Cilka’s Journey- A Book Review

By: Heather Morris

Cilka’s Journey is a sequel to the bestseller, The Tattooist of Auschwitz.  I have not read The Tattooist of Auschwitz, and I was a bit concerned that I would be confused reading Cilka’s Journey, but that was not the case at all.  This book stands on its own very well.  Heather Morris includes a bit of information about the characters from The Tattooist of Auschwitz.  These small details made me curious and interested in reading it.

I must admit, though, I won’t be jumping right into The Tattooist of Auschwitz anytime soon.  After reading such an emotional story, like Cilka’s Journey, I need to give myself some time to recoup before I dive into a similar story.  I usually like to follow that genre of book with a fun, light hearted and easy to read book.

What is the book about:

The book follows the life of a young Jewish Czechoslovakian woman named Cilka Klien, who is actually a real person.  Heather Morris, the author, explains that she uses the true story of Cilka Klein to inspire some aspects of the book. Therefore, this a historical fiction novel, not a biography.  However, that should not dismiss the events in the story because what she experienced did happen to many women during this terrible time in history.

We are first introduced to Cilka near the end of World War II when Auschwitz is liberated by the Red Army (the Soviet Union).  The Red Army soldiers liberate this camp on their march to Germany.  During this time, the Soviet Union, now under Joseph Stalin, had created “labour camps” all over Russia, mostly in the northern regions.  These camps were for political prisoners, people Stalin believed were betraying the communist state, and prisoners who had actually committed crimes.  When the Red Army arrived in Auschwitz, they began questioning the prisoners to find out more information about each of them.  The Red Army learn that Cilka had been a prisoner of the camp for many years and that she had sexual relations with some of the Nazi guards.  However, these sexual encounters were not consensual; the camp guards were raping Cilka.  This allowed for Cilka to survive all her years at Auschwitz.  For these reasons, astonishingly, Cilka is considered a Nazi collaborator by the Red Army and, therefore, an enemy to the Soviet Union. The Soviets are suspicious of prisoners who managed to stay alive in the camps, sadly suspecting many of them to be collaborators (to the Red Army, this is the only answer as to why they survived these camps). Therefore, she is sent directly from Auschwitz to the Soviet Union to complete a 15-year sentence of hard labour in the Vorkuta Gulag in Siberia.  She is pushed onto another train for her long journey from Auschwitz to northern Russia.  This train ride reminds her of the train ride she took many years prior to Auschwitz.

Once she arrives at the Gulag, she experiences many of the same events that she endured when she arrived in Auschwitz for the first time.  Cilka has become numb to humankind’s brutality and follows along with what is told and asked of her. Cilka’s only focus is to survive the Gulag camps just as she survived Auschwitz.

Most of the book is focused on Cilka’s time in the Vorkuta Gulag camp, but Morris also includes short memories Cilka has of Auschwitz to paint a picture of Cilka’s past.  These memories also show us how her experiences at Auschwitz influences her life at the Vorkuta Gulag camp.  It brings so much sadness knowing that this poor young woman endured such brutality at Auschwitz, and then to be forced to undergo more brutality at a new camp seems unimaginable.

Cilka’s time at Vorkuta is extremely difficult.  However, she meets many new people that end up playing a significant role in her life.  She learns a lot about herself and the courage and determination she has.  Every day she fights to survive and live, hoping to return to her home in Czechoslovakia one day.  

My thoughts on the book:

Heather Morris creates a captivating story about suffering, loss and love.  She writes with such detail that every scene seems to come to life; I felt that I could picture every part of the camp and how Cilka fits into it.  What is so incredibly moving about this story is how Morris shows you the courage of these characters, and although these are fictional characters, the reader knows that the real prisoners of the camp had to have the same resiliency if they had any hope of surviving.   Although there is so much evil and sadness throughout this story, Morris also includes incredible stories of heroism, compassion and tenderness.  I also like that it is focused on a topic that many people probably don’t know much about; it sheds light on another dark part of history.

Additionally, this book’s main events, the Gulag Camps, are a very familiar topic for me.  As a history major in university, I chose to write my mock thesis on the Soviet Union’s Gulags.  Therefore, I had an added interest in this book.  


The Bad Mothers Book Club- My Book Review

By Keris Stainton

This is another great mom read; I highly recommend it!

What is the story about?

The Bad Mothers’ Book Club is a fictional story about a group of mothers but focuses mostly on following the life of Emma Chance.  Emma and her husband, Paul, have two young children.   They have decided to move their family out of the city and into a smaller town.  Keris Stainton begins the book in Emma’s kitchen the morning before the first day of school.  The first day of drop off does not go well for Emma, but we get a glimpse into Emma’s personality.  As days progress and drop-offs continue, she begins talking and meeting new moms.  She finds out that there is one woman named Jools, who seems to run the town.  Jools also holds an exclusive book club for only some moms from the neighbourhood school.  From the outside, Jools seems like a very mean and egotistical woman, but, as the story continues, you see the struggles Jools is experiencing. 

A few chapters of the book are dedicated to some of the other moms Emma meets.  These women and their stories slowly intertwine with Emma’s.  Jools is one of the moms we learn more about; her story is very moving and emotional.  When Emma uncovers Jools’ secret, things between Jools and Emma completely change.  Maggie is another mom whose story is featured in a few chapters. Maggie’s story adds in another layer focusing on love, new love and the importance of loving yourself. 

One thing I should also note, the book barely includes any book club meetings.  The title is a bit misleading.  The Bad Mothers Book Club doesn’t even come up until the last few chapters.

My thoughts on the book…

This book will make you laugh, it will make you cry, and it will remind you that you are not alone in your motherhood journey. Emmas’ story shows the struggles she is experiencing as a stay at home mom, her absolute love for her children, the highs and lows of her marriage, and so much more. It was interesting reading about her insecurities as a mother, or the insecurities she began to feel as a wife.  I am sure these feelings have been experienced by mothers everywhere. 

As mentioned above, the book also focuses a few of its chapters on the other moms Emma meets.  I think Stainton does this for multiple reasons, one, to show the readers different motherly perspectives and two, to show how much people go through behind closed doors.  One of the most important lessons in this book is to remind ourselves that how someone appears on the outside is often very different from how they feel on the inside. 

I enjoyed this book, and if you are looking for an easy, quick, and fun read, this book is for you!

About the Author:

Keris Stainton is a best selling author who has written over 14 books. The genres she writes in include adult, romcoms and young adult. She is Canadian born but now lives in England with her two boys.

Some other books by Keris Stainton:

The One That Got Away 

The One who’s NOT the One

All I want for Christmas


City of Girls – Book Review

Book by: Elizabeth Gilbert

My Rating: 3/5 Stars — Genre: Romance, Historical Fiction, Adult Fiction — N. of Pages: 496

What was this story about:

City of Girls is written as one long letter.  A woman named Angela asks Vivian Morris, the main character, to explain Vivian’s relationship with Angela’s father. Vivian responds to this letter with the story of her life beginning at age 19.

Vivian Morris is from a wealthy family who lived in the suburbs a couple of hours away from New York City.  Vivian is a lost teenager when we meet her; she specifically calls herself “an idiot” at the beginning of chapter one. She fails out of college and needs to return home to her disappointed parents.  Her parents are at a loss as to what to do with their teenage daughter, who doesn’t seem to fit in in the high society surrounding her and is not academically successful.  They decide to send Vivian to live with her Aunt Peg in New York City. Therefore, in 1940 Vivian Morris gets onto the train and heads to New York City. 

Aunt Peg lives and owns a theatre in a poor neighbourhood in New York City.  The theatre is not in good shape and is not really in the centre of the ritz and glamour of theatre in New York City, but Vivian loves it! Vivian is in amazement of The Lily Playhouse, Aunt Peg’s theatre.  She is impressed and fascinated by the showgirls, the dancers, the actors, the play writers and everyone else involved in this theatre. Aunt Peg discovers Vivian’s sewing skills and asks Vivian to be the seamstress for the theatre.  She then becomes consumed with making, fixing and purchasing fabrics for the costumes in the plays.  This is when she begins to create friendships with the showgirls, specifically Celia.  Celia is a beautiful showgirl who seems to take a liking to Vivian.  Celia teaches Vivian how to showcase her beauty, go out in New York City, and have sex with lots of men.   Vivian adapts this new way of life and thrives in it, until one horrible night where she makes a mistake that will derail the life she built and loved in New York City at the Lily Playhouse. 

After a brief return to her parents’ house and a pivotal interaction with her brother, Walter, who is about to go to war, she eventually returns to New York City with Aunt Peg.   She returns to New York City to help her Aunt Peg with a new theatre job supporting the war effort.  This is where we begin to see Vivian’s character mature a bit and better understand who she is. 

My thoughts on the book

What I liked:

I loved the description of New York City in the 1940s.  The glamour, the parties, the social scene all were described perfectly.  I have only been to New York City once, during Christmas time, and I loved it, but it seemed even more amazing how Gilbert told it.

I also loved the fun and excitement that was described in theatre life at the Lily Playhouse.  It seemed like such a fun place to work and live.  Most importantly, the characters who lived and worked at the Lily Playhouse were all interesting in their own way.

The relationships that Vivian made with the other characters were the best part of this book.  There was something Vivian learned from every person that came into her life.  Sometimes people came into her life for a brief moment, and sometimes she created lasting friendships with people she grew to love.  However, it was clear that every relationship, whether long or short, played a role in creating who Vivian Morris was.  I have always believed that everyone who comes into your life plays a role.  It could be a brief one, someone you enjoy at that time, or a life long friendship. I feel this was one of the most critical messages from City of Girls.

What I didn’t like:

Unfortunately, there was quite a bit that I didn’t like about this book. Vivian’s character was just not that interesting.  I feel she lacked depth, excitement and maturity.  I was more interested in the characters around her; then I was in her story.  About halfway through the book, I realized I didn’t care what happened to Vivian’s character, and I found her kind of annoying.  Her character growth was so focused on her sex life that it became redundant to keep reading about. Vivian’s central character trait seemed to only be about her love for sex, and it is tough to keep the book interesting when you’re solely focused on that.  At the beginning of the book, I found Vivian to be extraordinarily naive, but that never seemed to go away, even as she grew older.  She got herself into dangerous situations with men but, for some reason, never really learned from these experiences; what’s worse, she never seemed to care.  I knew pretty early on that I wouldn’t love this book, but I was able to keep reading based on the character development of the people around Vivian.  The book is also very long, and it seems it could have been summed up in far fewer pages. It was also challenging to keep reading when the main character seemed to lack depth.   

If you have read this book, what are your thoughts? Do you agree or disagree with my comments?


Beautiful Bookstores of Switzerland

When I moved to Switzerland, one of the first things I did was visit all the bookstores near me. It was a bit intimidating at first knowing these stores would mostly (or only) sell German books but, I had to take a tour anyway. To my surprise and delight, many of the bookstores in the area sold English books! Most of the shops seem to be small family-run businesses in Switzerland, which added a layer of charm to these bookstores. 

Below are some of the small bookstores that I have explored around my home in Switzerland:

The Travel Book Shop

This is one of the most unique bookstores in Switzerland because it features one primary genre: Travel. From fiction to non-fiction, all the books in this store have to relate to travel. This shop also sells old and new maps of places all over the world. They have some antique maps on display that were quite beautiful.

Buchhandlung Beer & Co.

This bookstore is laid out more recognizably. Most of the aisles are coordinated between fiction and non-fiction. A small section near the back features English books. Once I began scanning the titles, I noticed pretty quickly that they were a bit different. I barely recognized any of them. It seems this shop focuses on books centred around Anthroposophy, a philosophy which was created in the 20th century by Rudolf Steiner. This would explain why the authors were not familiar to me. Beer & Co. is a fascinating shop to visit and explore.

Peter Bichsel Antiquariat/Peter Bichsel Fine Books

Visiting this bookstore is like stepping back into history. Peter Bichsel Fine Books sells fine/antique books. Some of them date back to the 15th century! As a history buff, this fascinates me. They look so delicate, fragile and exceptional. The old fashion step ladder in the center of the store added more charm to this little space. Although I do not dare touch any of the books, I explore each aisle and love viewing all the featured titles. This is a beautiful bookstore.

Pile of Books

Pile of Books is the only all English bookstore in Zurich (maybe all of Switzerland?). This shop features all the recognizable authors and bestsellers. For English speakers like myself, Pile of Books suits my needs the most, while also keeping the appeal of a small European bookstore.

Hirschmatt Buchhandlung

This bookstore has a fabulous selection of German books from all different genres. Their English section is pretty small, but they have an online store you can order from. Although this is a pretty small shop, they have managed to squeeze in many aisles. Hirschmatt offers the coziness of a small shop but with an extensive book catalogue.

What are some of your favourite bookstores?

Download an eBook today AbeBooks.co.uk - Used, rare and out-of-print books


Beach Read – Book Review

My Review: 5/5 — Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Adult Fiction — N. of Pages: 361

“…when the world felt dark and scary, love could whisk you off to go dancing; laughter could take some of the pain away; beauty could punch holes in your fear.  I decided then that my life would be full of all three.” (Henry, 3)

I want to start by saying I do not like the title of this book; it does not do this book justice AT ALL. I’m not sure why the author chose this title because it also doesn’t seem to connect to either character.  That being said, the title is literally the only negative thing I can say about this book.  Beach Read by Emily Henry was simply amazing. 

I came across this book at a local bookstore in Switzerland.  They had a small English section near the back.  I saw Beach Read perked up on display broadcasted as a new read.  I almost ignored it because of the title.  However, once I looked into the reviews, they were all fantastic! I was on a hunt for a funny, easy read, and this seemed to match perfectly.  I am so glad I picked up this book, it was exhilarating from beginning to end.

What is the book about?

This book centers around two characters, Augustus Everett (nicknamed Gus) and January Andrews. The book is narrated by January. It is set in the summertime in a small lake town called North Bear Shores.  Gus and January are both staying in cabins next door to one another.  January is visiting this cabin for the first time and stumbles upon her neighbour, Gus Everett.  January realizes that she recognizes her neighbour Gus from her college years, she remembers that he often was rude to her, but she always had a small crush on him.  She always felt like they competed with each other, even after college, when they became published authors.  When Gus and January first stumble upon each other outside of their cabins, their interaction does not go well.  Gus is visibly angry about something, and January is mad with the way he is speaking to her.

As time progresses, Gus and January find themselves continually running into each other; they realize later on that the town people may have had something to do with that.   They eventually form a friendship with one another, becoming more and more fond of each other.  Their relationship challenges both of them to come outside of themselves in different ways. This book is a story of grief, love, laughter and acceptance.  It is so much more than just a ‘rom-com’.

My review…

I think you can already tell how much I love this book.  The book made me cry, made me laugh and made me yearn for the characters to fall in love.  Henry’s writing is so detailed that although I knew these characters were not real, I found myself genuinely caring about them.  She shows how different these two characters are, but she also makes you feel like they belong together. The smart, sarcastic way the characters communicate is so entertaining.  The heartwarming story she forms around January and Gus is tantalizing.  As well, the father-daughter relationship that January is trying to figure out is heartbreaking. Simultaneously, the reader is trying to understand Gus’s tortured past with his father. I did not want this book to end; I was incredibly sad when it was over.  Emily Henry knows precisely how to captivate her audience. I had never read anything by Emily Henry before but, I have already ordered another one of her books!

More books by Emily Henry:

The Love that Split the World 
When the Sky Fell on Splendor 
A Million Junes
People we Meet on Vacation (will be released May 2021)


The Dutch House- Book Review

My Review: 3.5/5 Stars – Genre: Historical Fiction, Family, Contemporary – N. of Pages: 337

Why I chose to read this book…

I had seen The Dutch House by Ann Patchett on display at many of the bookstores I was visiting. It is also considered a historical fiction novel, which always entices me. The book is very positively reviewed. For all these reasons, I decided to read The Dutch House.

A little bit about the book…

The book centers around a large estate in Philadelphia nicknamed The Dutch House. The interior of the home is decorated with large painted portraits of past residents and covered with embellishments compared to the Palace of Versailles. The inhabitants of The Dutch House are the Conroys. The book follows a brother and sister, Danny and Meave Conroy; Danny narrates their story. Patchett divides her book into three parts.

Part one focuses on the Conroy siblings’ childhood and their introduction to their soon to be stepmother, Andrea. Readers get a glimpse into what it would have been like growing up in the Dutch House through the perspectives of Danny and Meave. The house is especially important to their father, Cyril, who looses his first wife due to his blind love for the home. Eventually, Andrea and her two daughters move into The Dutch House, and it becomes increasingly obvious things will be changing. Some catastrophic events follow for the Conroy family, and by the end of part one, the siblings have lost The Dutch House and need to rebuild their lives elsewhere.

Part two begins with Danny returning home from college for Thanksgiving. Home is now a small apartment that Maeve lives in. Patchett paints a clear picture of how the siblings, especially Maeve, live without The Dutch House. Maeve has a steady job she likes, and Danny is studying in Medical School even though he doesn’t want to be a doctor. The siblings always feel this urge to go back and visit The Dutch House. They look from a distance and talk about what life in the house would be like now. Danny’s life seems to move on from the house; he goes to school meets a woman, gets married and has children. In contrast, Meave’s life does not seem to change as the years pass. After a close encounter with Andrea, part two ends with the siblings vowing never to revisit the house.

Part three began with some trouble for Meave, which sent Danny into a whirlwind of emotions. This event also brings back an old family member that Danny isn’t ready to accept back into his life. Part three follows how the siblings deal with the return of this family member. It also focuses on Danny’s experience as a father and husband. The ending is quite moving and has a couple surprises.

The central theme of the book…

One of the most dominant messages of the book was the power of love. You see this in the relationships that are formed, kept and treasured among family and friends. The love that Maeve and Danny have for one another is a perfect example. We also see this with their love for their childhood nannies, for their father, and all the new characters throughout the book. The power of love is shown from the beginning of the book through to the end. The different relationships that are formed in the book are what interested me the most.

My thoughts on the book…

My overall thoughts are that it is a good story about the lives of two siblings and their broken family. Ann Patchett is a skilled writer and makes the characters of her book come to life. However, I did find the book a bit predictable, which didn’t allow for much excitement or intrigue. It also seemed that Patchett added a bit too many unnecessary details that made the book a bit too long.

Other books by the Author:
The Patron Saint of Liars
The Magician’s Assistant
Bel Canto
Run
State of Wonder
Commonwealth


Oh Crap! Potty Training- Book Review

My Rating: 3.5/5 Stars – Genre: Parenting, Potty Training, – N. of Pages: 294

Why I decided to read this book:

My daughter is turning 2 in 6 days, and I feel its time we take on this next step. However, I know absolutely nothing about potty training, so I decided to research different methods, and this book continuously came up. It is definitely a book that is more suited to my personality, rather than a formal potty training book.

My review of the book:

‘Oh Crap! Potty Training’ is a very, very easy read, which is perfect for this topic. No mom wants to sit for weeks reading an overly detailed and complex book about potty training. Glowacki breaks down each stage of the potty training process and provides helpful tips if things go wrong. Many of the advice and steps she describes make a lot of sense, and I will absolutely follow her method when beginning this next stage of my daughter’s life (hopefully before the end of August). Also, although there are 20 chapters in this book, Glowacki advises all her readers not to read past Chapter 5 until potty training has begun. After Chapter 5, she helps parents overcome any challenges they are having with the potty training method. These chapters are based on common questions she gets from her clients.

My daughter has had issues with constipation and holding in her poop, so I knew that I needed to skip to chapter 10 and read the section on poop. As well, my daughter is in daycare part-time, so I wanted to read the chapter on how to approach daycare during potty training, which is Chapter 12. Lastly, my daughter can be well… spirited… to put it lightly. She can be stubborn and has recently begun to have crying fits over the smallest thing. I know that it will become a more significant issue during potty training, so I also read Chapter 13 Behiavour vs Potty Training that speaks precisely to this. Everything she wrote was constructive and made me feel much more prepared for potty training.

There are also a few things I didn’t like about this book. First off, Glowacki repeats herself A LOT, and I mean A LOT. Sometimes I would be reading a paragraph, and it felt like I had already read that same paragraph in every other chapter (like the exact same paragraph). This happened numerous times, and I got a bit annoyed by it. I am sure there is a reason for it, but, personally, it bothered me. I also do feel this book could have been summed up in far fewer pages. It seemed to become a bit redundant after a while. However, this does not take away from her method to potty training because I am convinced she knows what she is talking about, and I will surely use this method.

Things I learned from this book:

I found the first six chapters really helped me understand how to prepare for potty training and how to make it a success for my daughter. She was very explicit about what needs to happen in the house and how parents are to act throughout the first couple of days. I knew I would need to be home initially, but I didn’t realize how important it was until she laid out all the reasons why. I also know it is important to begin talking about this upcoming change to my daughter before potty training begins. For example, saying things like, “We’re almost done your diapers, you will be using the potty soon.” This allows your toddler to begin to register what is going on in a couple of days. I found her first six chapters to be very informative.

As I mentioned, pooping has been a bit of an issue for my daughter. This has been an issue since she was four months old. She has frequent constipation episodes, and sometimes we have had to use kid suppository’s to help her, which is so hard! So naturally, I am a bit concerned about how the poop in potty training will go. After reading Chapter 10, I do feel more prepared for what could go wrong and less anxious about how she will overcome this.

Chapter 12 was also beneficial because sometimes daycares are not interested in helping with the potty training process, and sometimes the daycare is entirely on board. She goes over what to do in almost any daycare situation and how to handle this obstacle. Glowacki explains how to deal with daycares who are not willing to follow the potty training plan. Luckily, after speaking with my daughter’s daycare, it sounds like they are completely on board!

Chapter 13 went into some behavioural obstacles you may encounter, depending on your toddler’s attitude. I found this helpful because I am finding as my daughter gets older, she is becoming more stubborn, and despite my efforts, this doesn’t seem to be going away. This chapter helped ease my anxiety on the behaviour topic and helped me understand how to try and overcome her reluctancy.

Final thoughts:

Overall I think this book is a great read for moms who are getting ready to potty train their toddlers. It is a quick and easy read that will help ease potty training anxiety. Her method is proven to be effective and successful. She has been doing this type of work for many many years, and I would definitely consider her an expert.

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This is a list of things I have purchased for Potty Training or have been recommended:


Birds Without Wings – Book Review

By: Louis de Bernieres

My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars — Genre: Historical Fiction — N. of Pages: 554

This is the second time I have read this book. I chose to reread it because I had such fond memories of the book, and I wanted to include it on my blog. I thought it would be best to reread it in order to give it a proper review.

Why I initially read this book:

As I have mentioned in previous posts, I love historical fiction novels, and my background is Greek, and this book is about Greeks living in the Ottoman Empire during the early 1900s. Therefore, it suited my interests very well. My sister had also read it and loved it. I had known of Louis de Bernieres because of his famous novel, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, that was eventually turned into a Hollywood movie. That novel was also a great read; however, the film did not do the book justice. Therefore, since I liked the author, it had great reviews, and it fit into my interests, I thought I had to read it.

The theme of this novel:

I believe the overall theme of this book was innocence. The innocence of a small village town in eastern Anatolia (modern-day Turkey), the innocence of regular people disconnected from the world’s politics, and the innocence of children. The book is mostly set in a small village that, for hundreds of years, Christians and Muslims lived in harmony with Greeks, Armenians and Turks until the world’s leaders arbitrarily told them that they were now enemies. Muslims would pray to the Virgin Mary; Christians would go into Mosque’s to pray. Christain’s allowing their daughters to marry Muslim men, Muslim women being best friends with Christians. This is what this little town was like, and it represents what so many towns in Greece and Turkey were like until the war tore them apart.

A brief overview of this book:

As mentioned above, this novel was mostly set in a small town in Western Anatolia called Eskibahce, at the end of the Ottoman Empire. It follows the lives of the Eskibahce villagers from the beginning of the 1900’s through small wars, the Great War, then the War of Independence and the Great Population Exchange. The story begins showing how harmoniously everyone in the village lived with each other regardless of religion and cultural background. You are introduced to many different characters at the beginning, and you follow each of these characters as they weave through major historical events. Louis de Bernieres creates incredibly interesting characters that are intriguing from the moment they are introduced. Each character tells their story in their own chapters, including the real historical figure Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. You see how the changes made by leading men in the world affect this little towns’ inhabitants. You gain an understanding of how the repercussions of people’s actions seem to affect the most vulnerable in society.

“…but in my opinion, as I have also said, everything that happened was made to do so by the great world.” (p 537)

About halfway through the book, de Bernieres focuses a lot of time discussing many of the Great War details, and I would say this is the only part in the book that I felt needed to be shortened. There were too many back-to-back chapters from Mustafa Kemal and one of the book’s main characters, Karatavuk explaining the details of the war from their perspectives. I think this part of the book may be difficult for some readers, who may not be as interested in history, to get through.

The end of the book focuses on the deportation of Greek Christians to Greece. The perspective is shown through the villagers of Eskibahce. The utter shock the Christian villagers face when they are told they are going to their country, Greece, which they have never lived in. The sadness that is bestowed on the Muslim villagers who tearfully say goodbye to their friends. You see the love these villagers had for one another when the Muslim men decide to follow their Greek friends to their destination to guarantee their safe passage. This is the love that is so rarely seen today between Christian and Muslims in most of the world. This chapter really brings the message of this book to light.

What I learned from this book:

I learned so much from this book that I don’t even know where to begin. The book’s overall message that few men make the decisions that affect millions is what impacted me the most. How simple words and decisions could change the course of history. These same men turn best friends into enemies just by using simple words. Many times in the book, we see a Greek Christian and an Ottoman Muslim love one another (friendly or romantic) despite being told by world leaders that they are now enemies.

“How strange that the world should change because of words, and words change because of the world” (p 287)

Another thing I learned is how quickly good human beings can turn evil. The atrocities that Greeks and Turks committed to one another after living among each other harmoniously for so many years is truly baffling. How does one hate another so much to commit such horrible crimes to innocent people? I will never understand that, but it is clear the humans are capable of awful things.

“Much of what was done was simply in revenge for identical atrocities…” (p 6)

Final thoughts on this book:

Overall this is a great book; I loved it the first time I read it, and I loved it the second time I read it. Louis de Bernieres writes so eloquently, including many important hidden messages. There were some messages I didn’t even catch the first time I read this book. I truly recommend that everyone reads this book, even if you aren’t into historical fiction because so many things that you learn from this book can be connected to today’s world. The only reason I did not give it a 5/5 is because the middle section was a bit hard to get through because of the vivid details of the war.

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American Dirt- Book Review

By: Jeanine Cummins

My Rating- 5/5 Stars — Genre: Fiction, Contemporary — N. of Pages: 400

I bought this book entirely on a whim. I don’t usually read books about South America or the USA; however, every time I saw this book on the shelf, I found myself wanting to read it. I finally bought it, and I am so glad I did. It was a fantastic book detailing the story of Lydia and her son Luca, both fictional characters. Everything that Lydia experiences with the Mexican cartels, the migration routes, the migrants she meets and the final crossing into the USA are real experiences that many migrants face when deciding to leave their homes in Mexico.

The central theme of the book…

Survival is the most dominant theme of this book. First, Lydia focuses on surviving daily life in Mexico with drug cartels running the city she lives in. She then needs to focus on keeping her son alive when the central drug cartel is after them. The whole book is how Lydia and her son survive many days of running from one cartel run town to another. In the end, her new life also focuses on her daily struggle to survive. The struggles that Mexican and South American migrants face as they head to the American border are unimaginable, and this novel brings to light these real hardships.

What I learned from this book…

The author paints a real and vivid picture of what many migrants experience in the dangerous countries they live in that force them to decide to head north. Cummins paints a clear picture of what being a migrant means and the unbearable obstacles that they encounter. I found myself thinking about the current political climate in the US and the horrible conditions migrants face along the US border. As a Canadian, you don’t hear about the ongoing struggles migrants face in their home country, the reason people leave their homes for the dangerous route to America. I felt like I learned a lot about the challenges that many migrants face at home and their desperation for a new life. Lydia and Luca’s journey is extraordinary and unimaginable. Knowing that thousands of migrants take this route every day is incredibly shocking, and Cummins details this sad story perfectly.

Further thoughts…

This book also makes you think of the people and families who don’t make it through to freedom, who are turned back or are killed along the way. I also found myself thinking about the people who make it across to safer countries and how they live their new lives. There are many dimensions to Cummins’s book, and I highly recommend it!

Other books written by Jeanine Cummins:

*A Rip in Heaven
*The Outside Boy
*The Crooked Branch

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