The Tattooist of Auschwitz [Book Review]

October 12, 2018

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

Tattooist of Auschwitz 2

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

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).

The Tattooist of Auschwitz is 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.

***EDIT to ADD: Heather Morris has received criticism of her research for this book, and you can find one review here. I did not read this critique until after I had read and reviewed the book. I’m letting my review stand, but I want to include this review for perspective.

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 Rating: 4 Stars (3 stars for writing, 5 stars for a compelling story, themes, and memorable character)

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tattooist of auschwitz

The Tattooist of Auschwitz Information 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.



QOTD:

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. 
Have you read The Tattooist of Auschwitz or is it on your TBR?



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:

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

becoming mrs lewis



Let’s Get Social!

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

Find me at:
Twitter
Instagram
Goodreads
Pinterest



***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 sponsoring 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 (or publisher’s) website.

© WWW.ReadingLadies.com

Where the Crawdads Sing [Book Review]

September 28, 2018

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens (cover) Image: white text over the image of a person paddling a canoe on water surrounded by trees

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: structure and style. Where the Crawdads Sing 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 (which I have mixed feelings about).

Kya Clark is certainly a 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 Where the Crawdads Sing 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.

The Ending: I have mixed feelings about the morally ambiguous ending. If you consider the author’s premise that Kya learned life’s lessons from marsh creatures, I guess the ending falls into perspective. However, I wonder if this is enough of a justification for Kya’s actions. Definitely a great topic for book club!

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/Content Considerations: child neglect and abandonment.

My Rating 4.5 (rounded up to 5 Stars

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where the crawdads sing

Where the Crawdads Sing Information 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.



QOTD:

Have you read Where the Crawdads Sing or is it on your TBR?
Who is the most memorable character in your recent reads?



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



Let’s Get Social!

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

Find me at:
Twitter
Instagram
Goodreads
Pinterest



***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 sponsoring 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 (or publisher’s) website.

© WWW.ReadingLadies.com

The Librarian of Auschwitz [Book Review]

June 29, 2018

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

The Librarian of Auschwitz by Antonio Iturbe

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

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

***This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Summary:

Meet Dita Kraus, a real-life Auschwitz prisoner.

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 might not recommend this to younger YA readers. Even though this is categorized YA, you won’t feel like you’re reading YA if you’re an adult reader. It’s definitely in the “cross over” category.

Recommended: The Librarian of Auschwitz is 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

The Librarian of Auschwitz Information 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.



QOTD:

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



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.



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



Let’s Get Social!

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

Find me at:
Twitter
Instagram
Goodreads
Pinterest



***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

Force of Nature [Book Review]

June 12, 2018

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

Force of Nature by Jane Harper

Force of Nature by Jane Harper (cover) Image: white text on a background of hills and trees

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

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:

(more…)

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 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?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two Compelling Characters: Leni in The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah and Tara in Educated by Tara Westover [Book Reviews]

March 30, 2018

a collage of Educated and The Great Alone covers

Two Compelling Characters: Leni in The Great Alone (Fiction) and Tara in Educated (Nonfiction)

Today I’m highlighting 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.

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.

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:

These memorable characters allow me to rate both stories 4 Stars and to recommend these reads to others.

***Trigger warning: domestic abuse

The Great Alone is the story of 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 eggshells 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 criterion. 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

The Great Alone 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. 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 junkyard. To avoid the government, the children do not have birth certificates, are not taken to the doctor, and most of them are homeschooled, although according to Tara’s account, Mom’s interest for homeschooling waned with the younger ones and to complicate the situation, Dad always needed help in the junkyard.  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 junkyard. 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 education grows. With the encouragement of a brother, she decides to study independently for the ACT and make application 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 can 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. ***Trigger Warning:  poverty, neglect, physical and emotional abuse. My Rating for Educated: 4 Stars. (March Amazon Rating: 4.7 Stars).

Educated

Educated Information Here



QOTD:

I’d love to hear all about the most memorable character(s) from your March reading!

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



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 (the 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

Finding Wonders Information Here



Let’s Get Social!

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

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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

 

We Were the Lucky Ones [Book Review]

March 23, 2018

We Were the Lucky Ones
by Georgia Hunter

We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter (cover) Image: a black and white photo of a man and woman sitting in metal garden chairs with backs to the camera

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

….. family and faith …..

***This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

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:

(more…)

Refugee [Book Review]

October 20, 2017

Trust me: This is a great read!

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

Refugee by Alan Gratz

Refugee by Alan Gratz (cover) Image: a small child with back to camera in a small red rowboat on a stormy ocean

Genre: Middle Grade through Adult, Historical Fiction, Global Issues, Refugees

Summary:

Refugee is the relevant 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.

Refugee 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 Refugee 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 is 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” Refugee with their younger middle-grade 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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Relevant: 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

Refugee Information Here

Meet the Author, Alan Gratz

Author, Alan Gratz

Alan Gratz is 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.

 

 

 



QOTD:

I’d love to hear in comments if you’re planning to put Refugee on your TBR. Does the refugee crisis topic 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?



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 Down by John Green (cover) Image: large black text over an orange spiralIn 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/Categories: YA, social and family issues, mental illness, coming of age

Strengths:  Turtles All the Way Down 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: A lot is 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.


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 setting) which looks promising. Subject to change if I find something better! What are you reading this week?


Let’s Get Social!

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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.

The book covers and author photos are credited to Amazon or an author’s (or publisher’s) website.

© ReadingLadies.com

Castle of Water: A Review

September 22, 2017

orange and gold fall leaves

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, 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? Do you appreciate an enemies-to-lovers trope? Then this may be your next read! Sometimes you find a book at just the right time, and this is when this unputdownable book found me!

Castle of Water by Dane Hucklebridge

Castle of Water by Dane Hucklebridge (kindle propped against a softly muted floral pillow shows cover)

Genre/categories; fiction, survival, action & adventure, love story

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.

Amazon Rating (September): 4.5 Stars

My Thoughts:

Escapist: Castle of Water 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 with interesting elements of history and geography woven into the narrative.

Themes: At first glance, Castle of Water 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, friendship, and desperation.

Engaging: Castle of Water is easy to get into with memorable characters, unexpected humor, and it’s full of heart. The story alternates between the present and past timelines, and I devoured it in one day. Unputdownable.

Point of View: Even though Mr. Hucklebridge has a unique style of writing that was refreshing and at times exquisite, Castle of Water 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 the 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

Castle of Water is highly recommended for all adult readers who are looking for a masterfully written tale of adventure and survival, for those looking for an engaging vacation read, for readers who love the enemies to lovers trope, and for fans of unputdownable stories.

Rating: 5 Stars (rounded up from 4.5).

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Castle of Water

Castle of Water Information Here

Meet the Author, Dane Hucklebridge

Author, 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 as seen on Top Shelf Text.



QOTD:

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!



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

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



Looking Ahead:

Next week, I’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 information on THUG here.



Let’s Get Social!

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

Find me at:
Twitter
Instagram
Goodreads
Pinterest



***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.

© ReadingLadies.com