Posted in book reviews

BOOK REVIEW: The Socialite by J’nell Ciesielski

BOOK REVIEW: The Socialite by J’nell CiesielskiThe Socialite by J'nell Ciesielski
Published by Thomas Nelson on April 14, 2020
ISBN: 0785233547
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 368
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
five-stars
Synopsis

Glamour, treachery, and espionage collide when an English socialite rushes to save her sister from the Nazis.As the daughter of Sir Alfred Whitford, Kat has a certain set of responsibilities. But chasing her wayward sister, Ellie, to Nazi-occupied Paris was never supposed to be one of them. Now accustomed to the luxurious lifestyle that her Nazi boyfriend provides, Ellie has no intention of going back to the shackled life their parents dictate for them--but Kat will stop at nothing to bring her sister home.
Arrested for simply trying to defend himself against a drunken bully, Barrett Anderson is given the option of going to jail or serving out his sentence by training Resistance fighters in Paris. A bar owner serves as the perfect disguise to entertain Nazis at night while training fighters right below their jackboots during the day. Being assigned to watch over two English debutantes is the last thing he needs, but a payout from their father is too tempting to resist. Can Barrett and Kat trust each other long enough to survive, or will their hearts prove more traitorous than the dangers waiting around the corner?


I received this book for free from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

So I was browsing NetGalley and had been in a historical fiction kind of mood when I saw the cover for The Socialite by J’nell Ciesielski. I don’t know what it was, but I fell in love with that cover and knew I’d be requesting it no matter what it was about! (This is a super bad habit I’m finding myself doing way too often lately.) I’m actually thinking about doing a monthly series titled “I Chose A Book by its Cover and…” But that’s a post for another day.

Basically, the cover drew me in and the description sealed my fate. I HAD TO READ THIS BOOK! So I did (obviously) and I loved it!

The Story:

The Socialite is about two English debutantes who find themselves in occupied France during World War II.

Kathleen Whitford has convinced her father to allow her to travel into Paris in order to retrieve her younger sister, who has run away with a Nazi officer. Kathleen is a mix of bravery, cowardice, strength, sarcasm, wit and naivety all rolled up into one very complicated woman. Of course, it’s not so easy to tell all that when we’re first introduced to her, as she’s about to sneak her way into a party teeming with German soldiers. When it’s revealed the hostess of this get together is Kat’s sister, Eleanor Whitford, my jaw literally dropped open!

Eleanor believes she’s found the perfect man in Major Eric von Schlegel. Despite his Nazi ideology, Eleanor is convinced he’s a good man who will care for her in a way she has never been loved before. So, of course, she’s not interested in going back with Kat to their father’s house, where she’s expected to live by high society standards. She resents that Kat always does what’s expected of her and never seems to just let go.

Kat’s world is further turned upside down by the introduction of Barrett Anderson, a Scottish bar owner she meets as he is also crashing the Nazi party her sister is throwing during Kat’s first night in Paris. Barrett is also living a very complicated life and he and Kat are drawn to each other for multiple reasons…none more interesting/disturbing than the hidden fact that Barrett is working for Kat and Ellie’s father.

Barrett views Kat in much the same light her sister does and he’s pretty uncompromising:

And you always follow the rules, don’t you? No matter who gives them or for what reason. My guess is you don’t ask the reason. You simply obey.

Barrett Anderson, The Socialite by J’nell Ciesielski

As the story unfolds, Kat, Ellie and Barrett are all shown to be more than meets the eye. And the trio end up trying to escape the Nazis together among multiple twists and turns that come together to create an amazing story I can see myself reading over and over again!

The Characters:

This is a novel where the characters really make it a memorable, wonderful read. They’re well developed and likable. I even found myself at I’ve point not completely hating evil Eric!

I think it’s speaks a lot to the writing itself that the author was even able to get these characters to a dinner with Hitler and make it believable. In fact, dinner with Hitler was one of my favorite scenes!

My favorite stories are always those where the people and places stick with me for years. The characters in The Socialite are definitely going to do that!

Conclusion:

If I haven’t already made it clear, let me just wrap up this review by saying I absolutely loved reading The Socialite by J’nell Ciesielski and definitely recommend picking it up if you’re looking for some historical fiction! It’s way more than just a pretty cover!

five-stars
Posted in book reviews

Auschwitz Lullaby by Mario Escobar – BOOK REVIEW

36576005Title: Auschwitz Lullaby
Author: Mario Escobar
Publication Date & Publisher: August 7, 2018, Thomas Nelson
Genre(s): Historical Fiction
Length: 304 pages
ISBN: 9780785219958
My Rating: 5.0/5.0

Description (from Goodreads):

In 1943 Germany, Helene is just about to wake up her children to go to school when a group of policemen break into her house. The policemen want to haul away her gypsy husband and their five children. The police tell Helene that as a German she does not have to go with them, but she decides to share the fate of her family. After convincing her children that they are going off to a vacation place, so as to calm them, the entire family is deported to Auschwitz.
For being German, they are settled in the first barracks of the Gypsy Camp. The living conditions are extremely harsh, but at least she is with her five children. A few days after their arrival, Doctor Mengele comes to pay her a visit, having noticed on her entry card that she is a nurse. He proposes that she direct the camp’s nursery. The facilities would be set up in Barrack 29 and Barrack 31, one of which would be the nursery for newborn infants and the other for children over six years old.
Helene, with the help of two Polish Jewish prisoners and four gypsy mothers, organizes the buildings. Though Mengele provides them with swings, Disney movies, school supplies, and food, the people are living in crowded conditions under extreme conditions. And less than 400 yards away, two gas chambers are exterminating thousands of people daily.
For sixteen months, Helene lives with this reality, desperately trying to find a way to save her children. Auschwitz Lullaby is a story of perseverance, of hope, and of strength in one of the most horrific times in history.

My review:

I could summarize my reaction to this story 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!
Are you planning on purchasing Auschwitz Lullaby? Please consider supporting this blog by using one of these affiliate links:
36576005Amazon Paperback
Amazon Kindle
BookDepository Paperback