The Book of Lost Names [Book Review]

July 21, 2020

The Book of Lost Names by Kristin Harmel

The Book of Lost Names by Kristin Harmel (cover) Image: a young woman with her back to the camera stands on a bridge overlooking the Eiffel Tower holding an old book behind her back

Genre/Categories: Historical Fiction, WW11, France

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Summary:

Inspired by true stories from WW11, a young Jewish woman who flees Paris with her mother after the arrest of her father finds herself committing to a forgery ring whose primary goal is to create documents that will help hundreds of Jewish children flee the Nazis. The story is told in dual timelines from the present-day perspective of Eva who is a semi-retired librarian living in Florida and the young Eva as she flees Paris and joins an underground forgery operation in a small mountain town near the Switzerland border. The Book of Lost Names becomes an important link between the two timelines.

My Thoughts:

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The Medallion: A Review

October 3, 2019

The Medallion by Cathy Gohlke

“When all seems lost, God can make a way forward.”

The Medallion Review

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

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Summary:

1939 Warsaw is the setting for this harrowing, heartfelt, and inspirational WW11 tale of survival, courage, loss, hope, risk, and faith. Sophie works in the city library, and her husband, Janek, is deployed with the Polish Air Force. When the Germans invade Warsaw in 1939 and streets become a dangerous war zone, Sophie feels compelled to help friends and strangers. Rosa and Itzhak are pregnant with their first child when they seek shelter in the Jewish ghetto. When Itzhak leaves her to check on the safety of his family, Rosa faces the horrific possibility of sending their small child into hiding to save her life, but first Rosa cuts a medallion (the Jewish Tree of Life) in half and places half around her young daughter’s neck. She prays that this will be enough to reunite them after the war.

We follow the lives of these two memorable couples whose worlds are torn apart and, in post-war years, connected by a shared love for a young daughter.

Amazon Rating: 4.8 Stars

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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Resistance Women: A Review

June 28, 2019

Resistance Women by Jennifer Chiaverini

Resistance Women Review

Genre/Categories: Historical Fiction, Pre WW11, WW11, Jewish, German

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Summary:

Mildred Fish, an American College graduate, meets the love of her life, Arvid Harnack. After they fall in love, they marry and make their home in Arvid’s homeland of Germany. Mildred and Arvid thrive there, forming new friendships, and enjoying the intellectual and artistic offerings of 1930s Berlin. As Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party become more popular and powerful, Mildred and Arvid and their friends are compelled to resist. For years, Mildred and Arvid and their cohorts risk their lives to gather intelligence to bring down the Third Reich from within. Sadly, their sincere efforts don’t result in the help they desired or envisioned. This is a story of ordinary people who, while they should be enjoying their carefree youth, give their best efforts to fighting evil and saving their country.

My Thoughts:

Jennifer Chiaverini puts history back into historical fiction!

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Paper Hearts: A Review

May 21, 2019

Paper Hearts by Meg Wiviott

Paper Hearts Review

Genre/Categories: WW11, Holocaust, Jewish, Young Adult, Poetry, Friendship, Survival

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Summary:

In Paper Hearts, two unforgettable girls find themselves tragically imprisoned at Auschwitz during the Holocaust and become friends. Through the bonds of friendship and a bit of defiance, Zlatka and Fania find bits of hope and a will to live. In this true story, Zlatka, along with the help of a few other girls, masterminds making a surprise birthday card for Fania. A secret project that would be a crime punishable by death if caught, each girl signed the paper hearts card with her hopes and wishes for happiness, love, and freedom. This heart is a symbol of defiance and is one of the few artifacts created in Auschwitz that has survived and can be seen today in the Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre in Canada. (see an article link and image below)

My Thoughts:

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Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love: A Review

March 27, 2019

Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love by Dani Shapiro

Inheritance Review

Genre/Categories: Non Fiction, Memoir, Ancestry, Bioethics, Jewish

Family secrets….bioethics…..if you send in a DNA sample to Ancestry on a lark, be prepared for truth.

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Summary:

Receiving DNA results from Ancestry propels a determined and persistent Dani Shapiro into a quest for identity and paternity. Shapiro thoughtfully unravels family secrets as she explores the meaning of love versus biology, a new cultural heritage, and family bonds. The story behind Shapiro’s discovery is not what you might expect and I won’t spoil that part of the story for you. You will want to know, though, that the ethical considerations that she brings up are worthy of discussion and careful thought.

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The Wartime Sisters: A Review

January 22, 2019

Sisters…resentment…jealousy…misunderstanding…competition…secrets…

The Wartime Sisters by Lynda Cohen Loigman

wartime sisters

Genre/Categories: Historical Fiction, WW11, Jewish, Siblings, Friendship, Family Dynamics

Thank you to @netgalley and @stmartinspress for the advanced free copy of #TheWartimeSisters in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Summary:

In the early days of WW11, two estranged sisters are reunited at the Springfield, Massachusetts Armory. Ruth is the older sister and an officer’s wife and the younger sister Millie is a single mom who, in desperation, seeks refuge in her sister’s home and takes a position in the Armory factories as a “soldier of production.” This living arrangement isn’t ideal, but the younger sister has no other family after the death of their parents and the disappearance of her abusive husband. The relationship between the sisters is tense and filled with resentment, jealousy, misunderstanding, competition, and secrets.

My Thoughts:

Sisters and Friends Who Are Like Sisters. Although the story is set during WW11 and interesting details are given about the time period, the armory, and wartime efforts, I think this story of the “war between sisters” could have taken place in any time period and any setting. I appreciate the effort the author gives in this mostly character driven story in creating a complex and believable relationship between two sisters. Their rivalry is completely understandable, believable, and tragic. The support they receive from two other women in the story makes for a dynamic and well-developed cast of characters. It would be easy to see this as a movie.

Plot. Although mostly character driven, a plot twist towards the end provides compelling tension and action. Overall, this poignant, well written story told from the alternating perspectives of four strong women (two sisters and two friends) and from dual timelines is a solid read. It could be categorized as women’s fiction set in war time as well as the historical fiction designation.

Themes. Thoughtful themes addressed include parental favoritism and expectations, family dynamics, sibling loyalty and rivalry, complex relationships, reconciliation, roles of women in the 30s and 40s, and strong and brave women supporting each other.

Recommended for readers who appreciate well drawn and realistic characterizations of resilient, determined women and compelling stories that explore complicated family dynamics.

My Rating: 4 Poignant Stars

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the wartime sisters

The Wartime Sisters

Meet the Author, Lynda Cohen Loigman

lynda cohen loigmanLynda Cohen Loigman grew up in Longmeadow, Massachusetts. She received a B.A. in English and American Literature from Harvard College and a law degree from Columbia Law School. Lynda practiced trusts and estates law in New York City for eight years before moving out of the city to raise her two children with her husband. She wrote The Two-Family House while she was a student of the Writing Institute at Sarah Lawrence College. The Two-Family House was chosen by Goodreads as a best book of the month for March, 2016, and was a nominee for the Goodreads 2016 Choice Awards in Historical Fiction. Her second novel, The Wartime Sisters, will be published on January 22, 2019.



Let’s Discuss!

Have you read Loigman’s first novel, The Two-Family House?

 Can you relate to a story of sibling rivalry?



Happy Reading Book Worms

“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

This is important information! Why getting lost in a book is so good for you according to science!

I’ll be updating my Winter TBR as I read and review selections. So check back often!

Don’t miss my Most Memorable Reads of 2018 post here.



In Movie News….

For Fredrik Backman fans, Britt-Marie Was Here will be a movie!

Reese Witherspoon to produce “Where the Crawdads Sing” and Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine.

And….here’s the trailer for Where’d You Go Bernadette starring Cate Blanchette.

(You might consider adding these four books to your ‘want to read list’ in preparation!)



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.



***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 photo are credited to Amazon or an author’s (or publisher’s) website.

October’s Most Compelling Character

October 30, 2018

compelling character

Each month I bring you a most compelling or unforgettable character of the month. In October’s last days I’d like to remind you of Lale Sokolov, The Tattooist of Auschwitz. Lale is the main character in the first book I read in October and no character has come close to over taking Lale as the most memorable character of the month.

Tattooist of Auschwitz 2

Find more information about The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris here.

Find the full review of The Tattooist of Auschwitz here.

Meet Lale Sokolov

Lale in his own words.

Lale is a Slovakian Jew who survived Auschwitz with cunning, determination, courage, a positive attitude, a winsome personality, a hopeful spirit, and his true love. He takes risks to help others and generously sacrifices his extra food portions to feed a few who are at risk of dying from starvation. Lale meets the love of his life, Gita, while they are both prisoners at Auschwitz. He assumes the grave responsibility for her safety and promises her a future……. that they will survive and enjoy a life together outside of Auschwitz. He has enough hope, determination, and courage for both of them.

One of the aspects I appreciate about the story is hearing Lale’s honest and candid reflections about what went right and what went wrong and his angst about some of the decisions he made. Most worrisome for him is his concern that he might be seen as working with the Nazis in his role as the tattooist. In addition, he wrestles with guilt over the benefits he receives from that assignment, but then he realizes that the extra freedoms and extra food he receives can be used to help others.

Although the writing is less than beautiful in places, the content, compelling story line, and unforgettable character make this inspiring fictionalized biography a must read. You will never forget him. It’s important to hear as many stories as possible from the survivors while we have them with us. The author spent three years interviewing Lale when, near the end of his life, he finally felt compelled to tell his story for history.

When reading these types of stories, it causes me to reflect on what I would do in similar circumstances. Would I have the courage to be a Lale and risk everything to help others, and could I have held on to the hope of survival in a Nazi prison?



Please share your most memorable character from your October reading in the comments.



I’ll be back tomorrow with my October Wrap Up!



Happy Halloween to everyone celebrating!
pumpkins

Image from Pottery Barn

The Tattooist of Auschwitz

October 12, 2018

Review: The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

Tattooist of Auschwitz 2

Genre/Categories: Historical Fiction, Holocaust, WW11

Summary:

Based on the true story of Lale and Gita Sokolov, two Slovakian Jews who meet at Auschwitz, this is a story of the determination to survive, hope, sacrifice, courage, and love. Lale is assigned to tattoo identification numbers onto the prisoner’s arms as they arrive in camp, and this is where he first meets Gita. This assignment gives him some privileges such as a bit of freedom and some extra food which he shares with the most desperate prisoners as he is able. His actions are extremely risky but he is able to save the lives of many prisoners. In the course of his time at camp, he falls deeply in love with Gita, and he is determined to ensure her survival as well. After liberation, Lale and Gita marry, have one son, and establish a home in Australia. They live a private life, and it is after Gita dies that Lale chooses to tell his memorable story.

Amazon Rating (October): 4.6 Stars

My Thoughts:

I’ve read a great deal of WW11 historical fiction. Each story is as compelling as the next. All the stories need to be heard. What makes The Tattooist of Auschwitz even more compelling is that the author was able to spend three years interviewing Lale Sokolov.

Despite being caught in a desperate and heartbreaking situation, Lale is able to survive in the camp because of his pleasant and positive personality, his sheer determination to live, his cunning and courage, and his remarkable attitude. Throughout this compelling story, Lale takes risks, makes sacrifices, and generously shares what he can to help others. Lale’s personality reminded me a little of Pino’s positive attitude in Beneath a Scarlet Sky.

A page turner, The Tattooist of Auschwitz is written in a straightforward way and in a simple story telling style. Its tone is lighter in comparison to some other Holocaust stories I’ve read (although there are obviously some sad passages).

Recommended for fans of WW11 historical fiction, for readers who appreciate fictionalized  versions of true stories, and for those who enjoy an unforgettable character and an unputdownable story filled with courage and hope.

Here’s a brief YouTube video clip of Lale The Tattooist of Auschwitz in his own words. Tissues required.

My Rating: 4.5 Stars (3 stars for writing, 5 stars for a compelling story, themes, and memorable character)

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tattooist of auschwitz

Buy Here

Meet the Author, Heather Morris

Heather MorrisHeather Morris is a native of New Zealand, now resident in Australia. For several years, while working in a large public hospital in Melbourne, she studied and wrote screenplays, one of which was optioned by an Academy Award-winning screenwriter in the US. In 2003, Heather was introduced to an elderly gentleman who ‘might just have a story worth telling’. The day she met Lale Sokolov changed both their lives. Their friendship grew and Lale embarked on a journey of self-scrutiny, entrusting the innermost details of his life during the Holocaust to her. Heather originally wrote Lale’s story as a screenplay – which ranked high in international competitions – before reshaping it into her debut novel, The Tattooist of Auschwitz.



Happy Reading Book Worms!

“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

Under the Sycamore: International Day of the Girl
(conversation starters)

Maple-leaf1

Several years ago I visited the Simon Wiesenthal Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles, CA and was privileged to hear a Holocaust survivor give her talk. It was memorable and unforgettable. I hope that you can hear a similar first hand account if you haven’t already.



My Fall TBR

I’ll be updating my Fall TBR list as I complete each read, so check this link often!



Looking Ahead:

I’m reading and will reviewing Becoming Mrs. Lewis next week.

becoming mrs lewis

These two books are patiently waiting their turn: Harry’s Trees by Jon Cohen and The Rain Watcher by Tatiana de Rosnay (ARC from #stmartinspress). Just a couple of the good ones I have my eye on!



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 read frequently in the WW11 histfic genre? Even though I love the genre, it’s not easy reading and can take an emotional toll.  Each time I think I may be finished with the genre for a while, another compelling story from an interesting perspective comes along!



***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.

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.