Breathe To Read

Breathe To Read

Monday, June 25, 2018

2018 Challenge - Book #77 - Secrets of a Charmed Life

Today's review is for

Secrets of a Charmed Life
Authro: Susan Meissner
Pages:  416

This is the story of a girl named Emmy and her sister Julia.  Emmy, at age 15 is trying to make something of her life during WWII.  Her mother is a single mother and Emmy doesn't know who her father is.  Julia, who has another father, only sees him from time to time.  Emmy and her mother don't get along, and Emmy is often left to care for her 7 year old sister. 

Emmy's secret passion is to design wedding dresses.  She sees an add in a wedding dress shop for a seamstress and she goes in to apply.  The shop owner is impressed with Emmy's designs and abilities at such a young age and offers to take her on.

Unfortunately, the war progresses and Emmy and her sister are evacuated with the other London children to the countryside.  Emmy figures that the war will move quickly and before she knows it she will be back in London and can contiue with her job.  While she is in the country, she receives a letter from the shop owners asking if Emmy can return to London for an interview.  There is a top designer that wants to meet with her and offer her a job opportunity.  Emmy decides she cannot miss this opportunity and needs to get back to London.

Returning to London starts the downfall for Emmy and her family.  A tragedy strikes and Emmy spends the rest of her life paying for her mistake. 

This was an okay book.  I loved Meissner's "A Fall of Marigolds" and was excited to read another book by her.  It started out strong, but then there was a large section of letters and I felt like skimming over them.  The book was beautifully written until this section.  Too much melodrama, and it was very unrealistic. 

I have a hard time recommending this book due to this part of it.  It is a shame because Susan Meissner is a wonderful writer.  This lost something for me.

Stars:  3

Thursday, June 21, 2018

2018 Challenge - Book #76 - Lilac Girls

Today's review is for:

Lilac Girls
Author: Martha Hall Kelly
Pages: 512

This is the story of several woman.  Caroline - a New York socialite at the height of the second world war who works at the French consulate.  A world away is Kasia - who is a polish girl who one day is living a comfortable life style and then the next in a concentration camp simply by being Polish.  The last - Herta - who is a doctor who is assigned to work at a concentration camp an experiement on the prisoners.

Their worlds collide during the war.  Kasia is sent to Ravensbruck, where Herta is a doctor.  She and 1000 other women (who were known as "rabbits") became science experiments during the 4 years they were in the camp.  Herta - feeling that her duty first was the Germany and Hitler, performs these surgeries and experiements without hesitation.

When the war ends, Caroline finds out about the "rabbits" and decides she wants to invite the women to America for better health care.  She writes an article hoping that the war has still left some good in the American people, and asks them for support for these women.  The response is overwhelming, and Caroline is able to bring a large group of the women to the US.  Kasia and her sister are among those who are able to travel.  Caroline learns what it was like for these women inside the camp at the hands of Herta.

Caroline and Kasia strive for justice for these women and all the women who died in these camps and work together to make sure that the world does not forget what happened.

This was a great work of historical fiction.  I enjoyed it even more when I found out that Caroline and Herta were real characters and the information in the book was acurate.  Kasia's character was also based on another true to life survivor of the Ravensbruck camp. 

What happened to the women in this camp was horrific.  I have read many WWII novels, and each one tells us another part of the story.  I had no idea that prisoners were experimented and left with life altering injuries or even killed like animals.  The depth of the horror and the evil doesn't seem to have a bottom.

Check this book out.  It is another look, with true pieces thrown in, at WWII.

Stars:  4 1/2

Sunday, June 17, 2018

2018 Challenge - Book #75 - The Bone Garden

75!!! a few more and I will have beaten my annual record and it isn't even July.

Today's review is called:

The Bone Garden
Author: Tess Gerritsen
Pages: 512

This is the story of a woman - newly divorced - that buys a fixer upper house in Massachusetts.  While digging in her garden, she discovers a skull.  The authorities determine the body is from around the 1830s, and the hunt for who the body begins.  Since the authorities aren't interested, Julia enlists the help of the previous family of the house whose ancestors owned it around that time.

The story flips back and forth between present day and the 1830s where a young lady has just lost her sister and, at the age of 17, has been given the task of carrying for her newborn niece.  Poor, and new to the area from Ireland, she doesn't have many places she can turn.  She meets a young medical student and he helps her care for the baby.  Around them murders are happening to nurses and doctors they know, and they are warned to keep the baby hidden. 

As Julia starts to read letters from the family of her house from around the 1830s, she starts to piece together what happened to the person in her yard.  The stories intertwine and soon the mystery is solved - both in the present and the 1830s.

This was a great book.  IT is long, but it held my attention.  I loved all the characters and trying to figure out the mystery didn't become clear until near the end of the book.  I find that the sign of a good quality mystery when 1) the author isn't keeping the audience in the dark to lengthen the story and 2) you really have no idea what the mystery solve is going to be until the end.  Brilliant.

Read this one.  IT is summer, so pull up a beach chair, relax in the sun, and check this one out.

Stars: 5

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

2018 Challenge - Book #74 - Dust

Todays' review is for

Author: Hugh Howey
Pages: 466

This is the final book in the Wool trilogy.  When we last we left, Juliette had brought back Solo and the kids from the other silo.  She was trying to figure out how to dig a tunnel from her silo to his - to proove to the people that other silos existed.  Lukas has made her mayor.  People are uneasy and don't believe her that there are others out there.  That other silos talk to each other and are centrally controlled by one group of people.  She is determined for her people to know the truth.

This is an okay book.  Like a lot of trilogies I have read, the books tend to be on a downhill slide in quality to the finish line.  This one did not hold my attention as well as the others.  There were many pointless side stories, and it just seems to drag.  The ended it all "Bright and shiny" as expected.  Just a bit disappointed after investing 3 very large books in this series.

The overall concept of the Wool trilogy is a great one.  Different idea.  And this book just could have been better. 

Stars:  3

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

2018 Challenge - Book #73 - When Breath Becomes Air

Today's review is for:

When Breath Becomes Air
Author: Paul Kalanithi
Pages: 231

This is the author's own story.  Paul is a promising neurosurgeon who finds out he has stage IV lung cancer.  The future he and his wife imagined together evaporated.  Now his life is full or treatments, and a ticking clock.  The doctor's won't tell him how long he has to live, so Paul starts to write this book.  He and his wife decide to have a child even knowing that he might not be there to see her grow up.  They try to squeeze a lifetime of experiences into a small amount of time.

Paul died in 2015 - after a very short battle with cancer.  His wife completed his book and made sure it was published.

This was a good book.  It is always sad, and alarming, to read the words of someone who is going through a terminal illness.  How they become shadows of their former selves.  And how sometimes, no matter how hard they fight, sometimes the cancer wins.

Check out this book.  It gives some perspective on how we are only given a finite amount of time.

Stars:  4 1/2

Monday, June 4, 2018

2018 Challenge - Book #72 - Atlas of Forgotten Places

Today's review is for

Atlast of Forgotten Places
Author: Jenny Williams
Pages: 369

This is a story that is told from the perspective of Sabine and Rose.  Sabine is a native German who spent 18 years in Africa as an aid worker.  After burning out, she returned to her native land.  Rose lives deep in the heart of war torn Africa.  She has recently fled from being captive among the rebels.  She is having a hard time fitting back into her community - they view her as a traitor. 

Sabine gets a call from her niece, Lily's stepfather to say that she has not returned home from her trip to Africa.  Like Sabine, Lily went as an aide worker, but just for a short time.  Now, she is missing.  Sabine - since she is familiar with Africa - agrees to fly there and search for Lily.  She meets Rose, and a man named Christoph, and together they head deeper and deeper into dangerous territory in search for Lily. 

This book was just okay.  I wanted to like it more, but it was just not well written.  The characters were glossed over quite a bit - you didn't really get into the heart of their past until the very end of the book.  The author almost seemed like she was keeping secrets just to keep them, but it didn't add anything to the story.  You didn't really feel like rooting for Lily - who was portrayed as a spoiled child who shouldn't have been there in the first place.

I would say skip it.  I think it could have been better told.

Stars: 3