This is All I Got by Lauren Sandler – BOOK REVIEW

As I wrote in my last post, I’m going back through my lost reviews and pulling from my Goodreads and limited remaining posts that are currently somewhere floating around on the internet and stuck in some weird in-between on my WordPress. This week, I’m trying to post reviews from the four books I won from Goodreads giveaways in 2020: More than Words by Jill Santopolo; This is All I Got by Lauren Sandler; Josephus by B. Michael Antler; and the AMAZING Sherlock retelling – Angel of the Crows by Katherine Addison.

My confusing review of This is All I Got pulled from my Goodreads:

Okay, I’ve got no idea how I truly feel about this book. I won it a while ago in a GR Giveaway and finally got the chance to read it. I found it entertaining. I enjoy Sandler’s writing. But upon finishing it, I felt a bit icky. I was a single mother, barely getting by, at the age of 19. I received public assistance to cover daycare costs while I worked and attended school. I even found myself in the situation of making “too much” and losing childcare assistance, which meant I literally couldn’t afford to work. So I saw a lot of my past self in these pages. I identified with Camilla and it’s part of what pulled me into her story.

What felt wrong to me though, is that there is no story without Camila, but Camilla gained nothing by letting her story be told. It just feels like she was used and my heart hurts for her.

So yeah, just not sure about this one.

What about you? Have you read This is All I Got?

Have any thoughts about how and should a subject be compensated in a situation like this?

Let’s talk. Leave a comment below!

More Than Words by Jill Santopolo – BOOK REVIEW

I won four books from Goodreads giveaways in 2020: More than Words by Jill Santopolo; This is All I Got by Lauren Sandler; Josephus by B. Michael Antler; and the AMAZING Sherlock retelling – Angel of the Crows by Katherine Addison.

Since I lost all of my 2020 reviews, I’m going back and pulling from my Goodreads and limited number of posts that for some reason are still saved under a different site to repost them here to share all over again. (I have no idea why there’s a random copy of my early book blog and nothing recent, but what are ya going to do?). So I figured I’d take this week and try to catch up on my Goodreads giveaway winners, starting with my first ever win – More Than Words by Jill Santopolo.

Because More Than Words by Jill Santopolo was the first book I’d ever won through a Goodreads giveaway, I was super excited about finally winning a book there and, honestly, was excited to read it no matter what it was about! (Fortunately, I only enter giveaways for books I actually want to read, so no worries there!)

My Thoughts on More Than Words by Jill Santopolo:

This was an odd one for me. I loved the actual story of More Than Words by Jill Santopolo. I can even see myself maybe reading the book again in the distant future.

But I am NOT a fan of the main character, Nina Gregory. I immediately connected with her in the beginning because 1) she’s close to her dad and I’m immediately endeared to anyone who loves their father as much as I love mine; and 2) her father is dying and that’s a feeling I can’t (and don’t want to) imagine but sympathize with, and so I wanted to love Nina.

But I just couldn’t.

She’s been born into a world of privilege and has been blessed with just about everything she’s ever wanted until now. Yes, her mom died when she was young and I feel bad for her about that but that’s where my ability to like her ends – at least in the beginning. She became slightly more tolerable by “the end” – but only slightly.

At first, she came across as too entitled and selfish even though she seemed to want a normal life, but her father is a hotel magnate and she’s an heiress. So “normal” for her isn’t exactly normal for most of us. She’s dating her best friend since she was born (literally) but she’s thinking about throwing that away for her boss.

And then, things change. Her father dies and everything she thought she knew is thrown into question. And suddenly, I really did feel sorry for her. But I still just couldn’t get myself to truly root for her. I felt bad for her boyfriend, Tim, and for his parents, who had been her family and she kinda treated them like poo while she tried to figure things out. Even when Tim does something stupid, I get it and find myself sympathizing more with him than Nina.

I still enjoyed the story itself though… despite Nina annoying me, I felt intrigued by her journey to discover herself and her family’s past after her father died. So I’m not disappointed I read the book and I think it’s worth the time, I just really wish Nina had been more likable!

So what do you think? Have you read More Than Words? Have a suggestion for my next read? Leave a comment below!

Auschwitz Lullaby by Mario Escobar – My Book Rec for International Holocaust Remembrance Day 2021

Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day 2021. So I wanted to share a book that impacted me greatly, Auschwitz Lullaby by Mario Escobar.

My review:

I could summarize my reaction to this story in only one way:  SOOOOO MANY TEARS!!!

Auschwitz Lullaby is such an emotional story! I was an emotional mess the entire time I was reading it! I know that doesn’t sound like a good time to everyone, but I was ready to re-read this one as soon as I finished it… and put myself through the misery all over again!

Helene is a wife and mother we can all look up to. She loves her family fiercely. She’s been supporting them for some time now since her Romani husband is no longer able to work in Nazi territory. And she doesn’t show fear when the Nazi’s come! When faced with the decision to either stay behind and live a comfortable life or follow her husband and children into the Nazi’s camp, she makes it clear there was only one choice:

“There’s no need for you to come, Frau Hannemann,” the sergeant insisted.

I looked straight into his eyes and asked, “Do you think a mother would leave her children in a situation like this?”

“You’d be shocked if I told you all I’ve seen in the past few years,” he answered. “Very well, come with us to the station. We have to get them to the train before ten o’clock.

This wasn’t the only time Helene was given the chance to leave. But she won’t abandon what she knows is right. She ends up protecting not just her own family, but every child in the camp comes under her protection. At one point, she tells the doctor this:

“My family is here. I can’t leave without them. I’m a mother, Herr Doktor. You all wage your wars for grand ideals, you defend your fanatical beliefs about liberty, country, and race, but mothers have only one homeland, one ideal, one race: our family.

One of the hardest things to read in this story centered around the experiments Dr. Mengele was performing on twins. Helene has a set of twins and she lives in constant fear of someone showing up to take them. Mengele uses this on more than one occasion to force Helene to bend to his will.  We’re currently fostering twins and I’ve become a huge fan of all twins! I find myself automatically drawn to and loving every twin I meet (real or fictional). So this aspect of the book drew me in and caused an even deeper emotional wound for me.

There isn’t a single character in Auschwitz Lullaby that I didn’t feel some connection with. I either loved or hated them, but don’t expect to get a lukewarm feeling about anyone! That being said, there were times when I was confused on how I felt about a couple characters. In a situation like this it’s easy to think of the guards as less than human. It’s really the only way to rationalize what they do. But somehow, Mario Escobar managed to keep reminding me that they’re real people, with real feelings (good & bad), and no one is purely evil or purely good.

This truly is one of the best books I’ve ever read. Helene’s journey and sacrifices to protect her family and others around her is amazing and will stick with me for a very long time!

I received a free review copy of this book through BookLook Bloggers. This in no way influenced my review.

What do you think? Have a suggestion for my next read? Leave me a comment below!

A Home for the Redeemed by Sue Behnke – BOOK REVIEW

This is another previously posted review I lost in my many “updates.

My review:

This story is WILD!!! It follows a number of people who either attend or are led to a  church led by Pastor Carl, who seems to have been in a funk for quite some time now. His dedication to his faith, his church, his marriage, and even himself is put to the test.

Brendan is a member of the church who used to be a homeless drug addict. After getting saved, he married his ex and now raises their child together. Brendan’s faith seems strong, until he’s really tested…

Benjamin is an atheist married to a woman who prays privately, multiple times a day, in her prayer room. She hasn’t been to church since being driven away after her previous marriage fell apart. Her faith is strong, but she’s been trying to do it all on her own and her new husband doesn’t even talk to her about her beliefs… until they’re both tested to the point of worrying Benjamin may be crazy…

There are many stories and lives woven together in A Home for the Redeemed. Real issues are dealt with and just when it seems everything is going to e okay… BAM! The church and all it’s members are suddenly thrown back into chaos.

I really enjoyed this story, but I got a little confused at the beginning. There are so many characters thrown at you and Brendan and Benjamin’s names are a little too similar for me… I got them mixed up more than once!

Definitely recommend picking this one up!

I received a free review copy of this book through Harper Collins Christian Publishing’s BookLook Bloggers Program. This in no way influenced my review.

What do you think of A Home for the Redeemed? Have a suggestion for my next read? Leave me a comment below!

The Girl from the Channel Islands just broke my heart AND somehow gave me all the feel goods inside

My initial thoughts posted to Goodreads immediately after finishing The Girl from the Channel Islands:

Normally, I would take some time, collect my thoughts and the broken pieces of my heart from the floor and THEN sit down to type out all the thoughts swirling around in my brain so you all would be able to understand it. But NOT today. OH NOOOOOO…. lucky you, today I’m just gonna pour my little heart out immediately after finishing The Girl from the Channel Islands by Jenny Lecoat because I just really need to share how I’m feeling right NOW!

So, how am I feeling about it? What exactly DID I think about this little nugget of a historical fiction novel set during WWII about a young Jewish woman stuck on some tiny little island with some Nazi soldiers??? I’m so glad you asked…

Where to begin…

Let’s travel back in time to the Channel Islands during the year 1940, where young Jewish girl Hedy Bercu has been living after fleeing Vienna. Her only real friend on the island is a young man named Anton and the Germans have taken control of the island.

Kinda makes you sad already, right? She’s already escaped the Nazis once… can she do it again?

No. The answer is NO. NO ONE is escaping the island… except maybe Anton and a poor possibly drunk widowed fisherman, but that’s not the part of the story we’re discussing today.

So how do I express to you what I DO want to talk about without giving away too much…?

Basically, Hedy ends up at the mercy of a woman she doesn’t particularly care for and a German officer who she may be falling in love with as she tries to hide right under the Nazi’s noses as a translator/thief and it’s INTENSE people!!! That’s all I think I can actually say without spoilers. So…yeah.

I cried, I laughed, I held my breath for way too long and felt a little dizzy. So if you’re the type of person who likes to put yourself through a lot of emotional turmoil and possibly be happy (but not TOO happy) in the end, then I definitely recommend this book.

Goodreads | Twitter

Thank you to NetGalley and Harlequin for the digital ARC of this novel in exchange for my honest review and opinions.

My thoughts after having a little bit to really put my head back together:

Not once have I ever thought about what it must’ve been like to be a part of the Nazi army against your will. I knew on a very superficial way that this happened. I’ve even read books where a character was called up to fight with the Germans, but it was always someone who didn’t really matter to the main story… so it was easy not to care.

In The Girl from the Channel Islands, we’re forced to watch as a man who has been drafted into the army for the Germans falls in love with a Jewish girl who challenges his complicity and his fierce denial of the atrocities happening to so many people at the hands of his “side”. That same girl’s best friend falls in love with a local island girl and then is also forced into the army on the side of the Nazis. Not only do we see the conflicting, damaging emotional states of these men, but we’re invited to see the war from the view of the women who love them.

Hedy and Dorothea fight to survive in a world that no longer wants them. They’re starved, hidden away, and treated as vermin. Yet they never lose hope (at least not completely). Not even after the war has ended do they give up their fight. They do what they can to learn of the fates of the men who never wanted a part of the losing side to begin with. I can’t help but wonder if their fates were somehow tied with their parts in the war. One with a cushy island assignment and one who was forced to actually fight.

This was a very bittersweet read that I’m so glad took me on the journey it did. It’s definitely going to stick with me for a very long time!

N S Ford

Writer, reader, blogger

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