The Unquenchable Faith that Saved Thousands of Children: Irena’s Children

The Unquenchable Faith that Saved Thousands of Children: Irena’s ChildrenIrena's Children: The Extraordinary Story of the Woman Who Saved 2,500 Children from the Warsaw Ghetto by Tilar J. Mazzeo
on September 26, 2017
Genres: Adult, Nonfiction
Pages: 317
Goodreads

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Widow Clicquot comes an extraordinary and gripping account of Irena Sendler—the “female Oskar Schindler”—who took staggering risks to save 2,500 children from death and deportation in Nazi-occupied Poland during World War II. In 1942, one young social worker, Irena Sendler, was granted access to the Warsaw ghetto as a public health specialist. While there, she reached out to the trapped Jewish families, going from door to door and asking the parents to trust her with their young children. She started smuggling them out of the walled district, convincing her friends and neighbors to hide them. Driven to extreme measures and with the help of a network of local tradesmen, ghetto residents, and her star-crossed lover in the Jewish resistance, Irena ultimately smuggled thousands of children past the Nazis. She made dangerous trips through the city’s sewers, hid children in coffins, snuck them under overcoats at checkpoints, and slipped them through secret passages in abandoned buildings. But Irena did something even more astonishing at immense personal risk: she kept secret lists buried in bottles under an old apple tree in a friend’s back garden. On them were the names and true identities of those Jewish children, recorded with the hope that their relatives could find them after the war. She could not have known that more than ninety percent of their families would perish. In Irena’s Children, Tilar Mazzeo tells the incredible story of this courageous and brave woman who risked her life to save innocent children from the Holocaust—a truly heroic tale of survival, resilience, and redemption.

“Heroes,” she said, “do extraordinary things. What I did was not an extraordinary thing. It was normal.” (262-263)

I arrived in Orlando at ALA Annual last year, with a nonfiction book on my list to pick up, Irena’s Children. I secured an ARC, and recently finished the book during a flight from Boston to Atlanta for ALA Midwinter. I can tell you that this book is fantastic!

The story of Irena and her group of courageous individuals working to save the lives of children during an incredibly dark time in world history was intense, inspiring, beautiful, heartrending, and miraculous!

I don’t often post reviews of nonfiction titles, but this is one book I would recommend that EVERYONE read. Sometimes the truth is as wondrous and as strange as fiction. In the case of Tilar J. Mazzeo’s text, that notion is incredibly true.

The book is set up in chronological order, and charts Irena’s journey as a young woman first becoming concerned with the plight of Jewish children in Nazi-occupied Poland, and eventually moving to become a major player in the Polish resistance. Many different characters are introduced as they relate to the vast and courageous network of individuals who worked with Irena to smuggle children out of the Warsaw ghetto. This collaboration had Irena at its head, but around twenty to twenty-five other individuals played important roles. Mazzeo points out as well, that the actual number of people who took part to help save these children are actually “dozens upon dozens.”

The pacing of the story is perfect–including details and scenes of what took place as Irena and her network worked through truly terrifying and high pressure situations in order to thwart the Nazis and rescue Jewish children out of the Warsaw Ghetto. Mazzeo provides plenty of relevant and interesting information about Irena, born in 1910, and continues to strengthen the narrative by also describing the people with whom Irena connected earlier in her life, that would later play a role in her work to save children.

Can you imagine facing the pressure of separating hundreds of children from their parents, and somehow keeping a secret record of where those children were hidden and their real names so that they could be later connected with their parents after the war?!? I can only begin to imagine what a monumental and perhaps stressful task this must have been. Sadly, the vast majority of parents ended up perishing by the end of the war. The book does refer to the emotional pain that Irena experienced at forcing, out of necessity, a child to leave his/her mother and father. How could you explain to a two year old that he/she has no choice but to leave a beloved parent? It’s almost unthinkable.

Irena is basically considered the female “Oskar Schindler” but, as this book attests, her identity as a resilient and brave woman who achieved the extraordinary can stand on its own. Irena isn’t the only “hero” in this book, however. Mazzeo portrays many other figures who assisted Irena in her courageous attempt to save children from a terrible fate.

FINAL THOUGHTS

This book was both gripping and difficult to read. It depicted a timeline of events I sometimes didn’t want to think about, and yet, it was a timeline of events I had an obligation to read about. And to encourage others to read about. What Irena and her network accomplished should be honored and remembered. The children who perished during the Holocaust should be remembered. The children who endured the most difficult of circumstances during this period in history should be remembered. For all these reasons and more, read Irena’s Children.

For here is an important book. A necessary book. A book you must read, even if it is the only book you read all year.

What Katie Read

Falling in Love with Books: The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton

Falling in Love with Books: The Secret Keeper by Kate MortonThe Secret Keeper by Kate Morton
Published by Pan on January 1st 1970
Genres: Adult, Historical
Pages: 602
Goodreads

During a summer party at the family farm in the English countryside, sixteen-year-old Laurel Nicolson has escaped to her childhood tree house and is happily dreaming of the future. She spies a stranger coming up the long road to the farm and watches as her mother speaks to him. Before the afternoon is over, Laurel will witness a shocking crime. A crime that challenges everything she knows about her family and especially her mother, Dorothy—her vivacious, loving, nearly perfect mother.
Now, fifty years later, Laurel is a successful and well-regarded actress living in London. The family is gathering at Greenacres farm for Dorothy’s ninetieth birthday. Realizing that this may be her last chance, Laurel searches for answers to the questions that still haunt her from that long-ago day, answers that can only be found in Dorothy’s past.
Dorothy’s story takes the reader from pre–WWII England through the blitz, to the ’60s and beyond. It is the secret history of three strangers from vastly different worlds—Dorothy, Vivien, and Jimmy—who meet by chance in wartime London and whose lives are forever entwined. The Secret Keeper explores longings and dreams and the unexpected consequences they sometimes bring. It is an unforgettable story of lovers and friends, deception and passion that is told—in Morton’s signature style—against a backdrop of events that changed the world.

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Welcome to Callie from Of Life and Literature, who is joining us for Falling in Love with Books today. She has a very special choice for her book today–ENJOY!

Let me start by asking you a question.

When someone says the words historical fiction to you, what do you imagine?

Give it some thought.

The historical fiction genre, for me, conjures up a plethora of images in my head.

From sword wielding soldiers, medieval castles, tales of war to an insight into the domestic times of days gone by. Historical fiction encompasses so many different types of stories that it can be difficult to pick a book out of the swathes on offer, feeling confident that it will be the read you are searching for.

Step into any bookshop and you could spend hours searching the shelves, baffled by the options before you.

Three years ago I was in that very situation.

Having spent a good few months ploughing my way through the ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ series by George. R. R. Martin I was more than ready for a break from the bleak world the Stark’s and the Lannister’s. I needed something that would offer me a different kind of escape to that of the fantasy realms of King’s Landing, Winterfell and the danger of the Wall.

So I visited my local Waterstones and spent a few hours wandering its many floors. One book caught my eye and I kept going back to it. It had a dazzling green front cover, the promise of escape entwined within its depiction of a young lady hiding herself from view in a picturesque garden and the title ‘The Secret Keeper’ gave the novel an air of mystery that I just couldn’t resist. The author was Kate Morton; a writer I was familiar with. I had enjoyed her book ‘The Forgotten Garden’ so I was sure that ‘The Secret Keeper’ was going to be a good choice.

I took it home and I read the book in three days. I adored it. I thrust it into my Mum’s hands straight away and recommended it to every person I could.

‘The Secret Keeper’ follows the journey of Laurel Nicolson as she tries to unravel her elderly mothers past. It is sparked by a catalyst in Laurel’s young life, an event that she had managed to hide away in her mind until she realises that, with her mother’s health deteriorating, she may never get the answers she needs. What follows is a mesmerizing journey through the life of Dorothy Nicolson, with so many twists and turns that I can promise you just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, you won’t have.

Kate Morton is an exceptionally talented writer. She has a knack of drawing you in and making you fall completely in love with her characters. Her books are typically set in different eras, with each section flitting back and forth in time. She brings each time period to life in such a beautiful and nostalgic way that you cannot help but feel a connection.

And that is why ‘The Secret Keeper’ is the perfect book to make any reader fall in love with historical fiction. It strikes the perfect balance between historical, mystery, romance and family saga. It encompasses all of these different genres with the historical aspect lying at its heart.

This book is for anyone who wants to escape to a different time but doesn’t want the heavy, fact laden tombs that are normally attributed to the genre. Morton paints the 30s and 40s in ‘The Secret Keeper’ in a way that belies the in-depth research she puts in to every single one of her books. Whilst you are reading it, it almost feels as if you are staring through a window, watching the events unfold. The past doesn’t feel as though it is held at arms-length as it can with some historical novels. You feel as though you are surrounded by history, transported to the time period, with the characters as real to you as the people you know in real life.

What’s even better is that Morton’s novels are full of twists and turns. The jaunts back to the past inform what is happening in the present. She showcases just how important the past can be whether it is on a large or more personal scale. You cannot help but keep turning the pages, urging the story on as there are twists and turns in every section. Morton keeps you hooked until the very end.

‘The Secret Keeper’ by Kate Morton is a perfect representative for the historical fiction genre.

Once you pick it up you won’t be able to put it down.

Thank you, Callie! As many of you know, I adore Kate Morton and all her books, and I was very excited when I discovered that Callie chose to highlight THE SECRET KEEPER for her guest post! What a wonderful glimpse into the delight of THE SECRET KEEPER. If you enjoy historical fiction and you haven’t encountered Kate Morton’s books, you simply must sit down with one of her stories ASAP!

What Katie Read

Falling in Love with Books: The Sherwood Ring

Falling in Love with Books: The Sherwood RingThe Sherwood Ring by Elizabeth Marie Pope, Evaline Ness
Published by Houghton Mifflin on January 1st 1970
Genres: Adult, Historical, Mystery
Pages: 272
Goodreads

Newly orphaned Peggy Grahame is caught off-guard when she first arrives at her family's ancestral estate. Her eccentric uncle Enos drives away her only new acquaintance, Pat, a handsome British scholar, then leaves Peggy to fend for herself. But she is not alone. The house is full of mysteries and ghosts. Soon Peggy becomes involved with the spirits of her own Colonial ancestors and witnesses the unfolding of a centuries-old romance against a backdrop of spies and intrigue and of battles plotted and foiled.

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Welcome to Lory, one of my favorite bloggers, who blogs at The Emerald City Book Review! You may remember that she participated in Falling in Love with Books last year, and I’m so happy she’s back with another book she loves and wants us all to fall in love with as well! Enjoy!

Are you allergic to historical fiction?

Maybe the mere mention of the American Revolution brings on yawns induced by your school days, and you can’t see how any book that includes George Washington as a character could possibly be interesting. Or perhaps you just prefer romance, or fantasy, or mystery, and find enough to satisfy you in those genres without having to dig into the dusty past.

Well, in that case I hope you’ll consider trying a romance/fantasy/mystery that also happens to be partly set during the American Revolution, because if you do I’m quite sure you’ll find it a charming and delightful experience that might even change your mind about George Washington. The Sherwood Ring opens with a young woman of the present day (more or less – the book was first published in 1958) coming to an old house in upstate New York after the death of her father has left her an orphan. While her eccentric uncle tries to defend the estate against the scholarly advances of an attractive neighboring Englishman, Peggy tries to unravel the mysteries of some of her ghostly ancestors, who relieve her loneliness by sharing their stories.

There are no supernatural horrors here, as all the ghosts are benign, but there is suspense and human drama and, yes, a certain amount of history.

Although really it just serves as an atmospheric backdrop for some marvelous characters, most notably a romantic couple that will steal your heart: the dashing British rogue who’s causing trouble for the American rebels, and the clever young lady who is more than a match for him. There are two other couples to be paired up in the course of the novel, but this is the one that makes it memorable.

So please, do try The Sherwood Ring, and see how much fun historical fiction can be. And I hope you’ll move on to Pope’s other book, The Perilous Gard, a Tudor-era historical novel which is even better. You might even find you’ve fallen in love with a new genre, and that would be a wonderful thing.

I don’t know about your, but I had never heard of The Sherwood Ring before Lory mentioned it. I’m definitely going to check this title out as I am an avid reader of historical fiction. Thank you, Lory, for sharing this book with us, and I sincerely hope we have some readers who begin to fall in love with historical fiction after encountering The Sherwood Ring!

What Katie Read

Falling in Love with Books: Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake

Genres: Adult, Historical

Welcome to Day 2 of Falling in Love with Books 2016! I am so pleased to host Isalys on the blog who is an expert on all things Historical Romance related. At least that’s what I think…So enjoy today’s romantic post from her today!

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Title: Nine Rules to Break When Romancing A Rake
Author: Sarah MacLean
Genre: Adult Historical Romance
Release Date: Published March 30th 2010 by Avon
ISBN: 0061852058
(ISBN13: 9780061852053)

A lady does not smoke cheroot. She does not ride astride. She does not fence or attend duels. She does not fire a pistol, and she never gambles at a gentlemen’s club.

Lady Calpurnia Hartwell has always followed the rules, rules that have left her unmarried—and more than a little unsatisfied. And so she’s vowed to break the rules and live the life of pleasure she’s been missing. But to dance every dance, to steal a midnight kiss—to do those things, Callie will need a willing partner. Someone who knows everything about rule-breaking. Someone like Gabriel St. John, the Marquess of Ralston—charming and devastatingly handsome, his wicked reputation matched only by his sinful smile. If she’s not careful, she’ll break the most important rule of all—the one that says that pleasure-seekers should never fall hopelessly, desperately in love.

Historical romance is my comfort food!  I get so excited every time someone asks me for a recommendation or better yet, tells me they’re new to the genre.  If you do ask me for a recommendation, my first choice will always be Nine Rules to Break When Romancing A Rake by Sarah MacLean. In all the books I’ve read, it’s still one of my absolute favorites!  I also think it’s the ideal book to start with if you are new to historical romance.

Calpurnia – aka Callie – is not your typical heroine.  She’s not a perfect specimen of femininity, in physical appearance or temperament. Do not doubt that she is a proper lady, but even proper ladies need to have fun, right? In her quest for fun, she makes a list of nine unacceptable things she’d like to do; things ladies do not do.  After all, if she’s going to be a spinster, she may as well get her kicks while she can.  In pursuit of these nine things, Gabriel St. John, the Marquess of Ralston gets sucked in and hilarity & romance ensues. 

Gah, I loved these two!  Callie was committed to completing her list and Gabriel, honorable rake that he is committed himself to keeping her out of trouble! Together they were fun and sexy and romantic and everything I look for in a romantic couple.  I loved that she had real insecurities but didn’t let them slow her down and I loved that he was able to see past those insecurities to the strong, playful, sexy and beautiful woman that she was.

“I’m not a wife, or a mother, or a pillar of the ton,” she waved her
unharmed arm as though the life she was describing was just beyond the
room. “I’m invisible. So, why not stop being such a craven wallflower
and start trying all the things that I’ve always dreamed of doing? Why
not go to taverns and drink scotch and fence? I confess, those things
have been much more interesting than all the loathsome teas and balls
and needlepoint with which I have traditionally occupied my time.” She
met his gaze again. “Does this make sense?”
He nodded seriously. “It does. You’re trying to find Callie

I loved that he understood her and ultimately, isn’t that what we all want from a great romance, to be loved & understood?

Now we are quite a few years into the future from the time this story is set in so the things that are off limits and therefore considered rebellious for Callie to do are probably every day occurrences to us. However, wouldn’t we all love to go on a few adventures and try different things.  If we could make our own list of nine things, what would our lists include?

Below is mine and as a fun little twist, I created it based on some of the adventures a few of my other favorite heroines have been on. (Below each item, I included the title and GR link the the book I referenced to you can add it to your historical romance TBR).

 
 

 

I love that you can find such empowered heroines in this genre, especially when set in times of such class and gender-based adversity. As my awesome friend Ang at @Ang_Writes puts it “strong females facing social challenges during interesting parts of history. What’s not to love?”

So if YOU are new to the genre, or maybe you’re not but just haven’t gotten around to reading Nine Rules to Break When Romancing A Rake, I really hope that you do!  And if you do, I hope you love Callie & Gabriel as much as I do.  Tweet me @IsaBookSoulmate if you wanna tell me all about it.

But before you go, what’s on YOUR list???

What a delightful post from Isalys! I love the suggestions she makes at the end of her post and all the books you can add to your Goodreads. So fun! Feel free to tweet Isalys or leave a comment here, and let her know if you have read or plan to read any of these books. See you tomorrow for the next post in Falling in Love with Books!

What Katie Read

Falling in Love with Books: After I Do

Falling in Love with Books: After I DoAfter I Do by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Published by Washington Square Press on July 1st 2014
Genres: Adult, Realistic
Pages: 352
Goodreads

From the author of Forever, Interrupted—hailed by Sarah Jio as "moving, gorgeous, and at times heart-wrenching"—comes a breathtaking new novel about modern marriage, the depth of family ties, and the year that one remarkable heroine spends exploring both.
When Lauren and Ryan’s marriage reaches the breaking point, they come up with an unconventional plan. They decide to take a year off in the hopes of finding a way to fall in love again. One year apart, and only one rule: they cannot contact each other. Aside from that, anything goes.
Lauren embarks on a journey of self-discovery, quickly finding that her friends and family have their own ideas about the meaning of marriage. These influences, as well as her own healing process and the challenges of living apart from Ryan, begin to change Lauren’s ideas about monogamy and marriage. She starts to question: When you can have romance without loyalty and commitment without marriage, when love and lust are no longer tied together, what do you value? What are you willing to fight for?
This is a love story about what happens when the love fades. It’s about staying in love, seizing love, forsaking love, and committing to love with everything you’ve got. And above all, After I Do is the story of a couple caught up in an old game—and searching for a new road to happily ever after.

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Welcome to the 2nd edition of FALLING IN LOVE WITH BOOKS! This year I have a delightful lineup of posts for you with books that readers want you to fall in love with! First up is Danielle from Bookish in Texas! She’s sharing her love of AFTER I DO by Taylor Jenkins Reid, and I recently read one of Reid’s books, MAYBE IN ANOTHER LIFE, so I’m really looking forward to hearing more about this one from Danielle. Let’s Welcome her to the Blog!

After I Do is an amazing contemporary novel that I can’t recommend highly enough. Even if contemporaries or “chick lit” novels are not normally your thing, After I Do is such an emotional and heartwrenching novel that everyone can relate to it.

We always get books about the falling in love part — the meeting someone amazing, the staying up all night talking, the non-stop laughter. But what happens a couple years down the road? What happens when you’re up all night because you’re fighting, or when that person just doesn’t make you feel happy anymore? This book tackles all that and more, in such an honest way.

This isn’t a novel about a crappy couple who just argues all the time. It’s about a wonderful couple who is so in love — they just haven’t been feeling that way for a while, and decide to take a year apart. The only rule for their separate year is that they cannot contact each other whatsoever, and hope that through taking some time apart they are able to re-discover their love. Their year apart is full of ups and downs and a lot of self-discovery for each of them, but they find that they just can’t stop thinking about each other.

“Ryan and I are two people who used to be in love.

What a beautiful thing to have been.

What a sad thing to be.”

As someone in a serious relationship (that I hope one day leads to marriage), this book was an eye-opener to me. It was so realistic how so many little things could easily add up to a mountain of important things, and can drive such a wedge between two people. This book makes me want to value love, and my relationship, while I have it — not just if I might be on the verge of losing it.

After I Do is overall just a phenomenal book about love, relationships, and making things last even when things look horrible.

Thank you, Danielle, for kicking off this Special Feature with your love for what sounds like a wonderful story by Taylor Jenkins Reid!

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s guest post…you won’t want to miss it!

 

What Katie Read

Mini Review: The Bookseller (2015) by Cynthia Swanson

Mini Review: The Bookseller (2015) by Cynthia SwansonThe Bookseller by Cynthia Swanson
Published by Harper Collins on March 3rd 2015
Genres: Psychological, Adult, Historical
Pages: 352
Goodreads
four-stars

A mesmerizingly powerful debut novel about the ways in which past choices can irrevocably define the present—and the bittersweet confrontation of what might have been
1962: It may be the Swinging Sixties in New York, but in Denver it's different: being a single gal over thirty in this city is almost bohemian. Still, thirty-eight-year-old Kitty Miller has come to terms with her unconventional single life. She was involved, once—with a doctor named Kevin—but when things didn't work out the way she had hoped, she decided to chart her own path. Now she dedicates herself to the bookstore she runs with her best friend, Frieda, returning home each evening to her cozy apartment. Without a husband expecting dinner, she can enjoy last-minute drinks after work with her friends; without children who need to get ready for school, she can stay up all night reading with her beloved cat, Aslan, by her side.
Then the dreams begin.
1963: Katharyn Andersson is married to Lars, the love of her life. They live in a picture-perfect home in a suburban area of Denver, close to their circle of friends. It's the ideal place in which to raise their children. Katharyn's world is exactly what Kitty once believed she wanted . . . but it exists only when she sleeps.
At first, Kitty enjoys her nighttime forays into this alternate world. Even though there is no Frieda, no bookstore, no other familiar face, Kitty becomes increasingly reluctant to open her eyes and abandon Katharyn's alluring life.
But with each visit to her dreamworld, it grows more real. As the lines between the two worlds begin to blur, Kitty faces an uncertain future. What price must she pay to stay? What is the cost of letting go?

I was first drawn to The Bookseller because of its premise. Kitty is in her 30s, managing a bookstore with her best friend, and she leads a contented life with her work as a bookseller and her cozy home and cat. And plenty of time to read.

Then, things start to get a little strange.

She begins to dream of a parallel life: in it, she’s married with three children and her life is entirely different than the one she knows as a bookseller. In fact, the bookstore doesn’t even make up a part of her life in this alternate reality. Her best friend and she aren’t really best friends anymore, and a guy she only talked to once on the phone in her single life reality has become her husband! 

WHAT IS GOING ON?

overwhelmed

The book takes place in both 1962 and 1963, and bounces back and forth between the two realities. The pace of the book trips along and this was a delightful read for me earlier in the spring of this year. To be honest, I was a bit surprised at what happened to Kitty at the end, and I suppose I applauded the author for that.

I found The Bookseller to be an interesting exploration of the perspective of a single woman living a fulfilled life, considering if she’s missing anything in the way of marriage and family. At the same time, it’s thought-provoking to consider the other side—what freedom and opportunities does a married woman with children miss?

This is a “Sliding Doors” type book and I definitely enjoyed it. This garnered a solid 4 stars from me and I would  recommend it for those of you who enjoy a lighter read situated in the earlier time period of the 60s. 

four-stars
What Katie Read

ARC Mini Review: A Court of Thorns & Roses by Sarah J. Maas

ARC Mini Review: A Court of Thorns & Roses by Sarah J. MaasA Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
Published by Bloomsbury Publishing USA on May 5th 2015
Genres: Action & Adventure, Adult, Fantasy, Love & Romance, New Adult, Young Adult
Pages: 432
Goodreads
four-stars

When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin-one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world. As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she's been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow over the faerie lands is growing, and Feyre must find a way to stop it . . . or doom Tamlin-and his world-forever. Perfect for fans of Kristen Cashore and George R. R. Martin, this first book in a sexy and action-packed new series is impossible to put down!

Well, here it is, folks! My thoughts on A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas! Many thanks to What Sarah Read for loaning me her ARC of this fantastic and unique new title from Sarah J. Maas!

This is going to be a mini review [I’ve been swamped lately and have less time to write longer reviews] but I think you’ll enjoy it all the same.

Everyone has been raving about this book—it’s the first in a series, and I also really enjoyed it. I thought this was a strong and appealing start to Maas’s new series, A Court of Thorns and Roses.

I’m really looking forward to what Book 2 has in store. The only downside is that we have to wait awhile for that sequel.

In the meantime, though, we can re-read the Throne of Glass series and await the 4th installment, Queen of Shadows, out this fall!

But first, more about A Court of Thorns and Roses…(ACOTAR)

What I Loved:

The World of the Fae: There are two worlds in this book—the one nineteen year old Feyre lives in at the beginning of the story—and the magical land to which she moves after killing a wolf in the woods who is actually not a wolf. The killing of this wolf starts a chain of events that change Feyre’s life in profound ways. Tamlin, an immortal faery, introduces Feyre to this magical world completely unlike her own. Though Feyre struggles at first being alone in a strange place with beings she doesn’t care for, as time goes on, she becomes curious and begins to develop relationships with the “fae.”

I thought this magical land of faery was utterly stunning and fascinating. The author has expertly drawn a complex and interesting world that draws the fantasy readership. This is definitely an aspect of the book that I was thinking about long after I turned the last page.

“ ‘There is a better world, Nesta. There is a better world out there, waiting for you to find it. And if I ever get the chance, if things are ever better, safer…I will find you again.’ It was all I could offer her.” (272 in Print ARC)

The Unique Twists & Turns: I never know what to expect with Sarah J. Maas’s books, and this one was no exception in terms of its plot. She infuses her narrative with creative twists so that the reader is swept up in a unique journey that take the characters unexpected places. For example, I didn’t expect Feyre to make the location changes she does—I’m not going to give away anything—but this aspect of the book kept me intrigued and turning the pages. Feyre’s encounter with the Fae world brings a whole slew of complications and conflict (and romance!) to her life, and I think the secondary characters are just as interesting as the primary ones.

A Court of Thorns and Roses‘ Fairy Tale Influences: I’m usually interested in young adult novels influenced by fairy tales and that’s because I love fairy tales. There is definitely the Beauty and the Beast thread going on in ACOTAR, but this isn’t the only fairy tale. Sarah J. Maas actually researched in Scotland for this book, so there are other fairy tales that influenced her work (obviously Scottish!). I’m a big fan of this kind of research for a fantasy, so absolutely love this dimension of the story.

The Final Illumination:

I did not expect that ending! I thought the way Maas tied everything together in the story’s resolution was impressive and satisfying. Seriously, there were a few moments when it was a bit tense and I wondered—how are things going to work out?!?! That tension was a good thing, because it strengthened an already strong narrative, and you really rooted for the central characters. There are definitely some extremely evil characters in the series, and I do wonder what’s in store for Feyre and Tamlin in future books.

You can see I’ve categorized A Court of Thorns and Roses in Adult as well as New Adult–you’ll know what I mean when you read those scenes between Feyre and Tamlin. Note the term “fiery passion” in the Goodreads synopsis. Yes, you will know what I mean.

Needless to say, I’m looking forward to Book 2—I’m just sorry we have to wait so long for it!

What will you be doing to survive the wait until ACOTAR 2?!?

What did you like about the book? Was there anything you didn’t like?

four-stars
What Katie Read

Waiting on Wednesday for The Lake House by Kate Morton

Waiting on Wednesday for The Lake House by Kate MortonThe Lake House by Kate Morton
Published by Atria Books on October 22nd 2015
Genres: Adult, Fiction, Historical
Goodreads

The beguiling new novel from Kate Morton; the number one bestselling author of The House at Riverton and The Secret Keeper. An abandoned house... After a particularly troubling case, Sadie Sparrow is sent on an enforced break from her job with the Metropolitan Police and retreats to her beloved grandfather's cottage in Cornwall. There she finds herself at a loose end, until one day she stumbles upon an abandoned house surrounded by overgrown gardens and dense woods, and learns the story of a baby boy who disappeared without a trace. A missing child... June 1933, and the Edevane family's country house, Loeanneth, is polished and gleaming, ready for the much-anticipated Midsummer Eve party. For Eleanor, the annual party has always been one of her treasured traditions, but her middle daughter, Alice, sixteen years old and with literary ambitions, is especially excited. Not only has Alice worked out the perfect twist for her novel, she's also fallen helplessly in love with someone she shouldn't. But by the time midnight strikes and fireworks light up the night sky, the Edevane family will have suffered a loss so great they leave Loeanneth and never return. An unsolved mystery... Seventy years later, in the attic writing room of her elegant Hampstead home, the formidable Alice Edevane leads a life as neatly plotted as the bestselling detective novels she writes. Until a young police detective starts asking questions about her family's past and seeking to resurrect the complex tangle of secrets Alice has spent her life trying to escape...

Cornwall. A Detective Novelist. An Unsolved Mystery. A Romance.

Need I say more? These are just a few of the elements purported to be in the upcoming Kate Morton novel!! Yes, that’s right–I did say KATE MORTON!

Do I have any The House at Riverton fans?? The Distant Hours? The Secret Keeper?

You can bet that when fellow Kate Morton friends, including Lindsey, Alyssa, Morgan, Laura, and Jess, and I found out about the new Kate Morton and saw its cover, we freaked out just a bit.

group dance

You guys. This is big. Kate Morton has a new book coming out in October!!! And it’s called The Lake House!!

yes am excited

The first time I encountered Kate Morton was through a paperback copy of The House at Riverton I picked up at Target before going on vacation. Wow–was that a lucky pick! I discovered that I adored Kate Morton’s style, and was soon buying all subsequent titles that she wrote. She’s Australian but many of her books are set in England, one of my favorite places in the world!

I get swept up in her books–I love the DRAMA, THE ROMANCE, THE SECRETS, THE MYSTERY, THE ENGLISH LANDSCAPES. I LOVE IT ALL!

And don’t you think Atria designs the most gorgeous covers for Morton’s books?

Just look at them!

the house at riverton distant hours secret keeper

What are you waiting on Wednesday for this week? If you’re not a Kate Morton fan, do you think you might pick up one of her books? Which one?

Did I tell you I was excited about the new Kate Morton book?!?!?

excited 2

“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, in which we share those upcoming releases we are most excited about!

What Katie Read

Historical Fiction Review: The Nightingale (2015) by Kristin Hannah

Historical Fiction Review: The Nightingale (2015) by Kristin HannahThe Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
Published by St. Martin's Press on February 3rd 2015
Genres: Adult, Contemporary Women, Fiction, Historical
Pages: 448
Goodreads
five-stars

FRANCE, 1939: In the quiet village of Carriveau, Vianne Mauriac says goodbye to her husband, Antoine, as he heads for the Front. She doesn't believe that the Nazis will invade France...but invade they do, in droves of marching soldiers, in caravans of trucks and tanks, in planes that fill the skies and drop bombs upon the innocent. When a German captain requisitions Vianne's home, she and her daughter must live with the enemy or lose everything. Without food or money or hope, as danger escalates all around them, she is forced to make one impossible choice after another to keep her family alive. Vianne's sister, Isabelle, is a rebellious eighteen-year-old girl, searching for purpose with all the reckless passion of youth. While thousands of Parisians march into the unknown terrors of war, she meets Gäetan, a partisan who believes the French can fight the Nazis from within France, and she falls in love as only the young can...completely. But when he betrays her, Isabelle joins the Resistance and never looks back, risking her life time and again to save others.With courage, grace and powerful insight, bestselling author Kristin Hannah captures the epic panorama of WWII and illuminates an intimate part of history seldom seen: the women's war. The Nightingale tells the stories of two sisters, separated by years and experience, by ideals, passion and circumstance, each embarking on her own dangerous path toward survival, love, and freedom in German-occupied, war-torn France--a heartbreakingly beautiful novel that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and the durability of women. It is a novel for everyone, a novel for a lifetime.

Illuminations:

If you’re reading this, then the very next thing you do after you finish this post is to go immediately and secure of copy of The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah!

TRUST ME.

This book is THAT GOOD. I haven’t read a book in awhile that has touched me quite like this one has—the last one might have been Code Name Verity. This is an amazing, heartbreaking, moving, and powerful story set during a time in our history that changed the world in so many ways…and revealed the courage and bravery of so many people. It’s been awhile since I cried over a book like The Nightingale. If a book makes me laugh, that’s good, but if a book can make me cry, then it’s usually REALLY GOOD. And I would have to say that Kristin Hannah’s newest book really is superb, in my book at least.

This is a book to get excited about.

group excited

One aspect of this novel concerns how women (in the Resistance and outside of it) risked their lives and the lives of their families through their simple and courageous acts of bravery and love to save others during World War II. Relationships are tested, and the women in this book have to make huge sacrifices in the face of war. They are faced with the possibility of people they love being shipped away or worse, and they are prepared to take these steps of sacrifice.

Love, family, heartbreak, and war—it’s not surprising that all these elements fit into this novel, but it’s their treatment that, to me, was particularly well-executed.

The book opens in 1939, in France, but a few chapters shift all the way into 1995. The reader isn’t told the perspective of the character in the 1995 chapters, so nothing is really given away there. The events of the book continue to the end of the war, and finally, jump forward to 1995 again.

“Men tell stories. Women get on with it. For us it was a shadow war. There were no parades for us when it was over, no medals or mentions in history books. We did what we had to during the war, and when it was over, we picked up the pieces and started our lives over.”

Spiritual Illuminations:

Vianne’s Love & Sacrifice for Children: Vianne doesn’t just love and care for her own children—she risks her life to shelter the children of others who are Jewish, so that they might have a chance at survival. Vivian is different than her sister, Isabelle, but that doesn’t mean she is any less brave or courageous. She fights her own war, and this makes all the difference for certain families. (But no spoilers here!) I definitely saw this as a spiritual aspect of the story, because Vianne really had to move into selflessness (as many people did during WWII) in order to save and protect those around her. In this way, I think the spirituality of her character is revealed.

The Family Dynamic: In addition to depicting the relationship between Vianne and Isabelle, the book also introduces us to the girls’ father—largely absent during their childhood after their mother died. However, the war is surprising in the way it can either bring families together or tear them apart. I appreciated the depiction of the father and daughters throughout the book—it’s not a perfect situation, and all three family members have their flaws, but love is the stronger force. What happens among the three family members took me by surprise. I started the story, having a particular conception of the girls’ father, but my perspective of his character evolved throughout the narrative and was quite different by the end. In this way, I think Hannah successfully fleshed out multiple characters about whom I cared a lot.

“But love has to be stronger than hate, or there is no future for us.”

Who Should Read This Book:

If you are an avid reader of WWII fiction, then by all means, make sure this book is on your shelf. I had no idea how much I would love this book. I had an inkling I would like it, but I wasn’t prepared by its ability to grip and move me.

If you are a historical fiction fan, I think this story would be one you want to check out. Fans of Kristin Hannah will probably all flock to The Nightingale, but even though I had read one of her books before, this one took on an entirely different status for me because it is historical fiction set during WWII.

I don’t usually bring up Goodreads Stats, but, people, this book has an average 4.53 rating with 13,192 ratings. So!

The Final Illumination:

“Love. It was the beginning and end of everything, the foundation and the ceiling and the air in between.”

At 440 pages, I wouldn’t have minded if this novel had continued on. It was stunning. Marvelous. Luminous. Moving. Heartbreaking. Hopeful. Beautiful.

This reminded me of Code Name Verity and also Rose Under Fire, both by Elizabeth Wein. Some aspects of it made me think about Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman, and I couldn’t help but remember one of my other favorite WWII historical novels, The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer.

And I hope you will host it on your bookshelf and see for yourself.

Did you read The Nightingale? Are you planning to?!? No pressure here….

 

five-stars
What Katie Read

Cookbook Chat: Against All Grain (2013) by Danielle Walker

Cookbook Chat: Against All Grain (2013) by Danielle WalkerAgainst All Grain by Danielle Walker
Published by Victory Belt Publishing on July 30th 2013
Genres: Allergy, Cookbooks, Cooking, Gluten-Free, Health & Healing
Pages: 368
Goodreads
five-stars

Having battled an autoimmune disease the modern-medicine way for many years, Danielle Walker took matters into her own hands and set out to regain her health through the medicine of food. After four years of turning her kitchen into a laboratory for revamping her culinary point of view, Danielle mastered the art of grain- and dairy-free cooking—and improved her well-being, virtually eliminating all her ailments.A self-trained chef, Danielle is the new face of grain-free cooking, tempting foodies of all stripes with her accessible recipes for vibrant Paleo food. Paying homage to the dishes she loved in her pre-Paleo life, she has ingeniously recreated all her favorites without grains or dairy in her first cookbook.Complementing her innovative recipes with elegant photography, Danielle takes you on a culinary Paleo journey that includes everything from quick breakfasts to sinful desserts, with a long list of hearty entrees in-between. And because Danielle knows she's not the only one with a finicky toddler at home, she has included a special section filled with healthy recipes that kids will be eager to eat and moms will be just as eager to serve.These recipes are sure to leave you feeling satisfied and exhilarated, rather than discouraged and deprived. Danielle proves that omitting grains, gluten, dairy, and refined sugar doesn't correlate with sacrificing taste; in fact, just the opposite. This book will show you that you can go against the grain in the culinary world and enter a paradise of gourmet foods with exciting flavors.

Happy Monday! Today is a great day because it’s the debut day for my Cookbook Chats on the blog. I’ve chosen one of my favorite cookbooks from the last year, Against All Grain by Danielle Walker, (and it’s been well-used, believe me!) and I hope you’ll consider adding it to your own cookbook collection.

What’s In This Cookbook:

A diversity of delicious (and not that difficult) gluten-free, grain-free, and dairy-free recipes. Basically: tasty recipes that almost anyone can enjoy!

The paleo diet may be one you’re familiar with (no grains, legumes, refined sugar and most dairy)—or not—but even if you don’t know anything about paleo recipes, you should consider this cookbook. These recipes are delicious AND healthy! In some cases, especially with the desserts, you would never know you’re eating something without wheat or refined sugar. In place of white sugar, for example, you would use honey or maple syrup.

Danielle Walker includes a great introduction, sharing how she ended up choosing the paleo diet and some of the fantastic health effects of that diet. There’s also a handy section on which fruits and veggies you should strive to always buy organic, and those fruits and veggies that are OK to buy “conventionally grown.”

I love the cookbook’s section on ingredients and equipment, because when I hadn’t heard of an ingredient before, it was de-mystified in this section. Now, my pantry is stocked with things like almond flour, coconut flour, and coconut crystals.

Then we get to the meat of the book: the recipes. There’s an entire section of Breakfast recipes (think French Toast Casserole and Vanilla Almond Granola) followed by “Small Bites.” These snacks include Rosemary-Raisin Crackers and Crispy Sweet Potato Fries with Wasabi Aioli. Also: Sweet Potato Chips with Creamy Cilantro-Serrano Dipping Sauce! Yum…

Soups, Salads, and Sides gets its own section followed by The Main Event. This is further divided into Poultry, Seafood, Beef and Pork. There’s a lot to choose from for your lunch and dinner items, folks. As I said before, this cookbook is chock-full of delicious-ness.

Then there’s the “For the Kids in All of Us”—Cinnamon Applesauce and Fruit Roll Ups and Hidden-Veggie Muffins are a few of these treats.

Two more sections cover “Muffins, Loaves, and Morning Cakes” and “Sweets and Treats.” Some of you may just care about that section, and that’s ok. The cookbook is worth it if you choose to just dip into desserts. The “Basics” is fabulous because this includes everything from salad dressings to BBQ sauce to crepes to nut cheese to salsas.

There’s also a section on Drinks! “Menu Suggestions” and “Resources” are located at the end of the book but are incredibly helpful sections, especially if you want a hand with meal planning.

Recipes Tried and True:

As we speak, I have a batch of Vanilla Almond Granola drying in the oven, and let me tell you, it makes the house smell divine! You might think that for a Paleo lifestyle, you would mostly eat eggs for breakfast, but Against All Grain shows us that’s not quite true. The Banana Porridge is a wonderful choice if you’re craving something like Cream of Wheat or Oatmeal. I can attest that this is an easy and lovely option—the creaminess of the porridge and the banana-cinnamony flavors make it one I enjoy often. Of course I’ve also made the Blueberry Waffles on pg. 36, and they too are tasty and extremely easy. You can use a blender for making these and have a hot breakfast whipped up in no time at all. I haven’t tried the Sausage Quiche with Sweeet Potato Crust or Maple Sage Sausage with Cinnamon Apples, but I intend to.

The Chicken Satay with “Peanut” Sauce is a winner, and though you wouldn’t eat potatoes on the paleo diet, the Mashed Cauliflower is remarkably similar. I’ve added garlic to mine before and the result was perfect.

The Slow Cooker Chicken Tacos is one of the Main Event recipes I would recommend (I use my slow cooker a lot!) and also the Citrus Cumin Chicken. For the tacos, you can either use lettuce wraps or you can make her crepes and use those for filling with the chicken mixture. I actually prefer the lettuce wraps, but if you were ok eating corn, you could even use corn taco shells. The Chicken Tenders from the “Kid” section is another delicious chicken recipe, and it’s pretty quick to prepare. I have tested a lot of the chicken recipes in the book, and I haven’t been disappointed with any. The club sandwich wraps with pesto mayo on pg. 144 is another good choice for lunch or dinner.

I’ve made the spinach sausage lasagna on pg. 168 and this one takes a little more time, but the entire dish is from scratch, so you can imagine the flavors are gorgeous.

For 6 months last year I was on a very strict diet, and at one point I was craving lasagna. This recipe fit all the requirements for what I could eat, so I went into the kitchen and made the Marinara Sauce, the Basic Nut Cheese, and the Crepes (which make up the “noodles” for the lasagna). I was not disappointed with the result and I’ve made this lasagna several times.

You might think you want to avoid making sauces from scratch but the Marinara recipe is worth it. You could even make a large batch and either freeze or can extra for later.

I have a healthy obsession with baking, and I have to say that the Real Deal Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe on pg. 258 is one of my faves. And not just in this cookbook, but this cookie recipe is actually one of my favorite Cookie Recipes of all time! The Banana Bread is another treat you’ll discover often on my table, if you stop over for tea.

Snickerdoodle cupcakes? Dark chocolate cake brownies? Pumpkin donuts? These are three more “Sweets and Treats” recipes I have yet to try, and I’ll be sure to share my results with you when I do.

Overall Flavor:

Against All Grain is chock-full of recipes for dishes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Even snacks. At 368 pages, this is a fabulous deal, and you can even get this one on your kindle, if you prefer.

Whether you’re planning to pursue eating paleo all the time or not, this cookbook is fantastic addition to any recipe collection, and I don’t think you’ll be disappointed by the flavor and diversity of recipes in Danielle Walker’s Against All Grain.

You can check out her website here.

You can purchase the book here.

Thanks for stopping by for my Cookbook Chat! Have you tried any recipes from this cookbook? What are some of your favorite cookbooks?

 

five-stars
What Katie Read