Book Review

Beyond The Green by Sharlee Glenn

beyond the green

Beyond the Green
Sharlee Glenn
Charlesbridge Press
October 2, 2018
Middle Grade

Summary:
Eleven-year-old Britta’s big Mormon family took in little Dori–a member of the Ute tribe–as a baby. Now, four years later, Dori’s birth mother, Irene, is ready to take Dori back. Blunt and feisty, Britta is filled with anger. How can Irene claim Dori when she’s been gone all this time? Britta will stop at nothing to keep her sister, even if it means running away or failing to see beyond her prejudices.

My Review:
Britta Twitchell is a 12-year-old feisty girl who tells the story of her family and their experience with foster care in the middle of the Uinta Basin and near the Ute Indian Tribe of the Uinta and Ouray Reservation located in Utah right after the time of the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978.

I was 10-years-old living in Utah just like Britta in 1979. I remember so many of my neighbors either fostering Indian children or adopting them and how the kids had such a hard time adjusting to going to public school, learning the odd culture of the Mormon families, having their names changed, and having to speak a new language then being returned to their family’s. Beyond the Green is a really good Middle-Grade Semi-Autobiography. The author’s role as Britta. Her foster sister Gina as Dori. I am not sure how many 9-12-year-old kids will read this book without a little prodding, only because I don’t think that this is the type of book that they will just grab off the library shelf.

I do, however, feel as it middle-grade kids should read this book just as they are required to read Because of Winn Dixie or Where the Red Fern Grows because it is a topic that should be discussed, an era that should be known about. I feel as if Sharlee Glenn does a beautiful job of showing the great love that is between Britta, Cally, and how they have taken Dori into their hearts as a full-blooded sibling, not a Fostered one. Ms. Glenn also shows the flip side of the hard trials that the Indians had when it came to drinking and being able to control the drinking. It was not an easy topic to discuss and even though it is lightly touched on it would be a good way to jump off of for anyone to discuss alcoholism. The other part of the Indian trials is the fact that so many people lost their children and this book shows how hard it was when their children did come back. The only downside to me was that with Dorie/ Chipeta she didn’t struggle with the culture, language, etc when she went back home. That wasn’t the case for the kids that I knew. They struggled mightily. Maybe Dori’s real-life counterpoint Gina didn’t struggle so it wasn’t a point Ms. Glenn thought about writing into her story.

I am not sure how the average person will read this book and not think of it as a Christian/Mormon book and might drop it the second the religion comes into focus. I am glad it wasn’t preachy so it’s a little easier to overlook the religion in the book for those who don’t believe in religion.

Thank you Netgalley, Charlesbridge Press and Author, Sharlee Glenn for the opportunity to read Beyond the Green in lieu of my honest review.

3.5 stars
I gave this 3.5 stars only because I feel as if we could have had just a little more of what Irene, Chipeta’s mother was going through and the struggle Chipeta had reuniting into the tribal culture.
Book Review

The Engineer’s Wife

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The Engineer’s Wife

Tracy Enerson Wood

Sourcebooks Landmark

April 7, 2020

 

The Engineer’s Wife was a fascinating tale of a woman who wants to have her own independence in an age where women were looked down upon for wanting more than just a husband, kids, and housekeeping. Emily Warren Roebling was part of a group of women who were ahead of their time. She always felt like an outcast because it wasn’t always her dream to have a family, she wanted a career, she wanted to have fun, she marched to a different drum. What she didn’t realize until later on in her life is that there were so many in her own family and friend circle that wanted the same thing.

When Emily marries Wash she has to tamp down her independence a bit to fit into the world he expected although he didn’t demand she be the “little woman who cooked” she still needed to blend in more than she wanted to.

When Wash and his father finally start on their dream of building a bridge from Manhattan to Brooklyn, also known as the Brooklyn bridge little did Emily know that she would be the one to accomplish what none of her men folks could accomplish- She takes over as the “acting” chief engineer after her father-in-law dies and Wash ends up with the “bends”.

Emily is helped in this story to paver her own way by her mother, her best friend, and her mother’s circle of influence and an unusual friend, Phineas Taylor Barnum of Curiosity Showman, Businessman, and Circus fame.

Tracey Enerson Wood does a fantastic job of writing Emily’s story with humor, heartache, strength, and skill. Although, this is a historical fiction story and yes, Emily Roebling did take charge of the engineering of the Brooklyn Bridge my favorite parts of this story weren’t exactly part of her real story and that is what makes this book fun! The combination of real people blended into real history and not knowing what is true and what is fiction is part of the appeal. I had to Google so many things to see (without going to the back of the book) if I could find anything on some connections that I really wish was true.


Ms. Wood does tell you what is what after you read the book, but I am fond of history and mystery and so I went searching without realizing it was all within my two hands already. And, yet, this led me to so many interesting reads that expanded my knowledge of the Roebling and NY history. As a NY’er by birth, I find the map of the ever-changing Manhattan skyline intriguing, I loved reading about where certain buildings where and where they were rebuilt. For Instance Madison Square Garden so many sites, with so many different reasons for the venue.

 

4.5 stars

 

I give The Engineer’s Wife 4.5 stars for the romance, the character building, and just a purely great story. I was inspired, saddened, and all-around entertained by the largeness of some of the characters. Emily Warren Roebling is one woman who should be talked about more and I am glad that this book was released during the 100-year celebration of the 19th Amendment and A Women’s Right to Vote.

 

 

Book Review

Ghosters

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Ghosters by Diana Corbitt

Bedazzled Ink Publishing

May 1, 2017

 

 

About the Author

Diana Corbitt is a retired elementary school teacher living in northern California. Her work has appeared in Bewildering Stories and Encounters Magazine. She had a podcast on Manor House and one of her short stories was anthologized in Wax and Wane: A Gathering of Witch Tales.

Quick intro summary:

At the introduction of Ghosters we meet 12-year-old Theresa Martinez, her 9-year-old little brother Joey, and her father who have moved into her maternal grandparent’s empty one-hundred-year-old home in Fern Creek, CA after her mother dies. An old lady at the grocery store tells them that their house is haunted.  Theresa’s family laughs about it on their way home. I mean, there isn’t any such things as ghosts, right??? Her father,  writer’s blocked author, and her brother who has Autism get along much better than her father and she does or is she not dreaming that he is playing favorites? These are questions that need to be answered and she’s not sure how to go about solving them.

Theresa’s first day at her new school- Sierra Middle School she can’t find a spot to sit during lunch. She decides to go visit the school library. While there she decides to start looking into the ghost stories. There she meets an extremely tall girl, Kerry Addison who is actually in her literature class and is new to Fern Creek also. This might be the start of a beautiful friendship, or will it??

Little does Theresa know that the questions she has are not the right ones to be asking. Secrets come out, memories change, and people in the house will be challenged with their beliefs.

My feelings about Ghosters

Ghosters is a fun Middle-Grade read. Or, should I say, man, what a SCARY, fun Middle-Grade book! Do not, I repeat do not, read this when you are trying to go to bed. At one point in time, I seriously thought I could hear squeaking wheels rolling around on my living room floor. Read the book, you will get what I am talking about.

Ghosters is the type of paranormal story that is appropriate for all ages even though it is written for middle-grade readers.

This is the first book that I have read where a child with a disability–  Joey, is actually written without some lecture, some overly drawn-out explanation of his disability, or seems unreal- almost one dimensional. Joey is very real, Joey enriches Ghosters so much that I might have to say he might be my favorite character in the whole book! That is saying something as there are so many richly written characters in Ghosters.

While reading Ghosters there were so many times that it created a good goosebumping shiver. So much so that I would have to go outside and make sure I myself wasn’t wandering the “Ramos Mansion”.  Now mind you, I read Cujo by Stephen King as a 12-year-old kid, I love scary stories especially when they seem that they could really happen. Ghosters is not too scary for your middle grader, it’s just in my old age I absorb the scary more than I used to mainly because I am reading at home alone. Yeah, home alone reading is not always a good thing when you are reading a Paranormal Book unless that book is poorly written, which this book is not. It is fantastic!

If you like this book, there are two other Ghoster stories: Revenge of the Library Ghost & Secrets of the Bloody Tower which I look forward to picking up soon.

While visiting the Author’s website I was pleasantly surprised to find AR questions for the first two Ghoster stories.

I enjoy it when a retired teacher still uses educational practices when they interact with children. This is the first time I have seen where already provided questions are given without the book being a hit on the Times Best Seller List. Sometimes books have to have questions written and approved to get them to be considered for the AR program. Now, don’t get me wrong, I think this book should be a hit! I’m not sure why I hadn’t heard of it before Ms. Corbitt asked me if I would read it.

I know that if I was still working at our local library or TA’ing at our intermediate school I would be recommending this book to all those kids who LOVE scary stories. Especially, Espie, the little 9-year-old girl who always came in asking for scary stories that didn’t involve cheesy talking animals or Goosebump– type storylines. She told me once she hated the books that were “written down” by an author who thought a kid couldn’t like a super scary book that only a little bit of scare was too scary. Espie loved Dracula, Stephen King’s books and yet they weren’t age-appropriate for her according to her parents. This book without hesitation would be my next book to recommend for her to read!

4.5 stars
rated for paranormal activity, writing style, and just pure fun.

Thank you, Diana Corbitt, for allowing me to read Ghosters in lieu of my honest review!

 

 

Book Review

And They Called It Camelot

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And They Called It Camelot was like reading Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis’ own diary.

Ms. Thornton creates a view of one woman who fell in love with an extremely rich, handsome and charismatic man. Like many men of his era, he was a philanderer when it came to women. This could’ve broken the average woman. The thing is that Jackie was not the average woman. She was stronger than evenJohn F. Kennedy who everyone saw as the “golden one”.

Her second husband, Aristotle Onassis was the complete opposite of John F. Kennedy. He was universally despised, harsh, crude and didn’t care what others thought of him. He too taught Jackie a few really great lessons: Don’t marry someone you don’t love; If you don’t need a man, don’t marry one just for his money when you have lost your best friend and brother-in-law whom you love, and last but not least: when it is time to run away from an abusive husband run before you can’t take it anymore- especially if that man’s children hate you!

I don’t care if you thought she was weak because she “stood by her man” or if she sold herself out for fame, Jacqueline Kennedy was no sell-out, didn’t like the fame and loved her husband just like so many other women of her day. She withstood the loss of two children, clung to the children she was blest to raise. She was grace, strength, and smarts.

Although there are a plethora of books out there about Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis And They Called It Camelot is a great book to read because we get a side of Jackie and Jack’s romance that we wouldn’t get in a Non-Fiction book. I even learned a few things even though I had read Mrs. Kennedy And Me by her Secret Service Agent, Clint Hill. 

The writing was easy, lyrical and showed a side of a woman, that like the novel says, no one knew when the real Jackie showed up, or if she was there the whole time.

I loved reading And They Called It Camelot.

Thank you Berkely Press, Edelweiss and Stephanie Marie Thornton for the opportunity to read this book in honor of my honest review

Book Review

Writers and Lovers

Writers & Lovers
Lily King
Grove Atlantic
Release: March 3, 2020
Literary Fiction

 

About The Author

Lily King grew up in Massachusetts and received her B.A. in English Literature from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and her M.A. in Creative Writing from Syracuse University. After grad school she took a job as a high school English teacher in Valencia, Spain and began writing her first novel. Eight years, ten more moves all over the US,  and many bookstore, restaurant and teaching jobs later, that novel was published as The Pleasing Hour in 1999.  

Lily’s first short story was published in Glimmer Train in 1991. Other stories, essays, and reviews have since appeared in a variety of publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, Vogue, The Los Angeles Review of Books, One Story, The Harvard Review, Ploughshares, and several anthologies. Her novels have been published in 20 languages and translated into 19 languages. In 1995 she met a guy named Tyler at her friend Bernardine’s house in Belmont, Mass. They married in 1998. They have two daughters and two dogs and live in Portland, Maine. 

 

Publisher’s Description

“Following the breakout success of her critically acclaimed and award-winning novel Euphoria, Lily King returns with an unforgettable portrait of an artist as a young woman.

Blindsided by her mother’s sudden death, and wrecked by a recent love affair, Casey Peabody has arrived in Massachusetts in the summer of 1997 without a plan. Her mail consists of wedding invitations and final notices from debt collectors. A former child golf prodigy, she now waits tables in Harvard Square and rents a tiny, moldy room at the side of a garage where she works on the novel she’s been writing for six years. At thirty-one, Casey is still clutching onto something nearly all her old friends have let go of: the determination to live a creative life. When she falls for two very different men at the same time, her world fractures even more. Casey’s fight to fulfill her creative ambitions and balance the conflicting demands of art and life is challenged in ways that push her to the brink.

Writers & Lovers follows Casey—a smart and achingly vulnerable protagonist—in the last days of a long youth, a time when every element of her life comes to a crisis. Written with King’s trademark humor, heart, and intelligence, Writers & Lovers is a transfixing novel that explores the terrifying and exhilarating leap between the end of one phase of life and the beginning of another.”

 

I’VE BEEN WORKING ON THIS BOOK FOR SIX YEARS, ‘ I SAY QUIETLY.
‘HUH,’ SHE SAYS, PUNCHING IN NUMBERS.
HER INDIFFERENCE FEELS LIKE A TERRIBLE OMEN. I DON’T KNOW HOW TO GET HER ON MY SIDE. ‘IT TAKES PLACE IN CUBA.’
‘HUH.’
SHE DROPS THEM IN THREE UNCEREMONIOUS BATCHES INTO WHAT LOOKS LIKE A BIG LAUNDRY BIN BEHIND HER.
I PAY IN CASH, MOSTLY ONES: $96.44. ‘THANK YOU VERY MUCH.’
SHE HANDS ME THE LONG RECEIPT HER MACHINE HAS SPAT OUT. ‘LET’S HOPE YOUR NEXT SIX YEARS ARE A LITTLE MORE EXCITING, SWEETIE PIE.”

Writers & Lovers, Casey Peabody

 

My Thoughts on Writers & Lovers

Writers & Lovers, what a literary wonderland filled with love, heartbreak, people trying to stay afloat monetarily while trying to bleed out the story that swirls around in their mind and soul. Author, Lily King’s main character, Casey Peabody is trying to deal with the death of her mother while still living the life of a woman who just can’t figure out her way living in Boston. A place I have always wanted to visit, but haven’t and this book has made it even more of a dream of mine to go there just to see the places Casey talks about.

Casey has friends who are moving on with their lives, they are getting married, starting families and dropping their dream of writing “the great American novel”. This book, unlike, Such A Fun Age by Kiley Reid does a phenomenal job touching upon differing generational gaps, wage disparity, and moving from your 20’s to your 30’s without really grasping what it means to be an adult. Writers & Lovers shows the reality of these very situations without feeling immature or the characters being wishy-washy. Casey could be your best friend, she has dreams, she is dealing with deep depression and her friends try to help her with her hard situation. Who doesn’t relate to Casey’s plight?

Casey meets two men, one a decade older than her, one her age, who will she choose? Will she finish her great American novel and will she finally find the peace she desires when it comes to mourning her mother’s death?

Read Writers & Lovers. I promise you won’t be disappointed. I love Lily King’s writing style, the book moved well, it continued smoothly along to the very end and I was bummed when it ended. I was rooting for Casey through the story and wanted to reach through the book and hug her so many times.

Thank you, NetGalley, Lily King and Grove Atlantic for the opportunity to read Writers & Lovers in lieu of my honest review.

Book Review

Don’t Check Out This Book

Don’t Check Out This Book
Kate Klise
Illustrated by M. Sarah Klise
March 10, 2020
Algonquin Young Readers

Appleton Elementary has a need Librarian.

In the small town of Appleton, Illinois changes aren’t taken to very well. When Rita B. Danjerous provides her own books to the “broom closet” library and adds a special collection of “green dot” books the parents and adults of the school think that it’s a bad idea. what are these books– are they perverted, banned, full of swear words, why are they segregated from the other books? Instead of doing what I would do– ask Mrs. Danjerous what’s up with the “green dot” collection, the adults especially the new School Board President, Ivana Beprawpa, decided to make the librarian’s life miserable.

Mrs. Danjerous has a daughter May B Danjerous who will become the 20th student at Appleton Elementary. As her name might make one think, she is not dangerous unless you are the one who decides to initiate a dress code and that said clothes only come from your store.

The adventure becomes wacky when a ton of sleuthing, money following and plotting starts to roll as fast as can be throughout the story.

The puns in this book are hilarious. The names in this book said quickly are punnier than the rest of the puns in this book.

I definitely think that you should check out this book!!!!

Kate Klise and M. Sarah Klise have collaborated on numerous award-winning middle-grade and picture-book projects, including the Regarding the Fountain and 43 Old Cemetery Road series. Kate lives in Norwood, Missouri. She visits more than seventy school classrooms a year. Sarah Klise lives in Berkeley, California. Visit www.kateandsarahklise.com for more information. (By the way, Klise rhymes with mice.)Illustrator M. Sarah Klise and author Kate Klise and are sisters and collaborators. They started making books together many years ago in their bedroom in Peoria, Illinois. Kate wrote the words; Sarah drew the pictures. Their first book was about an adventure-loving little mouse that traveled around the country. That story was never published. (In fact, it ended up in the garbage can!) But the Klise sisters had so much fun making their first book, they kept writing and drawing. And now they’ve published more than twenty award-winning books for young readers, including Regarding the Fountain and Dying to Meet You. The Klise sisters no longer share a bedroom. Kate lives in Missouri and travels often to visit schools and libraries. Sarah lives in California. But the two sisters still enjoy working together, especially on their new series about a pair of circus mice. (By the way, Klise rhymes with mice.)

Thank you to the Algonquin Young Readers, Kate Klise & #edelweissplus for the opportunity to read this book in lieu of my honest review.

Book Review

Taylor Before and After

Taylor Before and After
Jennie Englund
Imprint
Publication Date: February 18, 2020
Middle Grade Fiction

Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” ~ Ferris Bueller

Taylor and her family have moved to Hawaii. Struggling to make friends, besides her best friend, Li Lu, she watches her brother, Eli make friends instantaneously. Eli and his friends, like so many in Hawaii, are addicted to the waves. Riding a board makes his life complete. Watching his group of friends makes Taylor in an odd way complete. But life is not complete at all, what happens in the front of others is not what is happening behind the scenes in her home. Eli struggles with the authority of his father, goes places that he shouldn’t, breaks curfew all the time. Taylor worries about constantly about everything happening in her family. Finally, Taylor becomes friends with the most popular in girl in school sadly at the expense of Li Lu.

Taylor Before and After goes beyond the trying to fit in and the loner girl becomes part of the populars type coming of age story. This book discusses through prompt questions from her Language Arts teacher the trauma of substance abuse, death, mental illness and trying to navigate through all of it as a teenager who feels like she is responsible for all that is happening in her community and neighborhood.

Man, I love a good Epsilatory story. I love a story that isn’t afraid to touch onto sensitive topics and places it into the world of a Middle Grader. Taylor Before and After doesn’t have chapter titles it has seasons as the chapter headings most of the book is like the moods of Taylor’s life — Winter and Fall. The end of the book is full of Spring but no summer. The book spends those seasons giving us the building up the story and dealing with trauma all though it takes a while to find out what that trauma is; it then finally comes to the full realization of Taylor’s change in view ending in Spring as hope can bloom like an orange Hibiscus.

Taylor went through so much in her family and her strength and honesty through her LA notebook is a great tool to deal with feelings.

Coming of age is hard. Dealing with all that change can suck you into living life with blinders on where whatever tragedy or trial you are living with seems as if the tragedy will never end. Taylor lives like this. However, Taylor Before and After is a book that can help a 8-12 year old deal with emotions that they could be facing after a death of a loved one, or in the middle of the reality of life dealing with a parent who suffers from mental health issues and that there is hope even if it is just a glimmer of an old friend’s reconnection or learning that you are stronger than you thought you were. Although, Taylor Before and After can be a great coping book, it is also a great book just to read for the fun of it. I find that the coming of age books make for a great empathy building experience.

This is a heart wrenching juvenile book that we need more of to help speak with our children about mental illness, substance abuse, and bullying.

Jennie Englund does a wonderful job of being sensitive handing these tough subjects for younger readers and still creating a good read.

Taylor Before and After should be at the top of the list for required reading in 6th and/or 7th grade.

I appreciated the chance to read this book and review it. Thank you Edelweiss Plus, Imprint (Macmillan) for the opportunity to read this book in lieu of my honest review.

Book Review

The Yellow Bird Sings by Jennifer Rosner –blog tour

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The Yellow Bird Sings
by Jennifer Rosner
Flat iron Books
March 3, 2020
Historical fiction

Publisher’s Summary

Poland, 1941. When the soldiers come to round up the Jewish men for labor duty, only half of them return. Róża knows that she must take her daughter Shira—already full of joy and music—away. The two find shelter in the hay loft of a farmer’s barn, where Shira struggles to stay still and quiet. Notes and melodies pulse inside the young girl, and it’s hard for her to resist the temptation to tap them out with her fingers and her feet. To pass the time, Róża tells Shira a story. There is a little girl who, with the help of her yellow bird, tends an enchanted garden… 

With this game of make believe, Róża soothes Shira and shields her from the horrors around them. But then the day comes when their haven is no longer safe and Róża must face an impossible choice: whether to keep Shira by her side, or give her the chance to survive apart. 

Inspired by the true stories of children hidden during World War II, THE YELLOW BIRD SINGS is a novel about the unbreakable bond between a mother and a daughter, the power of storytelling, and the triumph of hope in even the darkest of times.

Wow! This is my favorite book of the year!

Ms. Rosner’s writing is beautifully lyrical and soul clutching. So many varying emotions. This book left me speechless at the end. It’s still swirling inside of me.

My father was a violin child prodigy, his family — Jewish and German. The tone in the story of the longing and heartbreak between Roźå, and Shira; the terror of what they went through, and the joy of the music was like returning to stories my Oma would tell us kids of her childhood. Her brother though thought to have died at Auschwitz-Birkenau was liberated and never reconnected with his family.

This book resonated deeply with me not only because of these family experiences but also it was just so well written.

An example of the lyricalness of this book:

Along their journey here, on the far outskirts of villages, Róża could permit Shira’s humming and tapping. Her tunes—startlingly complex and layered, notes merging and colliding—reminded Róża of the symphonies her father had listened to as he worked. “What music is that?” Róża had asked Shira. “Hmm?”“What you’re humming—” “Oh. Just what I hear in my head.” How Róża wishes Shira could continue, recognizing her talent and knowing what solace it brings her—but not now. “It’s lovely, but you must keep it inside you.”

We should never, ever forget what happened to so many different people during WWII. This book, and books like it, should be a lesson to all of us to never let this happen again! Some survivor’s lives were affected for the rest of their life. Some decided it’s not worth living, and others did the best they could to take what happened and make the rest of their lives worth something more than the experiences that they went through just like Shira and Róża do by making the world better through their talents. 

I can’t say enough about this book, and yet, I am still affected so much by it that I feel as if I don’t have the words to do this book justice. I suggest that you go out, buy this book at your local Independent bookstore, and experience this book they way I did — through the silence, the stiffness, the fear, the beauty, the friendships, the bullying, the sadness, the joy of the music, and a little yellow bird that metaphorically will stir and sing inside your soul for the rest of your life. 

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rosner, jennifer_credit elizabeth solaka

 Jennifer Rosner is the author the memoir If A Tree Falls: A Family’s Quest to Hear and Be Heard. Her children’s book, The Mitten String, is a Sydney Taylor Book Award Notable. Jennifer’s writing has appeared in the New York Times, The Massachusetts Review, The ForwardGood Housekeeping, and elsewhere. She lives in western Massachusetts with her family.

Thank you, thank you, Jennifer Rosner, Flatiron Books & Netgalley for allowing me to read and review The Yellow Bird Sings in lieu of my honest review!

Book Review

The Light After The War Anita Abriel

The Light After The War
Anita Abriel
Atria Books
February 4, 2020




The Light After The War is a lesson in life:
how to continue through tragedy, heartache, guilt and sometimes continuing mean that you have to do it over and over again.

Publisher’s summary:

Inspired by an incredible true story of two Jewish friends who survived the Holocaust, this sweeping novel of love and friendship spans World War II from Budapest to Austria and the postwar years from Naples to Caracas, perfect for fans of The German Girl and We Were the Lucky Ones.

It is 1946 when Vera Frankel and her best friend Edith Ban arrive in Naples. Refugees from Hungary, they managed to escape from a train headed for Auschwitz and spent the rest of the war hiding on an Austrian farm. Now, the two young women must start new lives abroad. Armed with a letter of recommendation from an American officer, Vera finds work at the United States embassy where she falls in love with Captain Anton Wight.

But as Vera and Edith grapple with the aftermath of the war, so too does Anton, and when he suddenly disappears, Vera is forced to change course. Their quest for a better life takes Vera and Edith from Naples to Ellis Island to Caracas as they start careers, reunite with old friends, and rebuild their lives after terrible loss.

Moving, evocative, and compelling, this timely tale of true friendship, love, and survival will stay with you long after you turn the final page.

Although this book is told through narrative that tells instead of shows the lessons that are learned are poignant.

Vera’s mother-in-law, Alessandra Albee, a strong, independent women who lectures at the local University, but knows that Venezuelan men expect certain behaviors from their wives, teaches Vera a very important lesson when she first meets Vera.

Do you know what the most important human trait is? It is not Piety, as our Catholic priests would wish; it’s not honesty or even loyalty. It is empathy. If we don’t have empathy for others, we are finished. How can we learn empathy without studying history and geography and Literature?”

Empathy is not a normal virtue in most people’s lives. Usually, it is either something you are born with, or something you can learn if you are willing to let life show you the beauty of each human being. Not everyone will ever learn to be empathetic. Most live selfish lives only thoughts of what life can give them. This might be because they aren’t being stretched through hardship and struggle as people did during WWII. Life is much easier when there is prosperity.

Vera lives an empathetic life. She observes everything around her, she sees that life can have meaning and that you can add meaning to other’s lives too. Most of The Light After The War comes from her interactions with others she encounters in the four years that she is wandering with Edith trying to find a life that gives meaning to the both of them.

Vera meets Rabbi Gorem after she learns her parents are alive and they arrive in Venezuela. He plays chess with her father, Lawrence, and provides Vera with a spirituality that Vera hasn’t had while trying to find meaning in her life after being pushed off the train to Auschwitz. I personally believe that combined with Alessandra’s lesson on empathy and this lesson from Rabbi Gorem, there is hope that the world will never repeat the atrocities that happened during WWII if we keep teaching what happened to all generations after ours.

In Judaism we take the study of the soul very seriously. God could not create the soul in everyone equally. Some people are born with Souls that reach for the light like buds in spring. For others it’s more difficult to seek true meaning, their thoughts get in the way.
But God makes sure no one’s life is for nothing. Every Jew who died in the camps left behind something: a piece of music or a poem or a new idea.”

Anton, Vera’s first love (and boss,) Anton while on a trip to Capri teaches her about the light that can be found even during darkness.

During the Roman Empire, Tiberius built twelve villas in Anacapri… He ruled the most important empire on earth from this spot. After the Roman Empire fell, civilization went dark. For centuries the world revolved around war and disease and death. But now we have the Sistine Chapel and the Louvre. We have Shakespeare and Dante and Proust. Symphonies perform Mozart and Beethoven, and museums display Rembrandt and Monet. Europe will recover from Hitler’s atrocities, and a new crop of artists and philosophers will emerge. No one man can wipe out truth and beauty. Human beings were born to create great things, and they will do so again.”

I truly believe that “not one man can wipe out truth and beauty”. That is paramount to remember, especially during times where people believe that a dictator or a president can destroy the fabric of their lives. Hitler’s ideas and values devastated and killed millions of innocent lives. Survivor’s had guilt, they mourned, they pushed on to live how they could. Some decided they could push on even in the concentration camps because the Germans couldn’t take their thoughts and their prayers away even if they took everything else.

Like the sun coming through the clouds even after a devastating storm there is brightness and light if only we look for it and add to it.

Thank you Netgalley, Atria Books and Anita Abriel for the opportunity to read The Light After The War in lieu of my honest review.

Book Review

Things in Jars

Things in Jars
Jess Kidd
Atria Books
US release: February 4, 2020

What happens when you mix Victorian London with a female super sleuth and more hidden secrets than you care to unearth? You end up with Things in Jars by Jess Kidd! This is not your father’s Sherlock Holmes.

Londonite Author Jess Kidd’s 3rd book Things in Jars is a dark mystery filled with unique characters and a touch of humor that makes this book a perfect book to read on those days that you need something entertaining and macrabic.

Rag Rat-turned—medically smart sleuth Bridget (Bridie) Devine wanders the streets of London trying to solve her first case after failing to solve her last case where a young kidnapped boy died before she could save him. Christabel Berwick has been kidnapped and it’s Bridie’s job to find her. Rumored to have special talents and/or traits six year old Christabel Bridie fears is in danger.

Accompanied by a unusual suitor – the ghost of famous London boxer Ruby Doyle, Bridie encounters many bewildering happenings while searching for Christabel. Things in Jars is told from the modern search of Christabel and the backstory of Bridie’s childhood. I really liked this format. Ms. Kidd weaves the two time periods in a way that flows like the Thames — dark, dirty and wild through the whole breadth of the book.

Things in Jars is filled with Irish Tales, murder and strange, surreal things in jars. The book is one that you can’t help but keep racing through its pages to find out what happens next.

You go on to steal this child, under the nose of a bleeding lord—” “A baronet.” Bill narrows his tiny eyes. “And transport the poor wretch about the country in a coffin.” “A casket, for her own good.” “You truly are a nasty old bitch,” Bill replies. He picks up a knife from the table. “Release her. Return her to her friends,” he orders, heroically.”

Character’s such as Bill’s wife are what nightmares are made of. The macabre theme of this book is weirdly a delight. I know that sounds ironic but it is true. I found this book written in such a way that it was just a joy to read. I am not sure you have ever read anything that you could have nightmares over and yet still enjoy the book. Things in Jars is just that kind of book

The let down in this book for me was the quick story of Ruby Doyle at the end. It felt like an afterthought. It was like Ms. Kidd got through the story and went, “oh, I forgot that Bridie is supposed to figure out where she knows Ruby Doyle from.” The companionship of Ruby is one that you feel you need the answer to in his relationship with Bridie. I have to be honest, he brought the real emotion to this book, so getting his origin at the end just felt disrespectful to his character. It just left me feeling empty.

4 1/2 stars for a great story.
Minus a half star for rushing Ruby Doyle’s origin story.

Thank you Netgalley, Atria Books, and Author Jess Kidd for the opportunity to read Things in Jars in lieu of my honest review.