rating: 4.5 Stars

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map of salt and stars

Buy Here

Meet the Author, Jennifer Zeynab Joukhadar

Jennifer Zeynab JoukhadarJennifer Zeynab Joukhadar is a Syrian American author. Originally from New York City, Jennifer was born to a Muslim father and a Christian mother. She is a member of the Radius of Arab American Writers (RAWI) and of American Mensa. Her short stories have appeared or are forthcoming in The Kenyon ReviewThe Saturday Evening PostPANK MagazineMizna, and elsewhere. Jennifer is a 2017-2020 Montalvo Arts Center Lucas Artists Program Literary Arts Fellow and an alum of the Voices of Our Nations Arts Foundation (VONA) and the Tin House Writers’ Workshop. Her work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and the Best of the Net.



Link Up for August’s Most Compelling Character

(Please share your most memorable character from your August reading by Linking Up a blog post or in the comments)



Happy Reading Book Buddies!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection!
Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text



 Links I Love

Do you enjoy TV and/or a Netflix binge as well as reading? Do you have a favorite series or favorite episodes? I thought this was a great link to explore to see if the episodes listed match yours! 100 Best TV Episodes of the Century



My Summer TBR

I’ll be updating my Summer TBR list as I complete each read, so check this link often!
(So far I’ve read a good portion of the list (crossing off one more next week), some I’ve been more thrilled with than others, and I’ve only abandoned one)



Looking Ahead:

Over the weekend, look for my August Wrap Up post.

Next Friday, I hope to bring you a review of Anne Tyler’s Clock Dance.

clock dance

Amazon Information Here



Sharing is Caring

Thank you for reading today! I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along, promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.



 Let’s Discuss

Do you enjoy the story within a story structure?  One book I read with this same story within a story structure was Fredrik Backman’s And My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She Was Sorry. 

Are you looking ahead to fall reading? I have quite a fall TBR list that I’m eager to share with you!



***Blogs posts may contain affiliate links. This means that at no extra cost to you, I can earn a small percentage of your purchase price. This money will be used to offset the costs of running a blog and to sponsor giveaways, etc.

Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

Book Cover and author photo are credited to Amazon or an author’s (or publisher’s) website.

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I Was Anastasia

August 24, 2018

I Was Anastasia by Ariel Lawhon

I Was Anastasia 2

Genre/Categories: Historical Fiction, Biographical, Mystery

Summary:

For nearly a century, many have speculated about the survival of Anastasia Romanov after her famous political family was forced into a basement in Siberia and executed by firing squad in 1918. Bolshevik executioners claim that no one survived, but in 1920 a young woman surfaces and claims to be the Russian Grand Duchess Anastasia. People who don’t believe her call her Anna Anderson. For years, rumors that Anastasia did survive circulate through Europe. In this story, readers have an opportunity to form their own opinion.

Amazon Rating (August): 3.9 Stars

My Thoughts:

Overall, I enjoyed reading the history of Anastasia Romanov and exploring the controversy surrounding her death. Although well written, extensively researched, and creatively structured, I struggled with the backwards telling of Anna’s story. From a writer’s viewpoint, I can imagine that the creative and ambitious structure of the book earns many accolades. From a reader’s viewpoint, I can report that it was challenging and difficult to remain engaged with Anna’s story because of the backward telling. In fairness, others have given it rave reviews.

Structure. There are two characters, Princess Anastasia Romanov who is rumored to have been killed along with her family and Anna Anderson who claims to be Anastasia (assuming that Anastasia miraculously survives the attack on the family). While Anastasia’s story is told in a straightforward, linear manner, Anna’s story is told backwards from when we first meet her as an elderly woman in the beginning of the book (each chapter after that takes the reader backwards in her life). While Anastasia grows older, Ana grows younger until, at the end of the book, the timelines converge and the massacre occurs. At this time Anna is Anastasia’s age and assumes her identity….or is she really Anastasia? The backwards telling of Anna’s story was disorienting and challenging for me….it’s like reading a book starting at the end….so different from our usual expectations. However, I can understand how this helped serve the purpose of the story. Although it’s brilliant, it makes the reader work hard!

Don’t Google. If you are not familiar with the true life story, don’t google it before you read the book. I think it is more engaging to read this without a lot of prior knowledge.

Recommended. I Was Anastasia is recommended for readers who love a well written, fascinating histfic story and for those who would appreciate the challenge of an unusual story structure.

My Rating: 3.5 Stars

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I was anastasia

Buy Here

Meet the Author, Ariel Lawhon

Ariel Lawhon

Ariel Lawhon is a critically acclaimed author of historical fiction. She is the author of THE WIFE THE MAID AND THE MISTRESS (2014), FLIGHT OF DREAMS (2016), and I WAS ANASTASIA (2018). Her books have been translated into numerous languages and have been Library Reads, Indie Next, One Book One County, and Book of the Month Club selections. She is the co-founder of SheReads.org and lives in the rolling hills outside Nashville, Tennessee, with her husband, four sons, black Lab, and a deranged Siamese cat. She splits her time between the grocery store and the baseball field.



Happy Reading Book Buddies!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection!
Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text



A Link I Love

Do you enjoy TV and/or a Netflix binge as well as reading? Do you have a favorite series or favorite episodes? I thought this was a great link to explore to see if the episodes listed match yours! 100 Best TV Episodes of the Century



My Summer TBR

I’ll be updating my Summer TBR list as I complete each read, so check this link often!
(So far I’ve read a good portion of the list (crossing off one more next week), some I’ve been more thrilled with than others, and I’ve only abandoned one)



Looking Ahead:

Next Friday, I hope to bring you a review of The Map of Salt and Stars by Jennifer Zeynab Joukhadar

map of salt and stars

Amazon Information Here



Sharing is Caring

Thank you for reading today! I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along, promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.



 Let’s Discuss

What are you reading this week? Have you enjoyed some extra reading time in August? How are you doing on your Summer TBR goals? Are you already looking ahead to fall reading?



***Blogs posts may contain affiliate links. This means that at no extra cost to you, I can earn a small percentage of your purchase price. This money will be used to offset the costs of running a blog and to sponsor giveaways, etc.

Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

Book Cover and author photo are credited to Amazon or an author’s website.

The Boat People

August 10, 2018

Refugee or terrorist?

The Boat People by Sharon Bala

Boat People

Genre/Categories: Historical Fiction, Refugee Crisis, Canada, Legal, Cultural Heritage, Sri Lanka, Family Life

Summary:

Refugees or Terrorists? This is the urgent question that faces Canadian officials when a rusty cargo ship carrying five hundred refugees from Sri Lanka appears on Vancouver’s shores. As the “boat people” are thrown into a detention center, rumors circulate that terrorists might be posing as refugees and could create a threat to Canada’s national security. This complex, compelling, and heartfelt story, loosely based on true events from 2010, is told fairly from three perspectives: Mahindan (a refugee), Priya (a lawyer and second generation Sri Lankan Canadian), and Grace (an adjudicator and third generation Japanese Canadian).

My Thoughts:

Relevant, compelling, compassionate, and fair.

What’s at stake: refugees looking for a safe place to start over versus the safety of current citizens. In order to gain asylum, refugees need to prove that their lives are in danger in their home country as well as satisfy the new country that they are not a safety threat. In The Boat People we become acquainted with one refugee, Mahindan, his lawyer, Priya, and an adjudicator, Grace. The adjudicator is torn between compassion and the fear that a refugee (posing as a terrorist) might harm the citizens of Canada. How can one determine if Mahindan is lying or telling the truth? Readers grow to understand and appreciate Grace’s dilemma and wonder about her final ruling in Mahindan’s case.

Mahindan. In this timely story, I think there might be a third choice in labeling Mahindan as a refugee or terrorist, and that would be as a “victim.” Mahindan and his young son are refugees but as their story unfolds, we see that they are also victims of circumstance and war. Mahindan had to make unfortunate choices in Sri Lanka to ensure his survival which come back to haunt him now during the Canadian interrogations. Consider this scenario: if, as a Sri Lankan mechanic, you are forced to service the vehicle of a terrorist who uses that vehicle in a terrorist attack, does this make you a terrorist by association? Mahindan’s life is complicated by war, hunger, fear, violence, desperate people, and uncertainty, and he has to make tragic choices to protect his family. Will he be granted asylum? As a further complication, Mahindan is separated from his young six-year-old son at the detention center, and the story explores the consequences and implications of this decision.

What I liked. I appreciated the opportunity to read this refugee/immigration story from multiple perspectives, and I thought all sides were presented fairly. It’s sobering to consider what refugees are willing to sacrifice as they hang on to hope for a better future. Even though this is fiction, much of it reads like narrative nonfiction as we learn a great deal about the government process of granting asylum. It is certainly an informative,  thought provoking, and timely read in which it’s apparent that immigration issues aren’t as black and white as readers imagine. This is a story that builds empathy, understanding, and compassion.

What could have been better. Although it’s well researched, a compelling read, and a compassionate look at world-wide current events, I thought the author might have attempted to cover too much.  In addition, I would have liked a better resolved ending. Last, I was a bit distracted by the lack of punctuation for dialogue. Is this a new trend? If a reader is reading at a fast rate, it’s difficult to discern the difference between the narrative and a character’s direct words. In fairness, others have read it and reported that they hadn’t even noticed. So consider the punctuation critique as coming from a former 5th grade teacher who tortured children to learn proper punctuation of dialogue and file it under “personal preferences.”

Recommended. I highly recommend The Boat People for fans of compelling historical fiction, for readers who appreciate an in-depth look at a relevant issue in an easily accessed fiction format, and for those who desire to read more diversely. (and for those avant-garde readers who don’t worry about quotations marks!)

My Rating: 4 Stars

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the boat people

Buy Here

Meet the Author, Sharon Bala

sharon BalaSharon Bala’s bestselling debut novel, The Boat People, was a finalist for Canada Reads 2018 and the 2018 Amazon Canada First Novel Award. Published in January 2018, it is available worldwide with forthcoming translations in French, Arabic, and Turkish. The unpublished manuscript won the Percy Janes First Novel Award (May 2015) and was short listed for the Fresh Fish Award (October 2015).

In 2017, Sharon won the Journey Prize and had a second story long-listed in the anthology. A three-time recipient of Newfoundland and Labrador’s Arts and Letters award, she has stories published in Hazlitt, Grain, Maisonneuve, The Dalhousie Review, Riddle Fence, Room, Prism international, The New Quarterly, and in an anthology called Racket: New Writing From Newfoundland (Breakwater Books, Fall 2015).

Sharon was born in Dubai, raised in Ontario, and now lives in St. John’s, Newfoundland with her husband, the mathemagician Tom Baird.



Happy Reading Book Buddies!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection!
Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text



Links I Love

 Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society releases on Netflix today!

1000 Books Before Kindergarten



My Summer TBR

I’ll be updating my Summer TBR list as I complete each read, so check this link often!
(So far I’ve read more than half of the list, some I’ve been more thrilled with than others, and I’ve only abandoned one)



Looking Ahead:

 Needing a change of pace, this week I’m reading Tell Me More by Kelly Corrigan and I am eager to bring you a review next Friday.

Tell Me More

Amazon Information Here



Sharing is Caring

Thank you for reading today! I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along, promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.



 Let’s Discuss

What are you reading this week? Do you enjoy reading diversely?

If you’ve read The Boat People, how did you feel about the ending? Has reading The Boat People changed your thoughts about the refugee crisis?



***Blogs posts may contain affiliate links. This means that at no extra cost to you, I can earn a small percentage of your purchase price. This money will be used to offset the costs of running a blog and to sponsor giveaways, etc.

Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

Book Cover and author photo are credited to Amazon or an author’s website.

 

The Widows of Malabar Hill

July 20, 2018

Perveen Mistry and a challenging case…

The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey

the widows of malabar hill 2

Genre/categories: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Detective, Bombay

Summary:

In this recent release set in 1920s Bombay, India, Preveen Mistry, the daughter of a respected family, joins her father’s law firm, becoming one of the first female lawyers in India. Educated at Oxford, Perveen has a tragic personal history that causes her to be extra vigilant on her new case so that the widows of Malabar Hill are treated fairly after the death of their husband.  As she examines the paperwork, she discovers that the widows who are living in purdah (strict seclusion) have signed over their inheritance to a charity, raising suspicions that they’re being taken advantage of by their guardian. Tensions build and a murder occurs. Because the widows feel uncomfortable speaking with male investigators, Perveen takes responsibility and great personal risk to determine what really happened on Malabar Hill. Throughout the story, readers are also filled in on Perveen’s back story as readers are introduced to her family and friends and learn about her education. Amazon Early Rating (July): 4.5 Stars

My Thoughts:

What I liked:

  • Diversity: I love reading stories from other cultures, and the setting of 1920s Bombay, India is vastly different from my own experiences. In addition, I gained more understanding and awareness of women who live in Purdah.
  • A woman and her dream: Perveen’s professional goal is to work as a lawyer, and although she is allowed to work as a solicitor in her father’s law office she is not allowed to present in court. This part of the story is historical fiction and based on the real experiences of the first woman to practice law in Bombay, India. In the investigation of the Malabar Hill murder, Perveen can speak directly to the widows who live in Purdah more effectively than the male investigators on the case. Because of her past, she’s passionate about protecting the rights of women and children and is determined to help the widows of Malabar Hill, putting her own life at risk in the process.
  • The protagonist: Perveen, an ambitious woman who courageously works toward paving the way for women in the legal profession, is feisty, smart, independent, determined, brave, thoughtful, resourceful, and respectful of her culture. I adore the character of Perveen and rooted for her to solve the murder and to protect the widows’ rights. Furthermore, she is an encouragement for women who are not willing to accept an abusive relationship (not even one time).
  • Father/daughter relationship: This is one of my favorite parts of the story! Perveen has an excellent, trusting, and loving relationship with her father (and her mother). I appreciate reading about great fathers in literature, and it was especially pleasing that the author chose to include him in the context of this male dominated culture.  He respects her personhood and as a solicitor in his practice; he supports and believes in her. At the same time he helps Perveen accomplish her goals, he is also able to respect their culture and operate within cultural and religious expectations. As well as being brilliant in her defense when she seeks a divorce, her father respects her views and passions. He is her biggest cheerleader.
  • Culture: The author creates wonderful visual images of the culture in 1920s Bombay, India, from food to religious groups to family traditions to descriptions of the city itself….so much to enjoy and learn!
  • Favorite Quote:

“The boundaries communities drew around themselves seemed to narrow their lives–whether it was women and men, Hindus and Muslims, or Parsis and everyone else.”

What I’d like you to know:

Although I enjoyed almost all aspects of the story, there is one element that affected my rating:

  • Slow buildup: The mystery in the story appears at about the 50% mark, and the pace of the story picks up at about the 75% point. It’s categorized as a mystery, so I waited somewhat impatiently. The character development, the relationships, and setting descriptions help keep the reader engaged during the early part of the story. Despite the slow build up, I wanted to stick with the story because of the uniqueness and because of some high reviews it has received from trusted reviewers. Some readers who love the story were not affected by the slow build up. Elements like that are certainly subjective. It’s a story I’m glad I read even though the mystery was a small part of the multi faceted story and the beginning was slow-paced. It’s still a solid read. My Rating: 3.5 stars (rounded up to 4 stars on Goodreads).

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Recommended:

This story is recommended for readers who love historical fiction, for those who appreciate a strong, determined, independent, clever, and ambitious female protagonist, for readers who want to immerse themselves in a different culture and expand the diversity of their reading, and for fans of a little mystery and intrigue. Although this is the first book in a series, it can be read and enjoyed as a stand alone.

the widows of malabar hill

Buy Here

Meet the Author, Sujata Massey

sujata masseySujata Massey is an award-winning author of historical and mystery fiction set in Asia.
However, her personal story begins in England, where she was born to parents from India and Germany who began reading to her shortly after her birth. Sujata kept on reading as she grew up mostly in the United States (California, Pennsylvania and Minnesota) and earned her BA from the Johns Hopkins University’s Writing Seminars program. Her first job was as a reporter at the Baltimore Evening Sun newspaper, where she wrote stories about fashion, food and culture. Although she loved her work, she left when she got married to a young naval officer posted to Japan.

Sujata and her husband lived in the Tokyo-Yokohama area which forms most of the settings of her Rei Shimura mysteries. The eleven novel series has collected many mystery award nominations, including the Edgar, Anthony, and Mary Higgins Clark awards, and even won a few: the Agatha and Macavity prizes for traditional mystery fiction. The Rei Shimura mysteries are published in 18 countries. The first book in the series is THE SALARYMAN’S WIFE, and the eleventh is THE KIZUNA COAST which was listed as the most-borrowed ebook is the Self-E Library reads borrowing program for 2016. Rei Shimura mystery short stories are in MURDER MOST CRAFTY, MALICE DOMESTIC 10, AND MURDER MOST CRAFTY.

In 2013, Sujata began writing about India. THE SLEEPING DICTiONARY is a historic espionage novel set in 1930s-40s Calcutta told from a young Bengali woman’s point of view. It’s also out as a Dreamworks audiobook, and is published in India, Italy and Turkey under different titles. This was followed by INDIA GRAY HISTORIC FICTION, an ebook and paperback collection of stories and novellas featuring strong Asian women heroines throughout history. Included is a story featuring Kamala from THE SLEEPING DICTIONARY and a prequel novelette featuring Perveen Mistry. A Perveen story is included in THE USUAL SANTAS, a story anthology to be published in October 2017.

Sujata’s next book is THE WIDOWS OF MALABAR HILL, a historical mystery set in 1920s Bombay that comes out in January 2018 from Soho Press in the US. It also releases as THE MALABAR HILL MYSTERY in February 2018 from Penguin/Random India. The first in the new Perveen Mistry series, it’s an exciting story about Bombay’s first woman lawyer. Perveen, the 23-year-old daughter of a distinguished Parsi family, is convinced her clients–three widows and four children–are in danger. Can she use the law to save them, or will it take more action?




Happy Reading Bookworms!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection!
Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text



My Summer TBR

I’ll be updating my Summer TBR list as I complete each read, so check this link often!
(So far I’ve read about half of the list, some I’ve been more thrilled with than others, and I’ve only abandoned one)



Looking Ahead:

 I look forward to providing a July wrap up, choosing the most compelling character from July reading, and also anticipating my first blogiversary with a give away (next Friday). My next read will be An American Marriage (I’ve read mixed reviews of this Oprah Book Club selection so we’ll see how it goes).



Sharing is Caring

Thank you for reading today! I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along, promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.



 Let’s Discuss!

Do you enjoy or seek out diverse reads?

What are you reading this week?



***Blogs posts may contain affiliate links. This means that at no extra cost to you, I can earn a small percentage of your purchase price. This money will be used to offset the costs of running a blog and to sponsor giveaways, etc.

Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

Book Cover and author photo are credited to Amazon or an author’s website.

June’s Most Compelling Character

June 29, 2018

Brave…Inspirational…Courageous…Feisty…Determined….Daring…

June’s Most Compelling Character

compelling character

As a regular month’s end feature, I enjoy identifying the most compelling, memorable, or unforgettable character from the month’s reading. Inspiring characters motivate me to read for understanding, help me build compassion, and see the world from new perspectives. At the end of the post, you will find a Link Up opportunity to share your blog post highlighting your most memorable character from your June reading or please share in the comments.

Meet Dita Kraus, real-life Auschwitz prisoner, whose story is told by Antonio Iturbe in The Librarian of Auschwitz.

librarian of auschwitz 2

Genre/Categories: YA Historical Fiction, Fictionalized Biography, Jewish, WW11, Holocaust

Summary:

During the darkest hours of the Holocaust in an Auschwitz concentration camp, a young girl, Dita Kraus, risks her life to keep the magic of books alive. Imprisoned along with her mother and father, Dita finds meaning and purpose as the Librarian of a secret library within a secret school in the “family camp” section of Auschwitz, caring for eight precious volumes that have been smuggled in past the guards.

Be sure to read the author’s Afterward as he speaks of his interview with the real Dita Kraus about her incredible life, courage, and survival. Amazon Rating (June): 4.4 Stars

Dita Kraus

It’s a privilege to read about the brave and heroic actions of Dita Kraus throughout the pages of this engaging and compelling story. A daring and feisty teenager, she exemplifies bravery as she is able to carry on with dangerous and risky activities despite her fear. Described as “born to swim against the tide,” Dita works together with her inspirational mentor Fredy Hirsch as they both risk their lives to ensure that the children at the Auschwitz “Family Camp” have access to an education. Fredy teaches Dita that “the children are the best thing we have” and that their work with the school is as important as being on the front lines:

“It’s war and each of us has our own front line. This one is ours, and we must fight to the end.”

“It doesn’t matter how many schools the Nazis close, he would say to [the teachers]. Each time someone stops to tell a story and children listen, a school has been established.”

In the course of her daily life in the camp, Dita sees many atrocities and struggles with fear, of course, and her way of coping is to daydream about the past (she can’t dream of a future in the camp)….she flips through her mental photo album of happier times and picks out one mental image to focus on and disciplines herself to appreciate every small detail in this snapshot of her previous happy life. These mental exercises sustain and calm her. In spite of her fear, she defiantly puts on a smile:

“In a place like Auschwitz where everything is designed to make you cry, a smile is an act of defiance.”

Before carrying out a dangerous task, she wisely and thoughtfully questions her motives: “Should [I] continue to risk and put the entire children’s block at risk just to prove [my] own bravery?…Is that selfish? Or is it braver to step aside?”

When I picked up this story to read, I didn’t realize that Dita is a real person and that the author had interviewed her for this book, and this fact enhanced my fascination with the story. Don’t miss the author’s Afterward which describes his meetings with real life Dita Kraus.

Dita represents many of the inspirational, courageous, and heroic Jewish people that were confined to concentration camps and fought for survival in WW11. It’s important to hear their stories. Read about the real life Dita Kraus here and also here.

Also, I didn’t notice while I read that this is a YA title. While the writing style is straightforward and simple, there are passages with graphic descriptions of suffering, atrocities, and death, so I don’t recommend this to young high schoolers or middle schoolers. Even though this is categorized YA, you won’t feel like you’re reading YA if you’re an adult reader.

Highly recommended for readers who are looking for a heartfelt story about a determined, inspirational, heroic, and courageous girl, for those who love WW11 historical fiction, and for all those who desire an engaging and compelling read. It’s one of my favorite reads of the year so far.

My Rating: 4.5 Stars

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librarian of auschwitz

Buy Here

Meet the Author, Antonio Iturbe

antonio IturbeAntonio Iturbe lives in Spain, where he is both a novelist and a journalist. In researching this story, he interviewed Dita Kraus, the real-life librarian of Auschwitz.

The author’s thoughts about researching and writing the story.



Link Up

Please link up your own post about your most memorable character from your June reading or leave your thoughts in a comment.



Happy Reading Bookworms!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection!
Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text



My Summer TBR

I’ll be updating my Summer TBR list as I complete each read, so check this link often!
(So far I’ve read a handful, and I’ve only abandoned one)



Links I Love:

Are you looking for a fun family or community project this summer? Check out this post about the Kindness Rock Painting Project!

If you’re looking for fiction recommendations from a Christian perspective, check out this post by The Caffeinated Bibliophile here.

SAVE THE DATE: Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society movie is releasing on Netflix August 10!!!



Looking Ahead:.

 I’ll be reviewing The Ensemble next week. My library hold finally came in today. The Ensemble has received mixed reviews so I’m eager to see what I think.

ensemble.

***Cover Love***

Amazon Information Here



Sharing is Caring

Thank you for reading today! I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along, promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.



 Let’s Discuss!

Who is your most memorable character from your June reading? Share in comments or link up a blog post.

What are you reading this week?



***Blogs posts may contain affiliate links. This means that at no extra cost to you, I can earn a small percentage of your purchase price. This money will be used to offset the costs of running a blog and to sponsor giveaways, etc.

Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

Book Cover and author photos are credited to Amazon or an author’s website.

A Rec For You, Mom!

May 11, 2018

mom and me mother's day

Here’s a book recommendation I think you’ll like, Mom!

Mom didn’t grow up loving to read, but she always made sure that her three girls were surrounded by library books and read to us when we were little. Mom admits that when she was in high school, she bribed her older sister to write her book reports. After graduation she went to business school in preparation for secretarial work. As a new wife and young mother, she had limited free time as most of her time was spent on labor intensive and time-consuming farm chores (in the days before our modern conveniences). Later when my father became a pastor, she spent her free evenings ironing his white shirts. Finally when her daughters were in high school and she went back to college, she began reading for her own pleasure. After she discovered the joy of reading and found herself with more free time, she was always in the middle of a book and today she reads all of my recommendations; in fact, we share an Amazon kindle account. In addition to a myriad of individual titles, we’ve read and loved the Louise Penny Inspector Gamache series and the Alexander McCall Smith #1 Ladies Detective series. Sharing books is a joy! It’s difficult for me to imagine a time in her life when she didn’t read.

I think you’ll like the title I’m recommending today, Mom!

The Way of Beauty
by Camille Di Maio

the way of beauty 2

Genre/categories: Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Family, Romance, New York City, Penn Station

*Linking up today with Words on Wednesday. If you’ve clicked over from there, Welcome!

Summary:

As a child in the early 1900s in New York City, Vera Keller falls in love with a childhood friend who is nine years older than she. Through the years, they remain close. Although Angelo acts like her older brother, Vera is convinced that someday they will marry. One day she is shocked when he introduces her to his fiance, Pearl. Despite her heartbreak, Vera and Pearl become friends and Pearl introduces her to the Suffragette Movement. As Vera becomes entangled in their lives, her love for Angelo never dies. As a result of her love for Angelo and her commitment to Pearl’s cause, Vera has many challenges and difficult choices to make. The latter half of the book is told from Vera’s daughter’s perspective. Her daughter, Alice, enjoys benefits from the Suffragette Movement but also faces her own challenges in caring for her ailing father and in choosing between two men whom she loves. Early Amazon Star Rating (May): 4.8 Stars

My Thoughts:

Do you have fond memories of a certain landmark that you associate with a memorable event in your life? (For my husband and I, it’s In ‘N Out hamburger stands!) Are you old enough to have grieved the demise of certain landmarks or symbols? Have you ever remarked “Remember when…”? If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions, you may find this story especially meaningful.

Although romance plays a large role in this story, there’s so much more. Readers gain historical insight into and appreciation for New York City’s historic Penn Station and for the daring and visionary women who led the Suffragette Movement. At the center of everything, there’s a sweet and heartfelt story of family and individual determination.

In addition to poignant themes of friendship, true love, family loyalty and support, hopes and dreams, class distinctions, privilege, strong and independent women, sacrifice, perseverance, progress, and preservation of the past, you will find lovable and memorable characters and an engaging story line.

Highly recommended for fans of historical fiction and multi generational stories, for those who love descriptive historical perspectives of the time period and architecture, for New Yorkers, and for readers who are looking for an engaging, captivating, unputdownable, and enjoyable read.

My Rating: 4 Stars

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I hope you enjoy this week’s recommendation, Mom!

mothers-day

candle for mom

 

the way of beauty

Buy Here

Meet the Author, Camille Di Maio

camille di maioCamille recently left an award-winning real estate career in San Antonio to become a full-time writer. Along with her husband of twenty years, she enjoys raising their four children. She has a bucket list that is never-ending, and uses her adventures to inspire her writing. She’s lived in Texas, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and California, and spends enough time in Hawai’i to feel like a local. She’s traveled to four continents (so far), and met Mother Teresa and Pope John Paul II. She just about fainted when she had a chance to meet her musical idol, Paul McCartney, too. Camille studied political science in college, but found working on actual campaigns much more fun. She overdoses on goodies at farmers markets (justifying them by her support for local bakeries) and belts out Broadway tunes whenever the moment strikes. There’s almost nothing she wouldn’t try, so long as it doesn’t involve heights, roller skates, or anything illegal. “The Memory of Us” is Camille’s debut novel and is a finalist for the Holt Medallion Award for Literary Excellence. Her second, “Before the Rain Falls” was released in May 2017. Her third, “The Way of Beauty” is available now.



Happy Reading Bookworms!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection!
Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text



Links I Love

The Novel Endeavor: Books for Mom: A Mother’s Day Gift Guide

Love, Peace & Raspberry Cordial: Anne of Green Gables, My Daughter, and Me

A Lovely Photography Blog @ A Rosy Note

Recipes and thoughtful reflections from The Thankful Heart



In Case You Missed It…….Last Week’s Post Listing Bookish Gift Ideas For Mom



Looking Ahead:

Next week, I plan to talk about summer reading (in eager anticipation of Modern Mrs Darcy’s 2018 Summer Reading Guide to be released in a few days!). I’m also selecting something from my Spring TBR list to read (still waiting for library holds).



Sharing is Caring

Thank you for reading today! I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along, promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.



 Let’s Discuss!

I’d love to hear about your memorable landmarks!

Also, please share what you’ve been reading lately!



Happy Mother’s Day to my followers who are celebrating! 

happy mothers day wreath

candle for mom



***Blogs posts may contain affiliate links. This means that at no extra cost to you, I can earn a small percentage of your purchase price. This money will be used to offset the costs of running a blog and to sponsor giveaways, etc.

My Dear Hamilton

April 27, 2018

open book graphic

My Dear Hamilton
by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie

my dear hamilton 2

Genre/categories: Historical Fiction, U.S. History, Revolutionary War, Founders, Biographical

***Linking up today with Words on Wednesday. If you’ve clicked over from there, welcome! Enjoy your stay and look around!

Summary:

A general’s daughter, Elizabeth Schuyler meets and marries Alexander Hamilton amid the union’s fight for independence and the uncertainties of war. Eliza and Alexander find themselves establishing their life together at the same time as they are at the center of our nation’s founding. Authors Dray and Kamoie used thousands of letters and original sources to imagine Eliza’s story as a patriot, loving wife, political partner, loyal friend, supportive sister, and devoted mother of eight. Amazon Rating (April Early Reviews): 4.8 Stars

My Thoughts:

Meet Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton:

If you’ve seen Hamilton the Musical or read Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton or if you’re a fan of historical fiction and the American Revolution, trust me, My Dear Hamilton needs to be your next read! Currently, it occupies first place in the “best book I’ve read in 2018” category. 5+ stars

As modern women, it’s amazing to immerse ourselves into the stories and lives of strong and independent women living at a time when a woman’s well-being, success, and status were subject to a husband’s or father’s control, permission, and blessing. As Eliza Hamilton looked to her mentor, Martha Washington, it’s inspiring to hear about her influence and achievements despite the constraints.

Supportive and Faithful

Feisty and adventuresome by nature, Eliza is expected to be a quiet and supportive wife. Although she struggles with the quiet part (sometimes using it to her advantage), she is certainly supportive and loyal and holds dearly to her father’s military motto of “semper fidelis” meaning ‘always faithful’ in Latin. Throughout her life, this motto is one of her most highly held values.

“Silence is often the only weapon available to ladies. And I wield mine expertly.”
~Eliza Hamilton

Intelligent and Independent

As an intelligent woman and independent thinker, Eliza is revealed as a participant with Hamilton in personal debate on difficult issues, as his sounding board, and as a collaborator and writing partner. She holds definite views on slavery and earnestly strives to reconcile her personal ideals with the realities of the world in which she lives.

Determined Restorer

Alexander is a complicated and complex man, and Eliza and Alexander have a complicated relationship. Forgiveness is a major and poignant theme in the story as Eliza struggles to comprehend and forgive her husband’s betrayals. Authors Dray and Kamoie provide vivid details of Hamilton’s traumatic childhood experiences and imagine well constructed, dramatic, and tender dialogue between Eliza and Alexander that allows readers to truly understand the motivations that might drive some of his actions and also to fully appreciate and comprehend the source and sincerity of Eliza’s forgiveness.

“But the measure of a man, of a life, of a union of man and wife or even country is not in the falling. It’s in the rising back up again to repair what’s broken, to put right what’s wrong. Your father and I did that. We always did that. He never stopped trying until the day he died. And neither will I.”
Eliza Hamilton

Partners

Eliza is Hamilton’s most valued and treasured partner as she’s able to help him strategize, think, and write. She is strong enough to calm him, challenge him, and help him reason out the best actions and plans. She becomes his only personal confidant whom he learns to trust.

Compassionate

We also see that Eliza is a compassionate person. Most compelling is the compassion she shows to her husband after agonizing about his betrayal, eventually deciding that all the good outweighs the bad and that he deserves the benefit of the doubt. Her compassion extends to those in need, and even though she is the mother of several children, she takes in a young child whose parents have died and raises this child as her own. In addition, she invests a great deal of time establishing and supporting orphanages.

As I stared at this man who’d once been an abandoned child, I became even more certain of my decision to take Fanny into our household. “All children need love, and we are blessed to have more than enough to spare.”

My husband had a gift for government, but I had a gift for charity. A talent for it, if there be such a thing. I’d already helped to found a society to care for widows, an orphanage to shelter children, and a school to provide guidance and learning….. “Then what is this school? What is your orphanage? These things seek to expand the promise of America. To give opportunity to all as free citizens.”
~Eliza Hamilton

Hostess

Eliza is a gifted hostess with a warm sense of hospitality. Not only does she host political meetings for her husband, but everyone who comes to her door is welcomed, cared for, treated to baked goods, and entertained regardless of their points of view.

Advocate

Eliza is committed to preserving Hamilton’s legacy and spends decades creating a record of her husband’s contributions to the Founding. It seems fitting that a woman who is devoted to telling her husband’s story and recording his achievements should also have her story told because it’s truly their story and legacy. Dray and Kamoie are committed to sharing Eliza’s story of heartache, hardship, endurance, determination, and devotion so that we can appreciate and recognize her vital participation with Hamilton to establish the ideals and structures upon which our country was founded.

Recommended

This is one time I wish I could award more than 5 stars to a story. Not only has Eliza earned a spot in my reading as April’s most memorable character, she is likely one of the year’s most memorable characters.

Highly recommended for fans of America’s First Daughter by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie, Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow, and Hamilton the Musical. Also, this is a valuable read for all fans of well-researched and well written historical fiction about ordinary women doing extraordinary things in the most difficult circumstances. Add this title to your favorite reads about the Founding, and to your collection of stories featuring strong, independent women. It makes history come alive! It’s a perfect companion read with Chernow’s.

I’d love to hear in comments or link up a post about your favorite and most memorable characters from your April reading.

My Rating: 5+ stars

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my dear hamilton

Buy Here

Meet the Authors,
Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie

Stephanie Dray

Stephanie Dray is a New York Times, Wall Street Journal & USA Today bestselling author of historical women’s fiction. Her award-winning work has been translated into eight languages and tops lists for the most anticipated reads of the year. She lives near the nation’s capital with her husband, cats, and history books.

MORE ways to connect with Stephanie:
* Website: StephanieDray.com
* Facebook: facebook.com/stephaniedrayauthor

 

Laura Kamoie

A New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today bestselling author of historical fiction, Laura Kamoie has always been fascinated by the people, stories, and physical presence of the past, which led her to a lifetime of historical and archaeological study and training. She holds a doctoral degree in early American history from The College of William and Mary, published two non-fiction books on early America, and most recently held the position of Associate Professor of History at the U.S. Naval Academy before transitioning to a full-time career writing genre fiction. She is the author of AMERICA’S FIRST DAUGHTER and MY DEAR HAMILTON, co-authored with Stephanie Dray, allowing her the exciting opportunity to combine her love of history with her passion for storytelling. Laura lives among the colonial charm of Annapolis, Maryland with her husband and two daughters. http://www.LauraKamoie.com




Link Up

Please join the Link Up by submitting a blog post about the most compelling character from your April reading or leave a comment.

 



Happy Reading Bookworms!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection!
Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text



Looking Ahead:

Next week, I’ll be highlighting a few suggestions for Mother’s Day gifts.



Sharing is Caring

I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along, promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.



 Let’s Discuss!

I’d love to hear all about what you’re reading and who you thought was the most memorable character from your April reading! You are welcome to link up or leave a comment.

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Highly Rated WW1 and WW11 Reads

April 17, 2018

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Highly Rated WW1 and WW11 Reads

*Linking up today with That Artsy Reader Girl for Top Ten Tuesday: Free Choice (check out her post for the top 10 books her mom loves!) and Words on Wednesday. If you’ve clicked over from either of those posts, Welcome! Please look around and enjoy your stay.

I read a lot of histfic and one of my favorite sub genres is WW1 and WW11 histfic. Listed below are 10 of my highest rated and favorite histfic reads (1 is nonfiction) that have also received high star ratings on Goodreads. In addition, I included some honorable mention because there are more than 10 reads that are memorable to me for various reasons. Not all titles are reviewed because I read them before writing publishing this blog (in which case I’ve provided the Amazon link).

Listed in order of their Goodreads star rating.

 

The NightingaleThe Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

WW11

 Amazon Information Here

My Rating: 4

Goodreads: 4.56



From Sand and AshFrom Sand and Ash by Amy Harmon

WW11

Full Review Here

My Rating: 5 (a recent favorite!)

Goodreads: 4.41



we were the lucky onesWe Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter

WW11

 Full Review Here

My Rating: 5

Goodreads: 4.41



UnbrokenUnbroken by Lauren Hillenbrand

WW11 (nonfiction)

Amazon Information Here

My Rating: 5

Goodreads: 4.39



Salt to the SeaSalt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

WW11 (YA)

 Brief Review Here (scroll down page)

My Rating: 5

Goodreads: 4.36



Book ThiefThe Book Thief by Markus Zusak

 WW11 (YA)

 Amazon Information Here

My Rating: 5

Goodreads: 4.36



Lilac GirlsLilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly

WW11

Amazon Information Here

My Rating: 5

Goodreads: 4.3



last christmas in parisLast Christmas in Paris by Hazel Gaynor

WW1

Full Review Here

My Rating: 5

Goodreads: 4.18



The Baker's SecretThe Baker’s Secret by Stephen P Kiernan

WW11

Amazon Information Here

My Rating: 4

Goodreads: 4.04



Orphan's TaleThe Orphan’s Tale by Pam Jenoff

WW11

Brief Review Here (scroll down page)

My Rating: 4

Goodreads: 4.01



Honorable Mention
(other favorites that might have been in my top 10 on a different day):

As Bright as Heaven by Susan Meissner (WW1 time period)

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer (post WW11 with flashbacks/memories of war)

The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir by Jennifer Ryan

Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave

The Soldier’s Wife by Margaret Leroy

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford (WW11 time period)



Happy Reading Bookworms!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection!
Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text



A Link I Love:

10 Ways To Woo a Reluctant Reader



Sharing is Caring

I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along, promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.



 Let’s Discuss!

I’d love to hear all about what you’re reading!

What are your favorite WW11 hisfic or nonfiction reads?

Have you read any of these titles? Which are your favorites?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From Sand and Ash

April 13, 2018

From Sand and Ash
by Amy Harmon

From Sand and Ash 2

Genre/categories: Historical Fiction, Romance, Jewish, WW11, Spiritual

*Linking up with Modern Mrs Darcy: Quick Lit/April and Words on Wednesday. If you’ve clicked over, Welcome! 

Summary:

From Sand and Ash is engaging historical fiction with generous servings of romance, faith, determination, hope, loyalty, inter-faith relationship struggles, and a violin….A thoughtful story of love, survival, life, death, faith, and sacrifice.

In 1943, Italy’s Jewish population is in imminent danger from the forces of hatred and prejudice. Raised like brother and sister, Eva and Angelo enjoy childhood best friend closeness which later blooms into a romance. Although they are devoted to each other, Eva, an accomplished violinist, is Jewish and Angelo chooses to follow a calling to become a Catholic priest. As the Gestapo arrests Jewish residents of Florence, Angelo convinces Eva to follow him to Rome to hide in a convent under his watchful eye while he serves nearby at the Vatican. Eva discovers that the Catholic Church is hiding hundreds of Jews and facilitating their escape when possible. Angelo has made a promise to Eva’s family and feels a duty to keep her safe, which is complicated by romantic feelings. This page turning story follows Eva and Angelo as they face trials, take risks, and make agonizing choices.  Amazon Rating (April): 4.7 Stars

My Thoughts:

Faith: Unputdownable, From Sand and Ash is a unique and beautifully written story. For me, the most engaging part of the story is the focus on the inter-faith aspect of their relationship. As they navigate their romantic feelings, they also extensively debate the nature of God, the methods and habits of prayer, and the personal importance of his/her individual faith. I found the honest and relevant spiritual content in the book refreshing and realistic. I appreciate knowing about the Catholic Church’s role in saving Jews in Italy and exploring Eva’s and Angelo’s personal crises of faith. Their dialogue and subsequent understanding and acceptance of the other’s faith was thoughtfully written, and this aspect of the story pushed it beyond 4 stars for me.

Romance: Some reviewers have cited a frustration with an over abundance of romance for a histfic selection; however, there is a great deal more to the story than the romance. Typical of histfic, readers find ordinary people doing extraordinary things under incredibly difficult circumstances. Romance is a part of Eva’s and Angelo’s story and deepens the inner conflict and becomes one of many challenges in the midst of overwhelming and impossible circumstances. I view the romance as an integral part of their life experience, and I do not see it distracting or detracting from the story. But be cautioned: there is romance!

Resistance: Both Eva and Angelo chose to resist in small and large ways. Their fear took a back seat to their need to DO something. A recurring and powerful theme in the story is that they could not NOT act.

Resistance’s Companions are Fear and Hope:

“Fear is strange. It settles on chests and seeps through skin, through layers of tissue, muscle, and bone and collects in a soul-sized black home, sucking the joy out of life, the pleasures, the beauty. But not the hope. Somehow hope is the only thing resilient to the fear, and it is that hope that makes the next breath possible, the next step, the next tiny act of rebellion, even if that rebellion is simply staying alive.”

Heartbreaking: Despite warnings, the trusting Italian Jewish people couldn’t believe that the situation could or would escalate. Their desire to believe in good and reject the concept of evil was heartbreaking and sobering. It causes me to wonder at what point my family would take a threat seriously and take action to escape.

The Writing: Throughout the story there is an abundance of beautiful prose and creative writing, with a great deal of attention paid to character development and the advancement of plot. The story reads easily and is told fluidly and it found me busy turning pages quickly! *Reading tip: my husband reports that the audio is excellent!

Themes and Rating: Of course, if you follow my reviews you know that themes are incredibly important for me in determining a final star rating. I’ve already mentioned several important themes such as survival, hatred, loyalty, hope, resistance, fear, determination, resiliency, and faith. In addition, any story and/or characters that I’m still thinking about days and weeks later will likely earn 5 stars from me.

Recommended: Highly recommended for readers of histfic who love a captivating and inspirational story filled with faith discussions and unforgettable characters that causes readers to become personally engaged. You will deeply care about Eva and Angelo.

My Rating: 5 Stars

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From Sand and Ash

Buy Here

Meet the Author,
Amy Harmon

Amy HarmonAmy Harmon is a Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and New York Times Bestselling author. Her books have been published in eighteen languages, truly a dream come true for a little country girl from Utah.
Amy Harmon has written thirteen novels, including the USA Today Bestsellers, The Smallest Part, Making Faces, and Running Barefoot, and the #1 Amazon bestselling historical, From Sand and Ash. Her novel, A Different Blue, is a New York Times Bestseller. Her USA Today bestselling fantasy, The Bird and the Sword, was a Goodreads Best Book of 2016 finalist. For updates on upcoming book releases, author posts and more, join Amy at http://www.authoramyharmon.com.



Happy Reading Bookworms!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection!
Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text



Extra:
White Rose, Black Forest
by Eoin Dempsey

white rose black forest

What actions would you take to resist an evil regime?

I always find histic interesting because of the different perspectives that each story provides and for the knowledge I gain. In this story, we experience WW11 from the perspective of a German girl (who is a resistor at one time associated with the White Rose resistance organization). As she spends time at her family’s isolated cabin in the Black Forest struggling through some personal losses, she discovers an injured soldier and proceeds to provide urgent medical attention and to determine his true identify. It takes a while to decide if they can completely trust each other. He needs her help, and the end of the story finds them making a desperate escape attempt. While the last part of the book is tension filled and fast paced, the first half is a slow build up…unfortunately the author breaks up the narrative by including long passages that read like history lessons. The story could have included better written character development and dialogue, but overall this is an interesting, engaging, page turner.  My Rating: 3.5 Stars (Amazon Rating: 4.6 Stars)

Favorite Theme: resistance

Favorite Quote:
“It required supernatural strength not to do the Gestapo’s bidding. That was the genius of their system–it took fortitude of an almost unimaginable scale to do the right thing.”

Recommended for hisfic fans who enjoy fast paced thrillers and quick reads.

Buy Here



A Link I Love:

10 Ways To Woo a Reluctant Reader



Looking Ahead:

I plan to read and review The Room on Rue Amelie by Kristin Harmel
(and check it off my Spring TBR).

room on rue Amelie

Amazon Summary and Purchase Information Here



Bummed

This meme fits my current mood!

bah humbug

I am a little distraught to realize (am I late to this party?!) that the movie release date for Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is for the U.K. only. Evidently, the U.S. is getting it via Netflix. (date to be determined) This is disappointing news because I have been looking forward to seeing this on the big screen! I wonder if I can buy it from the UK on DVD or stream it from somewhere before it’s available on Netflix??? Another alternative is to fly to London!?!?!

As a fan of the book. how do you feel?



Sharing is Caring

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 Let’s Discuss!

I’d love to hear all about what you’re reading!

What are your favorite WW11 hisfic reads?

We Were the Lucky Ones

….. family …..

March 23, 2018

We Were the Lucky Ones
by Georgia Hunter

we were the lucky ones

Genre/Categories: Historical Fiction, Jewish, Inspirational, WW11, family

Summary:

In the spring of 1939, the extended Kurc family is living a modest and happy life in Radom, Poland. In the midst of joyful family celebrations, however, there is increased talk of the mistreatment of Jews. Soon the entire close-knit Kurc family faces separation, makes attempts to flee, and desperately focuses on safety and survival. Family members share a will to survive and seeing one another again is their greatest goal. Through cleverness, determination, faith, hope, and hardship they endure. Amazon Rating (March): 4.8 Stars

My Thoughts:

Very often when writing a review I change my star rating. This was the case here as I closely reflected on the endearing commitment to family themes. I changed my initial rating of 4 stars to 4.5, finally rounding it to 5. To solidify my thinking I noticed that 84% of the 914 reviewers on Amazon also rated it 5 stars. This is a solid, satisfying, and inspirational read.

What worked:

For me, themes are one of the more compelling elements in literature, and a story with strong themes has a great chance of earning a 4 or 5 from me.  In addition to the story’s harsh themes of survival, fear, prejudice, and hardship, the theme that means the most to me is the importance of family. Even though the children are adults, there is a devotion and commitment to family that is especially joyful, endearing, and inspirational.

In addition, I appreciated the author’s inclusion of religion as an important part of family life and a basis for their hope. Sedars are described and prayers and song lyrics are explicit. It is becoming more rare in contemporary fiction to see religious themes presented in positive ways.

Finally, I enjoyed that this story is closely based on the author’s own family history. That added an element of investment that I felt toward each character. I cared deeply about each one and their survival. Researching and writing this story must have taken the author on quite an emotional journey.

What was difficult:

There were so many characters! I should have kept a character chart with important details in my journal as I read. Because this story is about the survival of a family, I don’t see how the author could have left any one out. Just be prepared to keep track of many individuals!

Recommended?

This is a book that I highly recommend for readers of WW11 historical fiction, for those who love family stories with great themes, and for those who enjoy against-the-odds and inspirational themes. As with any WW11 survival story there are some difficult parts, but it is balanced nicely with humor, hope, and lovely characters. Plus the title is comforting because I kept reminding myself “they will find a way through this situation!” We Were the Lucky Ones is going on my potential favorites of the year list.

My Rating: 4.5 Stars rounded up to 5

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we were the lucky ones

Buy Here

Meet the Author, Georgia Hunter

Georgia HunterWhen Georgia Hunter was fifteen years old, she learned that she came from a family of Holocaust survivors. We Were the Lucky Ones was born of her quest to uncover her family’s staggering history. Hunter’s site, http://www.georgiahunterauthor.com, offers a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the extensive research this project has entailed. She lives in Connecticut with her husband and son.

 



Happy Reading Bookworms!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection!
Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text



Looking Ahead

Friday 3/30 I’ll be offering a March Compelling Character Link Up. Think of a favorite character you’d like to share either in a blog post or a comment.

What are you reading this week?


Links I Love

hash

*Photo credit: Good Cheat Eats

 

 

My newest favorite recipe, zucchini and sweet potato hash, is from Good Cheap Eats

If you’re looking for an easy, tasty, and healthy side dish (or I could eat this as a main dish), try this recipe! I usually double it, and I’m not a mushroom lover so I leave that out. You can pair this hash with any meat or even top it with an egg for breakfast. Here’s how I’ve been using it: I pop salmon into the oven and while that’s baking, I make the hash. Or if I have left over chicken (or other meat) from a previous meal, I make this and it helps me forget I’m having leftovers. I’m an avocado lover so I always pair it with avocado as in the picture. Below is a pic I snapped as it started cooking. I’m not a great cook and I always look for ways to cut down my kitchen time so that I can spend more time reading….. so this recipe is a win for me because I eagerly look forward to making it and it fits with my need for easy and quick. For gardeners, this would be a great way to use up an abundance of zucchini!

hash 2

Other Links:

Novels and Nonfiction guest posted for The Hungry Bookworm: 12 Memoirs for Nonfiction Newcomers

DefinitelyRA: Thoughts After Seeing The Wrinkle Movie.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society coming to theaters April 20!
(notice the Downton Abby actors!)

If you loved The Book ThiefMarkus Zusak has a new book releasing in October:
Bridge of Clay



Extra: 

Author Panel + Brunch

If you live in Southern California near Corona, you might be interested in an Author Brunch at the Corona Public Library on Saturday morning, April 21. Authors are Susan Meissner, Laura Kamoie, and Michelle Gable. Here’s the flyer:

histfic author brunch



Sharing is Caring

I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along, promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.



 Let’s Discuss!

I’d love to hear all about what you are reading (or cooking!) this week!