Book Review: The Librarian of Auschwitz

The Librarian of Auschwitz by Antonio Iturbe

First line: The Nazi officers are dressed in black.

Summary: Based on the true life events of Dita Kraus we see the courage and strength of the prisoners of Auschwitz. The story follows Dita, a fourteen-year-old girl, and her parents as they are transported to the death camp. Upon arriving, they are assigned to the family camp. Dita is made to work in the “school” where she meets Freddy Hirsch, the Jewish leader in charge of the children of Auschwitz. Hirsch gives Dita that responsibility of hiding and taking care of the contraband books, becoming the librarian of Auschwitz.

Highlights: I know I shouldn’t judge a book by its cover but I do. And this one is beautiful. I absolutely love it. The story is so rich and detailed but heartbreaking at the same time. I have read many accounts of the Holocaust. The strength of the people who lived and endured these hardships is hard to read but they need to be. No one should be allowed to forget these stories and atrocities have happened. I cannot imagine having the courage that Dita has. She was fourteen and risked her life for the love of books and reading. She kept her humanity in the worst possible situation. I loved how the author intermixed the stories that she read into the narrative. We, as the reader, get to experience what kept her going during the dark days.

Lowlights: Several other narratives of fellow prisoners at Auschwitz are woven into Dita’s story. I was confused at times when the story changed narrators.

FYI: Great as an audiobook!

Lit Pairings – I was Anastasia by Ariel Lawhon

Russia, July 17, 1918: Under direct orders from Vladimir Lenin, Bolshevik secret police force Anastasia Romanov, along with the entire imperial family, into a damp basement in Siberia where they face a merciless firing squad. None survive. At least that is what the executioners have always claimed.

Germany, February 17, 1920
: A young woman bearing an uncanny resemblance to Anastasia Romanov is pulled shivering and senseless from a canal in Berlin. Refusing to explain her presence in the freezing water, she is taken to the hospital where an examination reveals that her body is riddled with countless, horrific scars. When she finally does speak, this frightened, mysterious woman claims to be the Russian Grand Duchess Anastasia.

Her detractors, convinced that the young woman is only after the immense Romanov fortune, insist on calling her by a different name: Anna Anderson As rumors begin to circulate through European society that the youngest Romanov daughter has survived the massacre, old enemies and new threats are awakened. With a brilliantly crafted dual narrative structure, Lawhon wades into the most psychologically complex and emotionally compelling territory yet: the nature of identity itself. The question of who Anna Anderson is and what actually happened to Anastasia Romanov creates a saga that spans fifty years and touches three continents. This thrilling story is every bit as moving and momentous as it is harrowing and twisted.

If you’ve read and enjoyed Lawhon’s other two books The Wife, The Maid and The Mistress and Flight of Dreams  as I have then you are probably really excited to settle in and consume this one too! If you haven’t read any of these then I think it’s obvious I highly recommend them. Lawhon has a way of doling out little tasty clues and hints throughout her stories that make you change your mind about what’s really going on several times until the very end when she hits you with a great twist.

The recipes I picked to accompany I Was Anastasia don’t focus on the Romanov’s when they were in power, but like the book highlight the time they spent is exile. This amazingly comforting Russian Chicken and Dumpling Soup seemed like just the thing to get you through a cold winter’s night in Siberia. I took a short cut and used Trader Joe’s Chicken & Mushroom Pelmeni instead of making the dumplings from scratch. If you’re a baker I would suggest making a nice Russian Black Bread to go with it. However, if you’re like me you’ll just go to your local grocery and pick up a tasty loaf of dark rye, throw it in the oven to warm it and call it good.

Let me know if you make the Russian Chicken and Dumpling Soup, and I’d love to know what some of your favorite cold weather reads and recipes are?


Book Review: The Perfect Nanny

The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani

First line: The baby is dead.

Summary: When Myriam decides to go back to work she is tasked with finding someone to watch her two children. Along comes Louise. She is perfect. She works late, cleans the house and the kids love her. As time goes on the family and Louise become even more reliant on each other, which leads to jealousy and resentment.

Highlights: For such a short novel there is a lot of story. It was a slow burn. There are no twists and turns. There is just an underlying darkness to the novel. Louise has a past that haunts her but she seems to overcome it. As we delve deeper into the plot, it becomes apparent to Myriam that the perfect nanny is not quite so perfect. Little things begin to happen. Who is the woman that they let into their life? So much is packed into the pages. It is not the next Gone Girl but it is still worth the read.

Lowlights: It ended very quickly and abruptly.

FYI: Translated from its original French version.

Early March new releases

I love spring! I know it’s not here yet, but these glimpses of warmth and sunshine we’ve had recently are such a breath of fresh air after days of cold and gray.

That’s how a new book feels to me—like a breath of fresh air! I walk past the display of new books in the front of the library, and it seems to call to me. And because of that, I can’t walk by it too often, or I’ll find myself buried in new books that are just begging to be read!

I hope you’ll possibly find some books on this list (that will be released this week and next) that call out to you. If you read any of these titles, be sure to pop back over here and let us know what you thought!

Cover of The Last Equation of Isaac SeveryMarch 6: The Last Equation of Isaac Severy by Nova Jacobs
A book about books is always going to grab my attention, and I am looking forward to reading this one. Hazel, owner of a struggling bookstore, gets a letter from her grandfather, a mathematician,  just a few days before his apparent suicide. The letter asks Hazel to entrust his final bombshell equation to a trusted colleague of his, before a secretive organization can find it. Hazel must decipher a set of clues her grandfather left in her favorite novel to find the equation, and she learns that if she fails, disastrous consequences will affect the entire family.

March 6: All the Beautiful Girls by Elizabeth J. Church
Vegas showgirls. In the 1960s. At 8, Lily Decker unexplainedly survives the car accident that takes the lives of her mother and father. Raised by her aunt and uncle, dance becomes her solace. When she is grown and ready to leave home for good, she changes her name to Ruby Wilde and goes to Las Vegas to become a troupe dancer. However, she lands work as a showgirl instead. She look like a success story, in her elaborate costumes and 5-inch heels, but like every other girl in Vegas, she has to learn how to navigate the world of men she works in and she has to figure out what true love really is.

Cover of The House of Broken Angels by Luis Alberto UrreaMarch 6: The House of Broken Angels by Luis Alberto Urrea
A Mexican-American immigrant story by the author of “Into the Beautiful North,” Wichita area’s Big Read selection of a few years ago. Miguel Angel De La Cruz, beloved family patriarch, is ailing, and before he dies, calls for one last legendary birthday party. In the days leading up to the party, his mother also dies, so now it’s a double farewell. For one weekend in San Diego, the De La Cruz family revisits the many tales that have been passed down in family lore. NOTE: Luis Alberto Urrea will be in Wichita to discuss this book at 6 p.m. March 22 at Watermark Books.

March 13: Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney
Amber Reynolds wakes up in a hospital, in a coma, and she can hear everyone around her. From Goodreads: “Amber wakes up in a hospital. She can’t move. She can’t speak. She can’t open her eyes. She can hear everyone around her, but they have no idea. Amber doesn’t remember what happened, but she has a suspicion her husband had something to do with it. Alternating between her paralyzed present, the week before her accident, and a series of childhood diaries from twenty years ago, this brilliant psychological thriller asks: Is something really a lie if you believe it’s the truth?

Cover of Islandborn by Junot DiazMarch 13: Islandborn by Junot Diaz (picture book)
Lola’s school is one of children from everywhere, but she can’t remember the island she came from. When her teacher asks the children to draw a picture of where they came from , everyone but Lola is excited.  But her family and friends share their memories, and as they do so, Lola’s imagination takes her on a wonderful journey back to The Island.

Book Review: Wires and Nerve: Gone Rogue

Wires and Nerve: Volume 2: Gone Rogue by Marissa Meyer

First line: Almost a year has passes since we overthrew the wicked tyrant, Queen Levana, and crowned my best friend, Cinder—AKA Princess Selene Blackburn—as the true queen of Luna.

Summary: In the second installment of the Wires and Nerve graphic novels by Marissa Meyer we see Iko and Steele continue to hunt the blood thirsty genetically altered soldiers of Queen Levana. The soldiers have refused to return to Luna and accept that the war is over. With the planned trip to Earth, Cinder and her friends are worried about being attacked while celebrating the new peace treaty between the two nations. It is up to Iko and Steele to prevent this from happening.

Highlights: I loved the Lunar Chronicles. The fairytales intermixed with science fiction/fantasy were fun and exciting. I was happy to see that Meyer was going to continue and expand her universe with the Wires and Nerve stories. I am not much of a graphic novel reader but these were fun. The drawings were simple and monotone but still fit perfectly into the Lunar universe.

Lowlights: With graphic novels, the stories are usually short and very basic. I wanted more. I wanted to see more of my favorite characters. This is why I cannot read too many graphic novels. I like a fuller story.

FYI: Second in the series. However, you need to read the Lunar Chronicles before reading these!

What’s a Read-A-Thon (and How Can I Participate?)


Is your giant to-read pile stressing you out? Do you suffer from the terrible affliction of checking out or purchasing a stack of new books despite having a full shelf at home?! You are not alone, my friend, but there might be a way to tackle that mountain of materials. Take your reading to a new level, and challenge yourself with a read-a-thon!

A read-a-thon is a community-driven attempt to read books during a set amount of time. Read-a-thons can last for 24 hours, a few days, a week, a month, or even an entire year. They’re hosted on a social media site like YouTube, Twitter, Goodreads, or Tumblr and never cost or require sign-up. Read-a-thons also may have challenges, sprints, and even contests or giveaways. Participants interact through the internet platform, and some will even post a wrap-up blog or video to showcase their results.

Recently I posted about my experience with the Biannual Bibliothon, and I have taken to exploring online read-a-thons to decrease my ever-flowing TBR pile, prioritize reading, and push my speed. There are so many read-a-thons out there with themes as specified as your reading tastes. You can find a read-a-thon for Harry Potter, science fiction, fantasy, Young Adult literature, graphic novels, classics, and more.

A YouTube creator, LittleBookOwl, has developed an amazing calendar with links to individual read-a-thon websites. Not all read-a-thons have announced their 2018 dates, but many are already scheduled that you can follow.

LittleBookOwl also released a video covering read-a-thons and organized them based on their length.

Interested in participating? All you need to do is find a read-a-thon that interests you, do a little research using the calendar to find the start and end dates and any specific challenges, and you’re set!

Here are a few Read-A-Thon tips:

1. Plan Your Books

Whether it’s a week-long challenge or just 24 hours, definitely go into the read-a-thon with a plan of what you’re going to read. Many read-a-thons have specific challenges that can guide what books to choose so it helps to have an outline of those books and to make sure you have access to them.

2. Prioritize

The read-a-thon is an actual challenge. It forces you to put down your phone, log off Netflix, and actually get to reading. Even with cutting out social media, it still can be hard to find time to read, especially with work, school, or if you’re around children. Before the read-a-thon starts, look ahead to that week in your schedule and plan your reading time. Even if it’s twenty minutes in the day, that’s still a book being read!

3. Audiobooks

Reading doesn’t have to be just for your eyes. It can also be for your ears! Consider the time you spend in the car or bus, the time doing menial tasks like dishes or laundry, or the places you are where reading a book would be difficult. Use that time as listening time, and you’ll bust through a book without even realizing it!

Read-a-thons are an awesome way to connect with other readers and spice up your reading in a new way. The next read-a-thon I’m going to tackle is the week long Read-O-Rama challenge from March 3rd – 9th.

Feel free to join me! I’ll be posting my wrap-up next month to share all the craziness.



Book Review: Everless

Everless by Sara Holland

First line: Most people find the forest frightening, believing the old tales of fairies who will freeze the time in your blood, or witches who can spill your years out over the snow with only a whisper.

Summary: In a world where blood is time and time is currency, resides Jules Ember. She is a young girl determined to save her father’s life by returning to the Everless estate in order to earn more blood irons (the currency that can add days to years onto a persons life). However, when her father dies at the gates of Everless Jules becomes entangled in a mystery about her past and the family she has been serving.

Highlights: The idea of blood being transformed into currency but can also be consumed to add more time to a person’s lifespan is very intriguing. I never would have considered this premise but it is fascinating to think about. I liked the twist at the end. I figured out several pieces but many of them were great details that added to the mystery. This is a typical dystopian YA novel but it still feels fresh and new.

Lowlights: Being a reader of YA I could easily predict several plot points.  There are similarities to books such as Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard.

FYI: Book 1 in a series!

Run to the Library!

It’s hard to drive around Derby and not notice the abundance of wide, smooth bike paths that line nearly every street. According to the Derby website, there are over 25 miles of hike & bike paths within city limits!

Derby has an active running community that makes use of these sidewalks. Believe it or not the library can be a resource for runners. We have many books that offer advice and inspiration for the running community.

Runner’s Field Guide by Mark Remy
The Runner’s World magazine columnist offers a humorous guide to running and all the things needed to accomplish your goals.

Train Like a Mother by Dimity McDowell and Sarah Bowen Shea
If you need help getting started, this is an excellent book. It includes beginner advice and training plans from 5K all the way up to a full marathon.

Two Hours by Ed Caesar
Can the 2-hour marathon be broken? This book examines the science behind running and analyzes if and when we will see a human break 2-hours in the marathon.

Born to Run by Christopher McDougall
In Copper Canyon, Mexico, lives the Tarahumara Indians. They run just to run in barefoot sling shoes. Can they beat the most accomplished ultramarathons of the United States? Writer Chris McDougall travels to Mexico to find out and finds some inspiration for his own fledgling running hobby.

The library also carries Runner’s World magazine in print and electronic form through our RBDigital app.

So lace up your running shoes and come check out some running books at the library. Or take your kids to High Park and have them run fartleks between Storywalk pages as you enjoy the latest book on display. A fartlek is fun to run and fun to say!

Late February new releases

Feb. 20: The French Girl by Lexie Elliott
Six close friends from Oxford spend what they hope will be the perfect summer getaway together in a farm house in France. And it is, until they meet the girl next door — Severine. For Kate, Severine is an unwelcome presence, who undermine’s the groups loyalties. Kate knows that after a huge blow-up on the last night of the the holiday, that things are not ever going to be the same. Some actions are unforgivable and some people are unforgettable, even if they are never seen again. But a decade later, Severine’s body is found. Suspicion begins to swirl around Kate, who finds herself buried in deception and has no one to help her get free.

Feb. 20: The Woman in the Water by Charles Finch
The latest in Charles Finch’s Charles Lenox mystery series takes the reader back to Lenox’s first case in 1850. Lenox is struggling to make a name for himself as a private detective, and Scotland Yard refuses to take him seriously. An anonymous letter sent to the newspaper is from a person who claims to have committed the perfect crime, and in the letter they promise to kill again. Lenox believes this is his chance to prove himself. The killer’s sights end up set on those closest to Lenox, and he ends up in a deadly game of cat and mouse.

Feb. 27: The Serpent’s Secret (Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond #1) by Sayantani DasGupta
Kiranmala is just a normal New Jersey sixth grader when she wakes up on her 12th birthday. Then her parents disappear and a demon blasts through her kitchen trying to eat her alive. Her parents had often told Kiranmala fantastical stories — like that she was really an Indian princess. Then, two swoon-worthy Indian princes show up at her door trying to rescue her. Now she’s sucked into another dimension: one full of magic and mythical creatures and magical maps. She has to solve riddles and avoid demons and try to avoid the things that want to kill her, while trying to find her parents and basically save New Jersey.

Feb. 27: The Shape of Water by Guillermo del Toro and Daniel Kraus
Typically, the movie comes after the book, but in this case it’s the other way around. The highly rated movie, which is still out in theaters, was released a couple of months ago. Critics have said that director Guillermo del Toro was “at his visually distinctive best” with this film. He has joined forces with author Daniel Kraus to tell this love story in novel form. Elisa Esposito is mute, and works as a janitor in a research center in 1962. One night she sees a creature she isn’t supposed to, and it eventually becomes her sole reason for living. io9 says in its review that the movie and the book tell this spectacular story in two very different ways.

Feb. 27: The Hush by John Hart
This book takes the reader back to the world Hart introduced in The Last Child. But you don’t have to read that book before you read this one. Johnny lives alone, 10 years after the events that changed his life. Books have been written about his exploits, and people are curious, but Johnny works hard to maintain his privacy. His one connection to his past is with his childhood friend, Jack. Jack senses danger in the lands Johnny lives on, but Johnny doesn’t want to discuss it.

Book Review: Tarnished City

Tarnished City by Vic James

*May contain spoilers–see my review of book one, Gilded Cage.*

First line: Jenner reined his horse to a halt, and it stamped and snorted in the long blue-black shadow of the trees.

Summary: In a modern day Great Britain the powerful are called Equals. They have magical powers called Skill. And the common people live their lives just as we do except for each person is required to serve 10 slave years during their lifetime. Many are sent to the slave towns to work in factories but the Hadley family are assigned to work at a home of an Equal. However, when Luke kills the Prime Minister he is condemned and sent to the dreaded prison island for a lifelong punishment. His sister Abigail is determined to rescue her brother. She escapes and tries to find the other rebels who are intent on bringing down the Equal regime and end the slave days. Revolution has begun in Great Britain and it will be a battle to the death.

Highlights: This series reminds me of the Hunger Games. There is lots of action and drama. The characters are really well established. I hate Whittam Jardine almost as much as President Snow. I was deeply saddened by several deaths in the story. I was completely shocked when they happened that I gasped and had to take a minute to recover from them. If a book can make you do that, you know that you are invested in it. I keep having complicated feelings about Silyean. He is an interesting character that I cannot decide if I want to trust or not. When I was nearing the end the whole story sped up and it was like a marathon. I had to finish it and was exhausted at the end. It was great! I cannot wait till the author releases the final book to find out how the story ends, if I can trust Silyean and see if the Hadley’s survive the revolution.

Lowlights: The magical powers of the Equal is called Skill. I felt like the word was over used at times. On several pages, the word is mentioned multiple times. As a reader of the series, we understand what they are doing. It does not have to be pointed out repeatedly.

FYI: Lots of violence.