“The book of lost names” Kristin Harmel

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. ebook. Gallery Books (Simon & Schuster.) To be published July 21, 2020.

The book of lost namesIn 2005, Eva Abrams sees an article in the New York Times seeking the owner of a rare book that had been looted by the Nazis. Eva knows it’s her book that she’d thought was lost long ago, and that it contains a secret she’s waited 60 years to find. With single-minded purpose she books a trip to Berlin to claim it, hoping it might contain a message from her long lost lover who died in 1944.

From Florida 2005, readers are taken to 1942 Paris where we’re introduced to Eva Traube. She and her parents don’t believe there’s going to be a roundup of Jews but, when her father and thousands more are taken, she and her mother escape to Free France where they planned to continue on into Switzerland. Instead, against her mother’s wishes, she becomes involved with the French Resistance. In the hidden library of a Catholic church her artistic skills are put to use forging identity documents for hundreds of Jewish children escaping to Switzerland. There she and Rèmy, a fellow forger, develop a secret code based on the Fibonacci sequence and use a rare book to record the real names of the children to whom they were giving false identities.

Through flashbacks between the past and present readers learn of the difficulties Eva faced by falling in love with a Catholic, the battles she had with her grieving and bitter mother, and the hard work she did to save the lives of many children. We see the ways in which the Catholic church was involved in saving lives, the love she held for Rèmy, and how she’d hidden her true self for many years. It is a story of love, hope and faith, in the midst of despair, that rings true to its time and place.

Highly recommended for Adults.

I received a digital advance reading copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

“Beyond the moon” by Catherine Taylor

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. ebook. Published June 25, 2019. The Cameo Press.

Beyond the moon

Louisa, devastated at her beloved grandmother’s death, was drunk and a little confused at the top of a cliff during a foggy evening. Unsure of her footing, she fell partway down. The doctors were convinced she was suicidal, and admitted her to a psychiatric hospital against her will. A ruthless and uncaring staff ran the hospital, with patients left to fend for themselves.

During a smoke break a friend showed her how to sneak into the abandoned part of the hospital, which dated back to Victorian times. There Louisa discovered Robert, a soldier recovering from World War I injuries. She’s shocked to discover that when she’s with him it’s 1917, but when she leaves his presence she returns to her own time period – one hundred years later. It doesn’t take long before the two of them fall in love but how can their relationship work when they’re separated by time, and only Robert sees her?

After an unpleasant parting back to her own time period, Louisa somehow manages to travel back in time again. Her name is now Rose, a VAD nurse caring for wounded soldiers in France. Her desperate work as a nurse, and her hopes to be reunited with Robert are interspersed with his story as a British Prisoner of War in Germany as the author weaves seamlessly from 2017 to 1917 and back as she tells their wartime love story.

I was absolutely enthralled with this book, and couldn’t put it down. I loved reading about World War I, and was really upset at the way psychiatric patients were treated in 2017. The head nurse Louisa and her friends nicknamed Nurse Enema reminded me of Nurse Ratched from the movie “One flew over the cuckoo’s nest.” If you’re interested in historical fiction, time travel and romance, then this book is for you.

Highly recommended for Adults.

 

“The sentinels of Andersonville” Tracy Groot

Rated 5 stars ***** Ebook. 2014. Tyndale House Publishers.

TheSentinelsOfAndersonvilleConfederate soldier Emery Jones captures a Union soldier and delivers him to Andersonville prison. Only after arrival does he become aware of the horrors of the place, and realizes he needs to make it right. From the prison’s stockade wall, confederate sentry Dance Pickett has seen thousands of men starving to death within the overcrowded prison. Commanded not to interfere, he wonders how to get the soldiers the help they need. Feeling as if no one wants to help, Dance is at his wit’s end.

Violet Stiles has worked tirelessly to help Confederate soldiers with various causes, and has learned to hate all Yankees. After visiting Andersonville, she is sickened by the horrific conditions. Emery, Dance and Violet are determined to make a difference, feeling they can get their fellow townspeople to band together for the soldiers. Though accused of treason, scorned by others, and facing extreme opposition, the three are committed to loving their enemies.

Before reading this book I had vaguely heard of Andersonville. After reading it I will never forget the prisoners who languished behind its walls. Tracy Groot’s extensive historical research on the appalling conditions tells how and why 13,000 Union soldiers died within its walls in 1864. I found many similarities to those who closed their eyes to evil, justifying their own blindness, during World War II as millions of Jews were killed. This was why townspeople were forced to tour concentration camps, after they were liberated, to look at what they had allowed to happen and see if it made a difference in their souls. I wonder if it did.

Highly recommended for Adults.

 

“Code name Verity” (Verity #1) Elizabeth Wein

Rated 5 stars ***** 2013. Hyperion. 339 p. (Includes a “Brief Bibliography.”)

CodeNameVerityThe story opens with Verity, a secret agent sent to Occupied France by the British, being held prisoner by the Gestapo during World War II. After being tortured for weeks, Verity struck a deal which allowed her to regain a modicum of civility but which also included having her write all she knew about the Royal Air Force (RAF) and her role with the British.

As Verity’s story unfolds we meet Maddie, a rare female pilot in the RAF who became Verity’s best friend. As their stories of bravery, friendship, and survival in the midst of fear and the unknown are revealed, readers will be hard pressed to keep their tears and emotions in check.

“Code Name Verity” won the Michael L. Printz Honor Award in 2013, given by YALSA (the Young Adult Library Services Association). It also was listed on the 2013 YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults Top Ten list, and won numerous other awards. All are well deserved.

Highly recommended for ages 16 and older, including Adults.

“The Hidden Child” Camilla Lackberg

Rated 4 stars **** Fjallbacka #5. ebook. ARC. To be published May 1, 2014. Pegasus Books. (First published in Sweden as Tyskungen in 2007.)

TheHiddenChildErica Falck has just finished her maternity leave and is supposed to be working on her latest crime novel. Instead, she finds herself fascinated by her mother’s 60-year-old diaries and the discovery of a Nazi medal. Wanting to know more about what made her mother change from the fun-loving person described in the diaries into the unemotional and unloving person she knew, Erica decides to take the medal to Erik a local historian for further study.

Soon afterwards Erik is found brutally murdered, and Erica finds herself embroiled in a 60-year-old in which her mother was entangled. The diaries reveals names of a current Nazi sympathizer, the historian’s brother who survived years as a German POW, and a local woman suffering from Alzheimer’s. Each of them holds a part of these tangled threads, which soon leads to even greater mysteries and shocking truths for Erica and her detective husband to sort. Erica’s quest to find out more about her mother’s past will forever be tangled in her own future.

“The Hidden Child” uses multiple voices and viewpoints to untangle the mystery of Erik’s murder and the diaries. At first, the constant changing of voices between characters was a little disconcerting but as the story progressed it became vitally important to the storyline. Camilla Lackberg’s careful research into the historical importance Sweden played during World War II will also be an eye-opener.

Recommended for Adult readers.

“Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption” by Laura Hillenbrand

Rated 5 stars ***** Random House, 2010. 473 pp. (includes Acknowledgments, Notes, and Index)

I first heard Louis Zamperini’s story on a recent episode of Jay Leno. I listened to the somewhat frail, 95 year old elderly man tell of running in the 1936 Olympics, and recount some of what he faced as a POW in Japan during World War II. I was captivated, as was Leno, and immediately put the book on hold at my library. I just received it a couple of days ago and settled down to read it.

As one of the top runners of his era, Zamperini was on tap to break the 4 minute mile when World War II arrived. He entered the service as a bombadier for the Air Corps, and thus began the most horrific chapter of his life.

In great detail, and with much research, Hillenbrand tells the story of how Zamperini survived 47 days adrift in the ocean after his plane crashed only to be captured by the Japanese and held as a POW for over 2 1/2 yrs. Zamperini and other Americans experienced extreme duress, horrific conditions, torture, slavery, and starvation under the cruel fists of their Japanese captors.

Using primary sources including Zamperini’s war diary and archival materials, as well as period photographs, Hillenbrand helps readers see what was happening in his life and helps us to learn about the great sacrifices made by captured American GI’s during this tumultuous period in history.

As I write this, it is the day before the Fourth of July – a time to remember the cost of freedom over the years which allows us to maintain our status as free Americans. Reading “Unbroken” allows readers to experience anew the gratefulness we should feel towards those from The Greatest Generation. “Unbroken,” and Louis’ heartbreaking story, really touched me. I know it will do the same for others. You can also see his story on video, as broadcast during the 1998 Olympics.

Mature high schoolers, and Adult readers, will find Zamperini’s compelling story to be both educational, enriching and sobering.