The Forest of Vanishing Stars [Book Review]

July 6, 2021

The Forest of Vanishing Stars by Kristin Harmel

The Forest of Vanishing Stars by Kristin Harmel (cover) a woman wearing a red coat stands with her back to the camera looking out over a valley....planes fly overhead.....white text on the red coat)

Genre/Categories/Settings: Historical Fiction, WW11, Poland/Germany, Survival, Jewish

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

My Summary:

“You are a warrior. You are a hero, and a fighter, and a savior. You are a caretaker and a life giver.”

Thanks #NetGalley @GalleryBooks for a complimentary eARC of #TheForestOfVanishingStars upon my request. All opinions are my own.

The Forest of Vanishing Stars is inspired by true stories of survival in the expansive forests of Poland during WW11. The movie Defiance with Daniel Craig depicts one of the largest hidden groups.

Yona is stolen from her wealthy Germany parents when she is two years old (1922) and raised in the wilderness by an elderly eccentric herbalist and visionary. In 1941 when Yona is a young woman, her kidnapper dies and she is left to fend for herself in the forest. She is surprised to stumble upon a group of Jews fleeing the Nazis. After her fear subsides, she is determined to teach the group all she knows about surviving in the forest. However, they teach her about community and friendship after living her life in isolation. Told in one straightforward timeline from one perspective, this is a story of found family, finding people to trust, and of survival.

My Thoughts:

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Sparks Like Stars [Book Review]

June 2, 2021

Sparks Like Stars by Nadia Hashimi

Sparks Like Stars by Nadia Hashimi (cover) Image: gold and white text on a black background)

Genre/Categories/Setting: Historical Fiction, Afghanistan, Asian-American Literature

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

My Summary:

Nadia Hashimi, the author of The Pearl That Broke Its Shell, tells the story of Sitara Zamani who lives a privileged life in Kabul Afghanistan in 1978. Sitara’s father works for the progressive president and the children from the two families play together. When Sitara is ten years old, the communists stage a coup and Sitara is the only survivor. She is smuggled out of the palace by a sympathetic guard and into the home of an American diplomat. Years later while working as a successful surgeon in America, Sitara (now known as Aryana) is confronted with her past which causes her to ask questions and awakens strong feelings of anger and revenge.

My Thoughts:

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6 Favorite Historical Fiction in 6 Months [2021] #6BooksIn6Months #ThrowBackThursday

July 1, 2021

6 in 6 [2021]

6 best histtorical fiction in 6 months (collage of covers)

The Six in Six is a meme created by Jo at The Book Jotter At the end of June, we are halfway through the year,  so the idea is to share the books we have read in these first 6 months. When I looked at my list of the top 6 so far this year, I realized that they were all Historical Fiction. You’re not really surprised, are you?!

I’m also linking up today with Davida @ The Chocolate Lady’s Book Review Blog for #ThrowBackThursday (since I’ve previously reviewed 5 of the 6 titles).

In the true spirit of the 6 in 6 meme, we are asked to share 6 books in 6 categories. Coming up with 36 books will take more brain power than I have available right now, so I will share 6 of the best historical fiction books I’ve read so far this year.

Titles are links to my reviews or Amazon affiliate links.

a cartoonish number 6

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Wondering Wednesday: 6 Tips For Writing Book Reviews

June 30, 2021

Do you have tips for writing a great book review?

6 Tips For Writing Blog Reviews (white and bright pink lettering over an open laptop/cup of coffee/pot of pink flowers background

Wondering Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jessica Baker @ A Bakers Perspective. I came across this meme for the first time on Davida’s blog, so I think I’ll give it a try and join in with bookish topics! I’m also linking up this post with #LetsDiscuss2021 challenge.

Wondering Wednesdays meme (white cursive lettering on a blue background)

2021 discussion challenge graphic (a blue bird and red fox and wall clock and stack of books graphic)

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

6 Elements I Look For in a Book Review

Most of the tips I’ve accumulated about writing a book review have come from studying other book reviews. I try to emulate what I love. Whether you love a short one paragraph review or a long form thorough analysis, I hope you’ll join our conversation and perhaps find something useful! When I read a review here are six elements I look for:

1.

I look For a Brief Summary

Challenge yourself to write the briefest summary possible. Ideally, no more than a few sentences. I’m aware that some reviewers do not include a summary at all; however, it’s my opinion that a few sentences provide context for a review. If you send visitors off to find the summary on some other site like Goodreads or Amazon, you run the risk of not getting them back. Of course, it’s important to avoid spoilers in your summary. As an example, here’s my four sentence summary for The Kitchen Front. One of my pet peeves is to read a review that is all summary with a couple of reflection sentences tacked onto the end…..this is NOT a review (IMHO)! In addition, if the summary is too long, it will most likely contain spoilers. Reviewers that substitute summaries for reviews won’t find me hanging around for long.

2.

I Look for How You FEEL About Your Reading Experience…How Do You Connect With the Story?

Rather than a long summary, I want to know if you love the story. How did you connect? How was your reading experience? Describe your reading experience. Was it page-turning? Engaging? Unputdownable? Thought-provoking? Informative? Entertaining? If it was meh, give some examples of what didn’t work for you. I find that the more I love a book, the more difficult it is to find the right words for a review! Sometimes I resort to a list like in this post of Project Hail Mary. Sometimes it’s helpful to me when you compare the book you’re reviewing to another well-known book or movie. I love reviews where I can hear the reviewer’s “voice” and feel the reviewer’s emotion and enthusiasm because that will entice me to pick up the book more than a bland summary.

3.

I Look For Thoughtful Themes and TWs

Please mention themes! Certain themes always attract my attention: forgiveness, reconciliation, redemption, complicated family drama, hope, friendship, women supporting women, and second chances are all winners in my experience! I also appreciate trigger warnings…..although these often contain spoilers and you need to warn readers before you include a TW. I wrote a post on TWs here. If you don’t believe in including trigger warnings, I understand. But I (and many others) do appreciate them because they help me choose books I know will fit my reading tastes and help prevent an unexpected and unpleasant reading experience. Knowing is power.

4.

I Look For Honesty (and Kindness)

There are kind ways of reviewing books truthfully. I don’t mind the sandwich method: your honest opinion (what didn’t work for you) can be “sandwiched” between a couple of positives. If the book wasn’t to your taste, who do you think would enjoy reading the book? I think it’s kind to acknowledge what another reader might find enjoyable. No two people ever read the same book. Also, when I’m reading a negative review, I look for specific examples not rants. For instance, knowing that the characters are stereotypical or not well developed is more helpful than expressing a general statement of hatred for the characters. When you tell me in your review that the characters are stereotypical, I can interpret that as negative but it is stated kindly. I like to study and learn from reviewers who can make negative comments in kind ways. (And, please note, reviewing etiquette requires that authors are never tagged in negative reviews). As a side note, I only post 3, 4, and 5 star reviews on my blog, so you are not likely to find a 1 or 2 star review on the blog. For all my reviews and DNFs visit me on Goodreads which is where I rate it all.

5.

I Look For Readability

Don’t want me to read your review? If you don’t want me to read your review, post ONE LONG BLOCK of text with no breaks or subheadings. But wait….isn’t “content king”? I do appreciate great content and I will slog through reading your review if I’m especially curious about the book you’re reviewing; however, if I have to make myself read it, you’ve probably lost many other visitors. I’ve even read reviews where the summary runs together with the review in one long block. Honestly it takes very little effort to hit the enter/return key to start a new paragraph! Separating your thoughts into paragraphs and adding a bold word or two or a subheading for each paragraph greatly enhances readability!

Need more convincing? If you’ve heard about SEO and think you might want to start “somewhere,” heading and subheadings are basic components of best SEO strategies. SEO enhances readability.

6.

I Look For a Star Rating

I realize that some reviewers no longer give star ratings in blog reviews, but I still look for them and appreciate the time and effort it takes to analyze and nail that down.

twinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-star

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Related: How I Write a Fiction Book Review; 10 Elements of a 5 Star Read; Do I Write Honest Reviews?

What is the most important element of a book review for you?



QOTD: Let’s Discuss

What do you look for in a review?



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



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***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.

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 (or publisher’s) website.

© ReadingLadies.com

A Summer Wedding For the Cornish Midwife [Book Review]

June 29, 2021

A Summer Wedding For the Cornish Midwife by Jo Bartlett

A Summer Wedding For the Cornish Midwife by Jo Bartlett (cover) Image: a young woman stands on a bluff holding a bouquet of flowers and overlooking a small coastal village

Genre/Categories/Setting: Light contemporary women’s fiction, Romance, Small town/Cornish coast, Midwifery, Up-lit

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

My Summary:

#2 in the Cornish Midwives series. The highly anticipated wedding of Anna and Brae needs to be postponed due to a fire at the venue. However, close friends and community pull together to save the wedding.

My Thoughts:

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June 2021 Reading Wrap Up

June 28, 2021

June 2021 Reading Wrap Up

June 2021 Reading Wrap Up (collage of covers)

How was your June reading?

Overall, June reading was mostly satisfactory.
Out of ten books, I had one DNF, one 5-star read, three 4-star reads, and four 3-star reads, and one 2-Star read.

My favorite fiction read of the month is the AUDIO version of Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir.


Did we read any of the same books?

***This post contains Amazon affiliate links.
Titles are Amazon affiliate links or my linked reviews
.
ARC=Advanced Readers Copy (complimentary copy for review)


Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir (cover) Image: an astronaut floats in space tethered to a gold and black object

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir (AUDIO)

4.5 Stars (rounded to 5). Compelling science fiction. My review of Project Hail Mary here.
Audio HIGHLY recommended.


the Kitchen Front by Jennifer Ryan (cover) Image: a young woman dressed in a red blouse and a white apron holds a recipe book close to her chest

The Kitchen Front by Jennifer Ryan

4 Stars. Historical Fiction (England, WW11). My review of The Kitchen Front here.


The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict and Victoria Murray (cover) Image: a young woman in a long red dress stands against the railing of a grand staircase holding a small stack of books to her chest

The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict and Victoria Murray

4 Stars. (ARC) Historical Fiction (Gilded Age, New York City). My review of The Personal Librarian.


The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankwiler by E.L. Konigsburg (cover) Image: two young children walk up the red carpeted steps into a museum

From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankwiler by E.L. Konigsburg

4 Stars  Well-loved Middle Grade. (reread).


One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot by Marianne Cronin (cover) Image: white lettering and two yellow roses against a blue background

One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot by Marianne Cronin

3.5 Stars. Heartwarming and Poignant Contemporary Fiction. My Goodreads review.


The Cornish Midwife by Jo Bartlett (cover) Image: a young woman holding a medical bag walks next to a harbor

The Cornish Midwife by Jo Bartlett

3 Stars. Light-reading, character-driven contemporary fiction. Not reviewed.


A Summer Wedding for the Cornish Midwife by Jo Bartlett (cover) Image: A young woman stands on a bluff overlooking a small seaside village

A Summer Wedding For the Cornish Midwife (ARC) by Jo Bartlett

3 Stars. (ARC) Light-reading contemporary fiction (sequel to The Cornish Midwife). My review of A Summer Wedding here.


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The Personal Librarian [Book Review]

June 25, 2021

The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray

The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict and Victoria Murray (cover) Image: a young woman in a long red dress stands against the railing of a grand staircase....a small stack of books held to her chest

Genre/Categories/Setting: Biographical Historical Fiction, African-American Women, the Gilded Age, New York City

N*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

My Summary:

Thanks #NetGalley @BerkleyPub #BerkleyWritesStrongWomen #BerkleyBuddyReads for a complimentary eARC upon my request. All opinions are my own.

The Personal Librarian is the fictionalized biography of Belle da Casta Greene, personal librarian to business tycoon, John Pierpont Morgan.  Belle curates a collection of rare manuscripts, books, and artwork for the Pierpont Morgan Library. In addition to becoming powerful in the art and book world, Belle develops a reputation as a shrewd negotiator and earns her place in New York Society. However, she has a well-guarded secret…..she is passing as white.

My Thoughts:

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The Island of Sea Women #ThrowBackThursday

June 24, 2021

The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See
#throwbackthursday

Island of Sea Women Review

Genre/Categories/Setting: Historical Fiction, South Korea, Women’s Roles

In 2020, I decided to systematically revisit my older review posts and update them. On Thursdays, I’ll be re-sharing a few of these great reads. Today, I’m re-sharing a review of compelling and informative women’s historical fiction, The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See.

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

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

My Summary:

“In The Island of Sea Women, See imagines the story of Mi-ja and Young-sook. As the story begins, we are introduced to these two young girls living on the Korean Island of Jeju. Although the girls are best friends, they come from very different backgrounds. As the girls mature, they begin working in the sea with other women in the village as part of the diving collective (the haenyo). Even though diving is dangerous, the girls are eager to be allowed to join the women of the sea as they learn the trade and follow in the tradition of the other women in the village who are the sole providers for their families. In this matriarchal culture, the men stay home, cook, and assume primary care for the children. Women take on the responsibility of providing an income from selling the bounty of their diving expeditions. It’s women who worry about the livelihood of their families and village, assume great physical risks, and take responsibility for knowing the best locations and times/conditions to dive. The sea women dive when they are pregnant and sometimes give birth on the boat as part of their workday if necessary. The story begins in the 1930s and continues through WW11, the Korean War, and the modern technology boom. Over the decades, circumstances put the girls’ friendship under great strain and the story encompasses their entire lives. It’s a story of a unique culture, friendship, understanding, community, and a dangerous and demanding profession.”

 A story of a unique culture, friendship, understanding, community, and a dangerous and demanding profession…

Continue here for my full review of The Island of Sea Women …



QOTD:

Have you read The Island of Sea Women or is it on your TBR?

The Kitchen Front [Book Review]

June 22, 2021

The Kitchen Front by Jennifer Ryan

The Kitchen Front by Jennifer Ryan (cover) A woman dressed in a red bouse and white apron holds a cookbook to her chest

Genre/Categories: Light historical fiction (WW11), Cooking, Friendship, Up-Lit

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

My Summary:

A cooking competition meets WW11. Facing bombings, food shortages, and rationing, morale is low among the housewives of Britain. The BBC launches a cooking contest for a show called Kitchen Front. Although the first prize is a coveted chance to be the first female co-host of the show, four very different women discover a more valuable prize to be gained: friendship.

My Thoughts:

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Project Hail Mary [Book Review] #FathersDay

June 18, 2021

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir

Project Hail Mary by Any Weir (cover) Image: an astronaut is tethered and floating in space near a gold and black object

Genre/Categories: Science Fiction, Space Mission, Friendship, Survival

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

My Summary:

Middle School science teacher Ryland Grace finds himself on a desperate space mission to save planet Earth. He wakes up on a spaceship hooked up to tubes without a memory of how he got there or how the two people next to him died in their beds. Although he senses he knows them and realizes their importance, he can’t remember his own name or his purpose for being there. In dual timelines, we hear Ryland’s backstory (as he regains his memory) and experience the dangerous present reality. Ryland finds an unexpected ally in his quest to save Earth from extinction.

My Thoughts:

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