News of Our Loved Ones by Abigail DeWitt

 

9780062834720_95aecOriginally published in Library Journal, August 31, 2018.

Set in the French village of Caen, Normandy during the Nazi occupation of 1944, the lives of one family and their Jewish neighbors are forever altered. Told in varying points of view and switching between past and present, it is at times difficult to determine the narrator or the time period. The war weaved together the lives of the many characters in oftentimes heartbreaking, unforgettable ways. Many lost their children and loved ones, their identities, and even the will to carry on. Central to the story are young sisters: Yvonne, Francoise, and Genevieve, children of Pauline. Genevieve is living in Paris with Pauline’s sister, Tante Chouchotte, studying violin when her family home is bombed, and only Francoise and her step-father, Oncle Henri survive. Decades later, Polly, the young daughter of Genevieve, half French, but living in America, struggles to balance two cultures and longs to know more about her French family history. Through storytelling and spending time in Brittany, she is able to better understand and appreciate her ancestry. Readers also uncover the secret, passionate love lives of both Pauline and Chouchotte. VERDICT: Recommended for additional purpose to increase a historical fiction collection, DeWitt’s third novel is far surpassed by others in the genre.

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The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

9780062870674_3cee2Originally published in Library Journal, August 2018.

Originally intended as a screenplay, this compelling debut historical fiction novel is based upon the life of Lale Sokolov, a Slovakian Jew imprisoned for almost three years at Auschwitz-Birkenau, where he served as the tattooist. Soon after Lale, 25, arrives at Birkenau, he contracts typhus and is left for dead. He is rescued by fellow inmates and Pepan, an older French man and tattooist. Pepan teaches Lale the trade, which along with fluency in six languages, allows Lale privileges of a single room and extra food. Lale’s sole mission is to survive the unbelievable horrors and live to see another day outside the camp. Then he meets young Gita, and his mission changes to surviving and marrying Gita. Despite surroundings of bleakness and death, Lale and Gita’s passionate love blooms in the precious, miniscule moments alone. Lale’s story is heartbreaking, yet hopeful. Readers will root for him despite many setbacks to his survival. An afterword by Gary Sokolov, Lale and Gita’s son, further demonstrates his parents’ unbreakable bond of love and survival against unfathomable evil. VERDICT: Recommended for historical fiction & memoir fans for its unforgettable Holocaust story told from the unique perspective through the eyes of the tattooist of Auschwitz.

The Library Book by Susan Orlean

51pmjwgu0bl._sx340_bo1,204,203,200_The Library Book is a fabulous in-depth look at the unsolved mystery surrounding the single largest library fire in United States history,  that of the Los Angeles Public Library in 1986. Though the book is nonfiction, it is packed full of interesting information, including the history of the very first libraries as well as both hilarious and heartwarming anecdotal details from various library employees which Orlean interviewed.

Perhaps I loved it so much because I’m a librarian, but I believe it will be loved by any reader based upon the great popularity it has already received. Celebrity reader, Reese Witherspoon selected The Library Book as the January pick for her book club, Hello Sunshine and it’s also spent time on the New York Times Bestseller list, of course. It is evident that Orlean spent many years researching and studying the Los Angeles Public Library system, as well as libraries in general. Most fascinating to me was the description of  the process of thousands of wet, damaged books from the fire that were frozen before the mold started, and then months later pressed dry to remove all the moisture. Another really neat thing to read about was the start of e-books and the mind-blowing statistics of their worldwide usage today. I kept repeating facts out loud while reading to my husband because they were so interesting.

The Library Book has been called “a love letter to libraries” by some, which is certainly on point. In the beginning, Orlean tells of when she was a young girl visiting the library with her mother, a memory which she will always cherish. She remembers vividly the discussions with her mother on the way home which books they would read first and the feel of the stack of books in her lap, a comforting presence. Her mother always said she should have been a librarian. Like Orlean, I too have always held a special place in my heart for libraries. I can remember being in them from the time I was very young, in awe of the wonder surrounding me on the shelves. And, like Orlean’s mother, I always dreamed of being a librarian, and here I am. This book really captivated me and reminded me just how fortunate and thankful I am to be able to be living out the dream I once had as a little girl.

I would highly recommend The Library Book for fans of nonfiction and fiction alike, especially those who love a bit of mystery and/or history. You won’t be disappointed with this book!

2018: A Year In Review

Books Read in 2018: 109

My Favorite Books Read in 2018

Listed in no particular order, here are some of my favorite books read in 2018. I’ve included a bit of information after each title as to the intended audience and genre. Many are linked to my review of the title. Please let me know if you enjoyed any of these as much as I did. Happy New Year!

  • Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis (Adult, Self-Help, Women’s Life)

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  • The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris (Adult, Historical Fiction)

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  • One Was Lost by Natalie D. Richards (YA, Suspense, Thriller)

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  • The Other Woman by Sandie Jones (Adult, Psychological Suspense, Thriller)

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  • Crucible by James Rollins (Adult, Suspense, Thriller, Adventure)

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  • The Lost Girls of Paris by Pam Jenoff (Adult, Historical Fiction)

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  • Something in the Water by Catherine Steadman (Adult, Psychological Suspense)

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  • Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu (YA, Contemporary Realistic)

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One Day in December by Josie Silver

41NHeAVyDlL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_I was in the mood for a Christmas-y romance and this one totally hit the spot! Debut novel, One Day in December, by British author, Josie Silver, is the December book choice of celebrity & avid book lover, Reese Witherspoon’s, Book Club called Hello Sunshine. I love a good forbidden romance, especially one as quirky as this one! Her writing style reminds me of JoJo Moyes and Sophie Kinsella.

Set in modern day London, this is the romantic comedy story of Laurie and Jack, unfolding in alternating viewpoints throughout the months of December since the moment they first spot each other as strangers in a bus station and fall instantly for one another after one glance. Talk about swoon-worthy! The problem is that neither know the other’s name or anything about them. Laurie is left to dream about “bus boy” and she keeps an eye out for him everywhere she goes, which no success of locating him again. She describes his features in vivid detail to her very best friend Sarah, and they both believe that “bus boy” is the one for Laurie, should she ever find him again.

Fast forward a year and the extremely beautiful Sarah begins dating Jack and she is convinced that Laurie must meet him and become chummy with him. Laurie agrees because she loves Sarah like her own sister. However, you may have guessed it, the moment she sees Jack, she is forced to hide her surprise and bury her true feelings. Jack is bus boy! Sarah has no idea she has fallen for Laurie’s “one that got away,” and Laurie is unsure whether Jack realizes who she is either. Thus follows a series of meetups (many in the month of December) over the years between the tragically tangled triangle of Laurie, Sarah, and Jack in which blissfully unaware Sarah falls deeper in love with Jack, and all the while Laurie tries to convince herself that Jack is not her 100%. Oh, the agony I felt for Laurie and Jack! Readers learn in Jack’s perspective that he too has often thought of the girl from the station, remembering her as well. But, will he ever tell Laurie? I guess you’ll have to read it, now won’t you!?

I would very highly suggest this book to any fiction readers. It’s such a sweet story with an ending that I know you’ll love. The author writes the characters right into the readers’ hearts, so that when Laurie cries, readers find tears in their own eyes. Read it! You won’t be sorry.

Eagle & Crane by Suzanne Rindell

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Originally published in Library Journal, June 2018.

Historical fiction fans will delight in this romantic mystery set in World War II California. Louis Thorn and Haruto “Harry” Yamada have grown up as neighbors being civil to one another, despite the Thorn family’s claim that the Yamada’s stole part of their land. The pair of daredevils become unlikely comrades after joining the Earl Shaw Flying Circus as wingwalkers Eagle and Crane, where they share a love of flying and of Ava, Earl’s spunky, independent step-daughter.  Though both business partners need the money from their aerial stunts, the young men’s relationship is complicated by race, family, and love. In the aftermath of Pearl Harbor, Harry’s family is interned at Tule Lake simply for being Japanese. Then, a mysterious plane crash brings determined FBI Agent Bonner to the Yamada home to investigate. Bonner’s past experience with a Japanese family and connection to the Thorn family compels him to uncover the truth at all costs. VERDICT: Rindell joins the ranks with Kristin Hannah and Kate Quinn with this fast-paced, gripping novel as it charmingly explores a tumultuous era of history.

Crucible by James Rollins

y648The latest title in the fast-paced adventure/thriller Sigma Force series, Crucible, will be available from William Morrow on January 22, 2019.

Well-known skilled Sigma operatives Monk, Gray, Kowalski, Painter, Seichan, Kat, and Lisa are back for another action-packed race against time. The subject matter of artificial intelligence (AI) is both timely and terrifying to readers. Rollins highlights some of the amazing abilities of human-like AI, while also warning of the uncertainty in unleashing such an uber-intelligent entity into the world. As with all of his Sigma Force series, Rollins weaves the latest in scientific and technological advances into the story. He includes a very helpful and interesting “check the facts” section at the end, in which readers discover in annotated detail that most of the technological, scientific, and medical situations which seem impossible and far-fetched in the story are actually in fact NOT fiction. Perhaps because Rollins expertly shows that AI could be all too real in the near future, Crucible is truly captivating and thrilling.

Crucible is an engrossing read, written through multiple narrators, alternating chapters between different groups of Sigma members. I won’t give away too much of the plot, because what would be the fun in that?! No spoilers here, folks! The story starts on Christmas eve with a very pregnant Seichan home with Kat and her two young daughters, while their men are out having a drink celebrating Gray’s soon-to-be fatherhood. Upon arrival home they find the Gray’s home ransacked, Seichan, Penny, and Harriet missing, and an unresponsive Kat on the floor, unable to offer any clues as to what happened or who took their family.

Meanwhile, across the continent in Portugal at the University of Coimbra, a modern day group of witches called Bruxas is meeting to view a cutting-edge form of AI known as Xenese, created by brilliant young programmer and scholarship student of Bruxas, Mara. As Mara watches unnoticed from the webcam thousands of miles away, nine robed assailants brutally murder the five women, and the only clue caught on camera is a fifteenth century book known as The Hammer of Witches, with historical ties to witchcraft trials during the Spanish Inquisition. Now it’s up to Painter and his team to connect the mysterious, tragic incidents, with two main goals in mind. First, they must track down Xenese before it gets into the hands of those who wish to use AI for destruction and evil. But, most importantly to best friends Monk and Gray, they must find Seichan and Monk’s daughters before it’s too late. A pulse-pounding race against the clock ensues.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, even though much of the time I felt ignorant of the high tech programming and medical breakthroughs being carried out. It really is amazing how much research Rollins would have had to undergo for this novel. It is packed with science, historical details, and action. What more could a reader ask for? Oh…romance! There’s a bit of that in there as well, but not too much. Who has time for romance when the fate of the world is at stake, you know?! I’m a sucker for romance, but I have always been an extremely loyal fan of James Rollins and, as such, I trust that each new volume in the Sigma Force series will not disappoint. I hope you enjoy it as well!