The War I Finally Won

In June 2020, I listened to The War That Saved My Life for my Children’s and Young Adult Literature class. Apparently I did not write a review over it! I will do that soon.

A few weeks ago, I was emptying the book return box outside the library. There I found this book. I had NO IDEA there was a sequel! I immediately checked it out to myself and proceeded to read it in less than 3 days. It has been a really long time since I have managed to do that!

I will say that there is not way I can truly convey through my writing just how powerful these books are.

Once again, Kimberly Brubaker Bradley brings us deep into Ada’s world. It is still early 1940s and we pick up with a very important event in Ada’s life. Even though she is still tucked away in her village with Susan, Ada continues to struggle to let go of her fears and anxiety. She may be physically free but she still struggles in her mind. As the war rages on and more and more people become personally affected by it, Ada will learn that she is not the only one holding on to past trauma and difficulty.

Bradley develops such wonderfully complex characters. Ada’s life experiences (presented in The War That Saved My Life), have caused her to struggle to trust but thanks to the events of WWII along with patience and love from those around her, Ada will finally win the war.

Awesomeness:

-Ada has experienced true trauma in her life, but those around her can see and understand that. Therefore, they are loving and patient with her as she continues to work through it.

-I love how protective Ada is of her brother Jamie. I also love how protective Susan is of Ada. Their family grows throughout this novel.

Cautions:

-This novel is set in WWII. There is death all around. However, there is no graphic depiction of death. (Except for a plane crash in the village. Even that is mild.)

-Ada did truly experience trauma. She will be moody, anxious, and at times, have verbal outbursts. This could be a great way to discuss how different people handle trauma and the need for working through it.

-Ruth, a young Jewish-German girl comes to live with them. Lady Thorton is not nice to her at all. Even though she is Jewish, Lady Thorton only sees her as the enemy. (Eventually, this will lighten up.) I think this allows for some good discussion about the feelings of war.

Wishes and Wellingtons

After listening to Julie Berry’s Lovely War, I knew I wanted to try out a few of her other works. It just so happened that Wishes and Wellingtons was included in my Audible membership and it is narrated by one of my favorites: Jayne Entwistle.

Maeve Merritt isn’t like the other girls. She prefers the unconventional and it just happens that the unconventional prefers her. Maeve attends Ms. Salimanker’s School for Upright Young Ladies where, her parents hope, she will learn to be an upright young lady. But this feisty girl, who does not back down from bullies, is certainly not on the path to becoming an upright young lady.

Maeve happens upon a tin of sardines while serving out her punishment for yet another act of disobedience. But this isn’t just any sardine tin; this tin holds the power of magic. Once unleashed Maeve finds herself, along with her roommate Alice and an orphan boy, Tommy, on more than one adventure. Will she be able to discern just who she can trust? Will she be able to outsmart the bad guy and save her father from ruin? Come along with Maeve on an adventure you’re sure to never forget.

This Young Adult novel, full of adventure and mishap, is sure to entertain.

Awesomeness:

-The friendship between Maeve, Alice, and Tommy is realistic and sweet. It is the power of friendship that saves Maeve.

-A bit of a Coming of Age novel. Maeve will learn about who she is and just what is truly important.

Cautions:

-Once the knowledge of Maeve’s secret is out, she will be blackmailed and followed. While nothing is graphic or extreme, we are talking about grown men attempting to intimidate a young girl. However, she will give them a run for her money!

First Quarter Reading Update

Wow! It’s already April 1st! I can’t believe it. I decided to take a few moments to figure out where I am in my reading goals for 2021. I realized that I did not publish a post about my goals so if you do not follow me on instragram, here is my reading plan for 2021:

10 Biographies- I decided that I really enjoy reading biographies and I would like to know more about certain people from history.

5 General Nonfiction- Any other type of nonfiction not considered a biography.

10 Fiction- because I cannot NOT read fiction!!

So, where am I as of 4/1/2021?

I have completed 1 biography. I read a YA biography on Benedict Arnold that read like a novel! It was very good. I am currently working on a biography on Mary Todd Lincoln. I’ve actually been reading on this book for nearly a year. It is very scholarly and at times I can only read a few pages in one sitting.

I have read 1 nonfiction book written by a 12 year old! It was over Dred Scott v. Sanford. I have a huge stack of books that fit this category and hope to dive into more of them over the summer.

And no surprise here, but I have completed 10 fiction books! And the stack keeps growing. I had no fears about meeting this particular goal but I hadn’t anticipated meeting it so quickly! Audibles and the Libby app have really assisted me in getting more fiction reading down these last few months. You can read my thoughts about Lovely War, Amora, and Shadows of the White City now. More reviews on my fiction reads coming each Monday.

Shadows of the White City

Shadows of the White City is the second installment in the Windy City Saga. This particular storyline is set in Chicago during the World’s Fair and follows Sylvie, the younger of the two Townshend sisters.

Sylvie Townshend is the proprietor of Corner Books & More. She has spent the first part of her life caring for her ailing father who fought in the American Civil War. A survivor of the Great Chicago Fire, Sylvie is resilient. She is determined to make her own way, independently. And yet, Sylvie is missing something. Enter Rose, a sweet child that Sylvie takes in so that she does not have to go to the children’s home. Sylvie raises Rose as her own, but like Sylvie, Rose is missing something as well. But when Rose herself goes missing, both women find exactly what they need.

Jocelyn Green really knows how to a take a reader back in time. Personally, I am very unfamiliar with the World’s Fair. Jocelyn’s writing allows for me to see just how grand this event truly was. Like with her Heroines Behind the Lines series, this storyline is unique and contains several twists and turns.

This book left me curious about the plight of those living in the poor areas of Chicago. I am also in awe of how orphans were treated in the 19th and 20th centuries. It is terrible to think many people just assumed they were worthless because they lost their parents! Not only that, but the fact that girl orphans could be bought and raised in a brothel?!? (A point that is also mentioned in Amora.)

Awesomeness:

-Jocelyn’s descriptions of the setting and historical research is always wonderful!

-The characters realize that you’re never to old for romance and family is not limited to blood relations.

Cautions:

-Treatment & living conditions of the orphans and poor is terrible. (And historically accurate.)

-Rose goes missing and Sylvie decided to visit the area of “ill-repute” to search for her. This is tastefully done but still, depending on the reader, this may be difficult to read.

Side note: I pre-ordered this book back in the fall and then found out that the first 250 pre-orders received a sign bookplate! Insert serious fangirl excitement!

I also had the privilege of participating in a virtual author even where I listened to Jocelyn Green share more about the creation of this book and a tiny teaser about the final installment coming next year! Oh the agony of waiting!!

Fun Fact: It was called the White City because all of the buildings were made out of white marble/stone!

Lovely War

I stumbled upon this book in the library where I work. It was on the bottom shelf, but the pink cover caught my eye. I immediately checked it out to myself and put it on my desk… where it sat untouched for a few days. I realized there was no way that I would be able to read 464 pages, so I used an audible credit and bought the audio book. I am so glad I did! Jayne Entwhistle is a favorite narrator. She, along with the other narrators, knocked this book out of the park!

Hazel’s sole focus in life is to attend a music conservatory. James’ focus is to come back from WWI. Aubrey’s desire to to make a name for himself in the world of jazz. Colette has no where else to be. As these four unsuspecting mortals go through their day-to-day activities, they never suspect that the gods and goddesses have a hand in those very activities.

This story is told from the perspective of Aphrodite, Apollo, Ares, and Hades. Each recounting their part in the love stories that unfold. Aphrodite, sitting in a hotel room in 1942, recounts a particular love-story she holds so dear. That love story begins in 1918.

This novel is detailed and the story so beautifully woven that I have a hard time not giving too many details away. Suffice it to say I was eager to find a student to check this book out! If you love a wonderfully written, slightly sad love story, then this book is for you!

Awesomeness:

-Hazel and Colette’s friendship is one to be admired.

-The writing style is delightful. The story is mostly told by Aphrodite but the males gods will speak throughout the novel as well. I have a whole new outlook on Hades.

-The historical notes section of the book is very detailed. For the audiobook, it was about 25 minutes and was read by the author. The research Julie did was outstanding!

Cautions:

-This is WWI and the race relations in the US are rough. There is a lot of negative attitudes and behaviors towards to African-American service men.

-This is a book set during two world wars. As you can imagine, the suffering and death rate is great. But nothing is written to an extreme or with excess graphics.

Winner Winner!!

Y’all, I WON A BOOK!!!!

I am super pumped to have won the first book in the Columba Diaries written by Jessica Glasner. You may remember I did a review over her Seabirds Trilogy last April. This next series picks up with Grace. (If you read the Seabirds Trilogy then you know Grace’s story left off on a serious cliff-hanger!) I’ll be back to tell you all about Saving Grace. But for now, I just wanted to brag!

The Seabirds Trilogy

Imagine: it’s early summer. 1939. Your mother is dying from tuberculosis. You are packed up and sent to Maine to live with an eccentric aunt while your parents sail off to Switzerland as a last ditch effort to heal your mom.

This is exactly where Agatha finds herself. What she imagines will be a drab summer of fretting over her parents and learning to paint birds, turns into a grand adventure that will set her course for the duration of World War II.

The Seabirds Trilogy follows Agatha (dubbed Piper by her aunt), her aunt Edie, Horatio, Peter, and her three German-Jewish cousins. Ultimately what starts out as a combination honeymoon and attempt to meet up with her parents (Book 1) leads to her three cousins in Palestine each fighting, in their own way, for a homeland (Book 2). And ultimately, culminates in Australia on the Western Front! (Book 3).

Glasner has created a trilogy that both entices and educates. Full of historic references, these books take you on an adventure from Europe to Palestine to Hawaii to Australia. The characters are rich and real and quite frankly, tougher than nails.

Be prepared to be transported back to, what is quite possibly, the darkest time in the world’s history. As you get lost in the story, you will escape from the Nazi’s, smuggle Jewish children out of Europe, go undercover, learn to fly planes, go on secret missions, and escape a Japanese POW camp.

Book 1: Voyage of the Sandpiper

Awesomeness:

*Historical accuracy! All of her historical references are noted so you can look into them deeper.

Cautions:

*This book is set in WWII and while Glasner does not get graphic at all, concentration camps are mentioned, characters die, anti-Semitic comments are made, and there is some undercover work necessary to save lives.

Book 2: Flight of the Seahawks (My favorite!)

Awesomeness:

*Strong female characters

*Lots of historical information regarding a Jewish homeland in Palestine.

*Uniquely written

Cautions:

*Mostly takes place in Egypt and Palestine during WWII.

*Characters get involved in the fighting.

*Relationships between Arabs and Jews

Book 3: Song of the Storm Petrel

Awesomeness:

*Continued historical references

*Characters come to know Jesus

*Families are reunited

Cautions:

*Japanese treatment of POWs

*The dropping of the Atomic bomb

Note: the author reached out for me to review her books. I received the books for free but was otherwise uncompensated. The above thoughts are my own.

Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker

You know, when you find your genre, you can’t help but read everything in it!! I was gifted 3 months of audibles for my birthday. Let me tell you, the pressure to use my credit well was intense. Who wants to waste a credit on a poorly written (and poorly read) book? (Side note: you can return audbile books!) Anyway, I took to instagram to try and find the best book for my credit. And let me tell you… I DID!!

Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker is a superbly written and extremely well researched novel. Throughout the entire thing, I kept wondering and hoping that the main character was real… and she was! (Which I learned in the author’s note section.)

As a former history teacher, I don’t want some fluffy novel that just happens to be set in an historic time period. I want the history woven with the story. Jennifer Chiaverini did just that. She included historic details and her character’s insights into those details. You can tell she put a lot of time and effort into her research and the creation of her novel. Personally, I think the tell-tell sign of a great novel is when the content inspires you to read more about the topic. I am looking forward to reading the memoir written by the dress making, Elizabeth Keckley.

Awesomeness:

  1. This novel is well-researched. The accuracy of the history is it’s best selling point!
  2. The characters are extremely well-developed.

Cautions:

  1. It is a Civil War novel and as such the issues of slavery will be addresses. In some cases, slave experiences are recounted. Nothing very distasteful, but real nonetheless.
  2. The difficulties faced by runaway slaves and freedmen in the north are mentioned. Nothing extreme, but if a younger audience is reading, you will need to be prepared to discuss contraband camps and the fugitive slave law.

The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle

Reading Level: 7-8th grade

So clearly I missed the Avi train as a young adult reader. From The Secret School to City of Orphans to The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, I am obsessed with Avi now! Even as an adult, I thoroughly enjoy reading his novels; I have Sophie’s War sitting on my shelf to be read.

I truly enjoyed The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle. This novel follows a young 13 year-old who must travel from England on one of her father’s business ships. Unfortunately, the crew does not want her aboard, but it’s not for reasons you may think. Through her voyage, Charlotte must decide who is being true and who is not. She will learn that not everyone is who they seem to be.

This novel is full of mystery and intrigue. Charlotte finds herself on the wrong side of the crew and the captain. Charlotte is caught up in the deception of the crew and finds herself on trial for murder of the cook. She must prove herself innocent and strong enough to be one of the crew.

I found my heart beating quickly more than one time! I was fearful for Charlotte and enthralled by her determination.

Awesomeness:

Charlotte becomes one of the sailors. She climbs rigging and changes sails. She even learns to use a knife.

Cautions:

Multiple crew members are murdered.

Once home, Charlotte runs away from her family’s home and returns to the life of a sailor.

There is some allusion to what might happen to a young lady if left aboard the ship alone.

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The Daring Ladies of Lowell

Interest Level: Mature/Adult

“But it is changing,” Benjamin Stanhope said. “None of us can hold things where we want them to be. It is all slipping and changing, Alice.”  Change is the theme in The Daring Ladies of Lowell. These daring ladies stepped off their family farms in hopes of changing their futures. Once in Lowell, they began to take steps to change their working conditions. As much as many of us despise change, we can’t deny that sometimes, it’s the only way  things can ever be different.

Alice Barrow left her father and their farm to find new opportunities and independence as a mill girl in Lowell, Massachusetts. There, she finds more than she bargained for. She is instantly drawn toward Lovey Cornell, a girl full of jokes and laughter. They spend their evening hours on the porch discussing life in general and life in the mill. It is on the porch steps that Alice learns of Lovey’s burning passion to fight for better working conditions.

In the weeks after her arrival, Alice is thrust into the hard life of a mill girl. With Lowell on the cusp of revolution, the Fiske family decides they must make a show of caring if they are going to squelch the fire of revolt. From all the girls, they extend an invitation to Alice to join them in their Boston home to discuss the issues at the mill. It is there she learns that Hiram Fiske really has no desire to hear her complaints but was merely making a show of it all. She does, however, find an ally in Samuel Fiske, the attractive and caring heir to the Fiske family fortune.

As the days drag on, Alice will soon find herself caught up in love and loss. She must fight for the life of the mill workers as well as fighting for her heart.

Cautions:

*Lovey is a bit of a flirt and will disappear for hours at a time. She will be found one morning hanging from a tree by the neck. It is this loss that Alice must face and find a way to gain justice for her dear friend. At the trial for the suspected murderer, we will learn that she was pregnant. The prosecution will paint her as a prostitute who hung herself out of shame.

*One of the mill worker’s husbands will barge in and attempt to take her child. There is a clear picture here of the lack of rights married women had.

*The Fiske family is portrayed as being selfish and out only for themselves at the expense of their workers.

*Toward the end there is a little unrest and people will begin tossing rocks at each other.

*This is a time of the revivalist community. The man accused of murder is a revivalist Methodist preacher. There is some attack on the Methodist church because of this.

Awesomeness:

*This is a wonderful book about the fight for independence for women and the changes in the American society up north.

*It paints a really good picture of class in America and the growing desire for equality among the genders.

*Alice and Lovey are strong leading ladies. (Neither have a strong desire to know the Lord, but they are good people who attempt to do the right thing.)

*The dialogue during the trial was taken from transcripts of a similar trial during this time in Lowell.

Lesson Ideas:

*Research the life of a mill girl. What did she do? Where did she live? Why would she move away from her family?

*Research the Industrial Revolution and the advancements of the textile machines.

*Look into Andrew Jackson’s policies on Industrialization.