Friday, September 30, 2016

September in Books

I thought I'd try my hand at a different kind of post.  I follow a few people who share their book list each month and as an avid reader, I always find it really helpful and interesting, so I thought I would try that here.  So without further ado, here's what I read this month:

The Secret Rescue - by Cate Lineberry - non-fiction - 4 Stars - I really enjoyed this.  I read a lot of WWII non-fiction and historical fiction and this was the story about the rescue of a group of U.S. nurses and medics whose plane went down in Nazi-occupied Albania during the war.  The writing was a bit slower than other books, but it's a great story with a happy ending.

I.Q. Book One, Independence Hall - by Roland Smith - juvenile fiction - 5 stars - GREAT book.  Ellie's school is having a 'Battle of the Books' in December.  They had nine books identified at the end of last year for kids to read over the summer and just announced another seven.  Basically it's a trivia contest, each class will have three representatives, but they will also be able to 'phone a friend' so the whole class can be involved.  Anyway, I agreed to read all the Battle Books with Ellie, and they have really been outstanding.  I personally enjoyed this one a lot.  If you are looking for good upper elementary books for boys, I'd recommend this.  I have already ordered the second book from the library.  I will say that although Ellie was very drawn into the story, there are serious subjects in it involving spying and terrorism.  Ellie is a worrier, so while she wanted to find out the ending and what happened, it has made her a little anxious, and she did say she didn't want to read anymore in the series for now.

The Swallows of Kabul - by Yasmina Khadra - fiction - 3 stars - This was kind of a meh book for me.  I do read a lot of books on the Middle East and this one was just kind of depressing, and maybe that was the point, but I just didn't enjoy it much.  The protaganist was annoying, the story unfulfilling, maybe too real.  I guess I like my stories to have hope.

The Devil's Mistress, The Diary of Eva Braun the Woman Who Lived and Died with Hitler - by Alison Leslie Gold - historical fiction - 1 star - HATED this book.  Don't read it.  I should have paid more attention when I borrowed it.  It said diary, so I thought it would be interesting to read and see what it was that made this woman tick.  Come to find out that it's an imagined diary based on bits of a diary that were left by her.  How you can string together an imaginary diary based on what amounted to about six extremely short diary entries that survived from her I don't know.  Bottom line, I had wanted to find out more about her, and I just didn't.  I didn't like her, and maybe that was the point, but I also feel like basing a book on sixish fragments from a diary is a bridge too far for any author.

Salt to the Sea - by Ruth Septys - young adult historical fiction - 5 stars - LOVED this!  I had read her other book, Between Shades of Gray, earlier this year and adored that one too.  This is another WWII story, actually takes place at the tail end of the war when people are rushing to get out of Eastern Europe.  Septys is just an amazing writer, I loved her characters and that this was actually tied to Between Shades of Gray, something I didn't put together until towards the end.  I really can't wait to see what she writes next.

Elephant Company: The Inspiring story of an Unlikely Hero and the Animals Who Helped Him Save Lives in World War II - by Vicki Croke - non-fiction - 4 stars - This is the story of James Howard Billy Williams (those Brits like having a lot of names!).  It's not quite what I expected, I thought it would have more details on WWII and what the did (and I really didn't know anything about elephants in WWII until I saw this book and was intrigued).  The majority of the book is about his life prior to WWII, about his job working for a rubber company in Burma and dealing with/training elephants.  It was really fascinating and I learned a lot from it.  It was a bit of a slower read and I thought kind of a bait and switch if you were really looking for a war story, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

Lilac Girls - by Martha Hall Kelly - historical fiction - 5 stars - Another excellent WWII historical fiction novel that follows the stories/viewpoints of three women.  I had heard about experiments that were performed on inmates at concentration camps and that is central to the story here.  I had always been under the assumption that those operated on were Jewish and eventually died from the experiments, but this tells the story of a group of female political prisoners who were operated on (leg surgeries where they introduced foreign elements, removed bones/tissue, etc.) and then released back into the camp population.  Once released they were nursed and protected by other inmates and many years later when an American found out about them, she organized a drive to bring them to the U.S. for restorative surgeries.  Read it, you'll love it.

Land of Stories Book 5, An Author's Odyssey - by Chris Colfer - juvenile fiction - 4 stars - Ellie and I have been reading this series ever since she got the first book for her birthday last year.  I've rated all the previous books as 5 stars, this one wasn't as compelling for me.  I still enjoyed it, but not as much as the first four because I really like the characters and the overall story, this particular book seemed more like a really long lead up to something, when I'd rather just get to that something.

Hissy Fit - by Mary Kay Andrews - fiction - 5 stars - One of my favorite bloggers is Stephanie Howell, in addition to really loving her work, she's got a great sense of humor and perspective.  She's also an avid reader and her favorite author is Mary Kay Andrews.  She blogged about her a while back, and recommended Hissy Fit as a first book for anyone new to Mary Kay.  I loved this book and have already borrowed another of her books from the library.  I just love how she was able to weave so many things together in the story, when I started reading I would never have predicted that that was where it would go.  I'm looking forward to reading more from her!

Come Rain or Come Shine - Jan Karon - fiction - 5 stars - This is the latest in Jan Karon's Mitford series.  I've read all of the Mitford books and this was as good if not better than the rest.  This was a quicker read, it was told more in fragments of thoughts from different perspectives rather than the usual prose from the Mitford novels, but I enjoyed the difference and it worked for the focus of the story - the build up to Dooley and Lace's wedding.  You get the frantic pace that goes with weddings and have seen the characters grow up, it was just such fun to read about them becoming a family.

Hopefully I haven't bored you out of your mind.  I love reading, and if you've got suggestions will gladly take them!  On the docket for October so far are:  My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry, The Pentagon's Brain, I.Q. Book Two, and then a bunch of Ellie's Battle Books.


  1. Thanks for this great post...I am always looking for good books!

  2. Thanks for the book reviews! I love to read and am always on the lookout for good books!

  3. Thank you for the book reviews, Miriam! Always on the lookout for good books. Mystery novels are my 'thing' (but nothing overly gruesome!). Louise Penny, a Canadian author, is one of my favourites. I'm completely smitten with her Inspector Gamache, the lead character, as well as the host of other 'regulars' who inhabit the small town of Three Pines. She creates a 'sense of place' that transports me right into the story.

  4. Brilliant!!! Love this article, Miriam!!

  5. Wow, this is your list for the MONTH?! I am so impressed. I don't read much, but enjoyed reading your reviews. How sad about the lilac girls getting operated on. I will pass your article onto my good friend who is also an avid reader.