The Librarian of Auschwitz [Book Review] #throwbackthursday

October 22, 2020

The Librarian of Auschwitz by Antonio Iturbe

#throwbackthursday

The Librarian of Auschwitz by Antonio Iturbe (cover) Image: a young girl stands on top of a giant stack of books

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

This year as part of Blog Audit Challenge 2020 I’m going back to update older review posts. On Thursdays, I’ll be re-sharing a few of these great reads, and today I’m sharing my review of The Librarian of Auschwitz, brave…inspirational…courageous…feisty…determined….daring…

I’m linking up today with Davida @ The Chocolate Lady’s Book Review Blog for #throwbackthursday.

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

My Summary of The Librarian of Auschwitz

“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.”

 Continue here for my review of The Librarian of Auschwitz

QOTD: Have you read The Librarian of Auschwitz or is it on your TBR?

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry [Book Review] #flashbackfriday #fridayfavorite

August 14, 2020

The Storied Life of AJ Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin (cover) Image: right shot of a bookstore's painted red door and window display

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

Genre/Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Love Story, Found Family, Family Life

Welcome to Friday Favorite! Today in lieu of reviewing a new release, I  am choosing to revisit an old favorite which I read years before starting this blog. (thanks for the inspiration Sandy’s Book a Day blog!)

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Summary:

A.J. Fikry lives on a fictional island (Alice Island) off the coast of Massachusetts. The isolated island reflects Fikry’s own mental state as he lives with consuming grief over the loss of his wife to a tragic accident. He’s lonely, drinks to excess, is grumpy and opinionated, and struggles with low book sales in the bookstore that he and his wife bought when they moved to the island. Complicating this already dire situation, Fikry’s most prized and valuable book is stolen, he is rude to a book publisher’s representative, and a baby is abandoned in his bookshop. How will Fikry pull his life together?

My Thoughts:

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The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah and Educated by Tara Westover [Book Reviews] #throwbackthursday

August 6, 2020

Compelling Characters in The Great Alone (fiction) by Kristin Hannah and Educated (nonfiction) by Tara Westover
#throwbackthursday

I’m linking up today with Davida @ The Chocolate Lady’s Book Review Blog for
#throwbackthursday.

This year as part of Blog Audit Challenge 2020 I’m going back to update older review posts. On Thursdays, I’ll be re-sharing a few of these great reads, and today I’m sharing my reviews of The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah and Educated by Tara Westover, a focus on compelling characters…

a collage of Educated and The Great Alone covers

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Two compelling characters…

Introduction:

Today I’m highlighting two compelling characters: Leni from The Great Alone (fiction) and Tara from Educated: A Memoir (nonfiction). Leni and Tara share some similar struggles and challenges. The two stories reminded me at times of The Glass Castle (charismatic yet unpredictable fathers, unstable homes, neglect, poverty) and Hillbilly Elegy (chaotic family life, nurturing grandparents)….a fascinating book club discussion could be centered around discussing the connections between these books and characters.

Continue here for my review of the Great Alone and Educated

QOTD: Have you read The Great Alone or Educated or are they on your TBR?

As Bright As Heaven [Review] #flashbackfriday

April 17, 2020

Under lockdown orders due to COVID-19, I’ve thought many times of Susan Meissner’s book As Bright As Heaven which is about the 1918 Flu Pandemic. It’s amazing that what I read two years ago about a pandemic that happened one hundred years ago is relevant today!  I’ve also enjoyed The Secret Library’s Book Review Blog posts for #flashbackfriday. So even though it’s not the first Friday of the month, I’m joining Kerry @ Chat About Books to share my review of As Bright As Heaven that was first published in February of 2018. I hope I’ll be forgiven for joining the meme mid-month….I couldn’t wait until the first Friday of another month to bring your attention to this relevant read! Also….the Kindle version is $3.99 today!

***This post contains Amazon affiliate links

As Bright as Heaven by Susan Meissner

As Bright As Heaven by Susan Meissner (cover)

Genre: Historical Fiction

Summary:

Three events coincide in this story: the Bright family moves to Philadelphia in 1918 for a fresh start, many men go off to fight in the Great War, and the Flu spreads in America. As Pauline Bright and her husband pursue their dream of giving their three daughters a chance at a better life in the big city of Philadelphia, the Flu Pandemic and the Great War greatly impact their lives and rearrange their priorities. Told from four perspectives (mother and the three daughters), it’s a story of survival, making difficult choices, facing challenges, and finding hope. Amazon Rating (early reviews): 4.7 Stars

Meet Two Sisters, Evelyn and Maggie Bright

Historical fiction is my favorite genre because in the stories we find ordinary people doing extraordinary things under difficult circumstances. Not too different from the inspiring stories we hear today on the news involving COVID-19 heroes. We are living the historical fiction stories of the future.

Timely…memorable…uputdownable…

In As Bright As Heaven, Evelyn (Evie) and Maggie Bright are the two older sisters and they become memorable characters with unique personalities and different strengths and weaknesses. Fifteen and twelve when the story opens, Evie is the oldest sister, smart, inquisitive, and a reader, while Maggie is feisty, opinionated, good-hearted, fearless, and determined. As their father leaves to fulfill his war-time responsibilities and the Flu begins to ravage Philadelphia and affect their family, the girls are forced to take on adult-sized responsibilities and concerns. As Evie and Maggie experience love and loss, they are also resilient, courageous in the face of challenges, and make many difficult decisions and choices. Despite dire circumstances, the sisters value family and never lose their ability to love and care for each other. While Evie embraces her role as the eldest and assumes responsibility and leadership, Maggie is a wild card who stubbornly insists on accompanying her mother on errands of mercy to the poorest and most needy population of Philadelphia to deliver food and medicine, bravely seeks to work in the family mortuary business, and one day impulsively makes a heart-wrenching discovery that leads her to make a life-changing decision that will impact all their lives. Her actions will promote great book club discussions about taking risks to do the right thing and facing the consequences.

Readers will laugh and cry with these unforgettable characters as well as learn facts about the Spanish Flu and its impact on Philadelphia.

Recommended. As Bright As Heaven is wholeheartedly recommended for readers who love reading about strong independent women, for those who love historical fiction and against-the-odds stories, for those who are looking for a value-centered and inspiring read, and for book clubs. It’s a simply written and straight-forward story despite alternating between four perspectives. Its memorable characters and tragic circumstances make this a solid and unforgettable read. As Bright As Heaven and A Fall of Marigolds are my two favorite Meissner titles!

Trigger Warnings: death from flu, dire circumstances
Content Warning: the setting is a funeral home

My Rating: 4+ Stars.

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As Bright as Heaven

As Bright As Heaven Information Here

Meet the Author, Susan Meissner

Author, Susan Meissner (head shot, wearing a coral cardigan leaning against a wood slat wall)I cannot remember a time when I wasn’t driven to write. I attribute this passion to a creative God and to parents who love books and more particularly to a dad who majored in English and passed on a passion for writing.

I was born in 1961 in San Diego, California, and am the second of three daughters. I spent my very average childhood in just two houses. I attended Point Loma College in San Diego, majoring in education, but I would have been smarter to major in English with a concentration in writing. The advice I give now to anyone wondering what to major in is to follow your heart and choose a vocation you are already in love with.

I’m happy and humbled to say that I’ve had 17 books published in the last dozen years, including The Shape of Mercy, which was named one of the 100 Best Books in 2008 by Publishers Weekly, and the ECPA’s Fiction Book of the Year, a Carol Award winner, and a RITA finalist. I teach at writers’ conferences from time to time and I have a background in community journalism.

I’m also a pastor’s wife and a mother of four young adults. When I’m not at work on a new novel, I write small group curriculum for my San Diego church. Visit me at my website: http//:susanmeissner.com on Twitter at @SusanMeissner or at http://www.facebook.com/susan.meissner



QOTD:

Have you read As Bright As Heaven? Have you read another book about a pandemic? (I know it was briefly mentioned in Last Christmas in Paris.) Do you think ABAH would be too difficult to read right now in light of COVID-19 or do you think it would be interesting?



ICYMI

National Poetry Month

American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins

Lighter Reads During Stressful Times

Ten Signs That I’m a Book Lover

Ten  Favorite Books About Books

The Last Ten Books That Gave Me a Book Hangover



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

 



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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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The Girl With the Louding Voice: A Review

February 14, 2020

On Valentine’s Day (U.S.), a love letter of hope and encouragement to girls worldwide who are dreaming and striving to use their own Louding Voices!

 The Girl With the Louding Voice: by Abi Daré

The Girl With the Louding Voice by Abi Dare (cover)

Genre/Categories: Contemporary Women’s Fiction, Nigeria, Oppression, Women’s Rights

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Summary:

“Tomorrow will be better than today. I have value and I’m important.”

Life for a woman is not easy in Nigeria. Adunni’s mom plants the thought of having a “voice” in her spirit. Fourteen-year-old Adunni is determined to fight for her voice to be heard and for her future despite being sold as a third wife. Even when she runs away, she finds herself in another powerless position of servitude. Adunni is introduced to a more modern woman who befriends her and encourages her to keep hope alive and to think of herself as important and having value.

My Thoughts:

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Cilka’s Journey: A Review

September 27, 2019

 Cilka’s Journey by Heather Morris

Cilka's Journey Review

Genre/Categories: Historical Fiction, WW11, Holocaust, Jewish

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Summary:

Thanks #netgalley #stmartinspress for the free e copy of #cilkasjourney by Heather Morris in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Cilka’s Journey is a companion read (or spin-off) of The Tattooist of Auschwitz and can be read as a stand-alone. Cilka was sent to Auschwitz when she was sixteen years old and because of her beauty, she was singled out to sleep with the Commandant. This assured her survival, but when she was liberated from Auschwitz, the Russians charged her with sleeping with the enemy and collaborating with them. Cilka tried explaining that she was forced into that impossible situation at sixteen and she certainly didn’t collaborate with them. Nevertheless, she was sentenced to fifteen years of hard labor and sent to Siberia. Above all else, Cilka is a survivor and at the camp, she gains the attention of a female doctor who takes Cilka under her wing and teaches her nursing skills. Even though conditions are brutal, Cilka finds a way to survive and even discovers that there is room in her damaged and broken heart for love.

My Thoughts:

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The Dearly Beloved: A Review

September 19, 2019

A thoughtful story of faith and doubt, hope and disappointment, friendship and marriage, career and family….

The Dearly Beloved by Cara Wall

The Dearly Beloved Review

Genre/Categories: Literary Fiction, Faith, Marriage and Family

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Summary:

Four very different individuals (two couples) navigate relationships, marriage, children, faith, career, ministry, crisis, joy, friendship, forgiveness, uncertainty, understanding, and heartbreak. The couples meet in the 1960s when the men, Charles and James, accept positions as co-pastors of the Third Presbyterian Church in Manhattan. The relationship between the couples is strained because the wives are polar opposites: Lily is a loner and an atheist and Nan values connection and is a devout Christian. In this tender character-driven story that covers decades of life, we also learn the backstory of each individual.

My Thoughts:

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If You Want To Make God Laugh: A Review

September 13, 2019

If You Want To Make God Laugh
by Bianca Marais

If You Want to Make God Laugh Review

Genre/Categories: Historical Fiction, South Africa, Family Life

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Summary:

If You Want to Make God Laugh is the story of three unforgettable women living in post-Apartheid South Africa at the time of a growing AIDS epidemic and threats of civil war. Zodwa is seventeen, pregnant, poor, and lives in a squatter’s camp. Ruth and Delilah are middle-aged sisters who live on an inherited, rural farm. While Ruth is an unhappy, disillusioned, and newly divorced socialite, Delilah is a former nun and social worker who is hiding a big secret. A newborn baby will bring these characters together, and this is a story of their precarious relationships, of sibling jealousy, rivalry, and healing, and of found family.

My Thoughts:

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The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek: A Review

August 16, 2019

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek Review

Genre/Categories: Historical Fiction, Southern Fiction, Book About Books, Racism, Prejudice, Poverty

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Summary:

In the 1930s, nineteen-year-old Cussy Carter and her father live in the isolated woods of Troublesome Creek, Kentucky. They are the last of the “blue people” of Kentucky and endure racism and prejudice because of the blue hue of their skin. They are considered “colored.” Dad risks his life and health working long hours in the coal mines and Cussy takes a government job with the historical Pack Horse Library Project. As a “librarian,” she travels across treacherous mountains and dangerous creeks on her mule, Junia, to deliver books and other reading materials to the mountain folk who have few resources. She does what she can to meet their most dire needs. Incidentally, she doesn’t cuss! (She’s named after a town in France.)

Early Amazon Rating (August): 4.7 Stars

My Thoughts:

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Book Characters That I’d Like as Best Friends

August 13, 2019

 

 

***Book titles are Amazon affiliate links

top ten tuesday

I’m linking up today with That Artsy Reader Girl for Top Ten Tuesday: Book Characters That I’d Like For Best Friends.

Book Characters That I’d Like For Best Friends

Oh my! This is a difficult topic! I admire so many characters!

Many characters I love are from the histfic genre, and I can’t imagine sharing their difficult lives. Also, some of the characters I’d like to be friends with are younger than I am……but maybe that’s OK because we are pretending, and I guess I can become their age if I’m their imaginary friend! So I won’t worry about those pesky details!

Here’s the list I created (tomorrow could be a different list)…..I don’t want to hurt any favorite character’s feelings by leaving them off this list…..just know that there are a hundred more! (listed in no particular order)


Inspector Gamache, Reine Marie, Myrna, Clara

I’d love to be friends with Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and his wife, Reine Marie (…..and Myrna the bookstore owner and Clara the artist)….. but prickly Ruth the poet kind of intimidates me!). I’d love to visit the Safe Haven of Three Pines and sit by the roaring fire in the Bistro for pastry and hot chocolate, or visit one of their homes for a comfort-food dinner and enjoy their cozy friendship.

A Better Man (Installment #15 in the Chief Inspector Gamache/Three Pines Series) by Louise Penny (counting the days until the 8/27 release!)
Genre: character-driven mystery
(My Kingdom of the Blind ReviewThe Series and Glass Houses Review)

A Better Man


Eliza

I’d love to be friends with the industrious, loyal, patriotic Eliza Hamilton (wife of Alexander Hamilton). Although she had eleven children and partnered closely with her husband in writing and drafting documents and probably wouldn’t have time to chit-chat, I still think it would be inspirational to have known her.

My Dear Hamilton by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie
Genre: Historical Fiction, U.S. History and the Founding
(My Review)

my dear hamilton


Cussy

I would love to have had the opportunity to befriend Cussy Mary Carter who endured racism because of a rare medical condition that caused her skin to appear blue and suffered more than her share of hardships due to poverty and isolation. Cussy is courageous, committed to literacy, always chooses kindness, and cares deeply for others (especially children). It would be a privilege to call her “friend.” (no worries, she doesn’t cuss!)

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson
Genre: Historical Fiction, Racism, Prejudice, Book About Books
(Review coming this Friday)

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek


Precious

I would be honored to be best friends with Precious Ramotswe. She’s a gentle spirit, gracious in her hospitality, wise, thoughtful, and kind. I could learn to drink tea!

The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency Series by Alexander McCall Smith
Genre: Fiction, Gentle Mystery (Africa)
(a review of The House of Unexpected Sisters)

No 1 Ladies Detective Agency


Maggie

I can always be friends with a competent, caring, compassionate, creative teacher! I would love to be Maggie‘s teaching partner and her best friend! We would share middle grade lit recommendations and create engaging lesson plans!

The Secret of Clouds by Alyson Richman
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Historical Fiction
(my review here)

The Secret of Clouds


Layla

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