Just when I think I’ve read all of the best historical fiction novels, a new one comes along.
In this case it’s the story of Helene, a young mother who finds the horrors of war at her doorstep when she and her family are thrown into a concentration camp. Separated from her husband, she focuses on keeping her children safe. As a nurse she earns herself a bit of an advantage and is able to secure work along with a few extra, although slight, privileges. The doctor she’s enlisted to work for, however, is none other than Josef Mengele. Even as she struggles to help those around her, she still must bear witness to his evilness at work.
This is a heartbreaking story, as are all tales about this time in history. This one is even more so as it’s based on a true story. Helene was a real person, and how she chose to live her life even in the face of the greatest hardships imaginable will inspire you while making you weep at the same time.
Buy It Now: Auschwitz Lullaby
Heartbreaking. That’s the only thing I can say about this one. Even more so because it’s based on true events.
It’s 1948. Young Sally, still reeling from the death of her father, is desperate to fit it. So, on a dare, she steals a notebook from the local Woolworth’s. This one childish mistake sets in motion a chain of events that will have lasting repercussions. When a man posing as an FBI agent approaches her outside the store, Sally’s innocence and gullible nature guarantee that she’ll believe him. But what excuse for her mother, who allows this man to take Sally off on a supposed trip to the seashore? The only excuse I can think of is that it was a different time, simpler and more trusting.
For almost two years, Sally is victimized by Frank. They travel across the country, Sally being held against her will. Along the way, there are people who see something in Sally. And these people even make attempts to help her without truly knowing the extent of her abuse. Still, Sally must reach within herself and have the courage to speak up before she can be rescued.
While some liberties have been taken in the telling of Sally’s story, the fact remains that she was a real person and a real kidnapping victim. An interesting side note: Sally’s story was the inspiration for Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita.
Buy It Now: Rust & Stardust
Megan Abbott stories are always quite a ride. You think you know how you’re supposed to feel, what you’re supposed to think. Just when you think you have it all figured out, though, she flips the script.
Kit and Diane bring out the best, and worst, in each other. Unlikely friends since high school, they went their separate ways. But fate throws them back together. Kit knows something about Diane, and that something haunts her every thought. Diane is mysterious and smart, cunning and deceptive. And Kit can’t seem to get away from her. This time around the stakes are much higher.
This story has it all. Murder, deceit, coverups, secrets, you name it. A bit rushed at the end to tie up loose ends, but still very good.
Buy It Now: Give Me Your Hand
If you can put the “gross factor” out of your mind this is absolutely fascinating. I liked it so much more than “Stiff”. I loved “Stiff” at the start but soon found myself loosing interest and felt it a bit long drawn. With Gulp I was sad to see it end. I wanted more! All I will say is that having read this I am sure I shall never ever ever use another tablet of alka seltzer.
As in the past, Mary Roach proves herself to be very funny and her curiosity knows no bounds. She doesn’t hesitate to show and share her excitement no matter the subject. No question she can dream up is too embarrassing for her to ask. I can’t imagine what a nightmare she was to her mother growing up (hahahaha, I mean that in the best way possible).
Just keep in mind that they book is aptly named “Gulp” but what goes in must come out as well (or else there are lots of problems!) and this book goes into great detail on both processes! Having said that, don’t let that put you off…this really was fascinating, and quite funny at times as well…and I bet you have at least one jaw dropping “Whoaaaaaa” moment as well!
Until next time…
Buy it now Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal by Mary Roach
If you live under a rock and don’t know who Malala is please read this book. If you know and have no interest because you don’t wish to hurdle into a group based on her religion or nationality, read this book. If you have little hope for the future of humanity, again, read this book. Finally, if you’re aware of who Malala is and commend her for all that she has done, if you think you grasp most of the facts, please, take a moment and at least read the epilogue. I learnt a lot from this read. I learnt more about the politics of Malala’s country then I have reading several more famous books. Every bit helps in my understanding of the complexity of these countries. Especially hard to do when you’re like me, and lucky to be born into a country that has a stable government. Where it is safe to walk the streets unescorted. Where a girl can walk without fear whilst holding a book in public. Where a woman can walk into any hospital unescorted and be treated for injuries. Malala and millions of other women have not been so lucky. However, Malala, even as young as she is, has a passion for politics and understands them…she is even, at times, able to manipulate those political unrests and bend them to her favour. She is also young enough to be frank about politics and to be sensible about them. She is not trying to bend or mould them into something to ensure her own political gain. It’s so much easier to see things when the speaker is not trying to manipulate the story to cover their own agendas. Malala is honest and upfront with her desires. A world where we are all equal, educated, and free to follow our own heart’s calling….
The epilogue is a true bright and shiny gem. It sums up the changes and challenges she and her family now face. It sums up her belief system and her love for her country. As well as why she can’t go back. But mostly, I hope that you can see the young woman who has sacrificed so much and asked for so little. Sacrifices I dare say that no one reading this review (myself included) would ever be brave enough to make…and she does it with such grace to make it look like it wasn’t a sacrifice at all, but an honour. She might be a noble peace prize winner…but first and foremost, she is a young girl, a daughter, a silly girl with silly friends, a student, a misfit, a nerd, a Muslim….first and foremost, she is just like any of us…
Until next time…
Buy it now I Am Malala
I could go all on about how America needs people like Chris Kyle. Yea, I reckon they do. Without people such as Kyle, the world wouldn’t go ’round. My little bit of experience with the military reinforces what I felt about this book. Certain individuals are born for military service and the military is quick to see who they are. They are also quick to *train* them further for their needs.
But, hey ho, I said I wasn’t going to go there….
Why did I hate this book? I, personally, didn’t believe a word Kyle said. Yes, I believe the stories. But I somehow doubt his genuine feelings for his family, his country, and most of all, his modesty. Every single time (okay, maybe only AFTER the first half-dozen times he stated it) he said it was luck and not skill that earned him the title, I felt like he was SCREAMING, “I have to say that, but we all know I’m the BEST.” I just found his entire attitude judgmental (whether or not it was about his wife, his fellow comrades, or the civilians he was sworn to help). I felt he thought his was the most important viewpoint and no one else’s was valid. Even when he spoke of past war combats, he stated that they really didn’t understand what it was like for him. This might be true…but nor does he understand what it was like for them. There could possibly be more than one way to win a war, and certainly more than one objective. Kyle was trained for one aspect of that, and trained well, and he did well at his job….However, that doesn’t mean he’s above those others that trained in different areas and did their absolute best to back him and to do their job, no matter how lacking the conditions might have proved to be for them…
I don’t think Kyle won the war all by himself, no matter how much he might think he did…
Again, sorry for those that loved the book…I might have felt different it was told by someone else…however, there just wasn’t room for any love for me in this one…his ego kept getting in the way…
Until next time…
Buy it now American Sniper by Chris Kyle
Maybe it’s because I’ve heard him so often on BBC radio…but whatever the reason, Mr Sedaris is seriously growing on me. I loved this one! It’s the 3rd book I’ve read/listened to by him. Having him read the books so adds to the experience! I admit, after the first book (MTPOD) I wasn’t sure I was a fan….but after this one, I most definitely am! So funny and brutally honest! I would have to say, having DS as a close friend would be both exhausting and exhilarating! Did I mention how much I love this guy now?
I must warn you though, don’t read a DS book unless you are willing to hear random things that just pop into his head. They are not always appropriate. He dares to say what others only think….He makes no apologizes for who he is….and he doesn’t believe in political correctness when it comes to being an arse. If you are an arse he will not hesitate to tell you exactly that. If you are a such a complete moron, he will not hesitate to tell you and to ask you, LOUDLY, just how it is you manage to tie your shoes each morning…
If you can’t laugh at yourself, don’t bother picking up this book. If you’re offended easily, again, perhaps you should pass this one by…but if you understand sarcasm…and if you sometimes wish you had the courage to say exactly what everyone is thinking but too afraid to voice it aloud…well go on…pick it up….not only will DS be happy to voice it for you…he’ll do so in a very loud voice and have you laughing for more….He would be hard pressed to like, except for the fact that he is usually laughing at himself the most…
Until next time…
Buy it nowWhen You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris