January books

12. Rena’s Promise: A Story of Sisters in Auschwitz – Rena Kornreich Gelissen
Story – True story of Rena, who was on the first female transport to Auschwitz and who, amazingly, survived to the end of the war, taking care of her sister as they moved through the concentration camps.
Thoughts – This book was just amazing. It was written in the first person, although the book was written by someone else after listening to Rena’s story. It fascinates me that no matter how many of these Holocaust memoirs I read, there are always new things to learn and their reasons for surviving are so varied. Rena is the first person I’ve ever read about who volunteered for Auschwitz- the Germans called for female Polish Jews to go away for a work detail and Rena went, reasoning that she could work and hopefully then go back. Of course, once you went through the gates of Auschwitz you were part of the Nazi’s final solution, and Rena was tattooed on her first day. She got number 1716, which meant she was literally the one thousand, seven hundred and sixteenth inmate. I just kept going back to that- I knew about the numbers but I suppose I never thought that they were an actual numerical count of the prisoners as they were absorbed into the camp. While she was in one of the camps, Rena heard about a man working in the kitchen who was number 45.
Honestly, I could go on about this one because it really was an incredibly absorbing and amazing story of survival! Rena was so strong, her sister came into camp a little after she did and she basically kept her alive. In Auschwitz and Birkenau, on the death march to Germany as the Allies approached, then in Ravensbruck and a last, smaller camp- from 1942 to the liberation Rena and her sister Danka stayed together and kept each other alive.

11. Yarn Harlot – Stephanie Pearl-McPhee
Story – A collection of little essays from knitting blogger Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, who write the site ‘Yarn Harlot’.
Thoughts – This book was a delightful surprise! I have read the blog in the past and enjoyed it, although it was never on my regular reading list. This book was a lot about knitting, and a lot about family life and creativity and marriage, and some of it made me laugh and there were a couple of stories that actually bought tears to my eyes. I’d certainly recommend this to anyone who knits, and honestly anyone who does any kind of craft with dedication and enthusiasm would probably connect to her really easily.

10. Roadside Crosses – Jeffery Deaver
Story – The 2nd book about Kathryn Dance, of the California Bureau of Investigations. She lands the case of a serial killer, who is leaving memorial crosses at the roadside before he kills his victim. As they investigate they find links to a local blog star and the cyber world, and have to move fast before they are all in danger.
Thoughts – I generally like Jeffery Deaver’s books, but this one really didn’t live up to the rest of them. The crime was kind of confusing, and there were a million different story threads running through it and I didn’t care about all of them. And when I say the crime was confusing, when they eventually had the villain in their sights I couldn’t even remember who it was, let alone why that person wanted to kill them!

9. Precious and Fragile Things – Megan Hart
Gilly, a mother of two, is tired. Tired of always taking care of everyone else besides herself, tired of the never-ending routine of motherhood. And then one night a man forces himself into her car, taking Gilly hostage and changing everything.
Thoughts – This book kind of came out of nowhere and just punched me in the heart. I didn’t expect to love it. The premise intrigued me- Gilly is taken at knifepoint by a man (Todd) who drives her and her SUV to a remote mountain cabin where, before Gilly can escape, they are snowed in for several months. I knew I’d find it interesting, but I didn’t know I’d end up loving the characters (especially after they were so stupid/ crazy at the start!) and having them and their ending stay with me for days afterwards. It was just a beautiful story about the slow unfolding of friendship and two people getting to know each other in difficult circumstances, and looking at the difficulties of motherhood and how it impacts on women and children.

8. Drunk, Divorced and Covered in Cat Hair – Laurie Perry

Story – Biography of a 30 something woman and what happened to her when her husband divorced her and she took up knitting.
Thoughts – Another blogger I hadn’t heard about! But I liked the title and I like knitting so I thought I’d give it a go. Written with honesty and humour, it was a good read. Nothing earth shattering, but a fun way to spend the afternoon.

7. The Silent Girls – Eric Rickstad
Story – When police find an abandoned car, the young female driver missing, they call in ex-detective Frank Rath. Haunted by his own demons, Rath is now involved in searching for another demon, one who is taking local girls for purposes of his own. And Frank Rath has a daughter…
Thoughts – This book had the scariest opening chapter ever. Seriously, if you’ll excuse me being rude, I just about crapped my pants. Had NO idea where the story was going after that. But it was a good, tight crime thriller, believable and fast moving, and I would read the next book. Actually, that’s my biggest criticism- it ended on a cliff hanger and so I would have to read the next book to feel satisfied, which is something I hate in mystery stories like this.

6. Bloom – Kelle Hampton
Story – Kelle Hampton had a perfect life. Good looking husband, lots of friends, close family, and her beautiful and beloved toddler daughter Lainey. Then Kelle gave birth to her second daughter, a little girl called Nella who came with an unexpected diagnosis of Down Syndrome and taught Kelle a whole new version of perfect.
Thoughts – For once this is the book of a blogger I have heard about and whose blog I have read, on and off, since I was linked to Nella’s birth story way back when!
I liked reading Kelle’s blog- she is relentlessly cheerful and comes across as being a bit of a dork- the kind of blogger you feel like you could actually relate to in real life. Plus, she had beautiful photos and Nella has always been a cutie. However in the time that I’ve been reading the blog (Nella’s four years old now) I’ve gone from liking her blog, to thinking she’s very fake, to thinking she’s kind of fake but still interesting enough. It’s honestly hard to tell now- so much of their life is staged for the blog (which became the main support for their family, maybe still is) and I don’t know what is genuinely Kelle and what is just shoring up this online persona she’s created.
I have similar ambivalent feelings about the book. The writing is flowery, Kelle is fond of similes and uses them extensively. The content was a lot of things I’d read on the blog, with a few other things and some more details. And it doesn’t make Kelle come across very well.
I knew she was shattered by the diagnosis. What I didn’t know was the extent of her complete collapse into tears for days and days and practically months on end. And although while reading I privately thought she was being a bit of a drama queen, in the end she’s entitled to her feelings, and it takes different people different amounts of time and different ways to process the news that their child has some kind of lifelong special needs.
Where I didn’t like Kelle in this book was her seeming disdain for some other families and people who were already travelling that road. Her determination (once she’d stopped crying) to rock Down Syndrome was admirable, but her implication that everyone else was doing it wrong and only Kelle would be able to make Down Syndrome lose some kind of dreary, unhappy public image felt kind of insulting. Overall…I don’t know. There are probably a million better books about living with Down Syndrome in a child- this book is far more about Kelle than about Nella. But it’s not a bad read I guess.

5. To Say Nothing of the Dog – Connie Willis
Story – It’s a time travel story. Back and forwards and back again, trying to fix up mistakes and work within the vagaries of time travel.
Thoughts – I know my summary made no real sense. It’s a time travel story, where time travel is part of the history department at Oxford University. It’s set in the same universe as the other book by Connie Willis that I’ve read- The Doomsday Book. I was glad I’d read that first, (and read it several times) since it meant I had a little bit more of a handle on the way the ‘net’ worked and their time travel functioned.
In the end, I really enjoyed this book. Ned was a gorgeous character, and the way the relationship between him and Verity developed in the Victorian era was so sweet and funny. Honestly, for a science fiction book this was so very, very human. I do still like The Doomsday Book better, but I will definitely read any other books by this author that I come across.

4. She, Myself and I – Whitney Gaskell
Story – A book about three sisters. Paige has just been divorced, Sophie is about to have a baby, and Mickey is dreading telling her family that she’s not going to medical school. Then there are the parents who, years after an acrimonious divorce, are getting a little more than friendly.
Thoughts – This was an entertaining enough read at the time, but it also left me feeling annoying. The characters were all just so stupid. Who behaves like that? Who lets their pregnant sister/daughter behave like such a tyrant? Why does the author think that pregnancy makes women insane?

3. Field of Prey – John Sandford
Story – Two teenagers looking for a good night go out parking on the site of a deserted farm. But their fun evening is interrupted by an odour they can’t ignore, an odour that leads to the discovery of twenty one dead bodies thrown in an old cistern. Detective Lucas Davenport is called in to help local police find the killer, who must be someone living nearby…
Thoughts– This was really good. In contrast to The Creeper, which I criticised a couple of books ago, this one is part of a series (number 24) but I didn’t feel like I was missing information. Obviously the more books in a series you read the more you get to know the protagonist, but at least in this one important points or events from previous books were explained.
It was also a good crime/mystery book. It was well done and I enjoyed watching the police put the pieces together.

2. Dangerous Days in Elizabethan England – Terry Deary
Story – A non-fiction book about some of the many ways you could die in Elizabethan England! It packed a lot of information about Elizabeth and her reign, crime and punishment, her friends and enemies, religion and succession.
Thoughts – I like history and this was an easy read. The formatting was a bit screwed up, but I’m assuming that was just a problem with the e-book I read. I learned a lot and it made me more interested to read some more about the time period. The author wrote some of the Horrible History books for the kids, so I was pretty hopeful about this one and it didn’t disappoint.

1. The Creeper – Tania Carver
Story – The police are investigating a brutal murder. A young woman is being stalked. Another young woman has disappeared. All these events are linked, and it’s up to the police to figure out how and who is behind it, before another girl dies.
Thoughts – This is the second book in a series, and while I have read the first one I really didn’t remember all the little details. And that’s my main criticism of this book- it seems to assume that not only have you read the other books in the series but remember all the details, and since I didn’t I was kind of lost in a lot of sections. It really pulled me out of the story and lessened my enjoyment, which was a pity because it was otherwise a good book. Some of the characters did seem a bit dim, but it was still a good book.

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