The Last Train to London by Meg Waite Clayton

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Pages: 464

Publisher: HarperCollins

Published: September 10, 2019

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

My Review: I really wanted to give this book 5 stars but due to the fact that it took close to being 150 pages before I felt like I could not put it down, I have to give it only 4 stars.

There are a few dry chapters as they read like a history book but they are necessary to get the background of how the Kindertransport started in Austria. There are a lot of characters to keep track of in the beginning and at times I had to stop and think who and what their importance was to the story.

I will say, once I got around 150 pages I did not want to put the book down. I found the ending heartbreaking but I do understand that that time is history was full of heartbreak.

The Last Train to London is a worthy read for those readers who love to read about World War 2.

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher, HarperCollins, through NetGalley. Any and all opinions expressed in the above review are entirely my own.

NetGalley:

The New York Times bestselling author of Beautiful Exiles conjures her best novel yet, a pre-World War II-era story with the emotional resonance of Orphan Train and All the Light We Cannot See, centering on the Kindertransports that carried thousands of children out of Nazi-occupied Europe—and one brave woman who helped them escape to safety.

In 1936, the Nazi is little more than loud, brutish bores to fifteen-year-old Stephan Neuman, the son of a wealthy and influential Jewish family and budding playwright whose playground extends from Vienna’s streets to its intricate underground tunnels. Stephan’s best friend and companion are the brilliant Žofie-Helene, a Christian girl whose mother edits a progressive, anti-Nazi newspaper. But the two adolescents’ carefree innocence is shattered when the Nazis take control.

There is hope in the darkness, though. Truus Wijsmuller, a member of the Dutch resistance, risks her life smuggling Jewish children out of Nazi Germany to the nations that will take them. It is a mission that becomes even more dangerous after the Anschluss—Hitler’s annexation of Austria—as, across Europe, countries close their borders to the growing number of refugees desperate to escape.
Tante Truus, as she is known, is determined to save as many children as she can. After Britain passes a measure to take in at-risk child refugees from the German Reich, she dares to approach Adolf Eichmann, the man who would later help devise the “Final Solution to the Jewish Question,” in a race against time to bring children like Stephan, his young brother Walter, and Žofie-Helene on a perilous journey to an uncertain future abroad.

Cilka’s Journey (The Tattooist of Auschwitz #2 by Heather Morris

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Pages: 349

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Published: October 1, 2019

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Best Book of 2019

My Review: Cilka’s Journey is a story that will change your life. I didn’t think I could be more astounded and moved than I was after I finished The Tattooist of Auschwitz but I was.

The horror and tragedy that Cilka faced daily for 15 years, starting at age 16, will tear you apart as you read. You will find yourself angry at humanity but then have your faith in humanity restored just as quickly.

Cilka’s Journey is book two but can be read as a standalone.

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher, St. Martin’s Press, through NetGalley. Any and All opinions expressed above are entirely my own.

NetGalley: From the author of the multi-million copy bestseller The Tattooist of Auschwitz comes a new novel based on a riveting true story of love and resilience.

Her beauty saved her — and condemned her.

Cilka is just sixteen years old when she is taken to Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp in 1942, where the commandant immediately notices how beautiful she is. Forcibly separated from the other women prisoners, Cilka learns quickly that power, even unwillingly taken, equals survival.

When the war is over and the camp is liberated, freedom is not granted to Cilka: She is charged as a collaborator for sleeping with the enemy and sent to a Siberian prison camp. But did she really have a choice? And where do the lines of morality lie for Cilka, who was sent to Auschwitz when she was still a child?

In Siberia, Cilka faces challenges both new and horribly familiar, including the unwanted attention of the guards. But when she meets a kind female doctor, Cilka is taken under her wing and begins to tend to the ill in the camp, struggling to care for them under brutal conditions.

Confronting death and terror daily, Cilka discovers a strength she never knew she had. And when she begins to tentatively form bonds and relationships in this harsh, new reality, Cilka finds that despite everything that has happened to her, there is room in her heart for love.

From child to woman, from woman to healer, Cilka’s journey illuminates the resilience of the human spirit—and the will we have to survive.

Before and After: The Incredible Real-Life Stories of Orphans Who Survived the Tennessee Children’s Home Society by Lisa Wingate and Judy Christie

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Pages: 295

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine

Published: October 22, 2019

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

My Review: I am absolutely horrified such a person as Georgia Tann existed. The pain suffered for generations is a tragedy. It’s also horrifying to think she was never officially brought to justice.

While I agree some children went on to live extraordinary lives it still doesn’t change how crudely they were adopted. I do believe you should have the right to your adoption records. I do not know much about adoptions but if there is one thing I hope is learned is that adoption facilities should get detailed health information of the families from the families for the children.

My eyes have been opened and my heart hurts for the Georgia Tann kids. Hopefully, nothing like this happens in the USA again.

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher, Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, through NetGalley. Any and all opinions expressed in the above review are entirely my own.

NetGalley: The compelling, poignant true stories of victims of a notorious adoption scandal—some of whom learned the truth from Lisa Wingate’s bestselling novel Before We Were Yours and were reunited with birth family members as a result of its wide reach

From the 1920s to 1950, Georgia Tann ran a black-market baby business at the Tennessee Children’s Home Society in Memphis. She offered up more than 5,000 orphans tailored to the wish lists of eager parents—hiding the fact that many weren’t orphans at all, but stolen sons and daughters of poor families, desperate single mothers, and women told in maternity wards that their babies had died.

The publication of Lisa Wingate’s novel Before We Were Yours brought a new awareness of Tann’s lucrative career in child trafficking. Adoptees who knew little about their pasts gained insight into the startling facts behind their family histories. Encouraged by their contact with Wingate and award-winning journalist Judy Christie, who documented the stories of fifteen adoptees in this book, many determined Tann survivors set out to trace their roots and find their birth families.

Before and After includes moving and sometimes shocking accounts of the ways in which adoptees were separated from their first families. Often raised as only children, many have joyfully reunited with siblings in the final decades of their lives. Christie and Wingate tell of first meetings that are all the sweeter and more intense for time missed and of families from very different social backgrounds reaching out to embrace better-late-than-never brothers, sisters, and cousins. In a poignant culmination of art meeting life, many of the long-silent victims of the tragically corrupt system return to Memphis with the authors to reclaim their stories at a Tennessee Children’s Home Society reunion . . . with extraordinary results.

The Miracle and Tragedy of the Dionne Quintuplets by Sarah Miller

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Pages: 294

Publisher: Random House Children’s

Published: August 27, 2019

Rating 4 out of 5 stars

My Review: I had never heard of the Dionne Quintuplets until I read this book. I finished the book feeling angry and sad. Thinking back on it I think I was angry the entire time I read the book. How as a human did at anytime we think it was ok to look at them like caged animals? Yes, their birth in 1934 was a miracle in itself but to be put on display from almost day one?

Although this book is touted as a Young Adult book it should be read by adults as well. If nothing else, maybe we can all learn not to treat others as commodities but as equals.

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher, Random House Children’s, through NetGalley. Any and all opinions expressed in the above review are entirely my own.

NetGalley: In this riveting, beyond-belief true story from the author of The Borden Murders, meet the five children who captivated the entire world.

When the Dionne Quintuplets were born on May 28, 1934, weighing a grand total of just over 13 pounds, no one expected them to live so much as an hour. Overnight, Yvonne, Annette, Cécile, Émilie, and Marie Dionne mesmerized the globe, defying medical history with every breath they took. In an effort to protect them from hucksters and showmen, the Ontario government took custody of the five identical babies, sequestering them in a private, custom-built hospital across the road from their family–and then, in a stunning act of hypocrisy, proceeded to exploit them for the next nine years. The Dionne Quintuplets became a more popular attraction than Niagara Falls, ogled through one-way screens by sightseers as they splashed in their wading pool at the center of a tourist hotspot known as Quintland. Here, Sarah Miller reconstructs their unprecedented upbringing with fresh depth and subtlety, bringing to new light their resilience and the indelible bond of their unique sisterhood.

Keeping Lucy by T. Greenwood

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Pages: 306

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Published: August 6.2019

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

My Review: Once I started this book I couldn’t put it down. It moves with the speed of a runaway locomotive.

You will be appalled at how supposed doctors and nurses treated the little HUMAN beings they were entrusted to care for and love. I can’t wrap my head around how a nurse with children of her own could watch a child drink water out of a toilet and say, “Oh, she’s just being difficult.” Seriously?!?!?!

Whether you understand the precious world of special needs or not you will understand the horrors experienced at Willowridge. I would have kidnapped my child and did exactly what Ginny did. Do I understand why she let her father-in-law and husband make the initial decision to begin with? No, but I was raised in a different time with parents who taught me to stand up for myself and make my own decisions.

Keeping Lucy is a work of fiction based on a true story that will have you cheering Ginny all the while making you think about “what would I do.”

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher, St. Martin’s Press, through NetGalley. Any and all opinions expressed in the above review are entirely my own.

NetGalley: The heartbreaking and uplifting story, inspired by incredible true events, of how far one mother must go to protect her daughter.

Dover, Massachusetts, 1969. Ginny Richardson’s heart was torn open when her baby girl, Lucy, born with Down Syndrome, was taken from her. Under pressure from his powerful family, her husband, Ab, sent Lucy away to Willowridge, a special school for the “feeble-minded.” Ab tried to convince Ginny it was for the best. That they should grieve for their daughter as though she were dead. That they should try to move on.

But two years later, when Ginny’s best friend, Marsha, shows her a series of articles exposing Willowridge as a hell-on-earth–its squalid hallways filled with neglected children–she knows she can’t leave her daughter there. With Ginny’s six-year-old son in tow, Ginny and Marsha drive to the school to see Lucy for themselves. What they find sets their course on a heart-racing journey across state lines—turning Ginny into a fugitive.

For the first time, Ginny must test her own strength and face the world head-on as she fights Ab and his domineering father for the right to keep Lucy. Racing from Massachusetts to the beaches of Atlantic City, through the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia to a roadside mermaid show in Florida, Keeping Lucy is a searing portrait of just how far a mother’s love can take her.

The More the Merrier by Linda Byler

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Pages: 200

Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing

Published: October 1, 2019

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

NetGalley: A Heartwarming Christmas Romance Set During the Great Depression

It’s 1931, and times are tough for the Miller family, who are raising eight children in the midst of the Great Depression. When Eli Miller passes away unexpectedly, and then a fire destroys their barn, Annie has no idea how she’ll make ends meet. The Amish community rallies around her and the children, as is their custom, but as days turn into weeks and then into months, Annie’s friends and neighbors return to their own routines and seem to expect Annie to do the same. Annie knows she needs to stay strong for the children and figure out a way to keep everyone warm and clothed and fed, but she is heartbroken and exhausted. She reminds herself that God will provide, but every day feels like an uphill battle.

When Annie receives a letter from a widower with six children of his own, she tries to put it out of her mind. Her critical mother reminds her that it’s too soon to start a new friendship with a man, and warns her that blending a family will be complicated. In the weeks and months to follow, Annie must learn to make her own decisions—and accept the consequences, good and bad—face her past, and embark on a new journey that will transform her and her large, complicated family. When life seems especially complicated one summer, she finds herself saying that by Christmas everything will start to come together, but she has no idea the challenges—and ultimately blessings—headed her way.

My review: My dad was born in the depression and the stories he tells of growing up with little to nothing is heartbreaking but the love his family had was beautiful. Annie’s story is one of heartache and despair but also one of resilience and love.

This is a beautiful Christmas read that is worthy to read no matter the season. An Amish love story from a real Amish author.

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher, Skyhorse Publishing, through NetGalley. Any and all opinions expressed in the above review are entirely my own.

The Snow Bear by Holly Webb

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Pages: 160

Publisher: Myrick Marketing and Media, LLC

Published: October 1, 2019 (November 26, 2012 (UK Edition)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

NetGalley: Sara loves to listen to Grandpa’s stories of his adventures in the Canadian Arctic when he was a boy. As the snow begins to fall, she builds a snow bear just like the one in Grandpa’s story. In the middle of the night, Sara wakes up and sets out on an enchanted journey through a world of ice and meets a special polar bear cub who befriends her. But will she ever find her way back home?

My Review: An endearing read for children of all ages. The love between a grandpa and granddaughter is highlighted beautifully within the backdrop of the Canadian Arctic and a polar bear looking for his mama.

A bonus is a piece of educational information on polar bears and other arctic animals at the end of the book. A perfect book for an elementary classroom.

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher, Myrick Marketing & Media, LLC, through NetGalley. Any and all opinions expressed in the above review are entirely my own.

Killer in the Carriage House(Victorian Village Mysteries #2) by Sheila Connolly

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Pages: 288

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Published: July 9, 2019

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

NetGalley:

Welcome back to Asheboro, Maryland, where real estate can be a matter of life and death. Killer in the Carriage House is the second book in the Victorian Village Mystery series from New York Times bestselling author Sheila Connolly.

Coming back to her hometown was never on the agenda for hotelier Katherine Hamilton. But when she’s offered a chance to lead the charge of transforming the landscape into a Victorian village and tourist attraction, Kate can’t quite refuse. The only problem? Nobody in Asheboro has the passion, nor the funds, to get plans off the ground…until Kate teams up with handsome historian Joshua Wainwright, who has ambitious ideas of his own involving an old mansion and a treasure-trove of documents that could attract investors and help seal the deal.

Then, just as Kate and Josh seem ready to pull the trigger, a dead body turns up in the town library. Do these mysterious papers spell danger instead of dollars? That’s what Kate intends to find out before all bets are off…and someone else ends up six feet under.

My Review:

I love the idea of turning a town into what it looked like in the past. Honestly, though, I wasn’t sure how this series was going to progress after the first book and still stay interesting. I was pleasantly surprised. The premise of Thomas Edison selling his electricity patents and Henry Barton buying them was a joy to read. I’m ashamed to say I have not taken the time to look this up and see if there is a smudge of truth to this or if creative artistic license was used. Either way, it made for interesting reading.

I am eagerly anticipating the third book in this series to see where we go next in the development in the town.

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher, St. Martin’s Press, through NetGalley. Any and all opinions expressed in the above review are entirely my own.

The Sisters of Summit Avenue by Lynn Cullen

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Pages: 320

Publisher: Gallery Books

Published: September 10, 2019

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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NetGalley:

From Lynn Cullen, the bestselling author of Mrs. Poe and Twain’s End, comes a powerful novel set in the Midwest during the Great Depression, about two sisters bound together by love, duty, and pain.

Ruth has been single-handedly raising four young daughters and running her family’s Indiana farm for eight long years, ever since her husband, John, fell into a comatose state, infected by the infamous “sleeping sickness” devastating families across the country. If only she could trade places with her older sister, June, who is the envy of everyone she meets: blonde and beautiful, married to a wealthy doctor, living in a mansion in St. Paul. And June has a coveted job, too, as one of “the Bettys,” the perky recipe developers who populate General Mills’ famous Betty Crocker test kitchens. But these gilded trappings hide sorrows: she has borne no children. And the man she used to love more than anything belongs to Ruth.

When the two sisters reluctantly reunite after a long estrangement, June’s bitterness about her sister’s betrayal sets into motion a confrontation that’s been years in the making. And their mother, Dorothy, who’s brought the two of them together, has her own dark secrets, which might blow up the fragile peace she hopes to restore between her daughters.

An emotional journey of redemption, inner strength, and the ties that bind families together, for better or worse, The Sisters of Summit Avenue is a heartfelt love letter to mothers, daughters, and sisters everywhere.

My Review:

I enjoyed this book enough to give it four stars but I was not thrilled with the style of writing. The story jumps from past to present and between the sisters and Dorothy. Normally that does not bother me but in this book, I thought it took the punch of the story away. I would get really invested in the current storyline and then, bam, it would switch.

I knew going in, this was a work of fiction but I really thought I’d get to the end and be told it was loosely based on a true story. Alas, that did not occur. I have found myself reading what I can on the creation of Betty Crocker.

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher, Gallery, Pocket Books, through NetGalley. Any and all opinions expressed in the above review are entirely my own.

Red Dove, Listen to the Wind by Sonia Antaki

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Pages: 232

Publisher: One Elm Books

Published: October 15, 2019

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

NetGalley:

Abandoned by her white father, thirteen-year-old Red Dove faces another lean winter with her Lakota family on the Great Plains. Willful and proud, she is presented with a stark choice: leave her people to live in the white world, or stay and watch them starve. Red Dove begins a journey to find her place in the world and discovers that her greatest power comes from within herself.

My Review:

A very moving middle-grade book. You will not want to put down once you are near 50% done.

Red Dove is geared to middle-grade readers but I find it may be difficult for them to read and understand on their own. It speaks of the horrible way our ancestors treated the Indians as we populated the country by moving West. Some kids may find the ruthless killing discussed a trigger for harsh emotions.

I would love to see this incorporated in a 5th-grade classroom using many of the subjects. History (Sitting Bull and Custer), Reading, Science (the herbs Indians relied on), Art and Music. There is much to be learned from this book and lessons we can apply today on how to treat others fairly.

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher, One Elm, through NetGalley. Any and all opinions expressed in the above review are entirely my own.