The Yellow Bird Sings by Jennifer Rosner

5 stars Historical Fiction

As they secretly nestled together in the barn loft, I was worried about creating a disturbance, for any noise or movement from me, could reveal their location.  How I, the reader, could influence my book characters was beyond me, but I was totally wrapped up inside this book.

Shira wanted to be with her mother yet she also wanted to be outside, to be in the fresh air and have fun but mother said that wasn’t possible now.  Mother, wanted to keep what she had left safe and that meant hiding in the barn.  As the days passed, the intensity of the situation changes quite often.  Mother is grateful to be in the barn yet there are the nightly visits by Henryk (the farm’s owner).  There is mother’s constant strive to be positive for her daughter, mother’s own conflict over their situation, and then, Krystyna (Henryk wife’s) begins taking Shira outside on short trips.

I thought this was a quick-paced book that held my attention throughout the whole book. I truly felt the anticipation and the energy intensify as the story developed and progressed. I enjoyed watching Shira mature through the years and how her talent sparked.  I found myself cheering on the characters many times and the ending was fantastic.     

The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes

5 stars Historical Fiction

This was an excellent audio to listen to. I couldn’t understand why I was able to get the audio right off the shelf at the library while the list to obtain the physical book was miles long. Although there were a lot of discs, the novel went quickly. Before reading this novel, I wondered if this book was going to be like The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek that I had previously read and loved, since they sounded similar in nature. What I found after I read this book was, although they were similar, it was the women in each story that made the two books different.  

I really enjoyed Margery in this story.  This woman had some spit fire in her. I loved her spunk from the minute I heard her speak. I wondered if somewhere, down the road in my listening of these discs, if something would backfire and she would pay for her outspoken personality.  Afterall, considering where she was, this time in history, and her being a woman, she really was an outstanding individual. Margery was her own person; she wasn’t concerned about what others thought or said.  Margery did what she thought needed to done.  I loved how Margery encouraged the women who supported the library and how she brought all the women together.

As the women brought the books to their patrons who lived out on the mountains, they were bringing more than just books to them.  I could feel the love, compassion, and companionship that their visits provided as I listened to the author’s words.  

As the women gathered for their “library meetings,” a big grin came across my face as I wondered exactly what they would be discussing today. No topic was dismissed as their meetings became more personal and entertaining each time they met.  Was it actually an official meeting or a girl’s night out, back at the meeting house as they met and chatted?  

I was delighted as to how much these women had grown during these 11 discs.  When they first came together, they thought of this as only a job but as I put in each disc, what this position became, was much more.  This became one of those books where I didn’t want it to end.

This book wasn’t all about women either.  Relationships both sweet and sour entered the picture from the sounds coming from the next room, to crushes, to the way individuals began to soften around the edges when certain others were around.  Some men also voiced their opinion about the library and about the women working in it.  You can imagine how that went down.

It was an entertaining and fast novel to listen to and I highly recommend it.

Maus: a Survivor’s Tale- Part 1 by Art Spiegelman

4 stars Graphic Novel

I’ve been meaning to read this graphic novel as I’ve heard many great things about it so when our bookclub announced it for this month’s read, I was pretty excited.  This book afterall, was a graphic novel and it pertained to WWII, so what could go wrong?

This graphic novel is presented in black-n-white and written by the son of a Jewish Holocaust survivor.  The son, an illustrator, visits his father and inquiries about his life in Poland around the time of WWII.  His father’s memory is quite good as he recalls this tragic event in history. 

I was amazed at how well Vladek recalls the names of places and individuals as he reaches back in time to relive his life. As the story unfolds, his journey was quite extensive.  I have a hard-enough time remembering what I did yesterday and Vladek memories include quite a bit of detail.

This novel provides more than just his father’s flashbacks during this father and son interview, we learn about other individuals who play a role in their lives.  We learn about other relationships, past and current, including the relationship between the father and his son.  I thought the some of these relationships were quite interesting and I was amazed at the connections that Vladek had. 

I do feel that there were times that the language in the book felt stiff and off for me.  I think it was how the book was translated that threw it off for me.  As I read, during Vladek days of trying to survive, I went through many emotions.  A good read will provoke that in a reader. 

I appreciate Vladek for sharing his story and for his service.  I also appreciate that Art wrote this graphic novel about his father.  It’s a momentous piece of history told from one who survived.

The Library Book by Susan Orlean

4.5 stars Nonfiction

I just have to say “wow!”  I never expected this book to be packed with so much information.  At times, it almost felt overwhelming.  Centered around the 1986 Los Angeles library fire which burned for more than 7 hours and consumed 400,000 books, this book is not just about that fire. This book is about books, fires, libraries, reading, patrons, individuals, writing, it’s about the love of reading.  If any of these subjects’ interest you, then this title should be on your list, but I warn you, this book is not one to be read quickly.  You could do what I did and listen to this book and take breaks digesting what the author read to you, because it’s a lot! 

I found the fire to be interesting as the circumstances surrounding it, were unique.  Being such a big structure, filled with flammable materials, I figured it would be a ball of flames quickly but there were other factors to take into account.  As the author takes off from this subject, she leads me into a multitude of many other subjects, before coming back to the fire many times.  I got to thinking that this book would be a great one to listen to and read at the same time.  I would have loved to make reference to some of the other subjects that she branched off on but that was hard to do while just listening to her.   

I feel that the author did some research before launching into her writing because of the statistical and elaborate facts that she presented in her book.  The author also gave some interesting details about specific individual books in her chapters which sounded like books that I might enjoy and I should look up in the future.  As the author talked about the fire, she talked about how books burn, the investigation on how it started, how they tried to stop the fire, who was affected, the damage, the rebuilding, and the years since.  When I first started listening to this audio, I couldn’t believe this book could be this long but as I continued listening, I wondered how she was going to finally wrap things up in the end.

There were a few times, I thought the book got a bit long and I had to take a break. I think it was “information overload” on my part.  I didn’t really like how the author included random books at the beginning of each chapter.  I think if I had been reading the book, I could have skipped over this but listening to the audio, I couldn’t. Listening to call numbers and titles of books for no particular reason just broke up the mood for the story.

Overall, it’s a great book that’s based on a true event.  The author takes us readers, on an incredible journey, enlightening us with fascinating facts and stories centered around a building, that many of us like to call our second home.

Gold Digger: The Remarkable Baby Doe Tabor by Rebecca Rosenberg

4 stars Historical Fiction

I read this book for book club otherwise I don’t think I would have picked it up.  From reading the title, I expected a more somber novel about the gold-rush era, not the adventurous, dashy story that I read.  Baby Doe gave this era, something to talk about. 

I knew nothing about Baby Doe before picking up this novel.  Now, after reading this novel, I want to read more about her to hear the whole story.

The novel begins with Baby Doe traveling with her new husband Harvey to Colorado, in the late 1800’s, as Harvey is going to manage a mine that his father owns.  Baby Doe has plans of her own, to send money back to her parents to help them get by.  Her husband ends up not being as business smart as they thought and Baby Doe ends up helping him out with the business which I feel is an important part to who she ends up becoming.

The mine becomes the central part of the story with the individuals who work in it and their families also.  Baby Doe becomes a working woman, yet some men are drawn to her beauty and don’t take her seriously.  She’s a smart, determined individual who knows more than you think.    

This was a fast-paced story what once I started, I couldn’t quit.  There were numerous times while reading this story, I found myself talking out loud, reacting to the other characters as they conversed with Baby Doe.  I laughed a few times and there were even some harsh words spoken, for I thought they were being very deceitful, given the circumstances.  Baby Doe’s story is definitely a story that you need to read.   

Last Witnesses: An Oral History of the Children of WWII

5 Stars Nonfiction

These stories lives came with a punch, they struck viciously against my heart as I read them. To think that all of these individuals were children, innocent little people, who did nothing yet they received such a life-altering experience, that still haunts them today. I didn’t and I couldn’t read this book, all in one sitting. From the beginning, I wanted to appreciate each chapter: each individual’s situation and account. Upon reading, I realized that this is not a book that I could read straight through. The emotions and the energy in each of their stories lives, makes it a book that needs space.

From the voices of Russian children, we hear their side of what occurred to them during WWII. From a few pages to up to six pages, they tell us what they remembered. The children were affected in a variety of ways by the war: many had to leave their homes, some watched their fathers leave to fight in the war hence leaving them with lots of questions running through their minds, some children had to prepare for the war themselves and some even tried to stay in their own homes while the war ragged outside. They told their account and it was translated but the tone and the feelings are still in the words on the page. It’s as if these survivors were sitting with me, telling me how they reacted to a world that had turned upside down on them.

I could tell you about many of the individuals in this book as every story life in this book is worth mentioning. Their stories are different but every single one of them, are forever changed. How many times I read the word, “Mama!” I cannot count them all. How many times I read, “I was hungry,” I cannot count them all. How many times I read about death, how it had become part of these children’s regular, daily schedule, I cannot count them all.

There was Marlen, age 11, who is now a member of a town council. Marlen remembers always being hungry while living in the orphanage. He remembers needing to be first in line or you might not get anything to eat. With it being -20 degrees outside, Marlen takes off his hat and had a soldier ladle some soup into his hat instead of finding a metal tin. Marlen quickly runs back to the orphanage. He now has frostbite on his ears but he has supplied frozen soup to everyone there. Now, this adventure puts a smile on my face.

This is a book worth reading. I enjoyed this book and I appreciate the individuals who shared their stories lives with me.