Lilac Girls

28951636_10156462871663392_5700336640279445504_oMartha Hall Kelly does an outstanding job with this detailed and heartbreaking account of the tragic events that happened during World War II in, Lilac Girls. The book is told from the point of view of three different women that come from different backgrounds and were affected in different ways by the war.

Caroline volunteers at the French Consulate and is quite the philanthropist for the French, especially the orphans. She goes as far as to sell her own family’s china so that she can send the orphans in France the things they need. She crosses paths with the other women at the end of the book and helps so many people along the way, making a real difference in their lives. Caroline’s romance with a married actor is also a big part of the story.

Kasia is a young Polish woman that becomes involved in an underground operation that ends in her being captured and sent away to a concentration camp with her family. She feels very guilty for getting her family involved, “It was one thing to suffer myself on account of my own stupidity and quite another to bring everyone I loved down with me.” Some pretty awful things happen to her and all the women that have to endure life at Ravensbruck. Survival is something that they have to fight hard for and many of them didn’t survive the camp. “Sadness was often a more potent killer than disease. Some gave up, stopped eating, and died.” Kasia, fueled by her anger, says, “The hate grew in my chest. How could I live without revenge?”

The third narrator is German woman named Herta, who is the only female doctor at the camp. She takes the job to fulfill her dreams of being a surgeon and has no idea of the horrors that await her there.

There are some pretty graphic, horrific and heart-breaking moments in this book. The author actually based this novel on a true story and did a lot of research to make her story as accurate as possible. This book was very well written and will surely touch the heart of everyone who reads it.

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Manhattan Beach

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Manhatten Beach by Jennifer Egan.     I am ashamed to admit that this is the first book I have read by Jennifer Egan. Her other books have been on my bookshelf way too long. I have mixed feelings about “Manhattan Beach.” I was a little bored at times, but I am not a historical fiction lover, so a little boredom is to be expected when I read such a book. The author obviously did a lot of research to make this book an accurate portrayal of the World World II/depression time period.

When the book begins, we are introduced to the heroine of the book, Anna Kerrigan. She is just twelve years old and she is obviously daddy’s little girl. Anna and her father have a very close relationship and a special bond. It’s apparent that Anna’s father is involved in some sort of mafia/gangster activity and he begins going away a lot. Because he is gone so much and Anna is no longer allowed to join him, their relationship begins to wither.  

At 19, Anna’s father has disappeared and she becomes the provider for her mother and handicapped sister. She tires of her factory job and pursues her desire to become a diver. It is unheard of for a woman to be a diver and Anna has to fight constantly to fulfill her dreams. Most people would have given up, but she let nothing get in her way.

Around this same time, Anna also becomes involved with a dangerous man who may be able to help her figure out what happened to her father. There are many lovely characters in the story that kept me interested through the boring parts. Another thing I loved about the book is that the sea wasn’t just the setting, but it was almost a character in the novel itself. Jennifer Egan is an amazing writer and I look forward to trying some of her other books, which I understand are much different from this one.

This blurb from Amazon sums it up perfectly: “Manhattan Beach is so rich in detail and atmosphere; such an exploration of underworlds of all kinds, filled with lessons on lifelines and buoyancy and how to bear life’s weight by diving deep into it. Jennifer Egan has masterfully conjured an era we are on the cusp of losing. Her novel is an absorbing story, beautifully written. Its strands of subtle intrigue and quiet heroism make you reluctant to leave each page while eager to get to the next.”M.L. Stedman

a column of fire

22139890_10155979753148392_673246399_oA Column of Fire is the third book in Ken Follett’s Kingsbridge series. If you have not already read, “The Pillars of the Earth” and “World Without End” then you must do so immediately. At 909 pages, A Column of Fire is packed full of lively characters, drama, history and action.  Ken Follett is such an amazing and talented writer.

The book takes place in 16th century England in a time of violence and religious turmoil. It spans from 1558 to 1606. There is always someone scheming to murder the queen or king and there is a constant battle for power between the Catholics and Protestants.  I am not a fan of historical fiction and care nothing about politics. The characters are what I loved best about this book.

Ned Willard is the hero of the book. Ned has all the characteristics of your typical hero. He is kind, honest, clever, trustworthy, determined, handsome and courageous.  He becomes a man of power and importance as he spends his life fighting for Queen Elizabeth. All Ned wants is peace between the Catholics and Protestants.  Ned: “What we did that momentous year of 1558 caused political strife, revolt, civil war and invasion. There were times in later years, when in the depths of despair I would wonder whether it had been worth it. The simple idea that people should be allowed to worship as they wished caused more suffering than the ten plagues of Egypt.  So if I had known then what I know now, would I have done the same? Hell, yes.”

The book also has many romances and a heart breaking love story.  At the beginning of the book, the woman Ned is in love with is forced to marry someone else. Margery is one of the heroines of the book. She has a willful and rebellious nature but she is “deeply pious at heart,” and she feels it is her duty to God to obey her parents. Her parents arrange her marriage to someone that will bring prestige and nobility to their family, even though Margery despises their choice.  She devotes her life to doing clandestine work for England’s deprived Catholics.  Her and Ned spend a lifetime in love with one another.

There are so many characters that I can’t begin to write about all of them and I don’t want to spoil the book for anyone else. The huge cast of hero/heroines and villains in this book do not disappoint. They endured so much loss, death, hardship, and heartbreak.  There were also many despicable characters that I just wanted to see destroyed.

“Evil men always frustrated the efforts of the peacemakers.”

“There are no saints in politics.  But imperfect people can still change the world for the better.”

Another masterpiece by Follett.   I can’t imagine how much research he had to do to be able to include so many historical details and even though I am easily bored with history, I truly enjoyed this thrilling epic saga.  Well done, Mr. Follett!

The Historian

41eRe72tKtLTHE HISTORIAN BY ELIZABETH KOSTOVA

Yes, I am really just getting around to reading this book. “The Historian,” has been on my bookshelf for many years and I finally picked it up and read it. It seemed like it took forever to get through it. At a whopping 700 pages, this is a book you have to really be invested in and spend some time with. That being said, if the book had been shorter and not so drawn out, it would have been much better!!!!

The author is very meticulous, too meticulous really and you have to read it slowly. The gist of the book is the search for the tomb of Dracula. Was he a real person? Is he still alive? Will they discover the truth?

The author takes you to many different countries in search for clues to this mystery and her descriptions of these places really make you feel like you are there. I loved how the historians visited so many different libraries all over the world, discovering ancient books and interesting artifacts that serve as clues for their search. I wanted to visit each of these libraries myself to see the beauty the author described. The characters risk their lives and much more trying to uncover secrets from the past.

What I liked most about this book was the characters. They are the heart and soul of the book. They made all the lengthy historical details and drawn out letters worthwhile. The book has a little of everything: romance, history, suspense, mystery, vampire folklore, and the supernatural.

Even though I am not a big fan of historical fiction, I thought overall it was a good book. I recommend it for history lovers and those who are interested in Dracula or vampires. While my review may seem a little negative, I really did enjoy the book and had to read until the end so I would know what really happened. As a lover of literary fiction, I can honestly say that Kostova is an amazing and very talented writer.