Tag: Historical Fiction

The Tattooist of Auschwitz

Author: Heather Morris
Published: January 27, 2018
288 pages

Reviewed By: Kim
Kim’s Rating: 3 stars

Book Description:

In April 1942, Lale Sokolov, a Slovakian Jew, is forcibly transported to the concentration camps at Auschwitz-Birkenau. When his captors discover that he speaks several languages, he is put to work as a Tätowierer (the German word for tattooist), tasked with permanently marking his fellow prisoners.

Imprisoned for over two and a half years, Lale witnesses horrific atrocities and barbarism—but also incredible acts of bravery and compassion. Risking his own life, he uses his privileged position to exchange jewels and money from murdered Jews for food to keep his fellow prisoners alive.

One day in July 1942, Lale, prisoner 32407, comforts a trembling young woman waiting in line to have the number 34902 tattooed onto her arm. Her name is Gita, and in that first encounter, Lale vows to somehow survive the camp and marry her.

A vivid, harrowing, and ultimately hopeful re-creation of Lale Sokolov’s experiences as the man who tattooed the arms of thousands of prisoners with what would become one of the most potent symbols of the Holocaust, The Tattooist of Auschwitz is also a testament to the endurance of love and humanity under the darkest possible conditions.

Kim’s Review:

I have had my eye on this book for quite a while, so when I found it at Sam’s Club for cheap, I grabbed it! Unfortunately, it didn’t live up to the hype. I love Holocaust literature and I am a huge supporter of Holocaust education. I’m not going to say that this is a bad book, because it isn’t. However, it is not my favorite Holocaust book. And to be clear, it is a work of fiction. Jessica sent me an article from the Auschwitz Memorial Museum and they pointed out that there’s too much vagueness and even straight up inaccuracies in Tattooist for them to recommend it as “valuable reading for people who want to learn and understand the history of Auschwitz.” I knew it was fiction when I picked it up so that doesn’t really surprise me nor does it change my feelings.

There are two reasons I’m giving it 3 stars:

The first does go along with what the Memorial said, that it wasn’t completely accurate, even in its general portrayal of Auschwitz. I’m a historian and I’ve studied the Holocaust so I have a standard already set in my head when it comes to the concentration camps and Tattooist doesn’t really meet it. Auschwitz sounded too livable in this book. It lacked a sense of horror that other accounts convey. I had to fill in what I already knew about Auschwitz to get that dread and terror that normally comes when reading about the Holocaust. That did bother me some.

The second reason is Lale himself. Far be it from me to criticize a Holocaust survivor and I completely acknowledge that our modern society influenced me in this case: Lale was a little pervy. He admitted to learning how to flirt with his mother, that his romantic expectations were set by his mother . . . and I just kept waiting for it to come out that he was actually a serial killer! I know that’s such a horrible thought, but it’s truly what I was expecting every time he brought up his mother and their relationship! I get that boys can learn how to treat women from their mothers, and I know that’s what was going on, but it still got a kinda cringey the more he talked about it. Too many times, I thought, “ok TMI! Didn’t want to know that! Keep that crap to yourself!”

I really wanted to love this book and it was ok, but I wouldn’t recommend this to too many people. Obviously if you like historical fiction, you’ll probably enjoy this book, but I would not recommend this to teens or as educational material.

Purchase Links
Amazon US
Amazon UK

Time’s Convert by Deborah Harkness

Author: Deborah Harkness
Published: September 18, 2018
436 pages

Reviewed By: Kim
Kim’s Rating: 4 stars

Book Description:

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of A Discovery of Witches, a novel about what it takes to become a vampire.

On the battlefields of the American Revolution, Matthew de Clermont meets Marcus MacNeil, a young surgeon from Massachusetts, during a moment of political awakening when it seems that the world is on the brink of a brighter future. When Matthew offers him a chance at immortality and a new life free from the restraints of his puritanical upbringing, Marcus seizes the opportunity to become a vampire. But his transformation is not an easy one and the ancient traditions and responsibilities of the de Clermont family clash with Marcus’s deeply held beliefs in liberty, equality, and brotherhood.

Fast-forward to contemporary Paris, where Phoebe Taylor—the young employee at Sotheby’s whom Marcus has fallen for—is about to embark on her own journey to immortality. Though the modernized version of the process at first seems uncomplicated, the couple discovers that the challenges facing a human who wishes to be a vampire are no less formidable than they were in the eighteenth century. The shadows that Marcus believed he’d escaped centuries ago may return to haunt them both—forever.

A passionate love story and a fascinating exploration of the power of tradition and the possibilities not just for change but for revolution, Time’s Convert channels the supernatural world-building and slow-burning romance that made the All Souls Trilogy instant bestsellers to illuminate a new and vital moment in history, and a love affair that will bridge centuries.

Kim’s Review:

I love the All Souls Trilogy so much and when I found out that Harkness was writing another book, I geeked out in my brain. I fell in love with all these characters and to be able to spend more time with them was a dream come true. My only issue was the fact that half the book was written from Diana’s perspective, like the other books in the series. I guess it’s not really an issue, I was just surprised and I got over it very quickly. Harkness kept the tone and writing style consistent with the rest of the series and it really felt like I had just gone on a vacation and I came home and everything was exactly how I left it.

Everything great about the All Souls Trilogy can be found in Time’s Convert. Harkness has a grasp on history and combines it so well with storytelling that you actually believe all of this really happened. And getting a look into turning someone into a vampire and the culture within the vampire family was fascinating! It was so nice to learn Marcus’s story and I love him even more for it. And I’m not sure where to find Ysabeau . . . but I need her in my life cuz she’s classy and a badass! I think this is such a great addition to such an amazing saga and I absolutely recommend it to everyone!

Here is the link to my video review of the All Souls Trilogy:

Sunday Series VIDEO Review: The All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness

Purchase Links:
Amazon US
Amazon UK

 

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Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

Author: Jennifer Donnelly
Published: October 12. 2010
472 pages

Reviewed By: Kim
Kim’s Rating: 4 stars

Book Description:

BROOKLYN: Andi Alpers is on the edge. She’s angry at her father for leaving, angry at her mother for not being able to cope, and heartbroken by the loss of her younger brother, Truman. Rage and grief are destroying her. And she’s about to be expelled from Brooklyn Heights’ most prestigious private school when her father intervenes. Now Andi must accompany him to Paris for winter break.

PARIS: Alexandrine Paradis lived over two centuries ago. She dreamed of making her mark on the Paris stage, but a fateful encounter with a doomed prince of France cast her in a tragic role she didn’t want—and couldn’t escape.

Two girls, two centuries apart. One never knowing the other. But when Andi finds Alexandrine’s diary, she recognizes something in her words and is moved to the point of obsession. There’s comfort and distraction for Andi in the journal’s antique pages—until, on a midnight journey through the catacombs of Paris, Alexandrine’s words transcend paper and time, and the past becomes suddenly, terrifyingly present.

Kim’s Review:

I love this book so much! This was the first book that kept me up until 3:00 in the morning and then I had to give study halls to all my classes so I could finish it. Yeah, yeah, I was occasionally a bad teacher.

Revolution is the perfect combination of history and fantasy. No, none of us can really step back in time to live out the life of an obscure historical criminal just to see how the story ends. But Andi did, and we can all live vicariously through her. Donnelly does a great job of showing the other side of the French Revolution. It seems like in every portrayal, the royals are the bad guys and the revolutionaries are the good guys. That is not the case at all. As with most history, the Revolution was not black and white. There were no good guys or bad guys, there were people who fell on one side or the other. Both sides were guilty of horrible things and both sides did good things. Donnelly gives us a look into some of the true innocents in the Revolution, the royal children. Louis XVI and Marie Antionette had several children, but only their daughter survived the Revolution. What is truly sad is that their son, Louis-Charles, suffered in ways that no child should ever have to. He was imprisoned, sealed into a room and reduced to starvation and madness.

Andi was an ok character. I felt sorry for her because of the death of her brother and her mother’s downward spiral into a mental breakdown. Her father certainly didn’t help matters by ignoring everything, including Andi. But, at times, she turned into a whiny teenager and I lost patience with that attitude really fast! Alexandrine, the girl in Paris during the Revolution, was a much more likable character. She was faced with tough situation after tough situation and yet she kept fighting and trying and I found her fascinating! Overall, this is just an awesome book that held my attention from the first page to the last page. I would absolutely recommend this to anyone who likes historical fiction and to any teen whether they like to read or not.

Purchase Links:
Amazon US
Amazon UK

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