I Survived the Nazi Invasion, 1944 (I Survived Graphic Novels #3) by Georgia Ball

5 stars Middle School Graphic Novel

Another great I Survived graphic novel for children.  Addressing the Nazi Invasion of 1944, there’s nothing like reading how a family is forced apart and the young siblings try to outsmart their enemy, to get your blood flowing late at night.   I know from reading previous stories about the Nazi’s and hearing personal stories, that this period in history is one of the darkest but each time I read one of these stories, I still shake my head.  To allow someone to have that much control and then, all the individuals that followed every one of his commands.  I think it’s so sad.

It’s bad enough that families have been pulled out of their own homes and placed into a ghetto with who-knows how many other displaced families.   Just when they think this might be their new home, they’re yanked out and their lives are rearranged again.  For Max, he had his sister Zena and his Papa nearby until the Nazi’s decided they could use Papa elsewhere and they took him away.  Now, it’s just Max and Zena, and they’re trying to survive.  Can they do it alone?

I really enjoyed the illustrations in this graphic novel, the use of color was fantastic.  The action was nonstop as this family was pulled from their surroundings and became one of many.  If you haven’t checked out this graphic novel series based on the I Survived series, I highly recommend that you do.  

Of Women and Salt by Gabriela Garcia

3 stars Fiction

I had a hard time with this book.  I thought had the stories not been chopped up, I would have enjoyed the book more.  Between the different timelines and all the characters in this book to keep track of.  I felt I was learning about one person and the story would suddenly shift to someone else.   I remember reading about making cigars and I was enjoying this passage when suddenly, that story was gone and I was reading something totally different.  There were a few times when I was reading sections of the book and I thought, why was this included in the book?  How does this pertain to anything I have previously read?  Had I missed something? Don’t get me wrong as there were some very interesting sections in this book, sections that I would have loved to know more about but I never got to return to them.

I don’t think this book was for me.  This book was read for book club and as we discussed the book, we talked about how disconnected some individuals felt as they read. I’m glad that I was not alone in my confusion.  I see that others have read this book and loved it so I have to say that it was not a good choice for me.   3 stars 

We Are Wolves by Katrina Nannestad

5 stars Middle School

Such a wonderful, heartfelt story.  When father is called up to serve, 2 months later he is MIA.  When I read this, I kept thinking that he fled and was coming back to be with his family.  As I read, I kept searching and waiting for his return.  

They leave their home and flee with their loaded down wagon and their horse Mozart traveling West away from the Red Army.  Joining into the line of traffic of young and old travelers, they fit right in.  There are walkers, riders, and a combination of both- everyone just wants to get away.   Finding refuge in a farmhouse, they discover that it hasn’t been ransacked by the Russian soldiers and it’s well-stocked. 

I liked how they were taught by their Papa to recite their relatives’ names.  The desperation of foraging while on their journey, their encounter with the Russians and how the family stayed together were key highlights of this book which I enjoyed.  The ending was not what I expected and wanted.  Another great historical middle school read.  5 stars

Revival Season by Monica West

4.5 Fiction

Oh, the memories. As I read, I was there under those summer tented services. These revival services brough in quite a variety of individuals. The metal chairs were set in perfect formation, the preacher pausing as he gathers his thoughts and his flock waited, for he had their attention now. Their amens and hallelujahs could be heard throughout the night as he walked the stage holding onto his Bible, for they hung onto every word he spoke, this disciple of God. For Miriam, her father is the preacher. She travels with her family to these revival sites and witnesses the other side of her father, the father that is not on stage. Why does her father act so differently? Why does it feel that everyone has their eyes shut?

As a popular preacher, Miriam’s father had stood before many during these summer revivals. Oh, he was good when he got up on stage, he had genuine acting talent when he had a mic in his hand. At the conclusion of his revival services, Reverend Horton conducted a healing service where he would lay his hands of those who wanted to be healed. Here’s where the problems start: Miriam has a brother who her father takes under his wing and Caleb accompanies Papa to all his church functions. Miriam thinks she has the power to heal like her father BUT Papa doesn’t feel that God would give women that kind of power. The way that he humiliates Miriam about this, it’s so childish. I would have lashed back at him in front of his congestion (Miriam sure had some strength to sit and take his abuse). Papa feels that the door is closed and no one can see what is happening in their family but does that really matter and is the door really closed?

I liked the character of Miriam as she grows intellectually throughout the book. She discovers that she possesses the strength and power to address some of the discrepancies that come to light. She also knows that she’ll need to build up those skills to address some other issues. She learns to address what is happening and not turn a blind eye to it. The abuse was real and although Mama was not willing to address it, Miriam was.

All through the book, Miriam did her part. She played the part of daughter and sister to those who needed her. She tried to be a sister to Caleb when he was around but she also had a sister named Hannah. She cared for Hannah when they were out on the road. Hannah had cerebral palsy and Miriam tried to make her life as normal as possible. If you’re like me, I thought a lot about Hannah. Her father is Reverend Horton, who conducts healing services while holding revival services, why isn’t she cured?? I found the answer later in the book when the Reverend told me, which lead me to dislike him even more (if that was possible)

I enjoyed this book more than I anticipated. It did deal with the issue of abuse and there was some religion in it as Miriam’s father is a pastor conducting summer revival services. Growing up attending a Southern Baptist Church in Iowa, I could relate to many of the revival services Miriam described and it brough back many memories. This was one summer that fifteen-year-old Miriam will never forget. 4.5 stars

“Brothers and sisters, are you ready to be healed? Before he finished the sentence, lines of men and women gathered in the aisle. Papa moved through the line, his confidence building with each healing. I patted my pocket with the holy water in it before closing my eyes and whispering a prayer. “Lord, let me be an instrument of Your will. Amen.””

Clarice the Brave by Lisa McMann

5 stars Middle School

“It only takes 1 mouse to believe in you. And that mouse is me.”

This is a quote that Clarice’s mom heard from her father which is then passed down to Clarice.  Clarice holds onto these words as she tries to care for her brother Charlies, aboard a pirate ship.  Clarice and Charles are the only two remaining members of their family.  As mice living aboard a ship, daily life at sea, has claimed the lives of the rest of their family members. Living in fear, the brothers live in a wooden crate by the pantry, this is their home.  Clarice travels out for supplies but Charles prefers to stay securely inside the box, waiting on Clarice, the provider. 

I found myself immediately absorbed into this story as Clarice describes the world around her.  The ship was full, as the humans were filling up all the available space.  They consisted of two groups of people: the crew/captain and the prisoners.  Fighting erupts on the ship and the brothers hear the word, mutiny.  What does this word even mean?   

The brothers soon find out as Clarice finds himself in a smaller boat with some of the individuals from the ship and Special Lady. Packed with sailors, a mouse, and a cat, this boat which has been cast out into the sea, does have the captain aboard, which gave me some hope.  Meanwhile, Charles is still aboard the ship.  Charles the mouse who doesn’t like to move out his box needs to do something to stay alive without his brother.

Will the brothers ever be reunited again?  What happens to the brothers as they float out in the sea in two different vessels?  What a good adventure story, a story of friendship and family, a story that will stay with you. 

The Girls in the Stilt House by Kelly Mustian

5 stars Fiction

I’ve been wanting to read this book so I was excited we read it for bookclub.  The cover of the book and the synopsis gives me this dark mysterious feeling and I was intrigued by how these girls seemed so much alike but were separated by race.   Nestled into the swamp, these folks have their own way about doing things and whether it’s proper or not, is not what matters, it’s that it’s taken care of.

She was in love when she left and now, she has returned.  Her fondness of Jesse prompted her to run off with him but now she has returned. Returned to her home, to her father, to this home in the swamp, the house on stilts.  There had been room for Ada in this house but now, her father’s tools are more important and Ada will sleep in the shed.  Her father has expectations of Ada now that she has returned.  He didn’t welcome her with open arms but with expectations and responsibilities. 

My heart was torn for Ada as she tried to fit back into her old lifestyle.  Her father wasn’t making it any easier.  When he compares his daughter to his wife and begins to criticize and lash out at her, I wanted to reach inside the book and cause my own scene.  The words that were spoken, the truth that was revealed was painful but Ada had to learn what she could from her father, no matter what the conditions were.  

Matilda to the rescue!  I was so grateful that Matilda arrived on the scene and took action.  Anything that she could do would be beneficial but I didn’t expect her to be such a strong character.  Matilda had her own issues but to Ada she was a ray of light and she knew the w’s: what, where, why and when.    I enjoyed the friendship that Ada and Matilda formed and how they supported each other.   

I liked how the beginning of the book tied into the middle of this book rather than at the end of the book, that had a nice touch.  I knew the story wasn’t over and the ending was still yet to come.   I had never expected the ending that the author led me down, as I had envisioned many different paths as I became entwined inside this book.  A 5-star read for me.

The Last House on the Street by Diane Chamberlain

5 stars Historical Ficton

I listened to this book on a Playaway as I worked outside and it makes an excellent audio book.  The book alternatives between the year 2010 and 1965.  I liked listening to both sides of the story and seeing how the two stories came together, how the characters transitioned through the years and how history impacted the story.  This is a story about race and how race can bring out the best and the worst in individuals. 

The year is 2010 and they had returned to Kayla’s hometown.   This was supposed to be their dream house, a place where they could put down some roots.  So why is it, that only Kayla and their young daughter, were moving into this enormous, beautiful home today?

It was labeled an accident. This “accident” had left Kayla a widow and now, as she takes Rainie through the house, she thinks about this event and how it changed their lives.  Kayla is warned by a mysterious woman not to move into the house and she has numerous “incidents” to scare her away from this new development yet she stays.  Just down the road, Elle has returned home to take care of her aging parents.  Kayla and Elle cross paths and although it would be nice to have someone close to talk with, they know their conversations feel forced.

Meanwhile in 1965, Ellie wants to volunteer over the summer instead of working in her father’s pharmacy.  I love that her aunt was her motivation and that she’s committed to her cause although she experiences a lot of negative response about what she feels so passionate about.  She’s motivated by SCOPE and MLK and she’s bound-and-determined to help those less fortunate.   What an eye-opening experience this is for her!  She never knew what life was like beyond her own world and she finds that she has a lot to offer even when those in her own family don’t feel she does.  I was frustrated with Ellie a few times as I felt she gave in and I couldn’t understand why she bailed after everything she had seen and done; it just didn’t make sense.

I enjoyed the intensity as Ellie went outside her normal boundaries and she did what her heart told her to do.  I loved how the two stories came together and how the women in the hook were different yet they were alike.  I couldn’t stop thinking about this book when I had to lay it down, for what did their futures look like?.  This was a great read for me – I really enjoyed it! 

Sold on a Monday by Kristina McMorris

4.5 stars Historical Fiction

I hope you’re happy!  I can’t tell you how many times I uttered these words while reading this book.  While Ellis Reed slowly climbs up his career ladder, the rungs that he has been using, are slowly falling apart.  The year is 1931 and times are tough all around, as families struggle to stay afloat during the Great Depression.  The uncertainty of their future had some desperate individuals searching for ways to survive another day while Ellis Reed was looking for something more.

As a journalist, Ellis is searching for his “big break” as his rise to fame wasn’t coming fast enough for him.  Armed with his camera and his knack for writing, Reed discovers his “big break” but unfortunately, things don’t go as planned.  Not thinking about the repercussions of his actions, he takes a short-cut to secure his “big break,” which in turn, escalates matters. It’s not only Ellis who feels the impact of this fallout, but those he had dragged with him.  Ellis walks along a thin line as he tries to right his wrong as the clock ticks.

Images of the Great Depression flashed across my mind as I read this story.  The desperation and the difficult times that individuals experienced brought deep connections to what played out in this story.  I could understand Ellis’ actions as he strives to make a name for himself and later in the story, where some of those desires came from.  I liked how as the story progressed, there were some surprises.  A great story, I can see why this book is popular now.  4.5 stars

A big thank you to Sourcebooks Landmark, Kristina McMorris and NetGalley for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.  #SoldOnAmonday #NetGalley

The Most Dazzling Girl in Berlin by Kip Wilson

5 stars YA

It still amazes me how an author, under such tight constraints, can paint the picture so accurately.  With a limited use of language and the power of space, Kip Wilson carried me back to the 1930’s where being yourself, whoever you were, was still acceptable, even in the city of Berlin.  Although, not a city void of criticism, for there would always be wolves ready to attack, this brief time period gave individuals the opportunity to find their crowd and be embraced.  Written in verse, it was an incredible journey where the sights and sounds of Berlin, were at my fingertips. 

Through the use of language and space, Hilde’s story was composed on 397-pages, words arranged so strategically that it reads like a work of fiction.  Hilde’s gates were finally open as she leaves her controlled world and enters a world where she can find her own niche.  She must find employment to begin her new life but with the economy in shambles, Hilde’s options are limited.  When Hilde finds Rosa, I think she was able to fully breathe and embrace who she was.  This was an emotional read for me as Hilde finally gets to see the world behind her own eyes.   5 stars

The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi

4 stars Historical Fiction

Lakshmi wooed them but did they really know her?  There was so much to enjoy about this book from the language of the text, to keeping all the characters separate and unique, to transporting me to a different place and time yet, I felt that I was the only one who really knew Lakshmi.  I liked that Lakshmi was a strong-minded and independent individual but I felt that she was a meddler, when she need not be.

I understand that Lakshmi was proud of who she had become and she needed to be “out there” to keep her name on the lips of individuals needing her services but there were other instances in the book where I thought she just needed to step back and not insert herself.  She can get enough popularity, what she needs to be getting the attention for, with her talents, she doesn’t have to be involved in everything.  I liked the end of the book the best, as that gives me hope that she can discover who Lakshmi really is.  I see that there is a sequel and I’ll have to look into that and see what transpires.  I read this book for book club.