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 Stars (3 stars for writing, 4 stars for a compelling story)

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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.

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Review: Where the Crawdads Sing

September 28, 2018

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

where the crawdads sing 2

Genre/Categories: Women’s Fiction, Southern Fiction, Coming of Age, Family Life, Survival

Summary:

Living in the marsh outside a quiet, small town on the coast of North Carolina, Kya Clark, later known as the “Marsh Girl,” is abandoned by her entire family and learns to survive in the marsh on her own from the age of ten. One by one her older siblings abandon the family, her mother leaves when Kya is about seven, and finally her father, a difficult, unreliable, and drunk man, leaves when she’s ten. Kya attends school for one day after a truant officer catches her. On that day, she is teased by the students, knows she’s hopelessly behind academically, and never returns. Preferring the isolation and safety of the marsh, she learns what she can through observing nature. Although she can survive on her own, she begins to long for companionship as she reaches her teen years. Two boys from town attract her attention. One of them turns up dead, and she is suspected of murder. The other becomes a life long supporter and friend. A coming of age story with a fair share of tragedy, mystery, and grit, this is an unforgettable read you’ll want to devour and recommend.

Amazon Rating: 4.8 Stars

My Thoughts:

While I loved Where the Crawdads Sing, this story might not be for everyone and comes with trigger warnings for some child neglect and abandonment.

What I loved most about the story is its structure and style. It is atmospheric and engaging from the first page to the last. In addition, it’s an easy reading narrative that flows well and is pleasingly balanced between character driven and plot driven. The author creates an amazing sense of place and a memorable and unforgettable character. As a bonus, the author’s background as a wildlife scientist enables her to include many fascinating scientific facts and details about the marsh.

This story came to me at the right time as I was in the mood for an intriguing, well written, page turner, and Where the Crawdads Sing did not disappoint! It will most likely appear on my best of 2018 list.

Along with an emphasis on science and the marsh habitat, the author creates vivid and colorful local characters that enhance the story and includes a surprising plot twist at the end!

compelling character

Kya Clark is certainly September’s most compelling character. Resourceful, brave, cunning, a gritty survivor, and clever, Kya creates a life for herself despite the most difficult and disheartening circumstances. There is a person in town that she learns to trust and who becomes as important to her as a father. He watches out for her the best that he can which is difficult because he’s African-American and is dealing with issues of hate and segregation in his own life. He understands Kya and respects her freedom and her need to live her life on her terms even though she’s so young. Despite Kya’s ability to create a life for herself as a wildlife artist and illustrator and is eventually able to trust herself to love, there is a plot twist at the end that will force you to reevaluate Kya and the decisions she’s made.

Themes in the story include belonging, abandonment, survival, trust, coming of age, family, and caring for others. There’s a great deal to reflect on or to discuss (if this is a book club pick) as the story unfolds.

Recommended for readers who are looking for an engaging and unique story with a strong female protagonist. It would make an excellent book club selection because of the various discussion possibilities. *Triggers for child neglect and abandonment.

If you have a blog post about your most memorable character of the month, please use the link below or share in the comments.

My Rating 5 Stars

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where the crawdads sing

Buy Here

Meet the Author, Delia Owens

delia owensDelia Owens is the co-author of three internationally bestselling nonfiction books about her life as a wildlife scientist in Africa including Cry of the Kalahari.

She has won the John Burroughs Award for Nature Writing and has been published in NatureThe African Journal of Ecology, and many others.

She currently lives in Idaho. Where the Crawdads Sing is her first novel.



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



My Fall TBR

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



Looking Ahead:

This week I’m reading an ARC of The Dream Daughter by Diane Chamberlain (pub date: 10/2). It’s different from my usual genres: heavy on science fiction (time travel), a bit of hisfic (as the characters travel between 1970 and 2018), and some suspense. I would characterize this as an escapist read! Full review coming soon.

dream daughter

I’m also ready to begin The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris because my library hold came in. (taking a deep breath for this heavy read)

tattooist of auschwitz



A Link I Love

Books to movies this fall.



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 have you been reading in September? Who is your most memorable or unforgettable character from your recent reading? (link up a blog post or share in comments)



***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.

Force of Nature

June 12, 2018

Lost in the Australian Bush….what would you do?

Force of Nature
by Jane Harper

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Genre/Categories: Crime Fiction, Mystery, Detective, Suspense, Australia

Summary:

Five women go on a hike in the Australian forested wilderness and only four return. As the women grab their backpacks and reluctantly set out, not one of the five women attending this three-day, mandated, corporate, team-building retreat is thrilled about the prospect. When four of the five women emerge from the woods battered and bruised, an investigation is launched to find the fifth woman. Federal agent Falk returns to help the investigation, and the story alternates between the present day investigation and the women’s experiences as the hike unfolded a few days earlier. Was the fifth woman murdered? Amazon Rating (June): 4.2 stars

My Thoughts:

If you’ve read The Dry, you’ll recognize Jane Harper’s ability to develop intriguing characters and a tangible and distinct sense of place, which in the case of Force of Nature is mountainous, wet, cold, dark, desolate, and windy. Described as an atmospheric thriller, Force of Nature was a just right read for me as a highly sensitive person. There is tension, but not too scary or unbearable. A person is missing, but it’s not overly terrifying for the reader. For me, the most dynamic parts of the story are the complex and strained relationships, the plot driven story, and the setting.

My only (slight) disappoint is that the romantic in me wished there had been more personal closure for Agent Falk since I am under the impression that his appearances are limited to her first two books. That being said, I did appreciate the “adult” way Falk’s attraction to his colleague was written by Harper; i.e. no YA “insta love” or overly passionate or unrealistic romantic escapades.

Jane Harper is a new author (this is her second work), and I’m confidant I’ll enjoy following her for years to come! Although the two books can be read as stand alones, I think it’s a richer reading experience to read The Dry first as it introduces the character and background of Agent Falk. Also, I think The Dry is slightly more suspenseful with more plot twists. However, I rate each book as a solid 4 star read.

Recommended for readers who are fans of Jane Harper and The Dry, readers who enjoy atmospheric mysteries and crime fiction, those who are looking for an undemanding, easy reading yet engaging, well written, and unputdownable vacation read, readers who are looking for clean reads (limited vulgarity, violence, etc), and readers who might have visited the Giralang Range of Australia. Her second work is on par with her first, and I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

My Rating: 4 Atmospheric Stars

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Force of Nature

Buy Here

Meet the Author, Jane Harper

Jane HarperJane Harper’s debut novel The Dry is an atmospheric thriller set in regional Australia.
The novel won the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript in 2015 and rights have since been sold in more than 20 territories.
The Dry was a No.1 bestseller in Australia and has been optioned for a film by Reese Witherspoon and Bruna Papandrea’s production company, Pacific Standard.
Jane worked as a print journalist for 13 years both in Australia and the UK and lives in Melbourne with her family.



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:

More about summer reading for children in this link: The Ardent Biblio: How to Design a Summer Reading Program For Your Kids

In case you missed it: my post highlighting some diverse reading recommendations for MG children here.



Looking Ahead:

Us Against YouFriday, I’ll review Backman’s new release Us Against You……sequel to Beartown.



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?



***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.

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?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Most Compelling Characters of March

March 30, 2018

March Compelling Character

This month I’m choosing two most 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.

I’d love to hear which characters you read about this month that were the most memorable for you. I’ve provided a link up or you can leave a comment.

 

Meet Leni and Tara:

For me, memorable characters who grow and change despite the obstacles make all the difference in a good story. Both Leni and Tara are my choices for this month’s most compelling characters because they share some experiences and traits that make them memorable. Both endure emotional and physical abuse (not sexual), yet despite difficult childhoods, they each rise above their circumstances. Surprisingly, they continue to love and show devotion for their parents (this struck me in The Glass Castle, as well). Leni and Tara share a drive to pursue an education and a desire to belong. In addition, they are determined, persistent, courageous, loyal, clever, and brave. Each girl feels threatened (one by her father and the other by her brother) and fears for her safety.  While Leni receives support from her small village community, Tara receives support from one brother, a BYU counselor, and some professors. Each girl is memorable in her grit, her ability to survive,and her drive to strive for something better in her life. These memorable characters allow me to rate both stories 4 Stars and to recommend these reads to others. ***Trigger warnings***

Tara’s words after dance class: “The other girls rarely spoke to me, but I loved being there with them. I loved the sensation of conformity. Learning to dance felt like learning to belong.”

Tara’s words about her abusive brother: “Shawn had more power over me than I could possibly have imagined. He had defined me to myself, and there’s no greater power than that.”

Brief Synopsis and Review of The Stories:

The Great Alone is a story about a dysfunctional family that eventually moves to the harsh wilderness of Alaska to make a fresh start. In this page turner by Kristin Hannah (author of the Nightingale), thirteen-year-old Leni watches her gentle and artistic mother struggle to live a happy and secure life with her father, a Vietnam War vet, who suffers from PTSD.  A survivalist, her father becomes more paranoid and controlling as the story progresses. ***trigger warnings for emotional and physical abuse***  Leni, struggling to stay in school and walking on egg shells around her father, is also concerned about her mother and about their general well-being as the dark winter and isolation of the Alaskan wilderness cause her father’s symptoms to worsen. The first part of the story is slower paced and devoted to establishing a sense of place, character development, and a slow build up of the problem. The last part of the story  unfolds at a rapid pace and there are attempts to escape and confrontations. Some have commented that the ending is tied together easily, quickly, and conveniently. This didn’t bother me too much because rapid emotional plot twists are Kristin Hannah’s style and part of me was eager and relieved to have closure to Leni’s story.  If you’re looking for an engaging page turner with an Alaskan wilderness setting, this is a good selection to meet that criteria. However, The Nightingale remains my favorite work by Kristin Hannah. My Rating for The Great Alone: 4 Stars. (March Amazon Rating  4.6 Stars)

Great Alone

Amazon Summary and Purchase Information Here

Educated is a memoir by Tara Westover.  Tara grew up as one of seven children in a Mormon family making their home in Idaho.  Both parents are devout Mormons; however, her father is an extremist, survivalist, and he isolates the family while stockpiling supplies, avoiding the government, and planning for worst case scenarios. ***Trigger Warnings*** While Tara’s soft-spoken mother makes healing herbs and ointments and practices midwifery, her charismatic father makes a living extracting and selling scrap from his junk yard. To avoid the government, the children do not have birth certificates, are not taken to the doctor, and most of them are home schooled, although according to Tara’s account, Mom’s interest for home schooling waned with the younger ones and to complicate the situation, Dad always needed help in the junk yard.  Tara wished she could go to school, and I didn’t receive the impression that her parents would have kept her from school, it’s that she suffered from not having the right clothes, feelings of not belonging, and often felt pressured to help her father in the junk yard. Over the years she experiences mental and physical abuse from one of her brothers, becomes more dissatisfied with her chaotic home life, and her desire for an education grows. With the encouragement of a brother, she decides to study independently for the ACT and apply to BYU. Thus begins her educational journey, her path of self-realization, healing, and ultimate separation from her family. Tara’s first classroom experience was at age 17. Readers will thoroughly understand and empathize with how difficult and emotional it was for her to  take these steps as she’s a loyal girl who feels a great duty to her family. Tara’s understanding of “education “ is that with it, one is able to gain one’s own perspective on life. Here is Tara’s interview with CNN. If you’re looking for a compelling memoir similar to The Glass Castle, you might enjoy this selection. My Rating for Educated: 4 Stars. (March Amazon Rating: 4.7 Stars).

Educated

Amazon Summary and Purchase Information Here



March’s Most Compelling Character Link Up

Please share your most memorable character from your March reading in the comments or link up your blog post.



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

I have several books on hold at the library (I’m #27 for The Force of Nature so that will be a while) and I’m waiting for kindle prices to fall on some new releases……consequently…….next Friday I’ll read and review a book already on my shelf, Eden by Jeanne McWilliams Blasberg (and check it off my winter TBR list).

Eden

Amazon Information Here

What are you reading this week?


Reading Podcasts I Love

Modern Mrs Darcy: What Should I Read Next

Read Aloud Revival (focus on children’s literature)

Reading Women (reviews of books written by women about women)



Extra:
Reading Recommendation For Middle Grade Girls Who Love Science!

Finding WondersFinding Wonders: Three Girls Who Changed Science by Jeannine Atkins is a beautifully and creatively written middle grade story exploring the lives of 3 girls who are curious, love questions and the world around them, and are persistent in pursuing their love of science and scientific inquiries. Each woman makes important scientific contributions, and I loved reading about them and the context of their lives. I’m not sure middle grade students will read slowly enough to appreciate the beautiful prose and nuance/subtlety of language, so it might be a good “read together” book.

The author ensures that the girls exhibit some modern feminist thoughts that struck me as the author’s agenda rather than something girls in that era would usually think. However, these thoughts might provoke good conversation starters. For example: “But she hates embroidery, its worth measured by the smallness of stitches. A needle woman trains her eyes to stay cast down while hiding knots and boredom, committing herself to the circumference of a lap.”

An interesting extension read for adults might be The Gilded Years by Karin Tanabe, a fictionalized biography of the first African-American woman (passing as white) to attend Vassar (same college where Maria Mitchell in Finding Wonders was a professor).

Finding Wonders is an interesting, creative, and worthwhile read. It makes me eager to read all the untold stories!  My Rating: 4 Stars

Amazon Summary and Purchase Information Here



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 the most memorable character from your March reading!

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!

 

 

 

Refugee

October 20, 2017

Trust me: This is a great read!

See us, he thought. Hear us. Help us.

Refugee
by Alan Gratz

Refugee

Genre: Middle Grade through Adult Historical Fiction, global issues

Summary:

Refugee is the story of the refugee experience from three unique perspectives:

  • 12/13-year-old Josef and family are Jewish and attempt to escape Nazi Germany in 1938 aboard a ship bound for a country(Cuba) that will accept them.
  • 12-year-old Isabel and family are Cuban and flee riots and unrest in Cuba in 1994 on a homemade raft pointed toward safety in Miami, Florida.
  • 12-year-old Mahmoud and family are Syrian and seek to escape war-torn Aleppo in 2015 and relocate to Germany.

Even though these families are separated by continents and decades, their stories share certain similarities. Each journey is fraught with harrowing adventures, frustration, courage, resiliency, heartache, injustice, persecution, dangers, children assuming adult roles and responsibility, loss of childhood innocence and joy, and loss of family members. However, the families have hope that drives them forward. Amazon Rating (October): 4.8 Stars (this is a very high rating in which 88% of the stars are in the 5 star category)

My Thoughts:

Refugee is an important story because it gives refugees a face and a name, and the timeliness of the Syrian refugee family is relevant to current events.

I appreciated the tightly woven plot and seamless transitions between points of view. As the author worked to tie the stories together, the reader notices that all three journeys to safety involve a boat and that children are forced to take on adult responsibilities and worries. In addition, the kindness of strangers and glimmers of hope keep them going forward in each story.  Interesting parallels involve Josef fleeing Germany in 1938 and Mahmoud’s family escaping to Germany in 2015; furthermore, Josef’s family tried to gain entry into Cuba in 1938 and Isabel’s family sought to flee Cuba in 1994.

This story is engaging from page one and unputdownable. I never felt like I was reading a middle grade selection except to reflect on how middle grade readers might react to certain parts of the story. Yes, the story has 12-year-old narrators, but it’s the story of families and how they support each other in the most difficult circumstances. Even though adults will enjoy this story, it’s easily accessible for middle school readers (appropriate language, straight forward writing style, and not overly graphic or violent). That being said, the content is difficult at points (some events can be emotional and some historical perspective is probably needed). I recommend this for mature middle graders who are able to read this with a parent or teacher, and it will easily hold an adult’s interest as well and lead to excellent discussion opportunities.

The most powerful parts of the story include the author’s unique structure and smooth transitions between points of view of three refugee families. The POV from innocent children was especially powerful and moving, especially as the oldest children were forced to handle adult responsibilities and make difficult decisions. One powerful idea in the story was Mahmoud’s understanding of being visible or invisible. He learned through his life in Aleppo that being invisible helped him survive and avoid bullies; however, he quickly realized that refugees couldn’t stay invisible if they wanted help from the world. It’s only when people are visible (make waves, rock the boat) that people will notice them and take action. In his own words:

“They only see us when we do something they don’t want us to do,” Mahmoud realized. The thought hit him like a lightning bolt. When they stayed where they were supposed to be–in the ruins of Aleppo or behind the fences of a refuge camp–people could forget about them. But when refugees did something they didn’t want them to do–when they tried to cross the border into their country, or slept on the front stoops of their shops, or jumped in front of their cars, or prayed on decks of their ferries–that’s when people couldn’t ignore them any longer.

Even though some readers might consider the ending slightly contrived as two of the families intersect, I appreciated a somewhat uplifting ending.

Refugee rates as one of my most memorable reads of the year and highly recommended for readers age 12 through adult who are searching for a riveting histfic read, for parents and/or teachers who are looking for diverse reads to build global empathy and understanding of the effects of war and oppression and the refugee crisis, for book club members who are interested in discussing challenging themes.  *Caution: It’s my opinion that even though this is shelved as middle grade (grades 5-8), younger children in this range might find the occasional violence and harsh realities too much for them. It’s actually perfect for high school readers who already have helpful historical knowledge of the events. I would encourage parents to “buddy read” it with their younger children. It might be an especially interesting read for any families who have relatives that came to America as a result of being “sponsored.”

My Rating: 5 Stars

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A book for younger middle grade readers (but also enjoyable for adults) with a similar refugee theme might be Inside Out and Back Again (reviewed here as an “extra” in this post).

Refugee

Buy Here.

Meet the Author, Alan Gratz

Alan Gratz

I’m the author of a number of books for young readers, including Refugee, Ban This Book, Prisoner B-3087, Code of Honor, Projekt 1065, the League of Seven series, and The Brooklyn Nine. I live in the mountains of western North Carolina with my family, where I enjoy reading, playing games, and eating pizza.

 

 

Happy Reading Everyone!

“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


Extras:

Turtles all the Way DownIn last week’s blog post, I indicated that I would review Turtles all the Way Down by John Green this week. I read it, but then I read Refugee after that and loved it so much more that I changed my mind on the blog’s focus this week–because, above all, I’m committed to bringing you recommendations for the best of what I read. I’m including a brief reflection of Turtles All The Way Down here in the extras in case you were looking forward to the review and are a John Green fan!

 

Genre: YA, social and family issues, mental illness, coming of age

Strengths:  This book deals with a very important subject and I’m assuming the author represents an authentic voice…..I appreciate that the reading experience allowed me to gain additional understanding of OCD and I loved Aza and was deeply moved by her thoughts, angst, and experiences. It is important to know that the inspiration for this book came from John Green’s own personal experiences with OCD.

Weaknesses: There is a lot going on—which probably is typical of a teenager’s life and the YA genre (mother/daughter relationship, best friend, school, coming of age, boyfriend, lizard, crime solving, astronomy, abandoned/neglected boys, etc); and the plot was meh because there were too many things happening on multiple fronts and many details that didn’t make sense in the story (e.g. a high school kid gets $50,000 and doesn’t tell her mom?). Other readers have highly rated this book and/or love John Green so I encourage you to read it and form your own opinion.

My Rating: 2.5 Stars rounded to 3 Stars

For the Amazon rating, summary, and purchase information click here.


Reminder: This Christian histfic Kindle book is FREE in the month of October! (*note: I haven’t read it, but it seems interesting … and I have Viking heritage! For free, I’m trying it!)

God’s Daughter
by Heather Day Gilbert

God's DaughterAmazon Rating (October) 4.4 Stars

Amazon Summary: In the tenth century, when pagan holy women rule the Viking lands, Gudrid turns her back on her training as a seeress to embrace Christianity. Clinging to her faith, she joins her husband, Finn, on a journey to North America. But even as Gudrid faces down murderous crewmen, raging sickness, and hostile natives, she realizes her greatest enemy is herself–and the secrets she hides might just tear her marriage apart. Almost five centuries before Columbus, Viking women sailed to North America with their husbands. God’s Daughter, Book One in the Vikings of the New World Saga, offers an expansive yet intimate look into the world of Gudrid Thorbjarnardottir–daughter-in-law of Eirik the Red, and the first documented European woman to have a child in North America. This novel is based heavily on the Icelandic Sagas and is written from a Christian worldview. Get the Kindle version FREE Here.

Looking Ahead:

I have a couple of ideas from recently published titles regarding my next read, but I haven’t finalized my selection. I’m waiting for Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin (contemporary chick lit fic) to become available on Overdrive (library app) and I recently bought If the Creek Don’t Rise by Leah Weiss (Appalachia settinh) which looks promising. Subject to change if I find something better! What are you reading this week?

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 in comments if you’re planning to put Refugee on your TBR. Does the topic of refugee crisis interest you? Do you enjoy reading diverse books? Do you seek out titles that differ from your go-to genres? Do you think middle grade and/or YA selections can be appreciated by adults? Or would you rather that I not alert you to outstanding fiction for different ages?

Castle of Water

September 22, 2017

fall

Happy first day of fall everyone!

Every now and then do you enjoy an escapist read? Are you looking for a vacation read? Do you need to get away from tragic histfic, need a break from heavy nonfiction topics, a relief from diverse literature where we work hard to climb into the perspectives of others, or a time out from text books if you’re a student? Then this may be your next read! Sometimes you find a book at just the right time, and this is when this book found me!

Castle of Water
by Dane Hucklebridge

castle of water 2

Genre/categories; fiction, survival, action & adventure, romance

Summary:

“And so it came to pass that two utterly disparate lives happened to overlap … bound together on an uninhabited island some 2,359 miles from Hawaii, 4,622 miles from Chile, and 533 miles from the nearest living soul.
Crap, as Barry liked to say.
Putain de merde, as Sophie was known to exclaim.”
― Dane HuckelbridgeCastle of Water

Sophie, an architect and honeymooner, and Barry, disillusioned with his career in finance and seeking inspiration for his love of art end up on one very small island when their plane is hit by lightning and crashes in the middle of the South Pacific. Strangers and sole survivors and as different as night and day, Sophie and Barry wash up on a small uninhabited island and survival becomes their primary objective. Sophie and Barry draw from each other’s strengths and skills and through harrowing experiences keep the hope of rescue alive. Eventually, Sophie and Barry resign themselves to beginning a new life and creating a home on the isolated island. Amazon Rating (September): 4.5 Stars

My Thoughts:

This book found me at exactly the right time as I needed a break from reading tragic and heavy histfic. It is truly an escapist and/or vacation read! At first glance, this might seem like a classic castaway survival story, and it is….yet it’s so much more….. it’s a charming, witty, poignant, engaging, and beautifully told story that explores themes of home, love, loss, sadness, perseverance, heartbreak, hope, resiliency, and desperation. Furthermore, the history and geography that the author weaves into the narrative is informative and interesting.  The story is easy to get into with memorable characters, unexpected humor, and it’s full of heart. The story alternates between present and past timelines, and I devoured it in one day. Unputdownable. Even though Mr. Hucklebridge has a unique style of writing that was refreshing and at times exquisite, the story has a slightly impersonal feel to it and at times I wished that I could know what Sophie and Barry were thinking and feeling from a first person point of view. The author’s decision to write from an impersonal viewpoint is at its most effective when he speaks directly to the reader because it allows us to become true cohorts in the adventure and we can appreciate all their joy and sorrow. The impersonal viewpoint is a minor concern because overall I enjoyed his masterful writing and simple telling of a complicated situation and relationship. I could easily reread this book and that is rare for me.

“He smiles and shakes his head, a smile that’s bewildered and content and still pursed by that same tender sadness that visited him by the arch, that trails him as doggedly as his gratitude and his guilt … the wonder of it all, the unknowable mystery, to serve as fleshy custodian to such a fragile flame.”
― Dane HuckelbridgeCastle of Water

Recommended for all adult readers who are looking for a masterfully written tale of adventure, escapism, or a vacation read. Rating: 5 Stars (rounded up from 4.5).

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Castle of Water

Buy Here

 

Meet the Author, Dane Hucklebridge

Dane Hucklebridge

Dane Hucklebridge

Dane Huckelbridge was born and raised in the American Middle West. He holds a degree from Princeton University, and his fiction and essays have appeared in a variety of journals, including Tin HouseThe New Delta ReviewThe Wall Street Journal, and The New RepublicCastle of Water is his first novel, although he has also authored two historical works on American whiskey and beer, respectively. He lives with his wife in Paris, France, and New York City.

Extra:

Read an interview with Dane Hucklebridge here.

(Thank you to Top Shelf Text.)

Happy Reading Everyone!

“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

Looking Forward:

Next week, I’m eager to review The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas (a YA diverse literature pick dealing with racial issues currently in the news) if you’d like to “buddy read.” Lots to discuss here. *Language alert

The Hate You Give

Get more info and/or buy here.

 

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.

Discussion:

What have you been reading lately? I’d love to hear your thoughts in comments on Castle of Water if or when you read it!