ARC (Advanced Reader Copy), Fiction, Historical Fiction, Romance, Series & Collections

August Reads & September Faves

Here are the books I read and/or listened to in August! I rated them throughout the month so I could share them with you. Some will still be reviewed on this site (mainly You’ve Reached Sam, which touched me deeply.) If a book has 4 or 5 stars, I really enjoyed it. If it has 3 stars it means it’s good, but flawed. Anything with 2 or 1 star…you’ve been warned! All of these are just my opinion, of course.

Lastly, here are two advanced copies I read a while ago that I enjoyed very much. Both are coming out in September:

Right now I’m rereading Katherine Center’s The Bodyguard because my husband and I plan to listen to the audio book this week. Next I’ll be doing a buddy read of The Art of Racing in the Rain with one of the ladies in my online book club. There’s always something to read!

Author Spotlight, Cozy Mysteries, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Romance, Series & Collections, Women's Fiction

June & July 2022 Reads

I even added stars next to my July favorites!

I guess you could say that I’ve read a lot of books in the last two months! People ask how I do it and this is my answer:

  • I live in a small town where there isn’t much to do.
  • I’m still living the pandemic lifestyle, staying home even more than usual.
  • My husband has had to work lots of overtime lately.
  • We don’t have kids.
  • I sleep terribly.
  • I read fast.
  • My online book group has tons of motivational activities.
  • I upgraded my Kindle from a Basic to a Paperwhite Signature. (I was getting eye strain from the Basic. My poor eyes are so happy now!)

Some books I skim, some I give a great deal of attention to, and there are even some that I start and don’t finish (I don’t list these.) You may recognize some titles from previous posts. There are still a few I plan to acknowledge here, but the ones who had the greatest impact on me have already been reviewed. It’s difficult to get to everything.

I also get asked about authors. Which authors do I recommend? This is a TOUGH question! Everyone’s tastes are different. Please keep in mind that just because I love a book doesn’t mean everyone else will love it. This is why it’s important to read several reviews (unless you’re really brave)–and not just mine–before buying a book. Join Goodreads, read reviews on Amazon, join NetGalley, find a Facebook group for your age and genre preference. Being proactive is the only way to find what YOU enjoy reading.

But to answer the author question, here are some favorites–all fiction. You can find all of them in the “author” section of this site.

I hope this gives you a little glimpse into authors to research and whose works to pursue. For the devoted reader there is truly something for everyone. ❤️

Email subscribers: Visit readwithkristie.com to see the site in its entirety.

HAPPY READING!

ARC (Advanced Reader Copy), Fiction, Historical Fiction

The Circus Train, by Amita Parikh

AVAILABLE December 6, 2022

Have you ever shelved a book, wondered why you had it in the first place, then finally read the book and thought–Wow! Why did I wait so long to read this?? That is my experience with The Circus Train. I guess I thought it was going to be about a circus and have so many characters I wouldn’t be able to keep track of them all. Who knows? Happily, I was very wrong. Wrong in the best way.

Yes, there’s a circus and, yes, there’s a circus train, but they are only the backdrops for this marvelous story that takes place throughout Europe while tensions are building during World War II.

Over twenty years we follow Theo, a Greek illusionist; his daughter, Lena, who was crippled by Polio as an infant; and Alexandre, a French orphan who Theo finds and mentors. Theo, always honing his craft, sparring with the circus owner, and being overly protective of his daughter. Lena, who longs to go to school and be part of the academic world, her inquisitive mind never at rest. Alexandre, Lena’s closest friend, a keeper of secrets, and the story’s hero as the children become adults.

There is friendship, devotion, betrayal, separation, and a connective thread of love and determination during that separation that cuts through the absurdities and atrocities of the time period.

This is a magnificent book, one I recommend most highly. We’re still a few months away from its release, but keep it on your radar. It is worth the wait.

9.5/10 Stars

Fiction, Historical Fiction, Romance

Gentleman Jim, by Mimi Matthews

Author Mimi Matthews is one of the best discoveries I’ve made this year. Her Regency era books are so fun and so unique. My favorite is The Work of Art, but Gentleman Jim now runs a very close second.

The plot can get a bit confusing because our male protagonist–a cross between Heathcliff of Wuthering Heights and Westly from The Princess Bride–uses three different names, but it is worth every bit of the reader’s attention. Meanwhile there is the long-suffering Maggie Honeywell, who, ten years before, sent her one true love, Nicholas Seaton, off into the world, never to return. Or did he?

There’s romance, action, witty banter, a plucky heroine, and a swashbuckling time from beginning to end. The supporting characters are well-developed and add great foundation to this story that pulls you in and carries you away to another period when birthright and honor reign supreme. A jolly good read!

9/10 Stars

ARC (Advanced Reader Copy), Fiction, Historical Fiction, Women's Fiction

Come Down Somewhere, by Jennifer L. Wright

AVAILABLE September 5, 2022

After a couple of disappointing books that I refused to finish–my time is too valuable–I was pulled into the story of Olive and Jo in Come Down Somewhere. Now I’m in the midst of that awed exhaustion a reader gets after finishing an incredible book.

Beginning during World War II but set on US soil, the novel takes place in Alamogordo, New Mexico. I never knew the significance of that place. I do now. It was the site of the Trinity nuclear test–the first detonation of such a weapon–the fallout of which was much more than atomic.

Revolving around the lives of two teenage girls, Olive Alexander and Jo Hawthorne, we see war from the view of those on the American home front. Even those who are not enlisted and called up are affected. Everyone and everything is affected. Emotions are heightened, relationships are strained, allegiances are intensified.

Olive’s story takes place mainly in 1944 when her family’s ranch is taken over by the US Army. While her mother, uncle, and brother dutifully move into a small casita on the property, Olive is outraged–not only by the apparent apathy of her family, but because she is shuffled off to live with her grandmother sixty miles away.

Jo’s story mostly chronicles her return to the area in 1952. Once God-fearing and optimistic, Life has severely challenged her faith. She’s there to visit her father, Richard–Sargent Hawthorne–once the proud military leader who supervised activity on the Alexander ranch, who now lays dying, silenced by throat cancer.

Back and forth between these two timelines, we see an ebb and flow of friendship, beliefs, family, betrayal and loving sacrifice. The writing is beautiful, the characters are complex, and the story is singularly unique. This is one I will remember for a long time. I highly recommend this novel. It would make a great book club selection.

Thank you to NetGalley and Tynedale House Publishers for the advanced copy in exchange for my honest review. Come Down Somewhere is a true winner.

9.5/10 Stars

More on the Trinity Nuclear Test HERE.

Fiction, Historical Fiction

The Aftermath, by Rhidian Brook

“…I feel sympathy: for your own loss, for your dislocation, for the difficulty of living with your former enemy and a husband you hardly ever see. It makes it easier to believe that you are more than just a bitter woman who is full of prejudice. You have your own pain…But there are others like you. Wake up! You are not the only one.” –Stefan Lubert

The Aftermath is book that looks at World War II from an entirely new angle. Beginning in Germany five months after V-E Day, we swirl in the dizzying orbit of Rachael Morgan, wife to Colonel Lewis Morgan, mother to sons Michael (deceased) and Edmund. The Morgans have taken up residence in the grand mansion of architect Stefan Lubert, and his teenage daughter, Freda. Requisitioned by the British army, the mansion’s main living area is now occupied by the Morgans, while the Luberts are resigned to live in an upper apartment. The victors and the conquered must learn to co-habitate. While Colonel Morgan is often empathetic to the plight of the Germans, Rachael is guarded, still strangled by the grief of losing her oldest son.

Rubble is everywhere, both literally and figuratively. Buried bodies are still being dug out from beneath the carcasses of buildings on a daily basis. Buried souls take even more effort to excavate. No matter which side they were on during the fighting, everyone is depleted. They have been conditioned not to think too far into the future. As such, many live in the moment, controlling what they can at the risk of morals, ethics, and personal integrity. Feeding their most basic needs is all that matters, using whatever currency possible.

Eventually the plot splinters into 4 storylines: Rachael and Stefan finding common ground and companionship, Lewis Morgan and his reconstruction efforts, Freda and Albert (her worldly boyfriend,) and Edmund and the “Ferals” (orphaned street children who live by their own set of dystopian rules.)

My tender sensibilities grapple with a book like The Aftermath because of its carnal approach to language and themes, but I appreciate the fact that they are nearly characters unto themselves at a time when nothing in the world makes sense. This is not a book for the faint of heart. Desperate people do not have the luxury of refinement.

9/10 Stars

ARC (Advanced Reader Copy), Author Spotlight, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Women's Fiction

Author Spotlight: Jennifer Ryan

Jennifer Ryan is known for her tales of bucolic village life in World War II England. She grew up listening to her grandmother’s stories of the time period, longing to write while working as an editor for different publishing houses. After receiving an MA in Fiction from Johns Hopkins University, she wrote her debut novel, The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir. I enjoyed that book very much in 2019– a personally dramatic year–and it never received a mention on this site. It’s time to fix that, along with introducing you to her upcoming book, The Wedding Dress Sewing Circle.

The Chilbury Women’s Choir: Told through a series of letters, we learn about the lives of several different women in the village of Chilbury in 1940. The war is raging and the vicar has decided to close the choir until the men return. The ladies take it upon themselves to establish a ladies’ choir (shock and horror) in their absence.

The characters who write the letters have very different personalities, a true testament that perception is everything. There is service, there is gossip, and there are lessons learned. I read and listened to this book. The audio book was especially enjoyable because of the multiple narrators. 9/10 Stars

The Wedding Dress Sewing Circle, Available May 31, 2022: This book is a treat from start to finish. I loved it. Cressida Westcott is a renowned London fashion designer whose home and studio are destroyed in the Blitz. She finds refuge in her family’s manor where her niece, Violet, and nephew, Hugh, now live. Violet is thrilled to meet her famous aunt and invites her to the local village sewing circle. The newest project is to mend and update Grace Carlisle’s mother’s wedding dress. Rationing has made it impossible to get materials for a new dress and Grace, the vicar’s daughter, is engaged to be married. We cycle through the lives of Cressida, Violet, and Grace, whose stories become more entwined as time goes on.

This book is very special. I loved all the characters, their individual journeys, and–yes–the positive effects the war has on their lives. Each of them experienced their share of losses before the story begins and a few bumps after, but the majority of the novel is about their separate epiphanies and realizations about what is really important. People are humbled, they learn more about themselves, the British class system is called into question, and the American soldiers even make an appearance. Highly, highly recommended. 9.5/10 Stars

ARC (Advanced Reader Copy), Historical Fiction, Romance

The Blue Butterfly, by Leslie Johansen Nack

AVAILABLE May 3, 2022

A beautiful cover. An intriguing title. The Roaring Twenties. Prohibition. Hollywood glamour. The true story of the richest man in the country and a young, unsuccessful actress. Surely these ingredients make for a gripping story?

I had high hopes for The Blue Butterfly. The 30 year relationship between William Randolph Hearst and Marion Davies is, no doubt, interesting. However, the more I read, the more I wondered if it is a story that really needs to be told–especially a fictionalized account from the point of view of Davies herself, who is anything but a sympathetic character. Even though it was Hearst that pursued Davies, the fact that he was world famous and married with five sons brings the story to a predictable end before it even begins.

The whole thing reads like a diary entry of bad decisions. The tentacles of their choices reach farther and farther over the years, creating devastating effects in the lives of others. What else could happen? I didn’t really care. Davies comes across as immature and selfish. Hearst is either manipulative or a beaten-down puppy dog of a man. How can we root for either of them? We can’t.

6.5/10 Stars

Historical Fiction, Romance, Series & Collections, Women's Fiction

Genre Spotlight: Romance

I wandered into the Romance genre recently. Here are some quick reviews. There are Victorian and Regency romances, some are parts of a series, a few have wounded veterans. Most are pretty clean, which I prefer.

The Lost Letter, by Mimi Matthews tells of Sylvia Stafford and the Earl of Radcliffe. She’s a governess and he’s brooding and distant, like Rochester from Jane Eyre. There is a series of misunderstandings and meddling servants. If only everyone communicated better, those misunderstandings would be resolved quicker. A pleasant, but often frustrating story. Very clean. 7/10

The Work of Art, by Mimi Matthews is a book I enjoyed very much. Phyllida Satterthwait is living with relatives she barely knows. Her unusual eyes (one blue, one green) bring her to the attention of a man known as “The Collector.” Meanwhile, she befriends Captain Arthur Heywood, a kind neighbor, recently wounded in battle. The relationship between Phyllida and Heywood is very sweet, with the overall theme of two people rescuing each other. 8.5/10

Heartsight and Heartfelt, by Kay Springsteen are quick reads. Trish is cleaning out her late grandmother’s North Carolina house. She’s recently divorced with daughter, Bella, who has Down’s Syndrome. Their neighbor is Dan Conrad, to whom Bella takes to very quickly. Dan is adjusting, not easily, to life out of the military. A friendship develops between the single mother and the veteran. Both books are fairly clean, maybe a mild PG rating.

Heartsight is the kind of book I could see adapted into a made-for-TV movie. Trish and Dan are great characters with excellent chemistry. There is some suspense and action, but it mostly focuses on these two getting to know each other. 8.5/10

Heartfelt is a mess. A very chaotic plot, frenzied pace, too many new characters, and Bella needed to be written better. It is disappointing. 5/10

See Me, by Autumn Macarthur is part of the Chapel Cove series. It reads like a Hallmark movie, but Jake and Bronte are so likable that I didn’t care. Both are entering new chapters in their lives and necessity brings them together. This is a Christian romance, so there are religious discussions. I found it very endearing. 8.5/10

Turn to Me, by Becky Wade will be available May 3, 2022. It is part of the Misty Rose Romance series and also a clean Christian romance. I wanted to like this one more. Luke and Finley are great characters, along with Finley’s coworkers and Luke’s family. He is an ex-con who promised Finley’s father he would protect her. She’s mourning her fiancee who was killed in a car accident. The main plot is great, but there is a lot of fluff–including a detracting side romance that I all but skipped. This could be a winner with better editing. 7/10

In Front of Me, by Dana LeCheminant is part of the Simple Love Story series. There are recurring characters in the series, but this one focuses on Lissa Montgomery, Brennan, and his roomate, Steve. There’s a bit of a love triangle, but not really. Like See Me, this is about two people who need each other. Most of it is from Lissa’s point of view and readers can easily identify with her. Fairly clean. 8/10

Isabelle and Alexander, by Rebecca Anderson is barely worth a mention. This book had so much potential, but poor pacing made it fall short. Clean romance. 6/10

Falling for the Guarded Duke, by Sally Forbes also could’ve been better. I liked the main characters, Olivia and Alexander, very much as well as the basic plot. Alexander’s younger brother is terrible, with motives that do not make much sense. There are some errors that should’ve been caught before the book went to print and the word “giggled” is used to excess. Clean romance. 7.5/10

The Arrangement and The Escape, by Mary Balogh are part of The Survivor’s Club series. It’s a unique premise. Six men and one woman have suffering a variety of injuries in the Napoleonic War. Some wounds are physical, some are emotional. After three years convalescing together, the friends reunite annually to update and support each other. The writing is actually very good. However, this series has some steamy scenes. (Think Titanic steamy–with description.) Personally, I found those scenes unnecessary and a bit “blush-worthy.” I would give 7.5/10 to The Arrangement and 8.5 to The Escape.

Thoughts: Like any genre, Romance can be done well or not. I prefer reading about the relationships and dialogue between characters more than private moments and torrid affairs. Mimi Matthews is an author whose books I’ll keep pursuing. Most others in the genre will be Advanced Reader Copies from NetGalley.

ARC (Advanced Reader Copy), Fiction, Historical Fiction

Where the Sky Begins, by Rhys Bowen

AVAILABLE August 2, 2022

Where the Sky Begins broke new ground for this book blogger. It is the first full-length WWII novel I’ve read by Rhys Bowen and, even more exciting, it is the first Advanced Readers Copy (ARC) I’ve downloaded from NetGalley.

When we think of great literary heroines we think of Jane Eyre, Elizabeth Bennett, and Scarlett O’Hara, to name a few. I’m going to add Josie Banks to that list. I loved this character.

A London East Ender (“the slums,” as she describes it,) Josie is stuck in a frustrating life, one that never felt like her own. She helped raise several younger siblings and her brash, Cockney husband, Stan, wants nothing more than a simple, passive little wife. But Josie is smart. Very smart. She made high marks in school and showed great potential. But potential for what?

It doesn’t matter now, because as World War II escalates, all plans are interrupted. Stan is called up and Josie finds herself shuffled off to the countryside, billeted in the dilapidated mansion of reclusive, elderly Miss Harcourt and her grumpy Irish housekeeper, Kathleen. Yes, Josie has a roof over her head and food to eat, but little else.

It’s situations like this that make or break a person. Josie refuses to be broken. Her intelligence, fortitude, dignity, and kind heart will be her greatest assets.

This is a book I could not put down. (Yesterday I had the tired eyes to prove it.) Following Josie on her journey was exhausting but rewarding. Her endurance is admirable and her story is epic. I was immersed in Rhys Bowen’s world. Not just the fleshed-out characters, but the sights and sounds of the time period. Air raid sirens, criss-crossing searchlights, neighbors crowded together in shelters, families being separated, scared young pilots–all of it springs to life in vivid detail with a plot that takes many unexpected turns. At the center of it all is Josie Banks, whose strength and compassion elevate everyone around her.

I highly recommend Where the Sky Begins. Thank you to NetGalley and Lake Union Publishing for this advanced copy.

9.5/10 Stars

Biography, Historical Fiction, Nonfiction

The Indigo Girl, by Natasha Boyd

I was different. Different from other women. The crushing paralysis that came from being stuck between a past I couldn’t return to and a future I couldn’t have was heightened by the realization there was nothing to be done about it. I couldn’t change the fact I was a woman.

It is the mid 1700’s, closer to the American Revolution than the American Civil War. Sixteen-year-old Eliza Lucas has been set a daunting task. While seeking to advance his military commission in Antigua, her father wants her to take charge of the business dealings of their three plantations in South Carolina. This will involve supervising planting, harvesting, selling, bartering with buyers, managing multiple accounts, sparring with violent overseers, and dealing with slaves and their internal dynamics and hierarchy. Her mother, on the other hand, has only one goal for Eliza–find a husband.

Colonel Lucas has every reason to feel confident in his daughter, but no one can predict the amount of obstacles Eliza will encounter, some of which her father creates. An unmarried teenage girl who cannot vote or own land holds little sway in the business world. Only the most intelligent, respectful, progressive individuals will see past her age, gender and marital status. They are few and far between.

With rice being the main cash crop of the region, Eliza sets a new goal. Indigo. It is a revolutionary idea, one that requires ideal conditions and knowledge of the plants and how to transform them into marketable dye cakes. Success eludes her again and again. But never tell a smart, determined woman that something cannot be accomplished. That will only kindle the fire within her.

This is a true story, which makes it even more remarkable, and perfect for March–Women’s History Month. The real Eliza left behind writings which were, aptly, passed from mother to daughter for generations. Details lost to time are woven in elegantly by the author. The story is inspiring and the writing is marvelous. Very highly recommended and a terrific read for book clubs.

~I found miracles every day and I clung to them…~

9.5/10 Stars

Fiction, Historical Fiction

The Book of Lost Names, by Kristin Harmel

Once again, a book with numerous accolades has lived up to my expectations. It is also one more example of the incredible stories, both true and fictional, that have been born out of the tragedies of World War II.

Present day. It is 2005, and widowed Eva Traub-Abrams is living in Florida. She sees a German scholar on the news, holding an old book with no owner, recovered from piles of artifacts looted by the Nazis. She recognizes the book and is determined to retrieve it. Suddenly, sixty years disappear and Eva is transported to her own experience during the war.

The majority of the story takes place during that time, beginning in 1942, when Eva was a young woman. Jewish, born in France to Polish parents, her life is about to change forever. Formerly a student at the Sorbonne, her artistic skills are noticed and used to help those who cannot help themselves.

Eva experiences love and loss over the next few years, intensified by the dark cloud of war and the threat of capture, but we are anchored to the knowledge that she survives into old age. The main idea that came to my mind while reading was how war blurs some lines and makes others more distinct. Family and religion are no longer about blood relations and baptism. They are about connections and faith. The definitions of right and wrong also take on new meaning when survival is everything. The caveat, of course, being that everyone thinks they are doing the right thing.

This is a unique plot that looks at a group of people I’ve never seen profiled in historical fiction. We are reminded that the will to live can change one’s belief system, and no one knows what they are truly capable of until they are forced out of their comfort zone and placed into seemingly impossible situations. We are also reminded that, one way or another, God makes all things right.

9.5/10 Stars

Fiction, Historical Fiction, Short Stories

What Child Is This, by Rhys Bowen

If you’re a reader in this digital age, you are probably bombarded with book and author suggestions from Amazon, Goodreads, etc. Rhys Bowen has popped up constantly for me and I decided to begin exploring her writing around Christmastime with What Child Is This.

She uses one of my favorite backdrops in books and film, World War II in England. A young couple struggles with a variety of losses during this harrowing time when civilians lost homes, family members, and their own lives. Despite the period, it is not an action story, but one with a degree of quiet. As so often happens in different challenges, spouses will take turns comforting each other and being the strong one.

It’s a lovely story. One that offers hope during the COVID-19 pandemic, where even now we’re all experiencing something we never expected, are being forced to make compromises, and have found our lives taking unplanned detours.

Rhys Bowen is a wonderful author and I’m currently on Book 4 of her 15-book series Her Royal Spyness, which I’m enjoying very much. So hooray for those Amazon suggestions. Sometimes they are right on target.

8.5/10 Stars

Fiction, Historical Fiction

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek, by Kim Michele Richardson

Their hunger for books could teach them of a better life free of the hunger, but without food they’d never live long enough or have the strength to find it.

Where to start? I loved this book.

There are so many unique qualities to The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek, by Kim Michele Richardson, starting with the fact that it takes two fascinating pieces of history and merges them together into one character.

That character, the voice of our narrator, is Cussy Mary Carter, nicknamed “Bluet.” Piece of History #1: she is a Pack Horse librarian in the 1930’s, riding through the Appalachian Mountains weekly, delivering books to the poor but proud. Piece of History #2: she is a descendant of the Blue Fugates of Kentucky, a group of people with a rare genetic condition that turned their skin blue.

On one hand, you have Cussy Mary as the outcast because of her visible blue skin (she even qualified as “colored,” although she was not African American, and was subject to the same restrictions of the time.) On the other hand, you have Cussy Mary as the one who brings culture to the region’s isolated people. The school children look forward to seeing her. The illiterate (too proud to ever admit such a thing) depend on her to read to them. The elderly simply enjoy her pleasant company.

If there existed a scale of reactions people have towards Cussy Mary, from loving, sympathetic, and compassionate to repulsed, fearful, and murderous, she evokes them all. Yet, somehow, she maintains her composure, ever the book’s heroine from beginning to end. When a character is convinced they are unlovable, yet still manages to treat others with kindness and respect–as Cussy Mary does–you cannot help but admire them.

The themes of prejudice, segregation and ignorance are pervasive throughout the novel. But there is also forgiveness, redemption, and stoicism. My only small criticism is that the ending is almost “too tidy,” seemingly out of step with the rest of the novel. But that is purely my opinion.

Overall, The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek is an extremely engaging read, suitable for book clubs or the curious individual looking for a story unlike any other.

9.5/10 Stars

Fiction, Historical Fiction

All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr

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“The total entropy of any system, said Dr. Hauptmann, will decrease only if the entropy of another system will increase. Nature demands symmetry.”

In All the Light We Cannot See, the Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Anthony Doerr, that symmetry is achieved by telling parallel stories of two main characters on opposite sides of World War II.

In Germany there is Werner Pfennig, an orphaned, tow-headed young man with a special gift for fixing and engineering radios at a time when communication is crucial. His only family is his younger sister, Jutta, who also acts as his conscience. Werner’s talent and Aryan looks get him noticed and he is recruited into a special school for the Hitler Youth.

In France there is Marie-Laure LeBlanc, a freckled, motherless blind girl. Her father, Daniel Le Blanc, is the locksmith at a local museum. His life is completely devoted to his daughter. He has built an elaborate model of the neighborhood so Marie-Laure can find her way. When they move in with his eccentric, agoraphobic Uncle Etienne, Daniel starts over and builds a model of the new location. He is determined that Marie-Laure be as independent as possible, a skill she will need later. Daniel has also been entrusted with a priceless item from the museum.

There are also a handful of important supporting characters: Frank von Rumpel, the determined German gemologist on an unstoppable quest; Madam Manec, Uncle Etienne’s servant who has become such a part of the family that the word servant hardly suffices; and Frederick, Werner’s first roommate at the new boys’ school, whose sensitive nature and morality chafes against the brutal methods being taught.

All throughout the book we, the reader, are ping-ponged back and forth between Werner’s and Marie-Laure’s lives, wondering when they will converge, as you know fate will orchestrate. Set aside all assumptions, however. All of my guesses were incorrect.

Time periods shift frequently. Sometimes they are clearly marked and other times not, the biggest complaint I’ve seen from other reviewers. I see no purpose in the added confusion, there are so many other details about which to keep track. My other complaint would be that the most intense climatic build ends in a very anti-climactic way. The proverbial balloon popping and hissing until empty.

But overall, All The Light We Cannot See is riveting. If you can picture in your mind an upside cone, that is how I felt as I read about Werner and Marie-Laure’s lives, waiting impatiently for them to intertwine. I flew through the 532 pages in about 3 days, staying up until after 1am last night to finish. As someone whose attention span has been greatly affected by the world’s goings-on, that was an achievement. The book was obviously meticulously researched. I’ve never read so much detail about the Hitler Youth. It made me cringe. War’s unfairness, loss, brutality, and waste is peppered throughout. Why some are allowed to live and others are not is a question that echoes into eternity.

9/10 Stars