Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens // Book Review


Length: 384 pages
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons; Later Printing edition (August 14, 2018)
Genre: Fiction/Novel
Audience: PG 13 (for a graphic scene, strong language, and sex content)
Buy On:Amazon
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


Synopsis:

For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life–until the unthinkable happens.

Where the Crawdads Sing is at once an exquisite ode to the natural world, a heartbreaking coming-of-age story, and a surprising tale of possible murder. Owens reminds us that we are forever shaped by the children we once were, and that we are all subject to the beautiful and violent secrets that nature keeps.


My Review:

I absolutely love authors that immediately snatch me into their story and keep me there! With catching prologues, capturing first chapters, or curious plots: these are what good books are made of. Where the Crawdads Sing has been on my “to read” list since the beginning of 2020. However, I am so glad I finally took the time to sit down and read it.

Delia Owens writes with such passion and intrigue that I was immediately hooked into the story, and was enraptured throughout the entire experience. She describes each character with such detail and tells each scene with such articulation.

I fell in love with the character of Kya Clark and could relate to her experiences and feelings in more ways than one. I hunted along side her when one after one, family members exited her life. I was frustrated with her when so many people took advantage of her. And I wanted to slap someone silly each time a visitor judged Kya by rumor and looks rather than getting to know her personally and deciding for themselves what they thought of the “marsh girl”.

I definitely have to say that I was not at all expecting the book to end in the way that it did. I am not usually a huge fan of surprise endings, but I was presently surprised with the way Delia Owens ended her book. She left the reader with just enough unknown to allow for imagination to spark.

Delia Owens also wrote her book from two POVs and did so expertly. As I say many times, it takes a talented author to switch between POVs in such a way as to engage the reader without confusing him. Delia never confused me when she switched between POVs and I did not have to decipher what she was trying to bring across.

The story of Kya Clark was one in which many people can find at least one part to relate to. I loved how Kya was isolated her whole life but yet she found something to do with her life. She was smart and witty and sassy. She had her own very special personality, and did not allow what others whispered and gossiped about her to define her. She was uniquely Kya.

I recommend Where the Crawdads Sing to an older audience because of its mature content. A handful of strong words are used, a murder is investigated/described, and a few love-making scenes are included. The murder of Chase Andrews is investigated throughout the entire book, and while it is not graphically laid out in each scene, there are several scenes in which the process of the murder is narrated in enough clarity to picture the scene. The love-making scenes are also included in only a few instances, and are sketched enough to understand the details, but are also left with enough mystery for the reader’s imagination to finish as he chooses.

2021 is perfect opportunity to start a reading list, and with my recommendation, Where the Crawdads Sing should be at the top of the list!

Cilka’s Journey by Heather Morris // Book Review

Length: 349 pages
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press (October 1, 2019)
Genre: Historical Fiction
Audience: PG 13 (for many graphic scenes, including rape and injuries; as well as heavy language)
Buy On: Amazon

Rating: 5 out of 5.

SYNOPSIS:

From the author of the multi-million copy bestseller The Tattooist of Auschwitz comes a new novel based on a riveting true story of love and resilience. 

Her beauty saved her — and condemned her. 

Cilka is just sixteen years old when she is taken to Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp in 1942, where the commandant immediately notices how beautiful she is. Forcibly separated from the other women prisoners, Cilka learns quickly that power, even unwillingly taken, equals survival.

When the war is over and the camp is liberated, freedom is not granted to Cilka: She is charged as a collaborator for sleeping with the enemy and sent to a Siberian prison camp. But did she really have a choice? And where do the lines of morality lie for Cilka, who was send to Auschwitz when she was still a child?

In Siberia, Cilka faces challenges both new and horribly familiar, including the unwanted attention of the guards. But when she meets a kind female doctor, Cilka is taken under her wing and begins to tend to the ill in the camp, struggling to care for them under brutal conditions.

Confronting death and terror daily, Cilka discovers a strength she never knew she had. And when she begins to tentatively form bonds and relationships in this harsh, new reality, Cilka finds that despite everything that has happened to her, there is room in her heart for love.

From child to woman, from woman to healer, Cilka’s journey illuminates the resilience of the human spirit—and the will we have to survive.


MY REVIEW:

Before I start out my review on Cilka’s Journey, if you have not read my review of The Tattooist of Aushwitz (book one in this mini-series), please take the time to read it here.

Okay, and now onto my review…

If you listened to my advice and read my review on The Tattooist of Aushwitz (which I know you probably didn’t–you naughty thing), you will know that I absolutely loved the book, the story, and the author. That being said, when I saw Heather Morris had a sequel to it, I immediately purchased it!

This author sure knows how to write a compelling historical novel! In The Tattooist of Aushwitz, we were briefly introduced to a young lady named Cilka. We weren’t given much information on her…just that Gita and her became fast friends and morally helped each other through the long months that they were held in the camps. We were also informed that Cilka was very beautiful, and therefore, caught the eye of a Nazi officer who decided to use her as a sex object. Without going into much detail, we just got the idea that she was raped every single day by this officer. When the war finally ended and the camps were liberated, many prisoners rejoiced because they regained their freedom, however, unfortunatley, this was not the case for Cilka. She was captured by the Russians and put into yet another concentration camp–this time with the conviction of “sleeping with the enemy”–and was sentenced to 15 years of labor.

I am going to stop my retelling of the synopsis right there, because, you have to realize, that Cilka had just survived several years at Auschwitz! AUSCHWITZ!! Also known as the death camp. And yet after surviving and fighting through such a terrible ideal, she is placed into yet another. And still she doesn’t give up. I mean if Rachel Platten was alive back then, Cilka’s life theme song would have been “Fight Song”. This girl was a fighter. And she fought hard.

Her story doesn’t end there though, because she was given a job as a nurse at the Russian camp, and because she put her whole effort into her work, she quickly escalated to gain a lot of trust between fellow workers, and even soldiers. This girl is just amazing.

This is not your typical series, as the second book did not follow the same main characters as the first book did. However, it was actually quite captivating, because I loved hearing more about Cilka–whom we were only briefly intorduced to before.

In The Tattooist Of Auschwitz , we were only told enough about Cilka to want to hear more about her story. Therefore, it was wonderful to get so much more detail. However, I was a bit confused on how the author would transition between The Tattooist of Auschwitz and Cilka’s Journey, because they are supposed to be a series. I was worried that The Tattooist of Auschwitz would end, and the transition to Cilka’s Journey would be awkward, as we readers are trying to adjust to the new story line and characters.

However, this was fortunately not the case at all as Heather Morris did a phenomenal job at switching between the books. Cilka’s Journey picked right up where The Tattooist of Auschwitz had ended, and the transition could not have been cleaner. The reader was already familiar with the character of Cilka, as her friendship with Gita was an important part of The Tattooist of Auschwitz so it wasn’t like we were trying to adapt to completely new surrondings.

Not only that… throughout Cilka’s Journey, the author wrote flashbacks of Cilka’s life that answered questions and explained aspects of The Tattooist of Auschwitz, so it was almost like Cilka’s Journey was also finishing up the story of Lale and Gita. In The Tattooist of Auschwitz, like I said earlier, the author briefly described some scenes with Cilka, but they did leave me wondering what the whole story behind them were. It truly was great to settle these unknowns.

I can not think of any critiques I have for the book. Usually, I would complain on the amount of language and sex/rape content, but in this series, i honetly don’t believe I can do that, because Cilka’s journey was based on a true story during WWII. I mean this hell really did happen, and it was war, so obviously the content can not be picture clean and pristine. War was (and is) dirty. Dirty things happen Horrific things take place. And I honestly think there is a time and a place for language–during war is one of the very few times–therefore, I personally can not condem it.

In addition, the rape was a true thing. It really happened to Cilka. If I am going to be so sensitive about things like that, I might as well not read books about war, because as unfortunate as these events are, they really took place. Honestly, I think it is extremely vital for all humans to read books like this because this stuff really happened. In our day and age, the Holocaust is being forgotten, and these victims’–like Cilka’s–stories are being buried. Yes, Cilka’s Journey is a work of fiction, but the person, Cilka really did live, and really did fight like heck to survive. Her legacy–and thousands of people like her–should never be forgotten.

I give it to Heather Morris for re-awakening these individuals’ stories and delivering it in such a touching and passionate way. I absolutely loved this books, and 100% reccomend them to all readers out there.

If I’m being honest, I prefered Cilka’s Journey over The Tattooist of Auschwitz. However, don’t let me give you an opinion–make one for your own, by joining the journies of Lale, Gita, Cilka, and the millions of people who fought and suffered along side them.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J. K. Rowling// Book Review

Length: 309 pages
Publisher: Scholastic Edition (Septembr 1998)
Genre: Fiction, Fantasy
Audience: PG
Buy On: Amazon

Rating: 5 out of 5.

SYNOPSIS:

Harry Potter has no idea how famous he is. That’s because he’s being raised by his miserable aunt and uncle who are terrified Harry will learn that he’s really a wizard, just as his parents were. But everything changes when Harry is summoned to attend an infamous school for wizards, and he begins to discover some clues about his illustrious birthright. From the surprising way he is greeted by a lovable giant, to the unique curriculum and colorful faculty at his unusual school, Harry finds himself drawn deep inside a mystical world he never knew existed and closer to his own noble destiny.


MY REVIEW:

And so begins the number one best selling children’s book series in literary history. Having an estimated $15 billion net worth and over 500 million books in print worldwide, Harry Potter has become the most beloved book series of all time. Originally written for children, this series didn’t stay that way for long–people of all ages have read, enjoyed, and fallen in love with this series.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is the most popular book in J.K. Rowling’s series by far–selling over 120 million copies since its release in 1997 (compared to the other books’ 65 million each).

I was beyond excited to read and review this book, because of all the rave reviews and crazy statistics I had heard! However, before I start my review, I must address the elephant in the room, so I can get it over with…

There is a big debate going on, about whether or not the witchcraft in the books is wrong. Some people claim that the novels contain Satanic or occult subtext, while others claim the magic resmbles that of fairy tales or the work of authors such as J. R. R. Tolkein and C. S. Lewis. I have heard countless people compare the witchcraft in Harry Potter to the witchcraft displayed in The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis.

However, as a reader of both the Harry Potter series and The Chronicles of Narnia, I strongly disagree with this statement because I don’t think the magic in Harry Potter can even be compared to the magic in Narnia, because it is completely different. For one, the main theme in Harry Potter is witchcraft, while the witchcraft in Narnia is only a sub-theme. Also, while the author of Harry Potter claims Christianity was her biggest inspiration in writing the books, C. S. Lewis wrote his books as an actual allegory of the Bible–and there are parallels to the Bible throughout each and every book.

However, if people are going to say that the witchcraft in Harry Potter is comparable to the witchcraft in Narnia, I can argue that Harry Potter is comparable to child fairy tales such as Cinderella. The godmother puts a spell on Cinderella to make her un-recognizable by her step-family. In Snow White–the first Disney princess to be made into a movie–a witch puts a spell on both herself and an apple. In Beauty and the Beast, a spell is put on the prince to make him a beast. And the list goes on. I mean if you want to debate what the magic in Harry Potter is likened to, you are going to find all sorts of comparisons. In that case, I believe both sides of this debate have valid facts and arguments and there is truth in both sides.

All this being said, I do not believe the Harry Potter series is wrong, and in fact I believe many good lessons can be learned from the adventures and lives of all the characters in Harry Potter. In the end though, each person and reader is going to have to make the decision for him-or-her self based on their own beliefs and convictions. And really, we don’t have to turn this into such a big argument in the first place. I mean read the books or don’t–no one is being forced to.


Okay. Phew. That elephant is out! Now–finally–onto my much anticipated review of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone! Without further adu…

I was not disappointed by the first book at all. I was soon sucked into the stoy and fell in love with the characters. J. K. Rowling is a phenomenal author and sure knows how to write a book for all ages. As I stated earlier, the Harry Potter series was originally written for a child audience, yet, the author wrote in such a way as to appeal to all ages. The words and phrases and verbs that she uses are placed so perfectly, that the stories are simple enough for younger children to understand them, yet complex enough to entertain adults.

Characters:

The characters, as well, are so beautifully created. Each of them are so relateable that every reader can find one that is like them. From Hermoine who is smart, bossy and sassy but has a great heart, to Ron who is quiet, yet funny and brave.

Harry Potter: The savior. The chosen one. The celebrity in the wizarding world. Harry Potter, spends 11 years of his life being ignored and taken advantage of, then in one short week discovers his hidden past and is quickly thrust into the spotlight. Because of this unusual start and being ignorant to his destiny for so long, Harry is not the typical celebrity. He doesn’t care that he is famous and the chosen one. he doesn’t even care that his name has been whispered and celebrated since his birth. He is humble and a bit shy, but his courage and determination out-weigh every other classmate in Hogwarts.

Hermoine Granger: Oh boy–Ms. Hermoine…She is not the typoical girl. She might be very smart–and knows it–and sassy and stubborn, but she isn’t afraid of anything and won’t let her gender stop her from accompanying the boys on every adventure. She also has a great heart and is very loyal.

Ron Weasley: Who can’t like Ron! He is so cute and funny, and befriends Harry quicker than you can say “Rumplestilskin”.

Draco Malfoy: Every good story needs a bully to spice it up. And Draco Malfoy is the perfect bully. He is someone who causes fear among fellow classmates, and rivalry between houses. He is what every bully in every story should be like. He acts so tough and un-crackable on the outside, but underneath, he is much weaker than he looks.

Severus Snape: Without spoling anything, I will just say, Snape is one mysterious and confusing fellow.

Hagrid: Literally just one giant marshamllow. His appearance may be frightening, but underneath all of that, Hagrid’s heart is as soft as mush.


Plot:

I can’t say too much about the plot, because I do not want to give away anything to those of you who have not taken the time to read the books yet. But I will say, the plot in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone unravels rapidly. As soon as Harry arrives at Hogwarts, many twists and turns are thrown in. The house-sorting, Hogwarts classes, Malfoy squabbles, late-night adventures, detention, Quidditch match, and more. J. K. Rowling doesn’t waste any time getting into the heart. However, she does not do it in a way that makes the plot hard for the reader to follow. The entire book was very easy to follow and read, and by the time i finished, i had already fallen in love with the Harry Potter world. I love all the exchanges between Ron and Hermoine. They kept me laughing the whole time.

Being introduced to the school of Hogwarts was amazing. All the magic it possesses is enough to make any reader long to visit as much as Narnia. I’ve always wanted to step into a wardrobe and enter Narnia, but now I also want to run into a brick column and enter Hogsmeade!

I loved the whole house-sorting aspect as well. It made me feel like I had joined a family. Each house (Gyffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravensclaw, and Slytherin) has their own unique traits–strengths and weknesses–so as to make each house relateable to the reader in its own unique way.

Overall, I think Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is a phenomenal start into the wizarding world of Harry Potter. I can not wait to review all the other books in the series!


¡Adios, America! by Ann Coulter // Book Review

Length: 400 pages
Publisher: Regnery Publishing; 1st edition (June 1, 2015)
Genre: Non-fiction, Information, Political
Audience: 17+ (some graphic descriptions on sensitive topics such as rape)
Buy On: Amazon

Rating: 5 out of 5.

SYNOPSIS:

Ann Coulter is back, more fearless than ever. In Adios, America she touches the third rail in American politics, attacking the immigration issue head-on and flying in the face of La Raza, the Democrats, a media determined to cover up immigrants’ crimes, churches that get paid by the government for their “charity,” and greedy Republican businessmen and campaign consultants—all of whom are profiting handsomely from mass immigration that’s tearing the country apart. Applying her trademark biting humor to the disaster that is U.S. immigration policy, Coulter proves that immigration is the most important issue facing America today.


MY REVIEW:

This is not rocket science. There are millions of illegal immigrants using our resources and clogging our systems, not to mention committing horrible crimes that get swept under the rug by the media as the work of a “local man” (who happens to be from Tijuana and just came here the other day).

We are complaining about an over-abundance of illegals, but yet we reward them to come here (with health care and anchor babies) and then wonder what’s happening.

Ann Coulter addresses this problem expertly. 

While Ann Coulter has a unique writing style–that at times is sarcastic–she wrote her book in a very clean and well written and organized fashion. The topic of illegal immigrants is a very touchy topic to discuss in America already–let alone write an entire book on it. However, Ann Coulter did this expertly. She did not write just a bunch of fluff, with her opinions and beliefs. She was well-researched and and had strong facts to back up everything she said. \

Adios, America! was not just a book written by someone claiming they know what to do to help America, it was written by someone who knows her facts and proved by history and real-life happenings that America needs to get a hold on her illegal immigrant policies. Ann stated the problems and facts as they are, without tiptoing around the hardest topics. She didn’t let others’ opinions influence her writing, as well, which resulted in a professionally-written book . 

Ann Coulter’s book is a wake-up call to Americans to remind them, in order to solve a problem, we must start at the root.


Bruchko by Bruce Olson // Book Review

Length: 224 pages
Publisher: Charisma House (July 18, 2006)
Genre: Non-fiction, Autobiography
Audience: PG
Buy On: Amazon

Rating: 5 out of 5.

SYNOPSIS:

What happens when a nineteen-year-old boy leaves home and heads into the jungles to evangelize a murderous tribe of South American Indians? For Bruce Olson, it meant capture, disease, terror, loneliness, and torture. But what he discovered by trial and error has revolutionized then world of missions.

Bruchko, which has sold more than 300,000 copies worldwide, has been called “more fantastic and harrowing than anything Hollywood could concoct.” Living with the Motilone Indians since 1961, Olson has won the friendship of four presidents of Colombia and has made appearances before the United Nations because of his efforts. Bruchko includes the story of his 1988 kidnapping by communist guerrillas and the nine months of captivity that followed. This revised version of Olson’s story will amaze you and remind you that simple faith in Christ can make anything possible.

“[Bruchko is] an all-time missionary classic. Bruce Olson is a modern missionary hero who has modeled for us in our time the reaching of the unreached tribes.”

—Loren Cunningham Co-founder, Youth With A Mission

MY REVIEW:

No one can tell a story of someone as well as the person himself, because no one knows the story as well as the person who lived through it. This was definately the case for Bruchko.

Because the author, Bruce Olson, both lived and wrote his book, Bruchko was written excellently.  All the events were told in such a way as to make it come alive to the reader.

The experiences Bruchko lived through were crazy. Not many missionaries have the same drive that Bruchko did. It seemed like he had endless courage. He went through so many trials and torture and disease and yet never quit his mission–to bring God’s light to South America.

There was no doubt God was with him. Multiple times, he came close to death, and yet miraculously survived. Time after time, he was spared and continued to spread Gods word. Never once did he let his experiences define him or stop him from following his calling.

His story is a great inspiration to not let fear control you.   Olson’s story will amaze you and remind you that simple faith in Christ can make anything possible.


Wonder by R. J. Pallacio // Book Review

Length: 320 pages
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers; 1 edition (February 14, 2012)
Genre: Fiction
Audience: G
Buy On: Amazon

SYNOPSIS:

Millions of people have read the #1 New York Times bestseller WONDER and fallen in love with Auggie Pullman, an ordinary boy with an extraordinary face. 

The book that inspired the Choose Kind movement, a major motion picture, and the upcoming, critically acclaimed graphic novel White Bird  – on sale 10/1/2019!

I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse. 
 
August Pullman was born with a facial difference that, up until now, has prevented him from going to a mainstream school. Starting 5th grade at Beecher Prep, he wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid—but his new classmates can’t get past Auggie’s extraordinary face. WONDER, now a #1 New York Times bestseller and included on the Texas Bluebonnet Award master list, begins from Auggie’s point of view, but soon switches to include his classmates, his sister, her boyfriend, and others. These perspectives converge in a portrait of one community’s struggle with empathy, compassion, and acceptance. 

“Wonder is the best kids’ book of the year,” said Emily Bazelon, senior editor at Slate.com and author of Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy. In a world where bullying among young people is an epidemic, this is a refreshing new narrative full of heart and hope. R.J. Palacio has called her debut novel “a meditation on kindness” —indeed, every reader will come away with a greater appreciation for the simple courage of friendship. Auggie is a hero to root for, a diamond in the rough who proves that you can’t blend in when you were born to stand out. 

MY REVIEW:

Main Characters:
August “Auggie” Pullman–young boy with face deformity
Olivia “Via” Pullman–Auggie’s sister and biggest supporter
Julian–the school bully
Jack–a classmate who befriends and stands up for Auggie
Summer–a girl classmate who befriends Auggie and could care less about what he looks like
Charlotte–a classmate who does not mind what Auggie looks like but doesn’t try to befriend him

Wonder made me feel upset and intrigued at the same time. The way many people treated Auggie just broke my heart. Not many people even bothered to give Auggie a chance. They didn’t get to know him for who he was on the inside. They just took one glance at his face and turned themselves away. The whole time I was reading the book and even afterwards as I was evaluating the story, the saying “Don’t Judge A Book By Its Cover” kept coming to mind. In the story one of Auggie’s teachers gives the class a new precept every month and encourages the students to discover what their own precept is. Reading this book made me think that mine is that saying. 

The scene from the book that broke my heart the most was on Halloween. Auggie dressed up us ghost man complete with a full on face mask and he was so excited because he could finally be treated like a normal person and kids talked to him and touched him without shrinking away because they couldn’t see his face. It saddened me that Auggie felt like the only time he could really be himself was when his outward appearance was hidden. 

The story was told in a multiple perspective way. It was told from Auggie’s point of view as well as some of the other people who were affected by him. It takes a talented author to accomplish writing from multiple points of view without confusing the reader or making the story hard to follow. The author of Wonder brought this across expertly. She switched between each point of view so smoothly that it just added so much to the book and really gave the reader insight into how each person felt. It was interesting to see that Auggie’s appearance affected many people–not just himself. His sister, Olivia, had to go through public school with many people knowing she had a “freak” as a brother. And some classmates even refused to be friends with her because of it. Even Olivia’s boyfriend was affected by Auggie because he was shunned by some people who thought he was “infected” if he dated the “freak’s” sister. 

Each of the main characters was described to a “t”. The author really showed how each person’s life was different.

The part of the book that stood out to me the most was just the fact that it made me realize how very important it is not to judge people by what I can see of them. So much can be hidden beneath the surface and if I never let that part be shown, I can hurt someone more than anything. 

The way Wonder was ended could not have been more perfect. It was drawn to a closure clearly and precisely. However, I could picture a second book be easily added on as well. Wonder was different than books I usually read because I do not typically read middle-school age books. However, I am very glad I read Wonder because Auggie left an impact on me without even being in person. He taught me so many lessons on how I should treat people and that true greatness lies not on the outside but in the heart. Wonder gave me a new perspective on how affective judging is–in a negative light. 

Wonder is a book I recommend literally for ages 8 to 88. Readers of all ages can learn a lesson and be inspired by Auggie’s story. As Psalm 139:13-16 sayd “We are much more than our physical differences”. Let us never ever forget that.

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris // Book Review

Length: 288 pages
Publisher: Harper (September 4, 2018)
Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance
Audience: PG-13
Buy On: Amazon

SYNOPSIS:

The #1 International Bestseller & New York Times Bestseller

This beautiful, illuminating tale of hope and courage is based on interviews that were conducted with Holocaust survivor and Auschwitz-Birkenau tattooist Ludwig (Lale) Sokolov—an unforgettable love story in the midst of atrocity.

The Tattooist of Auschwitz is an extraordinary document, a story about the extremes of human behavior existing side by side: calculated brutality alongside impulsive and selfless acts of love. I find it hard to imagine anyone who would not be drawn in, confronted and moved. I would recommend it unreservedly to anyone, whether they’d read a hundred Holocaust stories or none.

Graeme Simsion, internationally-bestselling author of The Rosie Project

In April 1942, Lale Sokolov, a Slovakian Jew, is forcibly transported to the concentration camps at Auschwitz-Birkenau. When his captors discover that he speaks several languages, he is put to work as a Tätowierer (the German word for tattooist), tasked with permanently marking his fellow prisoners.

Imprisoned for over two and a half years, Lale witnesses horrific atrocities and barbarism—but also incredible acts of bravery and compassion. Risking his own life, he uses his privileged position to exchange jewels and money from murdered Jews for food to keep his fellow prisoners alive.

One day in July 1942, Lale, prisoner 32407, comforts a trembling young woman waiting in line to have the number 34902 tattooed onto her arm. Her name is Gita, and in that first encounter, Lale vows to somehow survive the camp and marry her.

A vivid, harrowing, and ultimately hopeful re-creation of Lale Sokolov’s experiences as the man who tattooed the arms of thousands of prisoners with what would become one of the most potent symbols of the Holocaust, The Tattooist of Auschwitz is also a testament to the endurance of love and humanity under the darkest possible conditions.

MY REVIEW:

I do not know how to start this review than to just say that this book was P. H. E. N. O. M. E. N. A. L.!!!! Wow. When I finished this book, I had to pause a minute and take it all in.

Heather Morris has one of the best, if not THE best, writing style of a fictitous author I have ever read!

She draws the reader in with such eloquence and describes every detail so expertly that the scenes seem to pop up and come to life in one’s mind.

In addition, the characters are written so poetically as to make the readers mourn when the characters mourn, laugh, when they laugh, and hurt when they hurt.

Content Warning: Many uses of several different cuss words, including f***, sh**, bi***, and a**, among others. (The language was not used in a flipant way as to demote the value of the book. It is a book about a war, death, and love, and in a time where so much dignity was stripped from humanity, strong vocabulary can be one of the only ways to express oneself.) A few non explicit sex scenes. Scenes with heavy topics, experiences, and thoughts. And scenes with some explicitly-described graphic images. (Such as prisoners being gassed in a cattle car).

Content wise, I would place this book under a strong PG-13 rating. With the many disturbing stories, and experiences, I do not reccomend any young children under the age of 13 read this book. The content is much to mature for a younger audience. That being said, I thoroughly enjoyed The Tattooist of Auschwitz and would definately reccomend to an older audience!

Fun Fact: The Tattooist of Auschwitz is actually based on the real life events of Lale Sokolov and Gita Furman.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Heather Morris is a native of New Zealand, now resident in Australia. For several years, while working in a large public hospital in Melbourne, she studied and wrote screenplays, one of which was optioned by an Academy Award-winning screenwriter in the US. In 2003, Heather was introduced to an elderly gentleman who ‘might just have a story worth telling’. The day she met Lale Sokolov changed both their lives. Their friendship grew and Lale embarked on a journey of self-scrutiny, entrusting the innermost details of his life during the Holocaust to her. Heather originally wrote Lale’s story as a screenplay – which ranked high in international competitions – before reshaping it into her debut novel, The Tattooist of Auschwitz.

BOOK EXCERPT (from Chapter 1):

APRIL 1942

Lale rattles across the countryside, keeping his head up and himself to himself. The 24-year-old sees no point in getting to know the man beside him, who occasionally nods off against his shoulder; Lale doesn’t push him away. He is just one among countless young men stuffed into wagons designed to transport livestock. Having been given no idea where they were headed, Lale dressed in his usual attire: a pressed suit, clean white shirt and tie. Always dress to impress.

He tries to assess the dimensions of his confinement. The wagon is about two and a half metres wide. But he can’t see the end to gauge its length. He attempts to count the number of men on this journey with him. But with so many heads bobbing up and down, he eventually gives up. He doesn’t know how many wagons there are. His back and legs ache. His face itches. The stubble reminds him that he hasn’t bathed or shaved since he boarded two days ago. He is feeling less and less himself.

When the men try to engage him in conversation, he responds with words of encouragement, trying to turn their fear into hope. We stand in shit but let us not drown in it. Abusive remarks are muttered at him for his appearance and manner. Accusations of hailing from an upper class. ‘Now look where it’s got you.’ He tries to shrug the words off and meet the glares with smiles. Who am I trying to kid? I’m as scared as everyone else.

A young man locks eyes with Lale and pushes through the scrum of bodies towards him. Some men shove him on his way through. It’s only your own space if you make it yours.

‘How can you be so calm?’ the young man says. ‘They had rifles. The bastards pointed rifles at us and forced us into this … this cattle train.’

Lale smiles at him. ‘Not what I was expecting either.’

‘Where do you think we’re going?’

‘It doesn’t matter. Just remember, we are here to keep our families safe at home.’

‘But what if …?’

‘Don’t “what if”. I don’t know, you don’t know, none of us knows. Let’s just do as we’re told.’

‘Should we try and take them when we stop, since we outnumber them?’ The young man’s pale face is pinched with confused aggression. His balled-up hands box pathetically in front of him.

‘We have fists, they have rifles – who do you think is going to win that fight?’

The young man returns to silence. His shoulder is wedged into Lale’s chest and Lale can smell oil and sweat in his hair. His hands drop and hang limply by his side. ‘I’m Aron,’ he says.

‘Lale.’

Others around them tune in to their conversation, raising their heads towards the two men before lapsing back into silent reveries, sinking deep into their own thoughts. What they all share is fear. And youth. And their religion. Lale tries to keep his mind off theorising about what might lie ahead. He has been told he is being taken to work for the Germans, and that is what he is planning to do. He thinks of his family back home. Safe. He has made the sacrifice, has no regrets. He would make it again and again to keep his beloved family at home, together…

* * *

Riots of Passage by James McGathey // Book Review, Interview

Length: 732 pages
Publisher: Independently published (December 11, 2019)
Independently published (December 11, 2019)
Genre: Non fiction, Memoir
Buy On: Amazon

Synopsis:

“We have spent this entire summer living on chipped ham and No-Doz…”
In this highly anticipated follow-up to his memoir “One Hundred Virgins,” the author continues to document in riotous fashion life on a major college campus, in a major U.S. city. Though specifically Ohio State University and Columbus, Ohio, in a sense the particulars don’t matter because such experiences, though often outrageous, are universal ones.

Joined by his familiar cast of fellow reprobates, along with a healthy crop of fresh recruits, this crew closes out their final year exploring campus. If the first six months were centered around discovery, then this epoch finds them operating under the banner of refinement and expansion. As always, the journey is nothing if not wildly unpredictable, and a continual reminder that it’s often best to just start running, with no end goal in sight.

If I had to describe how any of us, and certainly yours truly, ever manages to accomplish anything, McGathey observes in these passages, I would say it runs something like this: we start down a hallway toward the object of our desire at the other end, but a rug is pulled out from under us, just about on a daily basis, before we get anywhere near it. Yet every so often, after landing on the floor, you happen to spot this secret passage in the wall that you never would have noticed otherwise. Certainly not by remaining back on the starting block. And this passage commonly leads to something as good as or even better than what you originally mapped.

My Review:

Rating: 2 out of 5.

I have to start out with saying I was very disappointed in this book.

For one, I did not think there was anything unordinary in this book to make it a memoir. I read memoirs to learn about a persons extraordinary life–not ordinary. I can experience an ordinary life by looking at any other person’s life–i read memoirs to experience something NEW and unique.

For two, there was an unnecessary amount of language. Like WAY too much. I can handle language–when its used in moderation and the right wayhowever. Unfortunately, neither was the case in this book. I thought the language was completely a down fall to the book. The language was so overused that I could not find what the author was tying to get across in his writing. I felt like I was spending too much time just trying to avoid reading so many cuss word a. My brain did not have a filter large enough. Not to mention, the book was extremely long, so by the time I reached the end, I was tuckered out from attempting to filter so many dirty words. I thought it was very unfortunate because I did not think the author needed any of the language to tell his story. The book would have been much much better if it were cleaner.

All that being said, if it were not for the language, Riots of Passage could have been more enjoyable. The author wrote with a writing style that intrigued the reader, and made an ordinary story sound exciting. Even though I did not find any thing extremely unique about his story, I would have recommended this book if it had been a lot cleaner.

Riots of Passage is a acceptional book hidden behind a curtain of language.

Author Interview:

What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?

I can’t really say I’ve done a ton of this. It might be a cliché but in my early twenties I did become enamored with going to Vegas and checking out some of the famous sites Hunter S. Thompson and others had written about. Although this wasn’t the only attraction, obviously. My wife and I have had some fun trying to figure out where various Poe stories were written, and also visited his grave in Baltimore. It’s actually in this sad little spot off to the side of a church, not the least bit remarkable. So that was kind of touching in a weird way.
More recently I’ve actually been getting a kick out of researching what kind of obscure writers hail from this same region as me, and then getting their books from the library, as well as possibly visiting the sites. Like this woman who grew up in an old house just a few blocks from ours and published domestic drama type books in the mid 1900s. Or this horror writer who lived around here, whose short stories I’ve really liked. It’s a great way of discovering authors you never would have before, and also learning quite a bit about the region in the process.

What is the first book that made you cry?

By this I assume you mean something that was profoundly sad. In that category, although it didn’t actually bring me to tears or anything, but the most relentlessly sad book I think I’ve read was Rick Moody’s Purple America. And yet it’s a gripping page turner, all the same, which is kind of the best of both worlds. For whatever reason heartbreaking tales have me more kind of scooping my jaw off the floor and thinking about them nonstop instead of actually bringing tears.

But I have definitely laughed myself to tears. Your questions are probably making me sound like a cliché-spouting machine but Douglas Coupland’s Generation X and then basically everything Flannery O’Connor wrote, in a really demented, black comedy kind of way, come to mind when I’m thinking about things that had me laughing from start to finish. Also a little lesser known one, which might be the funniest I’ve listed here, would be Chuck Klosterman’s collection of essays called Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs.

What is the most unethical practice in the publishing industry?

Well, everyone knows about these gaming tricks to rig the numbers on Amazon and elsewhere. I actually read this hilarious piece recently about how easy this is to do, from a guy who wanted to make a point about how ridiculous and empty these “best-selling” categories are. He did nothing but take a picture of his foot – for the quote unquote cover – and come up with a fake table of contents for the alleged

book, then have a few friends purchase a copy. Now he has an orange “best-seller” flag on Amazon next to his name, as a result. But again, he did this on purpose to prove what a joke the process is.

Having said that, Amazon itself is certainly getting shadier and shadier with some of its practices, with throwing its weight around just because it can. This whole POD revolution has been nice in one respect, as far as democratizing who can get their works into print, but on the other hand this whole bit about how we’re going to make more money from our books is proving false. We’ve just created a different kind of almighty beast than what was in place before. Amazon is proving no more noble or altruistic than the major publishing operations it replaced. For all of their billions upon billions, it seems like they always have some nonsensical reason – even though you’re supposed to get, say, a 70% cut – as to why you’re only making 54 cents per copy sold, or the affiliate link sale didn’t count, et cetera.

Does writing energize or exhaust you?

Ha ha, good question. The writing itself must be enjoyable, because I can’t seem to stop! In all seriousness though, it’s something I still really love to do. Thinking about writing is exhausting, when you allow your mind to drift to all of these things you need to knock out. So in some weird way actually sitting down to write is a distraction from all that. This is one great reason to just jump in and start hammering stuff out. Then when you’re trying to shut all that down at night, go to sleep and stop thinking about your projects, that’s the exhausting part.

What are common traps for aspiring writers?

I think the rush to publish your first book, believing it will validate you, is something you probably want to avoid. Of course, it helps to have realistic expectations, and remind yourself of why you’re doing something, what your long term objectives are. My first novel I knew even then wasn’t exactly a masterpiece, probably borderline terrible in spots, but I felt like I’d talked about being a writer for long enough and wanted to get some tangible proof, to show people. And at least start hopefully getting my name out there. But then after releasing a few more, I quietly took it out of print.

But something Bukowski once said has always stuck with me. I know, that’s a controversial name and possibly another cliché, yet this little interview is something I’ve thought about often. He was saying how grateful he was, looking back, that nobody would publish his stuff when he was just starting out. Now, at the time I watched that, I thought, b.s., this is just some sort of false modesty he’s spewing here. Nobody would wish for that. Then a handful of years down the road, I felt like I got it, and knew exactly what he meant. It’s that point at which you realize that everything you’ve written up to that moment is garbage. Then I was kind of doing the whole kid-screaming-in-Home-Alone face and thinking, holy smokes, can you imagine if all of this stuff was in print? How horrific would that be? Thank you, everyone, for rejecting it!

So the bottom line I would say is, don’t screw around, you know, don’t spend ten years talking about the book you’re going to write. Get in there and start working on it. But if you’re steadily working on things, don’t obsess over whether or not it’s been published yet.

Does a big ego help or hurt writers?

I think a big ego is counterproductive for pretty much everyone. Not to bring you down, but chances are nobody is going to care about any of this 100 years from now. If you scroll through an old list of Pulitzer or Oscar winners or whatever, from decades ago, you’ve never even heard of half these people. Nobody is reading Booth Tarkington these days. The universe will probably go on exactly as it is without our input.

But at the same time, you don’t want to drift too far down into these bleak viewpoints. I actually think a more even handed outlook is the most productive, and probably the most accurate, too. Recently I stumbled upon this thought which I’ve kind of been using as my own little internal pep talk: I tell myself that it’s delusional to think that anyone cares about anything I’ve written up to this point. However, it’s inspirational to think that they someday might.

This tends to kind of keep your ego in check while at the same time motivating you to keep getter better and do your best work.

What is your writing Kryptonite?

Well, I’m not sure if this metaphor completely matches, but I think even though Kryptonite was bad for him, Superman was drawn to it anyway, right? If that’s the case, then without question I would say these handwritten notebooks are my own personal devil. I know the latest hot theory is that writing stuff by hand is supposed to be good for you, and I’m sure that’s true in many respects. But all I can say is it’s also made an unholy mess for me over the years, as far as attempting to sort things out later. Because for some reason I can get into typing up actual books just fine, but when it comes to, like, a journal, and random notes, these are all over the place, in notebooks and stray scraps of paper. I just can’t seem to get motivated to type that stuff up initially instead, to start with. Even though I know finding and sorting it out later will be a nightmare.

Have you ever gotten reader’s block?

For most of us who write a lot, I think we also are obsessed with reading a lot. And that’s certainly true for me. There’s never a point where I’m not reading a ton. However, you definitely go through these stretches where you’re completely burned out on everything you know, and need to find new topics or authors or genres to get into.

I actually had this recent little epiphany where I realized that most of the highly touted, highbrow quote unquote “literature” of the 2000s, you know, it really kind of sucks. And yet for the past 15 plus years, I keep checking this stuff out, and reading it, even though I really am not all that into it. For all this talk about building character, most of these books seem to focus more on artful sentences to the extent you actually don’t care about any of the characters. And somehow we’ve also been on this kick where plot is a bad thing.

So once that thought sunk in, my enthusiasm kind of cratered for a little bit while looking for something else to get into. That’s when I realized, hey, maybe these genre books I used to read, but everyone’s convinced me to get away from and scoff at for the past couple of decades, maybe these weren’t so ridiculous after all. Maybe we left something on the table by abandoning them.

Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?

Yeah, and I still think about that from time to time. It’s just often really hard to write personal stuff. I’ve kind of dipped my toes into writing about the kooky hijinks of my early 20s, and some of my friends from then, and that’s about the extent of it. But thoughts of anything more serious than that whatsoever, like, a family history or anything, these are completely paralyzing. Even if converting them to fiction.

That’s when I begin to entertain thoughts about how much easier it would be to have a pen name. Also more morbid ones of, heh heh, maybe my name is the actual problem. Maybe this stuff would sell better if nobody knew who I was.

Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?

In general I’ve had a tough time writing anything other than exactly what I want to do at that moment. There’s one book where I got to page 300, and realized the ending was still more than half the distance away – and I thought the entire book should be 300 pages – and lost all interest that day, haven’t returned to it since. And this happened 16 years ago. So it’s been a lot more productive to me to just bounce around, even though everyone in the world advises against it, and work on exactly what I feel like at any given time. My thinking is the ones I’m inspired enough to complete, then that must be for a reason. As long as you’re always working then this isn’t a problem.
So the thought of writing something for other people – be it imaginary readers, or an editor or whoever – is just not something I’m very good at. Sometimes I look at magazines or forums where jobs are listed, or articles that a magazine wants, and it just draws up a blank. It’s much, much easier for me to write whatever I feel like, and then see about shopping it around, if anyone’s interested.
Having said that, there are occasional situations where you are going to have to write stuff for other people. I think this is a good experience to work on, as far as improving your skill. One trick I’ve found useful in these situations – I used to do this at a job where they would ask me to write blog posts for the company – was to amuse yourself going off on these tangents where you were 100% certain you would cut them out anyway. But writing the stuff kept you entertained enough to complete the project in question, after which you could go back and delete it before turning the piece in. Maybe even use that stuff for a later project of your own, if you’re really crafty

Unqualified Success by Rachel M. Stewart // Book Review, Giveaway

Length: 259 pages
Publisher: Independent Publisher (April 24, 2019)
ISBN-10: 1733692509
Genre: Non fiction, Information
Buy On: Amazon

Rating: 5 out of 5.

SYNOPSIS:

The secret to achieving the life you always wanted is found in this book. No matter who you are or what your circumstances are, Unqualified Success will give you practical and real tools that can be implemented today to achieve your goals. BE AN UNQUALIFIED SUCCESS.

The difference between those who achieve massive success and those who only wish they could is not qualification. Instead, everything you need to live the life of your dreams already exists inside of you and can be harnessed and developed through practice. THE CATALYST TO ACT.

This book teaches the principles and gives you real-life tools to put your own power into action. In doing so, you will have the skills to accomplish anything you want in your life. No matter if you are wanting to take the next massive leap in your career or need the courage to act towards the dream you have been waiting to pursue, this book will help you get there.

“As a business leader, the principles in Unqualified Success resulted in tens of millions in growth, positioned me as a leader in my industry, gave me the courage to launch a technology company, write a book, and more importantly, have fun and confidence doing it.” “Rachel Stewart has absolutely nailed the #1 foible in mind management—how we undermine and discredit ourselves—and teaches specifically what to do about it! So genuine, so accurate, so doable! This is the best, most well-written book on personal success thus far in the 21st century. 100% Unqualified Endorsement.”

Dr. Dennis R Deaton, author The Book on Mind Management http://www.unqualifiedtools.com

AUTOR BIO:

If I could give you the best snapshot of myself, I would tell you that I grew up with six brothers. Why is this so significant? It means I am scrappy. I fight hard for what I want. I am passionate, driven, and don’t give up. If I don’t know something, I will figure it out or find someone who does.

That’s how I ended up writing a book. I attribute every success I have ever had (building a business, founding and growing a software company, running an ultra-marathon, being a parent to four beautiful children…the list goes on) to the principles in Unqualified Success and wanted to share it with anyone and everyone.

All of us who are (or want to be) on a trajectory of growth, are unqualified for the next stage. Unqualified Success is about what it takes to do it anyway. The real-life examples, tools, and exercises are pretty awesome and allow you to make measurable progress daily. You can visit unqualifiedtools.com to find out more.

Seriously, get it! And then write a lovely review.

-Rachel M. Stewart

MY REVIEW:

Unqualified Success progressed in a logical fashion that was easily followed. I did not have any problems following the author’s train of thought. She was very clear and articulate.

The author’s purpose in writing the book was to bridge the gap between where the readers are and where they want to be by changing their mindset. She accomplished just that. She explains that the main sticking point for many people is their own thinking. Their thoughts are what is keeping them from accomplishing great things. As a great author once said, “If you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right”.

The author added a story of a man named Mango, who went from basically nothing to a very successful nurse practitioner. She followed along with his story in every chapter. This added a bit of fun relation as the readers could see that if someone from Brazil can go from poverty to success, we have no excuses. Mango’s story proved that one’s level of success is completely based on one’s thinking. Each and every person is only as successful as they want to be.

The target audience for Unqualified Success is PG13 only because an older audience would appreciate and practice the principles more. The book’s greatest value is its simple yet compact content. It was very easy to read and follow, yet it packed a lot of information into such a short book. All of the 259 pages held valuable keys to accomplishing success.

GIVEAWAY:

The Christmas Shoes by Donna VanLiere // Book Review

Twas the day before Christmas…

Length: 144 pages
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press; Reissue edition (November 9, 2001)
ISBN-10: 0312289510
Genre: Fiction, Holiday
Buy On: Amazon

SYNOPSIS:

Sometimes, the things that can change your life will cross your path in one instant-and then, in a fleeting moment, they’re gone. But if you open your eyes, and watch carefully, you will believe….

Robert is a successful attorney who has everything in life-and nothing at all. Focused on professional achievement and material rewards, Robert is on the brink of losing his marriage. He has lost sight of his wife, Kate, their two daughters, and ultimately himself. Eight year old Nathan has a beloved mother, Maggie, whom he is losing to cancer. But Nathan and his family are building a simple yet full life, and struggling to hold onto every moment they have together. A chance meeting on Christmas Even brings Robert and Nathan together-he is shopping for a family he hardly knows and Nathan is shopping for a mother he is soon to lose. In this one encounter, their lives are forever altered as Robert learns an important lesson: sometimes the smallest things can make all the difference. The Christmas Shoes is a universal story of the deeper meaning of serendipity, a tale of our shared humanity, and of how a power greater than ourselves can shape, and even save, our lives.

MY REVIEW:

Sir, I want to buy these shoes for my mama, please
It’s Christmas Eve and these shoes are just her size
Could you hurry, sir, daddy says there’s not much time
You see she’s been sick for quite a while
And I know these shoes would make her smile
And I want her to look beautiful if mama meets Jesus tonight
.

This song was my first introduction to the story of “The Christmas Shoes” about 8 years ago, and it was the first song that ever made me cry; it is also the first thing that comes to mind when I see any red high heels or the cover of this book.

My goodness, Donna VanLiere sure knows how to grab her reader’s heart and rip it out of the chest! The Christmas Shoes was heart-wrenching and emotional, and tragic, but it was also so beautiful and heart-ful. It seems like nowadays the real meaning of Christmas is lost behind all the gifts and decorating, and Santa Claus takes it place. However, The Christmas Shoes was a reminder of what Christmas really is–and what really matters.

As the book spans back and forth between two different POVs, the reader is introduced to Robert–a man who seems to have everything: a nice house, lots of money, and a good job, but who is losing sight and hold on the most important thing: his family and marriage–as well as Jack–a man who does not have much and leads a simple life, but places his value in his wife and son.

Throughout the book, the author does an expert job of bouncing back and forth between the characters, as well as weaving their stories together. She writes with such poignant style, and captivates the reader to each and every page. By the end of the book, it is almost impossible to have a dry eye.

It takes a skilled author to write a tragic story without leaving the reader feeling depressed, and Donna VanLiere is that author. Her story is tragic, and a tear-jerker, but she writes it with such an attractive dialogue. While The Christmas Shoes ends tragically, the author leaves the reader feeling grateful, convicted, and inspired. She shows that the real meaning of Christmas comes, not from gifts under the tree, but love in each and every one’s hearts.

I would recommend this story to an older audience (PG) who can appreciate the true meaning behind this beautiful story, and really live it out.

The Christmas Shoes is a perfect book to read on Christmas. It is a reminder of what Christmas is really about, and is also a slap-in-the-face of how short and important life is. Let us never lose sight of the important things.

Merry Christmas EVE! We only have two more days of blogmas!