[Review] The Teacher of Warsaw by Mario Escobar

Publisher and Publication Date: Harper Muse/HarperCollins Publisher. June 7, 2022.
Genre: Historical fiction.
Pages: 368.
Format: NetGalley e-book.
Source: I received a complimentary e-book copy from Harper Muse and NetGalley. I am not required to write a positive review.
Audience: Readers of historical fiction and Holocaust stories.
Rating: Excellent.

Link for the book at Christian Book.

Link at Amazon.

To read more information about The Teacher of Warsaw at Harper Muse. At this link is an author bio and an excerpt.

Further links to read about Janusz Korczak.

  1. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
  2. Holocaust Matters.
  3. YadVashem.org
  4. Jewish Virtual Library.
  5. This is a link to read an account from a person who knew Janusz Korczak. It is twenty pages in length write-up.
His birth name was Henryk Goldszmit. In 1899, he changed his name to Janusz Korczak. He was born 1878 and died 1942.

Summary:

Janusz Korczak was a pediatric physician, pioneer of social work with children, teacher, writer, civic leader, radio speaker, war veteran, and director of the orphanage in Warsaw, Poland named, Dom Sierot from 1911 to 1942. Later he took charge of another orphanage in Warsaw.

The Teacher of Warsaw starts at the time when the Germans invaded Poland, September 1, 1939. The story stops in the late summer of 1942 when the Warsaw ghetto had mass deportations of Jews to Treblinka.

Janusz Korczak had a staff of courageous people who dedicated their lives to the welfare of the children. Janusz took care of the children’s basic needs, but he also took care of their educational needs. He strived to teach them how to become healthy functioning and productive citizens. The children had chores, they had a newspaper, and they held a court of their peers.

Stefania “Stefa” Wilczynska was Janusz partner in the orphanage. She was the Deputy Director and House Mother.

The Teacher of Warsaw shares life inside the orphanage among the children and teachers, it shares Janusz story, and it shares the worsening conditions for the Jews that eventually lead to the emptying of the Warsaw ghetto.

My Thoughts:

The first line of the story made an impression on me: “I have heard that when you say the names of the dead, you bring them back to life again.” It is words and phrases like this that held me and impacted me throughout the book.

Several reasons why I love this book-and-why it is so memorable!

1. I believe The Teacher of Warsaw captures the main character, Janusz Korczak. I read the above links for further information about him. The twenty-page memoir written by a person who knew Janusz gave me a solid grasp of his personality. He was socially conscious, especially of children when he was only a young boy. Further personality traits: emotional but in control, intelligent, intellectual, a brilliant and quick mind, astute judge of character, compassionate, dedicated, a communicator, defiant, brave, committed, willing to do labor, and a deep thinker.

2. In The Teacher of Warsaw, I am able to know Janusz’s thoughts because he is the narrator. He is an intellectual and philosophical person, and this came across as an important feature of the book. I’ve read some reviewers remark they don’t like the philosophical thoughts of Janusz. However, this is a strong part of the sharing of his personality and of bringing him to life in the story. It is also those philosophical words that create my favorite quotes in the book.

3. The story shares the spread of anti-Semitism in Europe during Janusz’s lifetime.

4. Janusz is not the norm for a male hero in a book. The book is also not the norm for a love story. I love this! I love Janusz as an older man with health problems. He is honest. Vulnerable and frail. He wrestles with the suffering that he witnesses. His great love is not a romantic interest. His great love is the children that he is willing to lay down his life for. For Janusz, there is no other choice but to remain with his children.

5. The story shares the fears, anxiety, worsening conditions, and panic in the ghetto. The Jews talk of what they hear about the extermination of Jews. Some don’t believe it. Others do believe it. There are several scenes in the book when I just cried. For example, the frozen dead child on the street. Janusz had seen this child begging and now he is dead. When Janusz finds him. He rocks him and recites Kaddish.

6. There are substories of the various secondary characters. For example, Irena Sendler.

Further Thoughts:

I have no idea if Janusz and Stefa were in a physically intimate relationship. I don’t know how they felt about one another in the romantic aspect. What is fact, is they both were very dedicated to the children. They complimented one another in their roles. Where one of them was weak, the other picked up the slack. They were true partners in their love for the children. This point is beautifully depicted.

Janusz was Jewish but not a practicing Jew. In The Teacher of Warsaw, Janusz knew some Bible verses. The verses are sprinkled in a couple of places in the book. But he does not state his belief in Jesus as the Son of God. I do not consider this book to be Christian historical fiction. I don’t believe it is a turn-off for a reader who does not want to read a Christian book.

Historical fiction is heavy with World War II/Holocaust stories. The focus on children in these stories is rarer because it usually features the lead role as a woman who falls in love. The Teacher of Warsaw stands proudly with a few other books featuring love and dedication to children. This is a big reason why this book is a gem!

[Review] We Shall Not Shatter: A World War II Story of Friendship, Family, and Hope Against All Odds by Elaine Stock

Publisher and Publication Date: Amsterdam Publishers. May 15, 2022.
Genre: Historical fiction. World War II literature.
Pages: 398.
Format: E-book.
Source: I received a complimentary e-book from Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours, Elaine Shatter, and Amsterdam Publishers. I am not required to write a positive review.
Audience: Readers of historical fiction who want to read World War II literature.
Rating: Very good.

Page for the Book Tour which runs May 15-31 @ Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours.

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LOOK FOR THE AUDIO BOOK OF ALL 3 BOOKS OF THE RESILIENT WOMEN OF WWII TRILOGY TO BE RELEASED BY TANTOR MEDIA, PART OF RECORDED BOOKS. THEY WILL BE SOLD IN BOTH DOWNLOADABLE DIGITAL FORMATS, AS WELL AS CD AUDIOBOOKS AND WILL BE SOLD ON AMAZON, BARNES AND NOBLE, INDEPENDENT BOOKSTORES, AND MOST ANY OTHER OF YOUR FAVORITE VENUES.

Praise:

“For anyone who loved ‘All the Light We Cannot See’ by Anthony Doerr, this is another beautiful journey of not just one woman’s story through the turbulent times of Nazi Germany, but two. A story which will touch your heart, and perhaps bring a few tears to wipe away, showing how love does indeed break barriers and sees beyond human labels and disabilities. You will absolutely fall in love with Zofia and Aanya, and how strong friendships were forged in the heat of oppression from Hitler’s Germany despite their different faiths.”
— Historical Fiction Company

“Drawing from her own family’s history, author Elaine Stock has created a compelling story of enduring friendship, heart wrenching sacrifice, and resilient strength. While set during one of the darkest moments on history’s stage, We Shall Not Shatter’s themes—conveyed through characters who will inhabit your heart—have much to say to readers in today’s world, too.”
— Carrie Schmidt, ReadingIsMySuperPower.org

“Elaine Stock’s novel, We Shall Not Shatter, the first of a promised trilogy, Resilient Women of WWII, is a poignant and heartfelt tale of perseverance, of friendship across boundaries, of making families in different ways, of horror and of healing. In the characters of Zofia and Aanya, and the families they make and lose in their native Poland, the barbarities of war, the added peril of Aanya’s deafness, and their harrowing escape, the story is offset by the plot strands of Christians helping Jews, Germans helping Poles, hearing people cherishing the strength of the deaf, and the deaf healing others. This is a story not only of resilience, but of the victory of love and friendship over pain and suffering.”
— Barbara Stark-Nemon, author of the award-winning novels, Even in Darkness and Hard Cider, Speech-language therapist and Teacher Consultant for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing

“We Shall Not Shatter is a compelling novel, inspired by real-life events in Brzeziny, Poland that so dramatically changed the fortunes of both a close-knit Jewish family and a Catholic family during the Hitler years. Elaine Stock’s poignant narrative charts the despair, confusion and sheer will to survive during this terrible period in modern European history. This is a story that oozes tragedy, hope, love and courage in the face of adversity.”
— Ron Vincent, author of The House on Thrömerstrasse: A Story of Rebirth and Renewal in the Wake of the Holocaust

“The story and its characters will linger in the reader’s heart for days… perhaps forever.”
— Patricia Bradley, Author of the Logan Point Series, Memphis Cold Case Novels, Natchez Trace Park Ranger Series

“We Shall Not Shatter takes readers on a rare journey of life-tested relationships and uncompromising courage. Stock brilliantly creates a time and place that is terrible and heartbreaking only to reveal the beauty that awaits on the other side of devastation. This story will stay with you long after the last page is turned.”
— London Clarke, #1 Amazon bestselling author of Wildfell and The Meadows

About the Author:

Elaine Stock writes Historical Fiction, exploring home, family and friendships throughout time. She enjoys creating stories showing how all faiths, races, and belief systems are interconnected and need each other.

Elaine’s grandparents, on both sides of her family, narrowly escaped World War II by immigrating from Poland and Austria to the US. Fascinated by the strong will of people to overcome the horrors from this era, she wrote We Shall Not Shatter, book 1 of the Resilient Women of WWII Trilogy inspired by her deaf great aunt who was left behind as a teenager in Poland and perished in the Holocaust, while her other deaf siblings were permitted to enter the US when their young ages helped them to circumvent medically revealing exams. Other extended family members also remained in Poland to lose their lives in the Holocaust.

Although multi-published in award-winning Inspirational Fiction, and a past blogger and online magazine contributor, Elaine now pens novels for the General reading audience. She is a member of Women’s Fiction Writers Association and The Historical Novel Society. Born in Brooklyn, New York, she has now been living in upstate, rural New York with her husband for more years than her stint as a city gal. She enjoys long walks down country roads, visiting New England towns, and of course, a good book.

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Summary:

An unforgettable story of friendship, family and hope as two courageous young women face one of history’s most horrific tragedies.

Brzeziny, Poland, 1939 Zofia’s comfortable-lifestyle overturns when her husband, Jabez, who monitors Nazi activity, has gone missing. Rather than fleeing the country with her young son, as she had promised Jabez who is fearing retaliation, she decides to stay. She cannot possibly leave her friend, Aanya. Since their childhood they have amazed fellow Brzeziners that it does not matter that Aanya is Jewish and deaf, and that Zofia is Catholic and hearing. Now, more than ever with war looming, Zofia will do whatever is necessary to protect her family and Aanya.

As both love and war approach their Polish town, Zofia and Aanya must make choices that will change the meaning of family, home, and their precious friendship. The journey, decisions and the no-going-back consequences the women face will either help them to survive—or not—as Hitler’s Third Reich revs up its control of the world.

Inspired by the author’s paternal heritage from Brzeziny, this is a heartbreaking yet beautiful story of two women who are determined to remain united in friendship and to live freely despite the odds.

My Thoughts:

World War II literature is the most widely read books I read. It does not matter whether it is fiction or nonfiction. I first began reading books in this realm because my dad was an American soldier during World War II and overseas in Europe. He was a D-Day Veteran. A Veteran of the Battle of the Bulge. He shared many stories of what he witnessed and experienced. As I grew older, Dad told the stories he did not tell me when I was young. Some of these stories are what he witnessed during the liberation of a concentration camp in Czechoslovakia. It was through dad’s stories that piqued my interest in reading more stories of this history.

One of the first things I love about We Shall Not Shatter is it is exactly what I have been asking for in a story. I have expressed in some reviews how I’d like to read stories showing other types of love, not just romantic love. Some examples of what I’d like to read are the love between friends, and the love between children and their parents. We Shall Not Shatter is the story of two women who have been best friends since they were young children. Despite the differences in religion and culture, they have persevered and strengthened the bond of friendship. They love each other dearly. They would sacrifice for one another.

Other reasons why I love this story:

1. The story has a character who has a disability. It is very rare to read a story that has a person who is disabled. It seems that most book characters are near perfect. This includes the front cover of a person who is beautiful-handsome-an airbrushed model. This is not real life. I prefer characters to reflect reality. I want to read about their story that reflects what and how they are living.

2. I love it that Elaine Stock has based this story on some of her relatives. It is a memorial and testament.

3. I love the organized and interesting book selection for further reading. These are books that the publisher also has on this subject. This section is located in the back of the book.

4. We Shall Not Shatter shows the days before and during the German occupation. In addition, the horrors at Brzeziny, and the tightening of restrictions on the Jews.

5. The story is strong in showing love, compassion, kindness, and charity between the family members and friends.

Some things I have trouble with:

1. There are areas where the story drags and other areas where it feels rushed.

2. Aanya’s husband has a more prominent role in the story. Whereas Zofia’s husband has a more interesting storyline, yet he is in the background (thought of and wondered about.) And this point is related to number 3.

3. Zofia’s husband is involved in resistance work. I’d rather have his story more pronounced because this is important. He represents a group of people resistant to the German invasion and their genocide of the Jews. Until later in the book, I am finally educated about what he has been doing. Whereas before I had limited information.

4. In a sea of World War II type books, I believe it is important to try and tell a story that has not been told. For example, Aanya’s story. She is deaf. I want to know what she is thinking. I want to know what it is like to be her. I want to become lost in her story of living with a disability during the Holocaust. I wish the book had focused the most on Aanya.

Themes: suffering, war, power of love, courage, bravery, kindness, hope, injustice, resistance, survival, romance, sacrifice, and good and evil.

[Review] Bloomsbury Girls by Natalie Jenner

Publisher and Publication Date: ‎St. Martin’s Press. May 17, 2022.
Genre: Historical fiction. Women and literature.
Pages: 370.
Format: E-book from NetGalley.
Source: I received a complimentary e-book copy from NetGalley, Austenprose, and St. Martin’s Press. I am not required to write a positive review.
Audience: Readers of women’s fiction/literature.
Rating: Very good.

ADVANCE PRAISE:

“Jenner follows The Jane Austen Society (2020) with another top-notch reading experience, using the same deft hand at creating complex, emotionally engaging characters [against] a backdrop chock-full of factual historical information… Fans of Christina Baker Kline, Kate Quinn and Pam Jenoff [will] appreciate this gem.” —Booklist (starred review)

“An illuminating yarn… Fans of emotional historical fiction will be charmed.” —Publishers Weekly

Bloomsbury Girls is an immersive tale of three women determined to forge their own paths in 1950s London. Jenner has proven to be a master at spinning charming, earnest characters and paints a vivid picture of postwar England. I wanted to stay lost in her world forever!” —Stephanie Wrobel, internationally bestselling author of Darling Rose Gold

Bloomsbury Girls is a book lover’s dream, one of those rare reads that elicits a sense of book-ish wistfulness and nostalgia. Jenner has created a colorful cast of characters in a story about friendship, perseverance, and the ways that determined women can band together in a man’s world. You’re in for a treat.” —Sarah Penner, New York Times bestselling author of The Lost Apothecary

“In a London still reeling from the ravages of World War II and the changes war has brought to English society, three young women take their futures into their own hands. With Bloomsbury Girls, Natalie Jenner has penned a timely and beautiful ode to ambition, friendship, bookshops, and the written word.” —Janet Skeslien Charles, New York Times bestselling author of The Paris Library

“In post-war London, Bloomsbury Books survived The Blitz until Vivien Lowry, Grace Perkins, and Evie Stone set off their own bomb on the stuffy all-male management. What ensues is the most delightful, witty, and endearing story you will read this year. Natalie Jenner, bestselling author of The Jane Austen Society, proves that she was not a one hit wonder. Like Austen, her second book is even better than the first.” —Laurel Ann Nattress, editor of Jane Austen Made Me Do It 

PURCHASE LINKS:

PRINT & DIGITAL BOOK
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AUDIOBOOK
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A MESSAGE FROM AUTHOR NATALIE JENNER:

Dear readers,
I am immensely grateful for the outpouring of affection that so many of you have expressed for my debut novel The Jane Austen Society and its eight main characters. When I wrote its epilogue (in one go and without ever changing a word), I wanted to give each of Adam, Mimi, Dr. Gray, Adeline, Yardley, Frances, Evie and Andrew the happy Austenesque ending they each deserved. But I could not let go of servant girl Evie Stone, the youngest and only character inspired by real life (my mother, who had to leave school at age fourteen, and my daughter, who does eighteenth-century research for a university professor and his team). Bloomsbury Girls continues Evie’s adventures into a 1950s London bookshop where there is a battle of the sexes raging between the male managers and the female staff, who decide to pull together their smarts, connections, and limited resources to take over the shop and make it their own. There are dozens of new characters in Bloomsbury Girls from several different countries, and audiobook narration was going to require a female voice of the highest training and caliber. When I learned that British stage and screen actress Juliet Stevenson, CBE, had agreed to narrate, I knew that my story could not be in better hands, and I so hope you enjoy reading or listening to it.
Warmest regards,
Natalie

AUDIOBOOK:

Narrated by esteemed stage and screen actress Juliet Stevenson, enjoy the full unabridged edition of Bloomsbury Girls. “Stevenson delivers the satisfying triumph at the end with perfect polish.” —AudioFile Magazine

AUDIOBOOK EXCERPT:
https://soundcloud.com/macaudio-2/bloomsbury-girls-by-natalie-jenner-audiobook-introduction

AUTHOR BIO:

Natalie Jenner is the author of the instant international bestseller The Jane Austen Society and Bloomsbury Girls. A Goodreads Choice Award runner-up for historical fiction and finalist for best debut novel, The Jane Austen Society was a USA Today and #1 national bestseller and has been sold for translation in twenty countries. Born in England and raised in Canada, Natalie has been a corporate lawyer, career coach and, most recently, an independent bookstore owner in Oakville, Ontario, where she lives with her family and two rescue dogs. Visit her website to learn more.
WEBSITE | TWITTER | FACEBOOK | INSTAGRAM | GOODREADS


Summary:

Natalie Jenner, the internationally bestselling author of The Jane Austen Society, returns with a compelling and heartwarming story of post-war London, a century-old bookstore, and three women determined to find their way in a fast-changing world in Bloomsbury Girls.

Bloomsbury Books is an old-fashioned new and rare bookstore that has persisted and resisted change for a hundred years, run by men and guided by the general manager’s unbreakable fifty-one rules. But in 1950, the world is changing, especially the world of books and publishing, and at Bloomsbury Books, the girls in the shop have plans:

Vivien Lowry: Single since her aristocratic fiancé was killed in action during World War II, the brilliant and stylish Vivien has a long list of grievances–most of them well justified and the biggest of which is Alec McDonough, the Head of Fiction.

Grace Perkins: Married with two sons, she’s been working to support the family following her husband’s breakdown in the aftermath of the war. Torn between duty to her family and dreams of her own.

Evie Stone: In the first class of female students from Cambridge permitted to earn a degree, Evie was denied an academic position in favor of her less accomplished male rival. Now she’s working at Bloomsbury Books while she plans to remake her own future.

As they interact with various literary figures of the time–Daphne Du Maurier, Ellen Doubleday, Sonia Blair (widow of George Orwell), Samuel Beckett, Peggy Guggenheim, and others–these three women with their complex web of relationships, goals and dreams are all working to plot out a future that is richer and more rewarding than anything society will allow.

My Thoughts:

Bloomsbury Girls is my kind of story. It features characters who work in a bookstore, and of course talk about books and authors.

What I love about Bloomsbury Girls:

1. Evie Stone, a founding member of The Jane Austen Society, is an important character in this book. I love her most of all. She is a breath of fresh air. She is not described as a perfect and hard to identify with person. She is intelligent, hard-working, capable, independent, quirky, and very much an individual. I love her patience and planning of how to achieve goals. I love how she looks past the outward appearance of a person and seeks to know the real person. I love how she thinks. She ponders in her mind about people and life in general. And I love how the story shows her full personality. I became invested in the story because of her.

2. Other notable characters in the book each have substories. I enjoyed reading and learning about all of them. But as it is often the case, I want the characters to develop big. I want more of their stories. I don’t want snippets or small portions. Bloomsbury Girls has several characters who each have interesting substories that could become larger stories. Is it possible than one of them will have a future role as a main character in a book?

3. I love having a character who is not of white English descent. He is a person of another culture and society. He is a person who does not look like the rest. I love this. I love understanding a bit about his life in living in a predominantly white society. I see how difficult prejudice impacts him and his friends. I see how something simple like eating in a restaurant shows people’s prejudice. I am also glad Jenner allows the story to show his story and not tell me about his life.

4. Bloomsbury Books has a lengthy list of rules for the employees. I love the unique approach of showcasing each of the rules individually in the beginning chapters.

5. The story begins shortly after World War II. I knew almost nothing about the post-World War II years, especially in regard to rationing and looking back on the experiences of civilian life during the war.

6. The author adds her thoughts about characters. Not only do I read the thoughts and words of the characters, but I also read them from the author. This is the only thing I did not like about the story. I prefer the story speak for itself.

7. Dialogue is heavy in the book both in words spoken out loud and in thoughts.

8. The pace of the story is fine.

9. It is a character driven story.

Themes in the story: romance, compassion, kindness, marriage and family, spousal abuse, ambition, injustice, conformity, wisdom, dreams, grief, and hope.

[Review and Excerpt] The Tacksman’s Daughter by Donna Scott

Publisher and Publication Date: Atlantic Publishing. The paperback was published January 10, 2022. The Kindle edition was published January 3, 2022.
Genre: Historical fiction.
Pages: 368.
Format: E-book.
Source: I received a complimentary e-book copy from Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours. I am not required to write a positive review.
Audience: Historical fiction readers. Readers who have an interest in Scottish history.
Rating: Very good.

Link for the book tour page: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours.

Link for the book @ Amazon.

Link for the book @ Barnes and Noble.

About the Author:

Donna Scott is an award-winning author of 17th and 18th century historical fiction. Before embarking on a writing career, she spent her time in the world of academia. She earned her BA in English from the University of Miami and her MS and EdD (ABD) from Florida International University. She has two sons and lives in sunny South Florida with her husband. Her first novel, Shame the Devil, received the first place Chaucer Award for historical fiction and a Best Book designation from Chanticleer International Book Reviews. Her newest novel, The London Monster, was released in November 2020. To learn about new releases and special offers, please sign up for Donna’s newsletter.

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Summary:

Scotland, 1692. To escape a brutal winter storm, King William’s regiments descend on the small village of Glencoe. Caitriona Cameron, the tacksman’s daughter, cannot forget her unpleasant encounter the last time English troops appeared. She senses the army’s arrival might not be as innocent as it seems, but her warnings go unheeded. Not even MacIain, the MacDonald clan chief, listens. After twelve days of billeting in the villagers’ homes, the soldiers attack, committing one of the greatest atrocities in Highland history.

Cait escapes the assault with the help of Sergeant Edward Gage who is accused of being a traitor for not taking up arms against the MacDonalds. Edward is hunted by his debauched half-brother, Alexander, who stands to lose everything if King William attaints their father for his treasonous past deeds. With bad blood between them, Alexander sets out to capture Edward to prove his loyalty and save himself from ruin.

Cait and Edward travel to Edinburgh to confront the men they suspect are behind the attack, unaware that Alexander is headed there as well. Although Cait is convinced the chief of Clan Campbell is responsible, Edward suspects something much more sinister—that the orders came from higher up, possibly even from the king himself.

As accusations of betrayal, deceit, and treason abound, they are all trapped in a web of intrigue and danger, but not everyone will escape.

Excerpt:

MEET EDWARD, the hero~
The snow found its way inside Edward’s collar and shirtsleeves. He pulled at his broad-brimmed hat, praying for some protection from the wind. His feet were wet and numb from having accidentally stepped in a shallow stream he’d thought was frozen over. He and the others had been marching for weeks now, since December, to meet the Earl of Argyll’s regiment in Inveraray. Sir John Dalrymple, the Master of Stair, had sent the orders, conveniently forgetting—or not caring—that it was the middle of winter and almost impossible to travel through the snow-covered passes. If Edward and his men didn’t perish from trying to navigate the dangerous Highland terrain, they’d die from the cold. Now with the regiments joined, Argyll’s men marched ahead, most of them Scottish and faring slightly better cocooned in green plaids with their blue wool bonnets protecting their ears from the wind’s frosty teeth. Edward tugged his hat lower, hoping to ease the icy burn on his forehead.
Alexander, his brother, marched farther up front, his shoulders hunched liked all the others, the wind forcing his head down, his chin to his chest. Even with the north and south sides of the glen framed by tall ridges, there was no respite from the freezing gusts. The only sounds were the howling wind and the crunch of their boots as they made their way through the snow.
After a while, Edward found it difficult to tell if the noises were real or if his mind had simply allowed their interminable rhythm to play in his head.
“Edward!” Alexander called to him with an urgent wave. It was an unnecessary gesture, for Edward could spot his brother in any crowd. It was like looking in a mirror. They were both a half a head taller than most men, their shoulders straight and broad, their hair long and dark. The only remarkable difference lay in their eyes—Alexander’s the colour of weak tea and Edward’s blue. Like his mother’s.
The regiment stopped. Edward edged by some soldiers to join his brother. “What is it?”
Alexander nudged his chin towards the brae. “It looks like Highlanders near Argyll’s troops. Could mean trouble.”
Edward scanned the sloping hillside down to the edge of the loch. There were men there, maybe twenty or so, but they didn’t appear to be armed. “They don’t seem as if they mean harm. I see no weapons.”
Alexander laughed without humour. “They are Highlanders. Each one of them has five blades hidden in his plaid.”
Edward blew into his hands, then rubbed them together. “A bit of an exaggeration, don’t you think?”
“They are armed. Trust me. Come.”
They trudged through the snow to Argyll’s men and reached them just as Captain Campbell yelled, “Order your muskets! Order your pikes! Rest on your arms, men!”
One large Scot descended the hill first, the others trailing behind. Edward guessed he was in his early thirties and seemed to have the respect of his men. He was likely not the clan chief, but he displayed the confidence of a man in charge.
Alexander moved slightly, resting his hand on the hilt of his sword. He was always so distrustful, too quick to attack.
“Stay your hand, brother,” Edward urged under his breath.

Praise for the Book:

The Tacksman’s Daughter is a fascinating read, at the heart of which is a truly horrifying historical massacre. The author brings the times alive in vivid detail, skillfully (and often humorously) weaving in ancient Gaelic language. Readers will be riveted!”—KD Alden, author of A Mother’s Promise

“. . . it’s a gripping read, and the author has a real skill for keeping the reader turning pages.” –SS, Penguin RH

“[Scott] does an excellent job of transporting her reader back to the seventeenth century Highlands. The dialogue felt so authentic, and the characters and Scottish landscape really jumped off the page.” -KK, Simon and Schuster

My Thoughts:

One of my favorite settings in a story is Scotland. I’m also fond of Ireland, Wales, and England. The time period is another favorite because of the history of this time: the Jacobite group and the current ruling monarch in England. These are strong reasons for me to become swept up in the story.

Another reason I fell in love with the story is the character, Caitriona or Cait. She is both beautiful and wise. She has a hidden talent rare for a female and this gives her an interesting and enticing bonus.

The two brothers are Alexander and Edward. They are polar opposites which also create elements for the story. Plus, when there are characters who are so opposite in nature it causes each to become larger in the eyes of the reader. What I am saying is if the very bad and mean character were not so very bad and mean he would not make the very good character look so good. I hope that makes sense. It is like placing a diamond beside a piece of coal. The diamond seems to be more brilliant and beautiful beside that piece of coal rather than placed alone. It is the same with the two female characters. One of them is feisty and wise. The other is innocent and naive.

What did I learn or take away from the story?
A. That people see sometimes what they want to see in another person. Love often obscures vision.
B. Freedom and truth is worth fighting for.
C. When a person is deceptive, their behavior will eventually show who they really are as a person.

How do I wish the story had ended?
A. I wish the brother with the terrible qualities had changed his character to positive attributes.
B. I wish the lovemaking scenes held tenderness, gentleness, and patience. In this story there are two brothers with two very different ways of engaging in sex. I had hoped to find a more gentle and patient nature in one of the brothers. I’m not saying he is a brute, but I am tired of lovemaking scenes in stories being all about quick fiery passion. One of the best love scenes in a story I’ve read is in the book, For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway understands that women don’t always want a quick fiery pop of sex.

Themes in the story: family honor, courage, deception, revenge, romance, survival, war, rebellion, beauty, greed, loyalty, jealousy, redemption, obsession, bravery, and betrayal.

[Review] Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Publisher and Publication Date: Penguin Teen. 2019.
Genre: Historical fiction. Young adult.
Pages: 379.
Format: Paperback.
Source: Self-purchase.
Audience: Young adult readers to adult readers who enjoy reading historical fiction from World War II.
Rating: Excellent.

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Link @ Barnes and Noble.

Summary:

It is January 1945. Several people are in route to the northern coast of Germany so they can escape the war and the approaching Russians. They are refugees.

The main characters are young adults. Most are in their teen years. It is a mix of young men and young women.

Each want to secure passage on the ship, Wilhelm Gustloff, it is a ship that will take them away from the harrowing life they’ve lived. The ship is a savior of sorts in their minds. It will take them to a new life.

My Thoughts:

As many World War II and Holocaust stories that I’ve read and I have not heard of this ship’s tragedy!

There are several elements I love about this story.

1. The form or structure is from the perspective and voice of four people. Each are given a chapter with their name as the heading. I enjoyed reading the overall story from the perspective of the four characters.

2. I’m reminded a bit of Hemingway’s writing style. He too wrote crisp and short sentences. And the dialogue is the mainstream of the story.

3. During the course of the characters sharing, I am told about their background. In most stories, the background and descriptions of the characters are shown in the beginning. In Salt to the Sea, I am given the background and descriptive information during the whole of the story. These things are revealed slowly but naturally.

4. It is a heavy story. It is heavy with feelings of fear, anxiety, weariness, angst, and moments of despair. These are people who have endured years of war. The trauma of what they’ve seen and personally experienced is imbedded in their hearts and minds and bodies. Their plight is what kept me reading. It is what drew me into the story at the first page.

5. The internal and external conflicts are extremely strong.

6. Even though the characters share a common goal to survive. It is interesting they are segregated by their ethnicity and heritage. This causes feelings of isolation and insecurity.

Do I have a favorite character among them? Joana. She is indispensable because of her nursing skills. I believe she is probably the most important character in the story. She is able to care for people despite their ethnicity which made her likable and heroic.

How does the story make me feel? War is a horrible event. It is not just the military who fight and are affected. The civilians are always impacted. Obviously, the Russians ignore The Geneva Conventions.

Themes: survival, war, bravery, courage, kindness, honesty, betrayal, death and dying, resistance, trust, grief, hope, injustice, suffering, romance, sacrifice, power of love, and good and evil.