Review: Choices by J.E. Laufer

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I’m always looking for great historical fiction and nonfiction to read.  And the World War II/Holocaust era is one of my favorites to read about.  So it was a pleasant surprise when I stumbled across this true story.

The time is different, but the situation is very similar. Just because the Holocaust was over doesn’t mean that Jewish families were suddenly safe.  When Russia invaded Hungary in 1956, many feared that it was starting all over again.  So families made the decision to flee the country, leaving behind everything they knew and loved.

This is the remarkable tale of the journey faced by the author’s parents.  It’s a great read for young adults, providing names and faces to historical facts making the story come alive.  And it’s quick and easy to read, guaranteed to keep the attention of younger readers.

~Thalia

Buy It Now:  Choices

Review: Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

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What can I say about Ruta Sepetys other than she’s amazing?  She has this amazing ability to take a piece of history and weave a complex, compelling piece of fiction around it.  Her latest masterpiece is no exception.

The year is 1945, the place is Prussia.  The war is winding down, but the horrors of it are not.  As thousands of refugees attempt to make their way to safety, we are introduced to several of them.  They each have a story to tell, and secrets to keep.  Their paths converge as one in an attempt to survive.

There’s Joana, a selfless nurse whose only goal is to save people.  There’s young Emilia, harboring a secret far beyond what we are led to believe. And Florian, the knight in shining armor who saves her.  And Alfred Frick…what can I say about him?  He’s shady and secretive and more than a bit unstable.  Is he really going to help save the others from sure death?

Time and again, tragedy strikes in one form or another.  Until finally, towards the very end, the biggest tragedy of all befalls Joana and Emilia and Florian and the others.  And yes, even Alfred Frick.  Some will survive, some will not.

Yet again, historical fiction written by a gifted author has given me new knowledge while telling an outstandingly brilliant story.  The tragedy of the Wilhelm Gustloff  was a real thing, while the tragedy of our characters was not.  But the author makes us feel as if the entire story truly happened.  And that’s exactly what exceptional books do…

~Thalia

Buy It Now:  Salt to the Sea

 

Review: The Bean Trees: A Novel by Barbara Kingsolver



Although this book was written more than 15 years ago, it’s certainly a timeless story. 

Taylor Greer leaves her Kentucky home to make her own way in the world. After a few unexpected pit stops and the gift of someone else’s baby, Taylor lands in Arizona. And so begins the story of a young woman making a stable life, with a job, friends, love, and this baby who was given to her. 

This beautifully written novel is about beginnings and endings and human connections.  Taylor’s Guatemalan friends lost a baby, Taylor gained a baby. Lou Ann lost love, Taylor’s mom (and maybe Taylor, too) found love. April lost a mom, then gained more mother figures than she could ever imagine. I could go on and on. 

I can’t stop thinking about April planting things. Was she trying to put down roots? Bury the past? Become one with the land? In any case, the circle of life plays a large role in The Bean Trees. 

I cried slow, deep tears reading this book. The sweet, steady beauty of humanity strikes in harsh contrast to the spare, dry landscape and the cold politics of the government. And I was left with the knowledge that the love of a mother knows no bounds. Read it, and your heart will be touched also. 

-calliope 

Buy THE BEAN TREES