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!

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.

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!

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!

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.

Book Review: The Woman in the Window

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

First line: Her husband’s almost home.

Summary: Dr. Anna Fox, is a psychologist who lives alone and has not been outside her home in ten months. She spends her days online, drinking LOTS of wine, taking a wide variety of medications and spying on her neighbors. When a new family moves in next-door, she becomes engrossed in their lives but then she sees something one night but no one believes her. Did it really happen?

Highlights: Short chapters are one of my favorite things. The story moves very quickly. Little tidbits are mixed in enlightening the reader about Anna’s background and what made her a recluse. I love that she gives names and narrates the lives of her neighbor. In addition, Anna is a huge movie buff but mainly black and white movies. She quotes lines from old Hitchcock classics. The book gives the feel of Rear Window. I was home sick in bed while reading this one and the cabin fever was starting to set in. It felt like the perfect book for a sick day. While reading you question everything you read. Is Anna a reliable narrator? Can I trust her version of events? I kept coming up with more twisted and complicated scenarios. The book is very hard to put down. Since finishing, I have found a list of the movies mentioned throughout the plot. Now I have a pile of DVDs to watch!

Lowlights: I was able to decipher several of the plot twists since I have started reading much more in this genre. Even with this, I still found the ending satisfying and fun.

FYI: Pair with an old Jimmy Stewart movie!

Book Review: Little Leaders, Bold Women in Black History

Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History by Vashti Harrison

First line: This book grew out of a project I began during Black History Month.

Summary: Written and illustrated by the author this collection of short biographies of historic African American women is perfect for children and adults alike. The subjects cover famous women like Harriet Tubman, Ella Fitzgerald and Katherine Johnson.

Highlights: The illustrations are beautiful. The artist had children in mind when drawing them so she drew each woman as a child. I love the little additions that represent their career or interests. I think this would a great way to introduce or further explore the amazing achievements and role models of African American women.

Lowlights: Nothing. It is perfect!

FYI: A great read for Black History Month or Women’s History Month.

*Find it on our Sunflower eLibrary*

Book Review: Still Me

Still Me by Jojo Moyes

First line: It was the mustache that reminded me I was no longer in England: a solid, gray millipede firmly obscuring the man’s upper lip; a Village People mustache, a cowboy mustache, the miniature head of a broom that means business.

Summary: Louisa Clark is starting a new adventure. She is travelling to New York City to work as a personal assistant. However, the new job is not exactly what she had pictured. With a busy schedule of appointments and society events, she tries to balance work and her new relationship with Ambulance Sam, who is back in England. At one such social event, she runs into someone that reminds her of her past and changes her future.

Highlights: Jojo Moyes is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. I have read several of her novels and enjoyed them all. She has a way of writing that makes you feel everything. I laughed at Louisa Skyping with Sam. I nearly cried at the end when she is deciding who she wants to be. I love the character of Louisa Clark. She is quirky. She is funny without always meaning to be. She is not afraid to be herself. She is kind, honest, and loyal. I loved her interactions with all the different people in the apartment building. She is a person I would like to be. A complete optimist. She may have a few sad times but she is always looking at the bright side. In addition, getting to know more about her family. This book gave so much more to the other two. It filled in spaces and brought closure to many of the plotlines.

Lowlights: The more I think about this while writing the more I realize how much I liked it. Nothing to complain about at all.

FYI: Must read Me Before You and After You before reading in order to understand the background and characters.  Also check out the movie, Me Before You, starring Emilia Clark and Sam Claflin.

Release Date: January 30, 2018


Book Review: Carnegie’s Maid

Carnegie’s Maid by Marie Benedict

First line: The gentle melody of a Christmas song lifted into the air of his study from the street below.

Summary: Clara Kelley is a poor Irish girl who has been sent by her family to America to acquire a job so she can send money home to her parents. When she is mistaken for another Irish immigrant, she gains the job of a lifetime. She is hired as the lady’s maid to Mrs. Carnegie, the mother of the rising industrialist, Andrew Carnegie. When she is discovered reading books in the family library by Andrew they strike up a friendship. They discuss poetry, their past lives and business. As their relationship grows, she continues to worry that she will lose her position and no longer be able to help her starving family in Ireland.

Highlights: I loved the lightheartedness of the story. The character of Clara was one I enjoyed following through the story. The time period is one filled with change. Seeing the friendship between Clara and Mr. Ford. They were two outcasts at the time. Each had their own struggles in the time of the Civil War. It was a nice look into the history and cultural outlook of the era. I liked the relationship between Andrew and Clara. The background of Andrew Carnegie was fascinating. It showcases the American dream. He came to America as a poor young man but he took advantage of every opportunity to become one of the richest men in U.S. history. I enjoyed his discussions about his love of reading that slowly evolve into the idea for the Carnegie libraries. Mrs. Carnegie was fascinating. She is a society woman who was not exactly sure how to be a society woman. She was new money and learning as she went. I liked that she deferred to Clara on how things were done. However, she always seemed to be in control.

Lowlights: I wanted more of the friendship between Mr. Ford and Clara. They have such an interesting dynamic. Clara claims that Mr. Ford was her only friend but we see very few interactions between the two. I liked that they found someone who is as much on the outside as the other.

FYI: The story is fiction but it is a nice story of Andrew Carnegie.

Book Review: The English Wife

The English Wife by Lauren Willig

First line: “They say he’s bankrupted himself rebuilding the house—all for her, of course.”

Summary: When Bayard Van Duyvil is found dead with a knife in his chest and his wife, Annabelle is missing, speculation starts around the happy couple. Did Annabelle kill her husband? Who is she anyway? The whirlwind romance and quick marriage to an English woman brings gossip and questions to the New York society. Janie, Bay’s sister, is determined to find out who killed her brother and clear her sister-in-law’s name.

Highlights: I am a huge fan of Lauren Willig and her books. She can write a good mystery with well-developed characters. I really liked the character of Georgie/Annabelle. She has a twisted past that is slowly revealed through the story. Her relationship with Bay was one of my favorite parts. I enjoyed their interactions and the way that their relationship changed. The rules and etiquette of society were so annoying but I believe very real for the time. Divorce and gossip were game changers for people of the upper classes. The old money hated the new money. There is a plenty of detail about the period making it easy for me as a reader to understand and be transported into the story. The ending shocked me. I was not expecting the story to wrap up the way it did but it was perfect. As I read another review, they compared it to Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. I think this is a great comparison.

Lowlights: The switching between 1899 and 1894 got a little confusing at different points. I am not always good about reading the little notes at the beginning of the chapter detailing when and where the story is taking place. It is very important in this book. In the middle, the story seemed to hit a lull. It was all about building up to the climax at the end.

FYI: Another win for Lauren Willig! If you like this, check out her Pink Carnation series. They are fantastic.