All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Image result for All The Light We cAnnot SeeThis is a story about a German boy and a blind French girl in World War II. This is not a very romantic love story, but it is love that helps the girl survive. Werner Pfennig grew up in a small, very poor German coal-mining town. As an orphan, his life was tough and without hope. However, his talents in radio mechanics totally alter his options when war breaks out. Warner is trained at the most rigorous and famed German Military school and is sent to the frontlines. Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a blind French girl who lives in Paris with her dad, the locksmith of the Museum of Natural History. After the German invasion, they flee to the coastal town of Saint-Malo in possession of a cursed and rare gem.  Although for most of the book the two characters lives are told separately, an old radio broadcast is a thread that ties them together and influences both of their lives. The reason that I love this book is that it shows how war can destroy people.Image result for anthony doerr

Like Warner says in the book, “If it is not for the war, these people will live with their free will. They might not become important people, but as least they can live the lives that they choose and live with it.”

Review by MS. Chen

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If I should Die Before I Wake by Han Nolan

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If I should Die Before I Wake by Han Nolan

 

Teenager Hilary proudly belongs to the Aryan Warriors, a neo-Nazi hate group dedicated to carrying out Hitler’s goal of killing Jews. After being thrown from her boyfriend Brad’s motorcycle, she is taken to the closest medical facility, ironically a Jewish hospital. While she’s in a coma, Hilary floats in a dreamlike state, seeing and hearing people around her but unable to communicate. Suddenly Hilary finds herself spinning backward , walking down an unfamiliar street as Chana, with a best friend she doesn’t know. Each of them has a yellow star on her coat. Stopped by soldiers on their way to school, they are forced at gunpoint to scrub stairs along with Jewish women, using their underwear. Finally released, Chana is on her way home and sees soldiers shoot her father when he is unable to work. Thus begins Hilary’s journey through an alternate life as Chana, a 13 year old Jewish girl in Poland under Nazi occupation. Hilary moves between her existence in a coma, hearing her mother pray over her in the hospital, and living with what’s left of her family under increasing Nazi oppression. This is a powerful narrative of a girl seeingwhere unchecked hate can lead.

Review by Ms. Goldstein-Erickson

Of Better Blood by Susan Moger

OfBetterBloodOf Better Blood by Susan Moger

Do you believe that some people are not fit to live in this world? And if they are unfit, should they be stopped from having unfit children? Are people with disabilities less desirable and therefore expendable? Is forced sterilization ok if they are going to pass on tainted genes? And who should be allowed to make these decisions anyways?

After World War II a whole class of people thought they were most qualified to decide which genes should get passed onto future generations of US citizens. And, with medical research, experimentation and practice, they sought to eliminate other members of the population who they considered less worthy of living. This book is a fictionalized story about those who practiced Eugenics and some of the deadly consequences of their work.

Rowan is the daughter of a prominent thinker who believes that tainted blood should be eliminated. When Rowan contracts polio he abandons her to substandard care and abuse. As a side-show freak Rowan begins to question the way she has been raised to think, although it takes friends outside of her own class to really push her to see the abuse for what it is. This book would make for great fiction, the scary part is that it is based on fact and that some of the extreme practices continued into recent history.

The Tuskegee Experiment

America’s Secret History of Forced Sterilization

Henrietta Lacks: the mother of modern medicine

Review by Sarah Rosenkrantz

All Involved by Ryan Gattis

AllInvolvedAll Involved by Ryan Gattis RyanGattis

In the aftermath of the verdict that acquitted four Los Angeles Police Officers of beating Rodney King, an unarmed African American man, all hell broke loose in Los Angeles (CLICK HERE FOR A TIMELINE OF THE HISTORICAL EVENTS). Not only were there protests and outpourings of rage over the verdict, but parts of Los Angeles began to burn. This novel is the story of people who took advantage of the madness and those who became the victims of the many unseen, and ultimately unsolvable, crimes. Meth heads with molotov cocktails, gangster with revenge plots, and black ops with orders to maim all roamed the city without repercussion. Even the firefighters who came to rescue people and homes found themselves targeted and attacked.

This book is violent and not at all about the politics of police brutality that sparked the five days of social unrest that brought Los Angeles to its knees. It is a one sided journey into the dangerous underbelly of a system gone wrong. In a city where justice has been absent for too, too long and gangs of all colors and races, including the police, run amuck at will.

Review by Sarah Rosenkrantz

Equal of the Sun by Anita Amirrezvani

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Equal of the Sun by Anita Amirrezvani

This unusual historical fiction story takes place in Iran (Persia, then) in the 1500’s.  When the Shah dies without leaving a specific heir, chaos breaks out and his favored daughter, Princess Pari, tries to wrest control of the country.  She had been taught to rule at her father’s side, but knew she would always have to do it behind the scenes, through a male “puppet” shah.  This book is the story of her trying to gain control in a royal court full of intrigue, manipulations and even murders.  Her only true ally is Javaher, a eunuch who is wise to the ways of the court, but also has his own secret agenda

I found the book to be completely exciting, and loved seeing a woman trying to take control when her whole world was against powerful women.  If you’re a fan of historical fiction, you will especially appreciate that this title is not set in the usual European or early American time periods.  I would highly recommend it to fans of historical fiction and readers who enjoy stories about the Middle East.

Review by Ms. Provence

Bowery Girl by Kim Taylor

Bowery GirlBowery girl by Kim Taylor

Annabelle Lee, a young woman in the Bowery of New York City in 1883, has finished serving her jail sentence for attempted robbery of a police detective after he hired her as a prostitute. Mollie Flynn, her best and only friend, excitedly waits to meet Annabelle and celebrate her release. Mollie makes her living as a pickpocket, discovers Annabelle in pregnant when they go to the public bath, and worries how they will achieve their dream of living an honest life and move to Brooklyn. They have an idealized image of Brooklyn as a place with trees where they can rent a room with a window. Annabelle looks forward to reuniting with Tommy McCormack, her boyfriend and father of her child, who is the leader of the Growlers, a tough Irish gang. She hopes he will marry her. Mollie and Annabelle learn a settlement house has opened in the building where the baths are, teaching classes. Annabelle decides she wants to learn to read. After a robbery with the Growlers goes wrong and in which she is involved, Mollie joins Annabelle in classes at the settlement house. Since she knows how to read, she’s assigned to a typing class to learn an honest trade. Even as Annabelle’s due date comes close, they hold onto their dream of Brooklyn and a better life, in the face of many challenges and obstacles.

This true to life historical fiction paints a vivid picture of life among the poor and destitute in New York City during the 1880s. Even though they use rough language and do not live totally honest lives, the characters become people about whom the reader grows to care.

Review by Ellie Goldstein Erickson

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

CodeNameVerityCode Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Spies get caught. Torture, confession. A wavy line between truth and lies. Betrayal. Friendship. A gruesome war that must be ended.

Divided into 2 parts, the first part of this book contains the written confessions of Verity, a Scottish woman radio operator, trained to be a spy, who is in Gestapo custody in France in Fall, 1943. She trades secrets like radio codes to be given backher clothes, even though she is still tortured but kept alive by Gestapo officer who forces her to write background of how she came to be in France. She gives details of her best friend Maddie, also a radio operator, who became a pilot and flew her to France for her mission. Other prisoners despise her as a collaborator. In part 2 the pilot Maddie starts by giving an account of landing her crippled plane in France after delivering Verity.

The best advice I can give readers is to be patient. Think of this plot as an onion, for the characters keep unfolding layers to the story, and nothing turns out to be as it seems. Only after reading the book all the way to the end did I understand the glowing reviews this book got when it was first published. I would ruin the plot by giving any more details except to say I would love to read it again, since there is more to appreciate in this book than a reader gets the first time through.

Review by Ms. Goldstein-Erickson