We Were the Lucky Ones: A Book Review

Title: We Were the Lucky Ones

Author: Georgia Hunter

Publisher: Penguin Books

Copyright Date: 2017

*Setting for book challenge: Eastern Europe (Poland)

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World War II begins with the German invasion of Poland.

The Kurcs were a wealthy, Jewish family rooted in Radom, Poland, when the news breaks about the war. One-by-one the war takes members of their family and all the Kurcs can do is hope for the best–that one day the war will end and they will be reunited as a family.

Ganek and his wife end up in Siberia in a concentration camp.

Mila’s husband is taken without a “good-bye” and she is left to raise their baby on her own in the ghetto.

Addy tries to make it home from France, but is prevented from entering his homeland.

Jakob must protect the woman he loves from meeting the same fate as her family.

Halina uses her wit and strong personality to survive under the new regime.

Based on true events in the author’s family history this novel is one of resilience and impossibility. So often, we read stories about the casualties of war, but We Were the Lucky Ones gives away in its title that this family may have been broken for a time, but hope is restored in many ways.

As I read about events that this family endured I was shocked. I am a history teacher and I consider myself fairly educated on the war era, but I really had no idea what it was like to actually be under the persecution of the Nazis. I felt anger as I learned about the way the Kurcs were disregarded and forced in to ghettos. I was anxious as I read about Jews being coerced to dig their own graves knowing that when their shovel emptied the last of the mound their final breath was soon to follow. And don’t even get me started on the cruel acts against children.

But as heartbreaking as these events were I do believe it is necessary to educate ourselves on these things.

Hitler didn’t start with death camps.

It was a long process that began by planting seeds of hate and isolating groups of people.

Thank God that the Kurc family was one of the lucky families. That every member was spared from the fate that over 6 million others endured is a miracle.

I listened to a podcast while reading this book where the author admits that she took some creative license when it came to the thoughts, feelings, and words of her ancestors. But it is evident that an immense amount of research went into this story. It teeters on the verge of non-fiction, but she states in the podcast she didn’t feel comfortable calling it anything other than a novel because of the way she had to fill the gaps with what cannot be found in the act of research.

This was an emotional read, but so worth it. We all need to be reminded of the past and oftentimes that makes us uncomfortable.

Over the course of 2019 my goal is to Read the World. Check it out!

Reading Challenge 2019 (2)

The Ameri Brit Mom

 

The Great Alone: A Book Review

Title: The Great Alone

Author: Kristin Hannah

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Copyright Date: 2018

*Setting for book challenge: Isolated Location (Kaneq, Alaska)

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The Vietnam War stole Leni Allbright’s father.

He returned in 1974 a former POW and a new man with a violent streak. His love for her mother ran deep, but flipped a switch in him. And that switch hurt her mother. Every episode ended with an apology and every time Cora took him back. Meanwhile, teaching her teenage daughter that to wake up to broken glass, overturned furniture, empty whiskey bottles and a mother speckled black and blue is normal.

News that they inherited a cabin in Alaska brings Leni hopes that the move will help him. They pack their Volkswagen bus and settle on a homestead in the beautiful Alaskan wilderness. Leni’s small family from Seattle learns to live off the land and adjust to life without electricity where their nearest neighbor is miles away.

They quickly become part of their new community in Kaneq. Leni befriends Matthew, the only other teenager in town, and he teaches her how to prepare for her first winter in Alaska. He strengthens Leni’s spirit and shows her that love doesn’t have to mean being a punching bag and letting men walk all over you.

“Everyone up here had two stories: the life before and the life now.”

During their first winter in Kaneq, the citizens face a horrific tragedy that soon brings division. When they need to lean into one another for support the town scatters themselves and builds walls of hatred.

“They were trapped, by environment and finances, but mostly by the sick, twisted love that bound her parents together.”

This was a beautifully written novel about a young girl learning to survive harsh circumstances and weather. Life dealt Leni an unfortunate hand, but throughout the course of her story she learns how to live unbroken.

I haven’t read a book I loved this much in a long time. There were at least five twists in this plot that I NEVER SAW COMING. I love a good, unpredictable read. I found myself constantly wanting to know what would happen next. I cheered for Leni, screamed at her mother, and all but spit at her abusive father.

This year, my goal is read books set all over the world. This is my first book of 2019. As I complete books this year I plan to share some details I learn about different corners of the world.

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I felt like I was in the last frontier as I read this novel. Glacier filled white mountains, cloudless cornflower blue skies, fjords, and northern lights all drew me into the landscape of this beautiful state. Orcas, seals, otters, bears, moose, bald eagles, ptarmigans, and cormorants were all wildlife that appeared in the secluded woods of Kaneq.

“The natural world spoke loudest here.”

I experienced both of the Alaskan seasons. The days where the sun barely set were unusual to me. I found myself wondering how one could fall asleep at midnight with the light of day still bright. Other days, the sun surfaced for only a couple of hours. How depressing that must be to endure! I learned that in many parts of Alaska one must travel over the ice by small planes and that during the winter months casualty numbers were high due to stupid mistakes and poor planning.

I’m off on another travel. Stay tuned to see my latest reading destination.

The Ameri Brit Mom

 

 

Long Way Down: A Book Review

Title: Long Way Down

Author: Jason Reynolds

Publisher: Antheneum

Copyright Date: 2017

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Will’s brother, Shawn, is dead. The rules of his neighborhood say he must avenge his brother. He grabs a gun and enters the elevator with a plan to murder Shawn’s killer.

The sixty seconds that Will rides the elevator help him to see that revenge isn’t his only option. In that time Will is confronted by other victims of gun violence and they help him to see clearly and distract him from his anger.

By the time he reaches the first floor, Will must decide if he is going to add to the count of dead bodies in his neighborhood or if he is going to challenge the rules of the streets.

This book is written in verse and is a quick read. My husband and I took turns reading aloud from this book and finished it in about two hours. Although the story is short it makes lasting impressions on its reader. It is clear to see why this book landed on the honor list for the Coretta Scott King award. I really love Jason Reynolds and the way his works are challenging gang culture and violence in the United States.

Last year year I read All American Boys which he co-authored with Brendan Kiely. That novel took the perspective of two boys who witnessed an act of police brutality. Kiely authored a white boy’s voice as a witness to the crime while Reynolds penned the voice of the African American boy victimized by an officer. I’ve book-talked All American Boys and several students have read it this year. It’s a classroom favorite amongst my ninth graders.

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I highly recommend both books.

The Ameri Brit Mom

2019 Read the World Challenge

Every year I forget how quickly time passes.

I feel like I was just writing my goals for 2018 and here I am days away from 2019. Part of my annual goal setting means creating a plan for reading. Losing myself in the pages of fictional stories has become a daily part of my self-care routine. As a routine-oriented person I love to have a plan or a map of where I want to be at the end of every year.

This year I want to read the world.

Over the next twelve months I plan to visit every region and corner of the planet by reading books set in those locations.

Inspired by my mother-in-law who is currently on a trip of a lifetime around the world I’ve set out to craft a few travel plans myself.

I scoured travel websites and maps. I read lists of book reviews. Then with a bit of travel-envy I let myself be inspired by the travels of Karen Sisley. She is one brave woman who has sold all of her belongings and is currently traveling all over the eastern hemisphere doing humanitarian work and site-seeing.

I may not ever climb to the peak of a mountain, wash elephants in Cambodia, or sun bathe in the Caribbean, but I can always enjoy those adventures from the pages of well written novels.

I’d love for you to join me on a reading journey that takes us around the world. You can choose to read the following books in order or at random.

Reading Challenge 2019

You can do this journey reading library books (and do it all for free) or you can buy them cheap at discount book shops, yard sales, or download ebooks. However you prefer to get the books make a plan now!

If you plan to travel with me please let me know!

I want to discuss where we’ve been and what we’ve seen as we embark on this adventure.

The Ameri Brit Mom

The Bridge of Clay: A Book Review

Title: Bridge of Clay

Author: Markus Zusak

Publisher: Knopf

Copyright Date: 2018

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As the semester came to a close my freshmen students presented a book they read throughout the year thus far. I read alongside my students several days a week and so I kicked off the presentations with one of my own. This book review is actually going to be told through Google Slides that I created for my class…

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I did admit to my students that I had high expectations for this book. The Book Thief, Zusak’s most popular book, is in my Top 5 favorite books of all time. I’ve waited a long time for Zusak to author another novel. To me, Bridge of Clay, just didn’t quite stack up. It was good. I do recommend it. But be warned…if you loved The Book Thief it is very different.

Check out my review of I Am Messenger from 2015.

The Ameri Brit Mom

Books I Read in 2018

I’ve had so many reading adventures to share with you from 2018. I traveled back to Hogwarts, solved the murder of a teen in detention, witnessed the prejudices against minorities, fought countless types of mental illness, united a broken family, visited postwar Europe to save a child, and restored my faith in the human race.

Here is the list of books I read in 2018:

Devotional/Faith Books:

 

Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp

The Way of Abundance by Ann Voskamp

Anxious For Nothing by Max Lucado

 

Other Books:

 

 

 

Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak

The First Phone Call From Heaven by Mitch Albom

Every Day by David Leviathan

One Was Lost by Natalie D. Richards

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crawley

When We Collided by Emery Lord

-One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus

Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven

We All Fall Down by Natalie D. Richards

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by John Tiffany

I didn’t quite meet my goal of 26 books this year, but considering I had a baby in February I am pleased with the fact that I kept reading a priority.

I am excited to start a new Reading Challenge in 2019. Next week I plan to share with you my plan and I would love for you to join me.

The Ameri Brit Mom

Every Day: A Book Review

Title: Every Day

Author: David Levithan

Publisher: Ember

Copyright Date: 2012

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For as long as A can remember he’s woken up every morning in a different body. He’s almost always in Maryland, but that’s his only constant. When he opens his eyes in the morning he must examine the body that will be his host until midnight. Some days that body is male and other days it’s female. A must learn about the life he is taking on as quickly as possible. Whose body is this? What are they like? Who do they care about? He must access his host to answer these questions, but the host must never know he was there.

Over time A has learned to set his own rules. When he borrows a body he tries to return it without having left a trace. He leaves clues to the day for the person when they return, so he can float to another body as if nothing ever happened.

But he’s made two mistakes: Nathan remembers being A’s host and A has fallen in love with Rhiannon.

Nathan has gone public with descriptions of “being possessed by the devil.” While much of the world thinks he has lost his mind, A is curious why Nathan can remember when no one else can.

After meeting Rhiannon A struggles with telling her the truth. For weeks he visits her in many different bodies, but will she be able to accept him? Can she love someone who changes like he does?

Longing for attachment causes A to break some of the rules that have guided his existence. And without those rules–who is A?

This is what love does: It makes you want to rewrite the world. It makes you want to choose the characters, build the scenery, guide the plot. The person you love sits across from you, and you want to do everything in your power to make it possible, endlessly possible. And when it’s just the two of you, alone in a room, you can pretend that this is how it is, this is how it will be.” (Page 175)

This novel is a touching, thought provoking tale that paints a portrait of one of humanity’s basic desires: to belong. The protagonist abandons everything and risks the safety of his rule book to find his true identity.

As the first book in a series there are some loose ends left at the end of the book, but overall the author did a great job raising questions that hook the reader for the next two installments Another Day and Some Day. The plot is very unique and I was intrigued to find that it was developed based on a conversation that the author had with John Green.

Follow me on Goodreads to see what I’m reading next!

The Ameri Brit Mom

The First Phone Call From Heaven: A Book Review

Title: The First Phone Call From Heaven

Author: Mitch Albom

Publisher: Harper

Copyright Date: 2013

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The city of Coldwater became host to a phenomenon.

For weeks, members of their community received phone calls from their deceased relatives. Katharine was the first to admit at church that she spoke regularly to her sister who had died a couple of years ago. As more phone calls came in, the town became the scene of a media frenzy complete with hundreds of people hoping to connect with their own lost loved ones.

While locals and visitors waited for their phones to ring, Sully Harding, a former pilot, was released from prison. He returned to town full of cynicism and the motivation to prove these miracles false.

As he researches the phone calls and those who have received them he learns more about the tragic day that landed him in prison and his wife’s ashes in an urn. He fights the spirit of faith that has overtaken the town and seeks to uncover the truth behind these unorthodox events in Coldwater.

“Fear is how you lose your life…a little bit at a time…What we give to fear, we take away from…faith.” (Page 117)

Full of poetic language and critical lessons this novel is one of the best I’ve read in a while. I have not read anything by Mitch Albom in ten years and now I feel as though I’ve been missing out. This emotional tale of the extent of the relationships we form gripped my heart at just the right time in my life. I finished this book with a renewed faith in humanity and strengthened faith in the Lord. This is a feel-good read that begs the reader to examine their beliefs about heaven and life after death.

Follow me on Goodreads to see what I’m reading next!

The Ameri Brit Mom

 

The Way of Abundance: A Book Review

Title: The Way of Abundance

Author: Ann Voskamp

Publisher: Zondervan

Copyright Date: 2018

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For the past sixty days I have journeyed through the pages of this devotional study on what it means to live a deeply meaningful life. Each of those days I opened the pages of encouragement and allowed the scriptures and wisdom of the author break my already broken heart a little more.

I’ve learned so much truth in this study. Things like:

-abundance is only achieved through the breaking and giving away of the heart

-giving away the heart helps the heart to heal

-a field must be broken before a farmer plants the seeds–likewise, we must be broken before we can experience growth

-helping others helps our own wounds

-the scars in our lives and on our hearts are just proof of the fact we have loved

I started reading this book while in a desperate state. The scars on my heart were fresh and bleeding, but the words of Ann Voskamp helped to bring me to a place of abundance. Living broken is counter-cultural. We live in a day where the world tells us to seek comfort, but a life of abundance is about risks. It’s about giving up pieces of yourself so you can experience what is to be put back together by God.

Of all the books I’ve read recently this one has made the most profound difference in my life. It has changed the way I look at turmoil and increased my desire to love everyone at all times.

Ann Voskamp has a way with words. And as the wife of a farmer she draws unique parallels between our hearts and the fields that she helps cultivate every day. Abundance takes work. A farmer can’t just sit back and expect that his seeds will yield crops. But, if he is willing to give himself to the promise of the field he will see the fruits of his labor realized.

Follow me on Goodreads to see what I’m reading next!

The Ameri Brit Mom

One Was Lost: A Book Review

Title: One Was Lost

Author: Natalie D. Richards

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Copyright Date: 2016

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When Sera pictured her senior field trip she never imagined that she may never make it home. Her school required her to choose a service project and a weekend in the woods away from Lucas seemed like a perfect choice…until he showed up.

A flood divides the school group and Sera’s teacher, Mr. Walker, instructs her team to set up camp for the night in the middle of the woods.

The next morning, Sera and three other classmates awake to a ransacked campsite. Their belongings are gone, their memories wiped, and their wrists have large labels scrawled across them like tattoos. They soon learn that Mr. Walker has been drugged and as they try to reach the rest of the group they learn that someone dangerous is hunting them.

But, why?

As they all question each other’s innocence each of the classmates gets to know the other on a deeper level. Those that Sera thought she’d known for years she gets to see in a new light. In the flooded woods she learns that the labels she’d placed on each one while in high school was unfair.

Jude is deceptive. Emily is damaged. Lucas is dangerous. Sera is darling.

Will the clues left behind help the quarry find their hunter before it is too late?

Over the past year I’ve read almost every book by Natalie D. Richards. I did a review of Gone Too Far and while on maternity leave I read We All Fall Down. Next, on my Natalie D. Richards list is Six Months Later.

Not only is she a great YA author, but she is actually from Columbus too and we both belong to the same SCBWI group out of Upper Arlington, Ohio. One day I hope to meet her at a gathering and learn from her writerly wisdom.

Follow me on Goodreads to see what I’m reading next!

The Ameri Brit Mom