What’s Ashley Reading?: The Last Year of the War

The Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner

First line: I’ve a thief to thank for finding the one person I need to see before I die.

Summary: Elise Sontag, a fourteen year old girl from Iowa, has her life turned upside down when her father is arrested on the suspicion of being a Nazi sympathizer. Her family is sent to an internment camp in Texas where she meets her best friend, a Japanese girl named Mariko. They spend several months together before Elise’s family is deported back to Germany. In the hopes of keeping their friendship alive the two exchange letters but it is difficult with the ongoing war. However, Elise keeps up hope that after the war ends she will be able to return to America and see her best friend again.

My Thoughts: I really enjoyed this story. The last several books have not been as good as Secrets of a Charmed Life which was my first book I read by Susan Meissner. It is a topic that has not been talked about much and it could be because it is embarrassing but it is our history and we need to acknowledge it. And learn from it too. I cannot imagine how shocking it would be to have everything taken from you and being forced to live in basically a prison. Then to be sent back to a land that they had left or never even lived before. Especially with a war on and cities are being heavily bombed. How do you rationalize that?

The time spent in camp was actually a very small part of the book. Most of it took place in Germany after Elise’s family is repatriated. I liked listening to her story as she navigates this foreign land in wartime. She did not speak German which put her in a tight spot since the Germans were at war with America. I highly recommend this to anyone who loves a story set during World War II.

FYI: Definitely check out Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner.

Book Review: Sisters First

Sisters First: Stories From Our Wild and Wonderful Life by Jenna Bush Hager and Barbara Pierce Bush

First line: From the very beginning, before we could walk, before we could talk, Barbara and I were a pair.

Summary: Barbara and Jenna Bush are twin sisters. They are the children and grandchildren of Presidents. As the first daughters, they were in the media spotlight.  From being trailed by secret service to dodging the paparazzi they led hectic lives.  Through an alternating narrative, the sisters tell stories of their lives.  Plus a forward by former First Lady, Laura Bush.

Highlights: I listened to the audio version of this book and I loved it! Barbara and Jenna read it themselves. Hearing their stories from their own mouths was even more interesting. They discuss their most embarrassing moments and their highest triumphs.

The stories of their grandparents and parents were very endearing. I enjoyed hearing that these famous families are still just normal families. I laughed aloud listening to the struggles of Barbara trying to order a pizza. When you have the same name as former First Lady simple things can be a struggle.

My first election I was able to vote in was the 2004 race between George W. Bush and John Kerry.  When I first saw this book I knew it had to be one that I wanted to read.

Lowlights: The only lowlight I can think is that by listening to the audio book I cannot see any photos that are included in the book. I have Googled each sister in order to put faces to the stories.

FYI: Listen to the audio book on Libby by Overdrive!