Category Archives: Historical fiction

Auschwitz Lullaby by Mario Escobar

Reviewed by Martha Artyomenko

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Book Description

Auschwitz Lullaby brings to life the story of Helene Hannemann—a woman who sacrificed everything for family and fought furiously for the children she hoped to save.

On an otherwise ordinary morning in 1943, Helene Hannemann is preparing her five children for the day when the German police arrive at her home. Helene’s worst fears come true when the police, under strict orders from the SS, demand that her children and husband, all of Romani heritage, be taken into custody. Though Helene is German and safe from the forces invading her home, she refuses to leave her family—sealing her fate in a way she never could have imagined.

After a terrifying trek across the continent, Helene and her family arrive at Auschwitz and are thrown into the chaos of the camp. Her husband, Johann, is separated from them, but Helene remains fiercely protective of her children and those around her. When the powers-that-be discover that Helene is not only a German but also a trained nurse, she is forced into service at the camp hospital, which is overseen by the notorious Dr. Mengele himself.

Helene is under no illusions in terms of Dr. Mengele’s intentions, but she agrees to cooperate when he asks her to organize a day care and school for the Romani children in the camp. Though physically and emotionally brutalized by the conditions at Auschwitz, Helene musters the strength to protect the children in her care at any cost. Through sheer force of will, Helene provides a haven for the children of Auschwitz—an act of kindness and selflessness so great that it illuminates the darkest night of human history.

Based on a true story, Mario Escobar’s Auschwitz Lullaby demonstrates the power of sacrifice and the strength of human dignity—even when all hope seems lost.

My Review:

While this story breaks a lot of the rules of what a successful book must have, it truly is an incredible story based on truth, to give us insight into the experiences of people inside the camps. It is successful in its own right because of that!

I found it especially heart-wrenching as you see so clearly that the guards, doctors and others didn’t really believe they were doing anything wrong. In fact, they believed they were doing right. It reminded me of many of things I see in our society today, where people defend treating others with inhumane treatment simply because others agree with it.

While not really a book to read for a happily ever after story, it shows the bravery of those that went before us and teaches such valuable lessons. I would say even if you are one that likes to pretend bad things do not happen, this is such a valuable piece of history, while being an easier read than some placed in this time period, I would recommend it.

 I review for BookLook Bloggers

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History Through Fiction

Seems backwards, right?

 

Fiction is fiction. History is the story of what happened in the past. The two should not cross.

Yet, every homeschool teacher will tell you as they look at curriculums like Sonlight, My Father’s World, Beautiful Feet, Winter Promise, and so many others that their children learned history best by reading fictional books about historical happenings.

Can you teach history using fiction? I would say the answer is a resounding “YES!”

This year I am teaching a supplemental class learning history through fiction. We are concentrating on American history. I find myself as I am wrapped up in the planning, more and more excited about the books we have to read, and wishing there was more time in the year.

I was thinking, if my voice was not so annoying and pipsqueaky like, that I would love to visit and talk on something like a You Tube channel about my favorite books. However, I am sure my voice would so annoy people, that I thought maybe instead that a series of photos, reviews and maybe short clips would be better.

Which would you rather see?

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Sons of Blackbird Mountain by Joanna Bischof

Reviewed by Martha Artyomenko

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Description

My Review:

I know that when I pick up a book by Joanne Bischof, to expect something different.
This one did surprise me a little still. I loved the fact that one of the main characters was deaf. I felt for him with his struggles through the book.
The food descriptions will make you crave the recipes and send up signals begging for biscuits, apple butter and berry pies. But overall, this book, like this authors others, don’t expect everything to be cut, dry and over the top romantic. The characters have pain, struggle in their relationships and have to seek to get through hard trials.
Romantic? Yes, I guess you could say there are romantic moments in the story, but it is not the main focus.
This book touches on some of the social injustices of the time period as well. It is well written and one that will leave you thinking!

This book is available on kindle, audio and in print from Amazon.

“Sons of Blackbird Mountain” 

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Giveaway! The Hope of Azure Springs by Rachel Fordham

 

Want a chance to win a copy of this book that just came out in July?

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Read the following interview to find out how!

Everyone has a story but not everyone has a story like Em. Before ever riding the orphan trains she endured life on the streets of New York. Hardened by a life of survival she expects little from her future and only dreams of reuniting with her sister. Life for women in 1881 is restrictive in many ways but to be a woman that is plain and uneducated is far worse. But Em has grit and heart, two ingredients that combined with kindness allow Em to blossom.

A gunshot wound is her ticket to freedom. Broken and grasping for life she enters the town of Azure Springs, Iowa where for the first time in many years she is greeted with friendliness and compassion. But a soul that has been beaten down for so long does not recover all at once. Her journey to happily ever after is marred with pain from the past, uncertainty and hardship.

We all have character strengths and though she believes her only strength is her ability to survive readers will discover that her strengths are many. Em touches the lives of the townsfolks at the same time they are reaching out to her. Their eccentricities excite and awake her to living and not just surviving. With their help the bedraggled Em learns to smile again.

For the first time the illiterate and unwanted Em begins to believe that there might be more for her. Books and letters free her mind. The kindness of the townsfolk awaken her dreams but can the tenderness of the sheriff free her heart?

Pick up a copy of The Hope of Azure Springs to join Em on her journey! Leave a comment answering the following question on this post to enter the drawing as well.

Has foster care or adoption impacted your life at all? If so, how?

Visit Rachel Fordham at Facebook.com/rachelfordhamfans
And at Rachelfordham.com

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The Hope of Azure Springs by Rachel Fordham

Reviewed by Martha Artyomenko

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Description

My Review:
This debut fiction story with the lovely cover was enjoyable. The author wove minor historical caveats to this story to give you a feel of some of the lives experienced by those that road the “orphan trains” as we refer to them now.
I found the hints of suspicion and dislike from the town towards someone that was an orphan or living in a way they could not understand so relatable. It seems that often we see this with foster parents, children that have possibly been abused or even with friends that have less than ideal lives. We reject them in the name of protection of others, while at the same time losing out on wonderful relationships.
This historical tale shows how sometimes loving when someone does not look or appear lovable, can be one of the best things for all involved.
This book was obtained from NetGalley through the publisher. The opinions expressed herein are my own and no one else.
The book is available for purchase from local booksellers and Amazon.
“The Hope of Azure Springs” It is also available on Audible, which is nice as well.

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The Love Letter by Rachel Hauck

Reviewed by Martha Artyomenko

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Description

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A Daring Venture by Elizabeth Camden

Reviewed by Martha Artyomenko

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Description

My Review:
So, if the cover and the beautiful hair adornments on the front of this book were not enough to get you to pick it up, you have to pick it up for the history. I never knew plumbing, and the chemistry of the purification of water could be so interesting. I mean, forget history books, put a few more of these on the shelves and  history is fascinating.
Was there a storyline besides that? Oh, of course. What is  a book without a storyline? Well, a textbook, but this was no textbook. I found myself wanting to pull out and study them though. I cannot wait for the next book in this series when I was done, but this story throughly wraps up the details in the end. It is not one that you are upset that you have a year to wait, but you are wanting more of the story and the characters.
I am not sure that I have seen a narcissistic character so well portrayed as in this book. She had nice moments, but in the end, she seeks to make her own way by hurting others to make herself better. Secondary character, one you will recognize from the first book, but a memorable one.
Life lessons learned from this book? 
  • -Thankfulness that so far, chlorine has not been proven deadly when used in small amounts to purify water.
  • Deceit never pays off. Not in books, nor in real life. If you think you are stuck in a jam and can’t tell anyone, likely that is when you should tell someone.
  • Don’t try to understand a narcissistic person. They will end up just hurting you more in the end, no matter your good intentions.
  • Cholera was awful. I am so thankful we don’t have that anymore.
I highly recommend this series. It is the second book in the series, but they could be read as a stand alone, I would recommend you read the first book before this one, as I feel you will enjoy it more and know the characters better.
This series would be excellent to make a whole high school unit study from as well.
This book was just recently released, but is available at your local booksellers (hopefully) and Amazon.
I obtained this book from the publisher and NetGalley. The opinions contained herein are my own.

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The Weaver’s Daughter by Sarah Ladd

Reviewed by Martha Artyomenko

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Description

 

My Review:

You know, any book that reminds me of North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell, will pull me in. This one had the feel of the time period, even though it was a totally different story.  the characters are strong in their own right. The touches of mystery keep you reading and wanting to find the answers along with them.

The romance is light, more in undertones, but with an overall feeling of fighting the fact that there was romance included. The history of the weaving of cloth, the business behind it and child labor makes you stop and think a bit. I would say this book would be a great novel to use in history class as something to pique your interest in the industrial age.

I obtained this book from Netgalley and the publisher. The opinions contained herein are my own.

The book is on sale from your local booksellers and Amazon.

“The Weaver’s Daughter” 

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The Heart’s Appeal by Jennifer Delamere

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Reviewed by Martha Artyomenko

Description

My Review:
I really enjoyed the first book in this series and the second was no less enjoyable. Each book is about one of the set of sisters, so I would recommend they be read in order. I enjoyed the historical aspect of this novel. It showed the darker side of London, without being overly graphic, but just enough to give you a taste.
Another fascinating aspect of this book, was to show how the wealthy were often forced into marriages they did not desire as well, even men. The medical side of things was interesting, including the delivery of a baby which was also done fairly well. If you enjoy seeing some more unique history from this time period, I would recommend it. It would be appropriate for teens as well as adults, in my opinion.
I obtained this book from the publisher and Netgalley. The opinions contained herein are my own.
This book is available for purchase from local booksellers and on Amazon.

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A Chance at Forever by Melissa Jagears

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Reviewed by Martha Artyomenko

About the book:

Mercy McClain joined the school board to protect the children of Teaville, Kansas, from the bullying she experienced as a child. When the worst offender from her school days applies for a teaching position, she is dead set against it. Yet Aaron Firebrook claims to be a changed man. Can he earn Mercy’s trust–and her support for the challenges to come?

My Review:

I have to say that I have come to expect quality and a subject matter that other authors won’t touch in this author’s books. I was not disappointed. Bullying was only one topic that could have been considered highly emotionally driven in this story, but other topics that are touched on are sexual abuse, dealing with a handicap, theft, parental abuse, abuse of power, revenge, and other such topics.

All that, but this book is so well done that it is not as if you are reading a book that is going to leave you feeling dirty. Instead, you will feel that you found hope in this book. Each character that seeks redemption, finds it. Those that are determined to not see the wrongful bent of their ways, are clearly shown to be not healthy.

While some may feel some of the subject matter to be above teenage reading level, I would say that this is what our teens need to be reading. We need to be giving them literature that causes them to think about these matters. How would they handle it if a childhood bully came back into their lives? Would they seek revenge? Or would they struggle with trusting them?

I know that a childhood bully came back into my life as an adult. I struggled with it. He deeply apologized, and seems to be a changed man, a wonderful father and raising his children to not be like he was. It was hard for me, and I felt that I could relate to this story in so many ways.  I loved the stories of the orphan’s and my only complaint was that I wanted to see the in-between progress of some, like Jimmy in particular, a little more.

Great book series! I highly recommend it!

This book was obtained from the publisher. The opinion contained herein are my own.

You can purchase this book from local booksellers or on Amazon. A Chance at Forever

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