Posted in book reviews

Wings of a Flying Tiger by Iris Yang

This may be the weirdest review I’ve ever written. Probably not for anyone reading it, but definitely for me personally.

Why? I’m glad you asked!

Okay, you probably didn’t, but I’m gonna tell you anyway…

I’m not normally big on war/battle scenes outside of the fantasy genre. I have no idea why, but give me a smoked orc, a decapitated goblin, burnt elf flesh – even a highly bloody GOT battle – and I’m all in! But a real life battle scene? Machine guns, fighter jets, human vs. human in a horrific and pointless war??? Nope. Can’t do it.

But of course, that’s exactly how Wings of a Flying Tiger began — with a jet fighter shoot out and a pilot seeing his best friend being shot out of the sky while trying to parachute to safety… right before his own plane is brought down! This is NOT my kinda thing!!

So why did I love this book SO much???

Wings of a Flying Tiger by Iris YangWings of a Flying Tiger by Iris Yang
Published by Open Books on May 20, 2018
ISBN: 194859806X
Pages: 254
Source: Open Books
Goodreads
five-stars

This post contains affiliate links you can use to purchase the book. If you buy the book using that link, I will receive a small commission from the sale.

Synopsis

World War Two. Japanese occupied China. One cousin's courage, another's determination to help a wounded American pilot.

In the summer of 1942, Danny Hardy bails out of his fighter plane into a remote region of western China. With multiple injuries, malaria, and Japanese troops searching for him, the American pilot’s odds of survival are slim.

Jasmine Bai, an art student who had been saved by Americans during the notorious Nanking Massacre, seems an unlikely heroine to rescue the wounded Flying Tiger. Daisy Bai, Jasmine’s younger cousin, also falls in love with the courageous American.

With the help of Daisy’s brother, an entire village opens its arms to heal a Flying Tiger with injured wings, but as a result of their charity the serenity of their community is forever shattered.

Love, sacrifice, kindness, and bravery all play a part in this heroic tale that takes place during one of the darkest hours of Chinese history.

This book may be unsuitable for people under 17 years of age due to its use of sexual content, drug and alcohol use, and/or violence.

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

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My Thoughts on Wings of a Flying Tiger:

I’m going to try my best to write a spoiler-free review, but it’s going to be tough. There’s so much I want to say about this book! At the same time, I don’t want to give too much of the story away or ruin any twists.

Let’s get this out of the way first – This book takes place during an incredibly brutal war. There are LOTS OF TRIGGERS: rape/sexual assault; extreme violence and lots of dead bodies; in-depth depictions of war scenes and horribly cruel crimes. But if you can make it through all that, you’re probably going to add Wings of a Flying Tiger to your favorites!

The Story:

While the violence is horrific, the story itself is compelling, well-written, and super fast-paced! I found myself pausing so my heart had time to slow down.

Yes, the story takes place in a war. Yes, it’s gruesome. Yet it’s also filled with hope, love, and joy.

The main character, Jasmine Bai, leaves school to travel home to convince her parents to leave Nanking before the Japanese invade. But her warning comes too late and she finds herself in the middle of Japanese-controlled territory! She ends up taking refuge at an all-women college inside the International Safety Zone, a 2-mile stretch that’s supposed to offer safety to the surviving civilians. But the Japanese military doesn’t obey the rules of the zone for very long!

Just when it seems Jasmine’s life might regain some level of safety and “normalcy,” her life is shaken up yet again when she and her cousin come upon a Flying Tiger (an American pilot volunteering to fight for China against the Japanese) named Danny.

The Characters:

The characters in Wings of a Flying Tiger are part of what keeps the story flowing at such a fast and engaging pace. They’re so well-written it’s hard not to find yourself completely enthralled with them, wondering what’s going to happen next and how they’ll get out of their current predicament.

Jasmine and her cousin, Daisy, are sweet and innocent in the beginning of the novel and somehow manage to maintain some of that in the most brutal of situations. Daisy especially seems sheltered from the harshness of the war as the two girls go through life just trying to survive.

The Fighting Tiger, Danny, is suffering from PTSD (obviously not referred to as that in the book) and struggles with nightmares while at the same time being anxious to get back to the fight after his plane is brought down. If I talk too much more about Danny, I’m afraid I’ll ruin some things so I’ll just end right there on him.

There are plenty of other supporting characters, good and bad. Everyone I either loved or hated.

Final Thoughts:

This was an incredibly hard book to read. Not because the story, writing, characters, or anything like that was “bad,” but because the story, writing, characters, and scenes were so good! The story takes place in the middle of a war, while Japanese soldiers are committing the most horrible atrocities imaginable — and the author doesn’t back down from that. She writes it in all its horridness. Normally, I can’t stomach this stuff…

So I cannot believe how much I loved this book. The entire time spent reading I either cried, laughed, experienced joy, pain, relief, fear, love or hate. And I felt emotionally spent by the time I reached the end. But sometimes, the best books just do that you!

What do you think? Have you read Wings of a Flying Tiger?

Have you ever read a book that had all the stuff you hate reading, yet loved the book anyway? Leave me a comment below and thanks for stopping by my little corner of the internet!

five-stars
Posted in book reviews

Dead Sea Rising by Jerry B. Jenkins

Dead Sea Rising by Jerry B. JenkinsDead Sea Rising (Dead Sea Chronicles #1) by Jerry B. Jenkins
Published by Worthy Books on November 13, 2018
ISBN: 1617950092
Genres: Christian Fiction
Pages: 320
Goodreads
four-half-stars

This post contains affiliate links you can use to purchase the book. If you buy the book using that link, I will receive a small commission from the sale.

Synopsis

FROM #1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR JERRY B. JENKINS COMES A HEART-STOPPING ADVENTURE OF HISTORICAL PROPORTIONS

Nicole Berman is an archaeologist on the brink of a world-changing discovery. During her first dig in Jordan, she believes she has found concrete evidence of a biblical patriarch that could change history books forever. But someone doesn’t want the truth revealed. While urgently trying to connect pieces of an ancient puzzle, a dangerous enemy is out to stop her.

“From a criminal investigation in Manhattan to the birth of Abram in ancient Ur, Jerry Jenkins weaves together a tale of drama and suspense that will draw you into the lives of two families separated by 4,000 years of history yet sharing remarkably similar struggles of faith. Dead Sea Rising combines the thrill of a whodunit with the moral and political intrigue of the ancient, and modern, Middle East. But be prepared. Once you begin, you won’t be able to stop until you reach the final page!” —DR. CHARLIE DYER, PROFESSOR-AT-LARGE OF BIBLE, AND HOST OF THE LAND AND THE BOOK RADIO PROGRAM

“If you love history—especially biblical history—this is a fun and fascinating read!” —JONI EARECKSON TADA, JONI AND FRIENDS INTERNATIONAL DISABILITY CENTER

 “Jerry Jenkins’ dialogue is equal to the best of Nelson DeMille, his storylines equal to the best of John Grisham. And now Dead Sea Rising . . . this book may be Jerry’s best.” —ANDY ANDREWS, NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR OF THE TRAVELER’S GIFT AND THE NOTICER

“Jumping back and forth in time at a breakneck pace, Dead Sea Rising is a thriller as only Jerry B. Jenkins can tell it. Biblical history combines with gripping contemporary mystery. Just be aware—you’ll be hooked.” —JAMES SCOTT BELL, INTERNATIONAL THRILLER WRITERS AWARD WINNER

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WHAT DID I JUST READ?!?!?

So let me begin by telling you guys, this book just completely and totally messed me up!! Though whether in a good way or a bad way remains to be seen…

First off, let me just give you a warning… this is the first book in a series!!! 

I didn’t realize that. 

So as I raced through the pages, desperate to know what happens next, who is behind everything happening to the Berman family, and what’s going to happen with Terah and the King – I expected it all to be wrapped up in a nice little bow…

BUT IT WASN’T!!!

And now I have to wait for the next book!!! And to be honest, I’m not sure my heart can withstand the suspense…

So if I disappear from the internets and you never hear from me again – Dead Sea Rising by Jerry B. Jenkins did it!

My Thoughts on Dead Sea Rising:

The story starts in Manhattan, New York, with Nicole Berman being informed her mother has tripped and broken her hip. Her father is too far away to get there before surgery, and Nicole rushes to the hospital to be with her mother.

The scene laid out on these first two pages had me hooked and ready to support Nicole through whatever was about to come…

But from there, we’re transported from a present-day hospital in Manhattan to Mesopotamia, 2000 B.C., during the reign of King Nimrod, and we’re in Ur with Terah and enthusiastically awaiting the birth of his unborn child.

Then we’re back to the present day where it turns out, Nicole’s mom’s fall wasn’t an accident…

And in the past, Terah and his unborn child are in danger…

AND THAT’S THE FIRST 10 PAGES!!!

The Characters:

I loved pretty much every character in this book!

The main character, Nicole, was a strong and smart female who’s waiting to hear back on whether or not Saudi Arabia is going to let her lead a dig there (she’s an archeologist). Nicole and her mother, Ginny, are close and so Nicole is incredibly heartbroken to learn that her mother is in the hospital.

Nicole and her father, Ben, aren’t as close as she and her mother are, and we quickly discover there may be a reason he stays so guarded… what secrets has Nicole’s father been keeping??

And while I truly enjoyed this book immensely (and without giving away any spoilers)

Did Jenkins HAVE to kill off one of my favorite characters? Maybe it’s the lack of sleep I’ve been getting with our newest placement, but I bawled my eyes out over a character that’s barely even in the book! I won’t say the name or even gender, because I don’t want to spoil anything, but I loved them and now they’re gone and I’m broken hearted!!!

The Story:

I’ve already said it, but I was pulled into this story from the very beginning!

The author, Jerry B. Jenkins, was one of the authors for the Left Behind series, which I absolutely LOVED (and what got me interested in actually studying the bible and not just reading it for the good stories), so I should have known this was going to be one of those books I wasn’t going to want to put down.

But I was unprepared for the level of unchecked emotional turmoil I was going to experience by the time I finished reading Dead Sea Rising! This is one of those books I started that life forced me to put down for a little while, and it was torture every day that went by without me being able to pick it back up and find out what happened next…

And then I finally reached “the end,” only to discover…

IT’S NOT THE END!!! There’s another book coming out soon.

I was left with so many questions my head may explode!!!

So all in all, I loved Dead Sea Rising and I recommend it to EVERYONE!!! But I’m super upset I can’t read the next part of the story already… My only complaint is that it ended so abruptly and I’m without the next book.

Have you also read or planning to read Dead Sea Rising? What do you think? Leave me a comment below!

four-half-stars
Posted in book reviews

The Balance of Heaven and Earth by Laurence Westwood

The Balance of Heaven and Earth by Laurence WestwoodThe Balance of Heaven and Earth by Laurence Westwood
Published by Shikra Press Genres: Historical Fiction, Mystery
Pages: 277
Source: the author
Goodreads
four-half-stars

This post contains affiliate links you can use to purchase the book. If you buy the book using that link, I will receive a small commission from the sale.

Synopsis

I have been unable to write a judgement that does not seem to offend my conscience, or indeed Heaven, in some manner. Because I do not wish to influence your thinking unduly, I have destroyed all my personal papers and notes in regard to this dispute, preferring you to start afresh. Forgive me for this. All I ask is that you consider and examine Jade Moon most carefully before coming to a decision. I find her fascinating and unsettling in equal measure, and fear the consequences of a wrongful judgement. I will say no more.

My sincerest best wishes to you and your family,

Magistrate Qian
Fifth District, Chengdu Prefecture
1st day of the 2nd Moon, 1085

So ends the letter of welcome (and of warning) to Magistrate Zhu, newly arrived in the remote border town of Tranquil Mountain. He has travelled far from his extensive family estates on the outskirts of Kaifeng – the glorious Song Dynasty capital – hoping to find atonement for past mistakes.

Yet he quickly discovers that Tranquil Mountain is anything but tranquil. The town is beset with simmering tensions since the death of his predecessor. Before Magistrate Zhu even has time to accustom himself to his inexperienced and wayward constabulary and the lowliness of his new surroundings, there is a mysterious murder, rumours of ghosts and blood-thirsty bandits out on the streets, and a disturbing kidnapping to solve – as well as the tragic and tangled legal circumstances of the local heroine Jade Moon to unravel.

For the balance of Heaven and Earth to be maintained, and to prevent catastrophe coming to Tranquil Mountain, Magistrate Zhu is well aware that not a single injustice can be allowed to stand. As he struggles to reach the correct judgements, he realises he has no choice but to offer up his career and perhaps even his own life for the greater good. And, in so doing, he discovers that as Jade Moon’s fate rests in his hands, so his fate ultimately rests in hers.

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

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My Thoughts on The Balance of Heaven and Earth:

Where do I begin???

I had no idea what to expect when I began reading this book. I know little about the time period in China during which The Balance of Heaven and Earth takes place, but part of what I LOVE about historical fiction is getting to learn about different places and times through fictionalized accounts of the past.

There was so much that I loved about this book, but the characters are what really pulled me in and had me both laughing and crying! Even the names of people and places made me happy – Jade Moon, Horse, Always Smiling Orphanage – I just loved them!!

The story begins with Jade Moon saving a merchant during an attack by bandits in the marketplace. Jade Moon, normally quiet and mild-mannered, was transformed that day.

But while she may have saved a life, her own life and future is at risk thanks to a deal made by her mother before the time of the marketplace incident. Now, the new magistrate, Magistrate Zhu, must decide the fate of Jade Moon…

Magistrate Zhu was born into wealth and power, when you first meet him it seems as if he doesn’t want to do actual work and is unhappy with his new position as magistrate of Tranquil Mountain. But as his story is revealed and he interacts with all the inhabitants of the town, the Magistrate’s attitudes and actions begin to make sense and he really grows on the people in the town (and the reader of the story, as well)!

And poor Magistrate Zhu! He arrives in what he believes will be a boring town where he’ll be required to do very little. But upon arriving, he finds many demands put upon him other than maintaining the tea trade — there’s been a murder AND the matter of what to do about Jade Moon must be decided!

The Patriarchs, who used to run Tranquil Mountain and provide for the economic stability of the town, fear Magistrate Zhu has come to steal their land and the little authority they have left.

Jade Moon’s situation is made more complicated (at least in the magistrate’s eyes) by the fact that she’s not fully Chinese. Her father was a barbarian, whom she loved fiercely even though her mother despised him. There are those who believe her to be supernatural – a reincarnation of a warrior from long ago!

No one in Tranquil Mountain knows what to think of Magistrate Zhu. They find him odd, though smart, but uncaring about them. Tea is the most important thing to the citizens of the town, but Zhu seems only to care about catching a murderer!

As the story unfolds, Jade Moon’s story is tied up in the Magistrate’s, though it’s not quite clear how, and they don’t even see it themselves. Then there’s a moment near the end of the book where it all comes together and I cried it was so perfect!

I love the theme throughout the book of balance. No one is perfect. All make mistakes, but they don’t have to ruin everything… Still, all decisions have lasting consequences, and every character in The Balance of Heaven and Earth has to deal with their own.

You should know that I have come to believe that injustice is the primary cause of any imbalance between Heaven and Earth. It takes just one innocent man to be punished for a crime he did not commit, or for one guilty man to go undiscovered and to walk abroad in this land unpunished, for suffering to be brought down upon all of us. This is the moral responsibility that has been laid upon our heads, we who have chosen to enforce the law.

Magistrate Zhu, The Balance of Heaven and Earth

You would think that this would be a story with a more serious tone, considering it’s a mystery dealing with a murder and a legal mess left behind by the former magistrate. But The Balance of Heaven and Earth is much more on the humorous side than the serious!

The ending was nothing like what I expected! Normally, when I’m caught off guard by an ending I hate it, but I was pleasantly surprised this time. It was SO much better than I had anticipated it being!

Actually, the ending wasn’t the only thing that surprised me about this book… I’m always a little wary of any story that has so many characters it includes a helpful guide at the beginning. I find that even with the guide, I tend to get confused. (I think Dark Queen Rising was the last story to do that to me.) But I actually never had that problem in The Balance of Heaven and Earth. The characters all have unique personalities and there was never so many characters in one scene together that I couldn’t keep up with who was who, and who was saying what. (I probably wouldn’t even have noticed there were so many characters in the book if the list wasn’t there.)

This is one of those books that isn’t going to be everyone’s favorite cup of tea, but it’s worth reading even if you don’t absolutely love it like I did!!! I definitely recommend this book for anyone that enjoys historical fiction and historical mysteries (especially those set during the time of the Song Dynasty).

What do you think of The Balance of Heaven and Earth? Do you know of similar story I might enjoy? Let me know in the comments below! Thanks and happy reading!!

four-half-stars
Posted in book reviews

The Autobiography of Satan

The Autobiography of SatanThe Autobiography of Satan: Authorized Edition by William A. Glasser
Published by Open Books on February 21, 2017
Pages: 161
Source: Open Books
Goodreads
three-half-stars

This post contains affiliate links you can use to purchase the book. If you buy the book using that link, I will receive a small commission from the sale.

Synopsis

This is the story of Satan's many struggles, across the history of Human existence, to unshackle the Human mind, and open the gates to forbidden knowledge.

From the moment of his first emergence as a single spark in the dimness of prehistory, to the more enlightening force into which he evolves across the full span of human existence, Satan, as he now clearly illustrates, has been urging human beings to open their eyes to the world around them, and to continue seeking, with unfettered minds, for ultimate answers, yet to be found. To do so he must struggle against the persistent attempts to stifle that urge by the "spoon feeders," as he calls them, individuals who have insisted, within every age, and often with a bloody fist, that they, and they alone, are the possessors of the only beliefs that every human being should accept and live by, without question. As Satan traces the history of their many attempts to stop human beings from thinking for themselves, he also takes his readers on a search for the ultimate source of all evil in this world. Readers will obviously enter the book with the standard concept of Satan as a supernatural figure of evil. They will leave the book, however, with a better understanding of how such mind-twisting concepts have been used to keep people away from the "forbidden" knowledge that lies beyond the borders of entrenched beliefs.

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

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My Thoughts on The Autobiography of Satan:

Poor, pitiful Satan. He’s been so misunderstood and gotten a really bad rap all these centuries. And he’s stayed so quiet and continued to take the blame for all the evil in the world, but is it really fair? He believes it’s high time we all hear him out!

Similar to the Screwtape Story?

The first thing that came to my mind when I began reading The Autobiography of Satan, was C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters. Screwtape Letters is one of my favorite Lewis books and I saw a lot of similarities between the two.

The Screwtape Letters are the correspondence between two demons regarding winning the fate of one Christian. But The Autobiography of Satan is Satan’s side of every story ever told about him in every religion. (Although, he seems to go back to the Garden of Eden story more than any other.)

And he claims we’ve gotten him ALL wrong.

Like the demons, who believe their side is the “right” side in The Screwtape Letters, so Satan believe he’s the hero in his own story in his autobiography.

Satan’s side of the good vs. evil story…

So Satan transcribes the “real” story to his scribe, Wag, who I assume is some lower level demon. When I realized that W.A.G. is the initials of the author, I laughed out loud.

As Satan retells stories of himself throughout the ages, his tales are broken up by conversations between him and Wag. These conversations were some of my favorite parts of the book! Wag isn’t exactly happy with being chosen to record Satan’s story, and he doesn’t seem to find it all that interesting either… and he’s not quiet about it!

The whole book centers around our perceived reality of good and evil, and Satan’s trying to convince the world that they’ve misjudged him. He’s just trying to open up our minds and give us all the knowledge we’re missing out on! There’s a lot of history and myth surrounding his background and he just wants to set the record straight!

As he says at the start…

Your distorted sense of me has persisted for much too long now, and to your own detriment, I might add, for it has been used incessantly to scare you into an unquestioning state of submission. There have been far too many twisted accounts of me, both mythic and legendary — and all, of course, unauthorized.

Satan

Turns out, he really doesn’t like being portrayed with horns and a tail all the time, either!

Who’s going to enjoy this book…

While I really enjoyed this story, it’s not going to be for everyone. If you’re the type to take things a little too seriously, you’re probably not going to like this book. But if you enjoy a bit of satire and a good dark comedy, this is definitely going to be right up your alley!

There were times when I felt like I got a little too bogged down in a history lesson, but I actually appreciated the detail and it totally fit with Satan’s personality. After all, this is his chance to finally defend himself (and get rid of that horrible image of a red being with horns and a tail) and he needs to make sure we understand exactly where he’s coming from!

I wasn’t really a huge fan of the ending. I’d rate it a full 4 stars if the last chapter just wasn’t there, honestly. But with it, it’s a 3.5 from me.

So I recommend The Autobiography of Satan to fans of The Screwtape Letters and anyone who enjoys a historical satire.

So those are my thoughts, what do you think about The Autobiography of Satan? Have you read it? Leave me a comment below!

three-half-stars
Posted in book reviews

Rosemary in Bloom by Khristy Reibel – BOOK REVIEW

40225499

I normally don’t pick books this way, but I chose Rosemary in Bloom by Khristy Reibel specifically because it didn’t sound like something I’d normally read.

Title: Rosemary in Bloom
Author: Khristy Reibel
Publication Date & Publisher: August 10, 2018, Open Books
Genre(s): Historical Fiction
Disclosure:  This post contains affiliate links. If you use these links to purchase a product, I may receive a small percentage of the sale, however, no additional cost will be incurred by you.

Description (from Goodreads):

What if war separated you from your true love? What if you married the wrong man? What if the power of love brought you together again?
When Rosemary meets Albert it is instant chemistry. But it is also the summer of 1942, and scores of young men—Albert included—feel compelled to enlist to fight the war against Hitler. Albert wants to marry Rosemary before he leaves for Europe, but she just can’t commit. Like so many young women of her time, Rosemary finds herself left behind to work and worry, desperate for love but frightened of abandonment.
Three years later, and with Albert’s fate still unknown, Rosemary meets Harry, a charming and handsome man. Rosemary feels guilty for spending so much time with Harry, but she has all but lost faith that Albert will make it safely back home, especially when she receives news of her brother’s serious combat injury. Should she wait for Albert, or settle for second best?
Inspired by a true story, Rosemary in Bloom explores faith, forgiveness, enduring love against all odds, and the difficult decisions that strong, smart women on the home front had to make during World War II.

My review:

I’m not sure exactly what I expected from Rosemary in Bloom, but it was definitely better than I anticipated!
The story follows two young people, Rosemary and Albert, during World War II. Rosemary is 16 at the beginning of the story. She’s quit school to help provide for her family after her father has left for TB treatment and her sister has moved back in with her mom with her two kids during her divorce. Albert works with Rosemary at the glass factory in their town and the two meet during a war bond drive at a local dance hall.
Rosemary wants nothing more than to be in love and to be a normal girl, but the war makes that impossible. She has to work and ration the things she loves (like butter and nylons) and she’s scared to care for any of the young men her town because they all end up leaving for the war. When her brother joins the military and is so eager to go fight, she’s devastated.
I absolutely fell in love with Rosemary and Albert! They were so cute together!!! When Albert joined the military and left Rosemary, it broke my heart right along with her. But Rosemary made me angry too! I understood her heartache and worry, but it upset me how easily she let Harry sway her when he came around.
Before leaving, Albert had asked Rosemary to marry him and even though she didn’t give him a real answer, they both seemed to be believe that she would wait for him. And honestly, Harry didn’t strike me as the kind of guy you give up a man like Albert for!!
Harry isn’t serious about anything, and I get how during that time an attitude like that could be intoxicating for her. Still, Albert was clearly the better choice!!!
Then again…… Albert didn’t exactly do himself any favors either. He doesn’t write to Rosemary and she’s led to believe that he died. By the time she finds out the truth, Harry’s got his claws in her. The question is, will it all work out right in the end?
I think part of the reason I loved this story so much was because it reminds me of my grandmother’s own love story. She was reunited with her true love late in life and they spent many years together before he died. I couldn’t help but root for the same for Rosemary and Albert all through the entire book!
This was a wonderful love story that had me in both happy and sad tears.
What do you think? Have a suggestion for my next read? Leave me a comment below!
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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!
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