Book Review

Book Review: The Book of Lost Names by Kristin Harmel

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Audience: Historical Fiction
Length: 400 pages
Author: Kristin Harmel
Publisher: Gallery Books
Release Date: July 21st, 2020
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Eva Traube Abrams, a semi-retired librarian in Florida, is shelving books one morning when her eyes lock on a photograph in a magazine lying open nearby. She freezes; it’s an image of a book she hasn’t seen in sixty-five years—a book she recognizes as The Book of Lost Names.

The accompanying article discusses the looting of libraries by the Nazis across Europe during World War II—an experience Eva remembers well—and the search to reunite people with the texts taken from them so long ago. The book in the photograph, an eighteenth-century religious text thought to have been taken from France in the waning days of the war, is one of the most fascinating cases. Now housed in Berlin’s Zentral- und Landesbibliothek library, it appears to contain some sort of code, but researchers don’t know where it came from—or what the code means. Only Eva holds the answer—but will she have the strength to revisit old memories and help reunite those lost during the war?

As a graduate student in 1942, Eva was forced to flee Paris after the arrest of her father, a Polish Jew. Finding refuge in a small mountain town in the Free Zone, she begins forging identity documents for Jewish children fleeing to neutral Switzerland. But erasing people comes with a price, and along with a mysterious, handsome forger named Rémy, Eva decides she must find a way to preserve the real names of the children who are too young to remember who they really are. The records they keep in The Book of Lost Names will become even more vital when the resistance cell they work for is betrayed and Rémy disappears.

An engaging and evocative novel reminiscent of The Lost Girls of Paris and The Alice Network, The Book of Lost Names is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the power of bravery and love in the face of evil.

EMOTIONS.

I had a lot of up and down with this one, but by the end I was really invested in getting some kind of ending I could be satisfied with. And even though it took awhile, I loved the way this ended which solidified a great book for me.

One of the things I struggled with was Eva’s Mother. I could understand the grief and despair she was feeling, but kept being angered at how much she taking out on Eva. There was never a chance for them to truly reconcile and it hurt my soul watching the relationship slowly deteriorate because of atrocities outside of their control.

World War II historical fiction is common in the genre. While sometimes I find the stories repetitive, I thought this one took on new aspects. I liked the focus on the children and of a Jewish woman working to forge papers to help those around her. Not to mention the romance sub-plot thrown in was SO SWEET. I mean, definitely tore my heart out, but also the development was spot on. The action and movement kept me interested and I enjoyed reading this as an audio book. Even when you could kind of see things coming, the whole of the plot still took me by surprise.

Overall audience notes:

  • Historical fiction [WW2]
  • Language: very little
  • Romance: kisses, one little detailed open scene
  • Violence:
  • Trigger/Content Warnings: loss of loved ones, depictions of World War 2, suicide (a small paragraph with depiction of method)

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Book Review

Book Review: Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center

Rating: ☆☆☆ 1/2
Audience: Contemporary fiction + romance
Length: 320 pages
Author: Katherine Center
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Release Date: August 13th, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

From the New York Times bestselling author of How to Walk Away comes a stunning new novel about family, hope, and learning to love against all odds. 

Cassie Hanwell was born for emergencies. As one of the only female firefighters in her Texas firehouse, she’s seen her fair share of them, and she’s excellent at dealing with other people’s tragedies. But when her estranged and ailing mother asks her to uproot her life and move to Boston, it’s an emergency of a kind Cassie never anticipated.

The tough, old-school Boston firehouse is as different from Cassie’s old job as it could possibly be. Hazing, a lack of funding, and poor facilities mean that the firemen aren’t exactly thrilled to have a “lady” on the crew, even one as competent and smart as Cassie. Except for the handsome rookie, who doesn’t seem to mind having Cassie around. But she can’t think about that. Because she doesn’t fall in love. And because of the advice her old captain gave her: don’t date firefighters. Cassie can feel her resolve slipping…but will she jeopardize her place in a career where she’s worked so hard to be taken seriously?

Katherine Center’s Things You Save in a Fire is a heartfelt, affecting novel about life, love, and the true meaning of courage.

WELL. THE SECOND HALF WAS MUCH BETTER.

I truly almost DNF this. I only kept reading because everyone else seemed to enjoy it and I was trying to figure out what I was missing. I did NOT like the MC, Cassie. She was quite full of herself, and I personally didn’t like how much she hated love. It came off as short-sighted and unwilling to be open-minded.

I also struggled with the writing style. Most of the time things were being TOLD to me and not SHOWN. I wanted more dialogue and interactions with characters, especially with Owen. Speaking of Owen, one large, annoying fact: I didn’t know his name until 49% way through the book. WHAT. I was so sick of him being called rookie. And I was so grateful when that bit was *mostly* over. I really couldn’t stand her co-workers at the fire department either. I feel like everything was laid on thick. Their crude jokes, misogynistic remarks and hazing really rubbed me the wrong way. Hallelujah that drifted off as the book went on.

Enter the second half of the book.

What a difference. I thought the writing picked up speed and that there was more showing vs. telling. While the relationship between Cassie and Owen was a touch insta-love, it was done well. It still wasn’t immediate which let me warm-up to them. I thought Owen was sweet, cute, and full of feelings. I liked their interactions and how Cassie had to learn to trust and rely on someone again.

There was additional drama thrown in from her Mom being present in the book. It was pretty obvious what that side plot line was and it didn’t make me feel one way or another. I did like that Cassie and her Mom got to connect again and to learn forgiveness. That was a big part of this book, forgiveness is more than saying sorry…(please someone name that movie)! I like how it wove into the story.

Cassie did win me over by the end of the book. I thought the growth she went through actually played a part in her actions and decisions. She didn’t say she was going to be different and then wasn’t, Cassie actually put into action the type of woman she wanted to be. The ending was super cutesy and all the heart eyes. Made me smile at least.

Overall audience notes:

  • Contemporary romance
  • Language: some strong language throughout
  • Romance: some kisses, one love scene (little detailed, mostly fade to black)
  • Violence: massive fires, physical, see Trigger section for more
  • Trigger warnings: sexual assault (unwanted touching – Chapter 2), inappropriate workplace jokes, sexism, misogynism, harassment, hazing, suicide attempt (by drug overdose – Chapter 28), addiction to painkillers, a description of past rape (mostly vague, chapter 28)

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Book Review

Book Review: The Simple Wild by K.A. Tucker

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆ 
Audience: Contemporary New Adult Romance
Length: 388 pages
Author: K.A. Tucker
Publisher: Atria Books
Release Date: August 7th, 2018
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Calla Fletcher wasn’t even two when her mother took her and fled the Alaskan wild, unable to handle the isolation of the extreme, rural lifestyle, leaving behind Calla’s father, Wren Fletcher, in the process. Calla never looked back, and at twenty-six, a busy life in Toronto is all she knows. But when Calla learns that Wren’s days may be numbered, she knows that it’s time to make the long trip back to the remote frontier town where she was born.

She braves the roaming wildlife, the odd daylight hours, the exorbitant prices, and even the occasional—dear God—outhouse, all for the chance to connect with her father: a man who, despite his many faults, she can’t help but care for. While she struggles to adjust to this rugged environment, Jonah—the unkempt, obnoxious, and proud Alaskan pilot who helps keep her father’s charter plane company operational—can’t imagine calling anywhere else home. And he’s clearly waiting with one hand on the throttle to fly this city girl back to where she belongs, convinced that she’s too pampered to handle the wild.

Jonah is probably right, but Calla is determined to prove him wrong. Soon, she finds herself forming an unexpected bond with the burly pilot. As his undercurrent of disapproval dwindles, it’s replaced by friendship—or perhaps something deeper? But Calla is not in Alaska to stay and Jonah will never leave. It would be foolish of her to kindle a romance, to take the same path her parents tried—and failed at—years ago. It’s a simple truth that turns out to be not so simple after all.

THIS. WAS. STELLAR.

Tear-shedding (yes, one scene totally had me shedding a few tears), heart-stopping, and utterly devastating, this book took me to some high highs and some low lows. I’m still speechless thinking about it.

I started off really not loving Calla. She was materialistic, vain, selfish and more. I dearly hoped she would have a turn around in this book, and I’m so happy she did. Calla became more lovable as a character to me and all I wanted to do was give her a hug. She went through a lot in 400 pages.

The story itself, focusing a lot on her Dad left me crying y’all. I know I already mentioned it, BUT IT HAD TO BE SAID AGAIN. I don’t generally cry reading. Granted, it was 2 AM so being really tired probably contributed, but still. There was one scene in there that I *can’t* handle. I loved watched Wren and Calla figure out each other and actually open up. There wasn’t heavy drama between them. It really focused on remembering how important family is and soaking up any time you get to have them. The awkward first encounters turned into deep conversations where they had a chance to know about each other’s lives.

Now, we know I have to talk about the romance. OHEMGEE. Jonah. My rugged space cowboy Jonah. I was totally impressed with how this was done. There was so much angst I could barely stand it. It was amazing. Fantastic banter that left me chuckling (and a few good pranks that made me squeal). Sweet, loving moments where all the emotions came out. All of it. Tucker turned the span of a few weeks into this magical romance that makes me so happy I picked this book up.

While I still don’t want to fly on tiny planes. This book also gave me major wanderlust. I wanted to be in Alaska. Seeing these gorgeous sites in my mind wasn’t doing it justice. The beautiful writing made it feel like I was really in this small towns and rugged landscapes.

Overall audience notes:

  • New adult contemporary romance
  • Language: some strong language
  • Romance: kisses, make-outs, a mildly detailed love scene and others more glossed over
  • Violence: plane crash
  • Trigger warnings: divorce, terminal illness (cancer), loss of a loved one

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