Thursday, October 17, 2019

Book Reviews | Advance Reader Editions

This summer at our local library's Book Buzz event, I picked up several Advanced Reader Editions of books that are brand new this year. These special copies are released before the actual publication date of the book (as uncorrected proofs with covers that may differ from the final version), so they are like a sneak peek into what's coming up (or has recently come out).

Since my twin nieces were here visiting and attended the event with me, I came home with a pile of new books! Here's a look at the ones I've read so far.

Last Day: A Novel by Domenica Ruta was released on May 28. One of my nieces picked this one up, and I thought it would be an apocalyptic novel. However, it turns out that "Last Day" is a "holiday" that happens every year. The story follows several characters, none of who are very likable; most of them have some type of mental illness or emotional issue (one character tends to eat random things like pencil erasers or bugs). Honestly, I don't recommend this book as I really wasn't interested in what happened next and was glad to get to the unsatisfying conclusion.

However, it was somewhat interesting to read about the three astronauts (well, one was a wealthy tourist) on board the International Space Station since I'd previously read An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth. Although the fiction characters did not necessarily portray the astronauts in a good light (drinking, swearing, goofing off, not taking care of the ISS), there were aspects of life in space that were "familiar."

Lost Roses is Martha Hall Kelly's second book and is set right before and during World War I. The story alternates between three characters: (1) Eliza Ferriday (based on the real-life woman), a well-to-do American in Southhampton, New York, who is married to Henry and has one daughter, Caroline; (2) Eliza's friend Sofya Streshnayva, a Russian aristocrat (who is kin to the tsar) in St. Petersburg, Russia; and (3) Varinka, a peasant girl who is employed to help take care of Sofya's son when her family flees to their country estate in Malinov, Russia. All three characters eventually end up in Paris, France, but not before they each go through trying times and heartache as the war rages.

This is a great historical novel with a page-turner plot line as it alternates between the various points of view, beginning and ending with a fourth character, Luba, Sofya's younger sister. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and immediately checked out the author's first book from the library.

Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly, although the first book written, actually takes place after Lost Roses. This book is set during World War II and, once again, follows three women's lives: (1) Caroline Ferriday (Eliza's daughter and also based on a real person) lives in New York and is working for the French consulate as well as running a venture that sends aid to French orphans; (2) Kasia Kuzmerick (a composite character based on the real life Polish "rabbits"), a Polish teenager from Lublin, who gets arrested for working with the underground in occupied Poland and is sent Ravensbruck; and (3) Herta Oberheuser (also based on a real-life person), the German female doctor who performed operations as part of the sulfonamide experiments in Ravensbruck.

This is another very well-written historical novel, using a strong juxtaposition of the wealthy elite in New York and the desperate prisoners in the concentration camp and the pro-German desensitized doctor! 

Before and After: The Incredible Real-Life Stories of Orphans Who Survived the Tennessee Children's Home Society was written by Judy Christie (journalist and author) and Lisa Wingate (author of Before We Were Yours, which I reviewed HERE). This non-fiction book (which releases next Tuesday, October 22) tells the stories of children who were adopted during the reign of Georgia Tann at the Tennessee Children's Home Society. I first heard of the terrible illegal deeds of Tann when I read the historical novel Before We Were Yours, so I was eager to read some of the real-life stories. Many individuals who were adopted from TCHS began contacting the author after reading her well-researched novel, and they shared their stories of finding or searching for the truth about their adoptions.

One adoptee shared how his mother ... and all (!) the mothers in the maternity ward that day ... were told that their babies had died in the night, when in fact Georgia Tann had stolen them to sell to couples wanting to adopt a baby. Another adoptee remembered her mother leaving her and her two brothers on the courthouse steps because the man she was with didn't want them. When Georgia Tann picked them up, she assured the three children that she would keep them together. However, when they arrived at one of the children's home, she had the little girl get out of the car first...and then the driver took off with her brothers and she never saw them again. Although it was heartbreaking, I am so glad I read this book and learned more about the atrocities that were allowed to take place for almost 30 years!

However, the author/journalist interspersed her thoughts and story in between the chapters about the adoptees (and their families). I thought this was extremely distracting - honestly, I'm not interested in the details of what she went through to get to an interview on time or whether her husband had to drive cross country to meet up with her before an event. These diversions really didn't add to the topic of the book.

Have you read any of these books? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

1 comment:

  1. I have not read any of these books, but there are a couple that I will check to see if the library has. Always appreciate book reviews & recommendations. Thank you.


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