Tag: Historical Fiction

A Night Divided by Jennifer A. Nielsen

Author: Jennifer A. Nielsen
Published: August 25, 2015
357 Pages

Reviewed By: Kim
Kim’s Rating: 4 stars

Book Description:

From NYT bestselling author Jennifer A. Nielsen comes a stunning thriller about a girl who must escape to freedom after the Berlin Wall divides her family between east and west.

With the rise of the Berlin Wall, twelve-year-old Gerta finds her family suddenly divided. She, her mother, and her brother Fritz live on the eastern side, controlled by the Soviets. Her father and middle brother, who had gone west in search of work, cannot return home. Gerta knows it is dangerous to watch the wall, to think forbidden thoughts of freedom, yet she can’t help herself. She sees the East German soldiers with their guns trained on their own citizens; she, her family, her neighbors and friends are prisoners in their own city.

But one day, while on her way to school, Gerta spots her father on a viewing platform on the western side, pantomiming a peculiar dance. Then, when she receives a mysterious drawing, Gerta puts two and two together and concludes that her father wants Gerta and Fritz to tunnel beneath the wall, out of East Berlin. However, if they are caught, the consequences will be deadly. No one can be trusted. Will Gerta and her family find their way to freedom?

Kim’s Review:

Jennifer Nielsen has joined the ranks of “authors Kim will read no matter what”. She hasn’t written a thing I don’t like. She writes with such emotion and I very rarely look at page numbers while reading her books. With all that established, I have to admit that this is her weakest work so far. That does not mean it is bad, it simply means that A Night Divided is not my favorite of her books. I enjoyed this book very much, the only issue is that sometimes, while the characters were dealing with their boring existence in Communist East Berlin, that monotony came out for me, the reader, as well. That is the only reason I’m giving it 4 stars instead of 5.

I love how Donnelly showed the practical side of life under Communism; the little things that we  Americans take for granted like the freedom to listen to music, or say the things we are thinking, no matter what we’re thinking. The scenes where Gerta goes to the market and the shelves being empty of most things except cabbage was especially potent.

I would suggest this book to most millennials, no matter their age. The suspense that Donnelly created, especially near the end, made me forget any boredom I was feeling near the beginning. This is another book that I would tell high school and middle school teachers to keep on their shelves. And the cover is amazing. And everyone should read it. And now I want to visit Germany. And I’m going to start writing all my reviews in this short sentence, list format. Ok, just kidding! 😊 I really liked this book and I think everyone else should read it as well!

Purchase Links:
Amazon US
Amazon UK

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Authors: Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
Published: July 29, 2008
277 Pages

Reviewed By: Kim
Kim’s Rating: 4 stars

Book Description:

Written with warmth and humor as a series of letters, this novel is a celebration of the written word in all its guises, and of finding connection in the most surprising ways.

“I wonder how the book got to Guernsey? Perhaps there is some sort of secret homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers.”

January 1946: London is emerging from the shadow of the Second World War, and writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject. Who could imagine that she would find it in a letter from a man she’s never met, a native of the island of Guernsey, who has come across her name written inside a book by Charles Lamb….

As Juliet and her new correspondent exchange letters, Juliet is drawn into the world of this man and his friends—and what a wonderfully eccentric world it is. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society—born as a spur-of-the-moment alibi when its members were discovered breaking curfew by the Germans occupying their island—boasts a charming, funny, deeply human cast of characters, from pig farmers to phrenologists, literature lovers all.

Juliet begins a remarkable correspondence with the society’s members, learning about their island, their taste in books, and the impact the recent German occupation has had on their lives. Captivated by their stories, she sets sail for Guernsey, and what she finds will change her forever.

Written with warmth and humor as a series of letters, this novel is a celebration of the written word in all its guises, and of finding connection in the most surprising ways.

Kim’s Review:

There’s been a buzz around this book since Netflix announced that they would be turning it into a movie. I definitely wanted to read it before I watched. I really liked this book! It’s an easy read with a simple story and likable characters. I was a little hesitant with the letter format and it definitely isn’t my favorite, but by end, I had gotten used to it. The small issue of homosexuality was introduced and handled maturely but not historically.  No one during that time would have been so open to a stranger about homosexuality when it was literally against the law. Thankfully, it wasn’t a major part of the story.

Juliet is a funny, passionate protagonist and I couldn’t wait to turn the page to find out what happened to her. Interestingly, one of the most potent characters didn’t even make an appearance! Most of the people on the island of Guernsey are spunky and fun. I had such a great time getting to know them! Even the nasty people on the island made me laugh! While there is a set story-line that was entertaining, this is definitely a character-centric book! If you don’t want to visit Guernsey to meet the people there, then you read the book wrong! A great one for lovers of historical fiction! A great book!!!

Purchase Links:
Amazon US
Amazon UK

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Resistance by Jennifer A. Nielsen

 

Author: Jennifer A. Nielsen
Published: August 28, 2018
400 Pages

Reviewed By: Kim
Kim’s Rating: 5  stars

Book Description:

Chaya Lindner is a teenager living in Nazi-occupied Poland. Simply being Jewish places her in danger of being killed or sent to the camps. After her little sister is taken away, her younger brother disappears, and her parents all but give up hope, Chaya is determined to make a difference. Using forged papers and her fair features, Chaya becomes a courier and travels between the Jewish ghettos of Poland, smuggling food, papers, and even people.

Soon Chaya joins a resistance cell that runs raids on the Nazis’ supplies. But after a mission goes terribly wrong, Chaya’s network shatters. She is alone and unsure of where to go, until Esther, a member of her cell, finds her and delivers a message that chills Chaya to her core, and sends her on a journey toward an even larger uprising in the works — in the Warsaw Ghetto.

Though the Jewish resistance never had much of a chance against the Nazis, they were determined to save as many lives as possible, and to live — or die — with honor.

Kim’s Review:

This book blew my socks off! I’ve read Nielsen before and enjoyed her books, but this one takes the cake and the icing and the candles and all the presents too! I’ve been reading a lot of Holocaust fiction lately and I had my eye on this book for a while. It was released just last month and I picked it up almost as soon as Amazon delivered it.

At first, I was nervous that I wasn’t going to like Chaya. She seemed to have an air of superiority about her that didn’t suit her. She was quick to acknowledge her own service and sacrifice. That did get much better the further into the book I got. She became believable and realistic with her fear and courage. Esther was more pitiful than anything but it was nice to see her grow and mature throughout the story. The resistance network in Poland was impressive and even though I knew the history and what happened, I found myself hoping that just this once, things would turn out differently. I’ve been thinking a lot about the Jews and other victims of the Holocaust, that something like that would never happen in America because our mindset is completely different from Europeans. I am by no means victim-shaming, I’m simply pointing out that Americans, with our guns and natural rebelliousness, would have put up far more of a fight. This book showed that there were many people who showed that “not all sheep go like lambs to the slaughter.” I loved seeing how people refused to be cowed and exterminated without resisting.

The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, though technically a failure, is shown to be such a heroic effort in this book. I’ve never studied it in detail, but the people involved in the Uprising were people of courage and hope and I was so inspired by their sacrifices. I also appreciated how Nielsen showed the impact of young people in the resistance. In the face of such evil and the slaughter of their people, even teens took up arms and were willing to sacrifice themselves to save the lives of people they didn’t know. This is another book that every single middle and high school history teacher should have on his or her shelf as required reading. I found myself tearing up at the end and then wanting reread it all over again! I cannot say enough good about this book and I recommend it to everyone, especially any teen!

Purchase Links:
Amazon US
Amazon UK

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