Monday, February 29, 2016

Martha Hall Kelly's "Lilac Girls:A Novel"

I've been thinking about this book for a few days. I will start by saying that I absolutely loved it. The entire story took hold of me and stayed with me long after I finished. 

I have been struggling to write this review, not because I am not sure what to say, but because I don't want to say too much. I really want to just run my mouth about it and tell everyone that passes me about the awesome book I just finished, but that would make me a horrible book reviewer if I ruined the story for you.

Lilac Girls is a story told through the eyes of 3 women who lived in 3 different countries during WWII. I think that it is important to say that all of these women are based off a real World War II heroine. Since there are 3 main characters, this novel starts out with several different plots, not one being less significant than another. 

Caroline is a wealthy, single American woman who devotes her time working for the French Consulate. She falls in love with a married French man, who ends up going back to occupied France to try and save his Jewish wife. Caroline falls out of contact with him and fears the worse after learning of the German "prisoner camps".

Kasia is a Polish teen working with the underground resistance in Poland. She is captured, along with her mother and sister, and is put on a train to Ravensbruck. Ravensbruck, located in Northern Germany, was one of the largest of Hitler's concentration camps exclusively for women. It is there that she becomes a "rabbit", the name for the girls who were used for experiments by SS doctors taking orders from Hitler himself. 

Dr. Herta is fresh out of medical school in Germany when the war is starting. Fearing she will never get a decent job (being a woman doctor) and having her family to support, she takes a job at Ravensbruck. Going in she has her reservations, but she ultimately  wholeheartedly believes in Hitler's plans for the greater good. 

Every single character introduced in the story, whether large or small, has an impact to the overall novel. I dont think there was a single character that hasn't stuck with me. There were times when this book was so hard to read, such as the in depth descriptions of medical procedures being done on innocent women. The stories told are powerful, diverse, and heartbreaking. I felt myself slipping into the characters' places and putting myself in their shoes. Phenomenal story telling by debut author Martha Hall Kelly.  

DO NOT close the book and skip reading the author's note. It tell how she became inspired to write this novel, along with some history of the people and places we read about in the book. Please also visit her site, for photos, maps, etc.

This is a must read book for 2016. Do yourself a favor and preorder this novel now! I give it 5 stars!

Thanks to Netgalley and Random House Publishing Group- Ballantine for allowing me the eARC! 

Happy Reading!

Thursday, February 4, 2016

"Hold Still" by Lynn Steger Strong

This cover is AMAZING! It may have been the very first thing that drew me to this book. I love it. After gushing over the cover art I did go on to read the description, which goes as follows:

Evoking finely wrought characters reminiscent of those by Claire Messud or Elizabeth Strout, debut author Lynn Steger Strong traces the anatomy of a mistake and the weight of culpability. When Maya Taylor, an English professor with a tendency to hide in her books, sends her daughter to Florida to look after a friend’s child, she does so with the best of intentions; it’s a chance for Ellie, twenty and spiraling, to rebuild her life. But Ellie fears she’ll only disappoint again, and in the sprawling hours of one humid afternoon, she makes a mistake that she can’t take back. In two separate timelines—before and after the catastrophe—Maya and Ellie must try to repair their fractured relationship and find a way to transcend not only their differences but also their more troubling similarities. Heralding the arrival of a profoundly moving new talent, Hold Still explores the depths and limits of a mother’s love.

I requested this book from Netgalley because I was drawn to the premise of the story. I like books when I know something has happened that changed the lives of the characters involved, but we (the readers) don't know exactly what the event was. I also like when the story is told from two different points of view. In this book in particular, it was two points of view from two separate timelines- both past and present. 

This story revolves around the relationship between a mother and her daughter. It is a tough relationship where neither party can see eye to eye. Maya's story (the mother) is told from first person perspective AFTER the event. Maya is a college professor, a bookworm, and seems to check out of her children's life when the going gets tough. Ellie (the daughter) tells her story leading up to the event. Ellie is in her late teens- rebellious, experimenting with drugs and alcohol, and trying her best NOT to live up to her parents' expectations. 

Maya decides to send Ellie to Florida to help take care of a friend's child. Maya sees it as a fresh chance for her daughter. To leave behind the bad choices she has made in NYC. However, just as it seems Ellie is getting her life together for the better, she makes a horrible mistake. Through Ellie's eyes we see the state of mind she was in leading up to her fatal decision.

Years later Maya's story tells the aftermath of the event. A family left in turmoil. Where deep emotions of guilt and resentment plague the family. 

Lynn Steger Strong's debut novel is full of well developed characters. The way she wrote such overwhelmingly hard-to-describe emotions and actions into each and every character was amazing. She truly has a way to get emotions out and onto paper. Each and every character, both with large and small parts in the story, were believable. Excellent writing. 

Hold Still is a powerfully devastating story about complex relationships that you will definitely want to add to your 2016 TBR list. It is due to be released in March 2016.

Thanks to Netgalley and W.W. Norton & Company for allowing me to read and give my honest review.

Happy Reading!