Teaming up with my blogging buddy Alison at Puppies & Pretties for this year’s first edition of “Reading Lately”. Since I have started listening to books rather than just plain ole reading them, I’m able to “read” more each month. And it is more enjoyable to me. Love that listening to books through Amazon’s Audible app allows me to multi-task. As in “read” and drive, “read” and clean house, “read” and iron, even “read” and work out.
So, in the last six weeks or so, I have “read” and multi-tasked my way through the intricate stories of two stirring books. Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly and Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan. Lilac Girls is Hall’s adult fiction debut novel while Echo is one of over 40 children’s books written by the prolific Ryan. Until I began thinking about this blog post, I didn’t realize how similar these books are in several ways.
Here’s what I’ve been reading lately.
Reading Lately: Lilac Girls
Pretty sure I’ve mentioned this book on the blog several times but never in a real review. Consider this a real review!
Lilac Girls is the survival story of three women during World War II. Caroline Ferriday is a New York socialite. Her philanthropic work helping orphans in France through the offices of the French consulate in NYC encompasses every aspect of Caroline’s life once the war breaks out. The story begins from the point of view of this character but readers are soon introduced to the other main characters.
Kasia Kuzmerick, a young women whose brief activity with the Polish underground, results in the imprisonment of herself, her mother, sister and several close friends in a Nazi labor camp. German Herta Oberheuser, a recent medical school graduate in dermatology, accepts a job in the women’s unit of a labor camp when she is unable to open practice on her own.
The lives of these women become entangled as this poignant story progresses throughout the months and years of the war. Inspired by real people and events, Martha Hall Kelly masterfully unravels the details of the lives of Caroline, Kasia and Herta and then stitches them back together. Each suspenseful chapter is told through the point of view of one of the characters. And on Audible, three narrators bring these characters to life. When I “read” the last page, I felt sad but satiated. I had just finished my new favorite book.
Meet Martha Hall Kelly on her blog, here. Just discovered it myself in writing this post. Can’t wait to get to know more about her!
I rate this book five out of five stars.
Reading Lately: Echo
Pam Muñoz Ryan has long been a favorite children’s author of mine. Perhaps you are familiar with her novels Esperanza Rising or Riding Freedom. Both are beautiful stories with valuable lessons about the unplanned directions one’s life can take. And so is Echo.
Like Lilac Girls, Echo is the story of three characters, in this case children. It is told from their points of view, over three separate parts of the book. In part 4, the lives of Friedrich in Germany and Mike and Ivy in the United States become entwined. All three children are survivors and the heroes of their own lives. The book spans a decade of time from mid-World War II to the mid-50s. But the book actually begins as a fairy tale of sorts that prophecizes the events that will unfold throughout the three children’s lives.
Friedrich, Mike and Ivy find comfort and solace for the problems in their young lives through music. In particular, the music they create themselves on harmonicas. Audible uses three narrators and a number of musical passages to tell the story. The addition of the music to the narration is an enhancement for those of us who “read” Echo with our ears instead of our eyes.
Echo is part fairy tale part historical fiction. Friedrich experiences life during World War II. Mike is subjected to the sad life of an orphan with his brother in a boys’ home. Ivy encounters a Japanese-American family who is moved to an internment camp in California. All of which makes this a wonderful book to supplement the social studies curriculum in upper elementary and middle school.
I give this book four out of five stars. I had some trouble following the story at times, but possibly because I was multi-tasking while listening to it.
Recognition for Lilac Girls and Echo
Both of these books have received acclaim among real book reviewers, publishers and children’s book awards. Lilac Girls is a New York Times Bestseller. It has received an average of 4.27 stars on Goodreads; reviews here.
Echo was awarded the Newbery Honor Medal and is on the Texas Bluebonnet Award master list for 2016-2017. It has earned an average of 4.34 stars on Goodreads. Check out reviews, here.
What have you been reading lately? Won’t you share in a comment below? Would love to have you follow me on Goodreads, too. And if you are interested in purchasing either of the two books reviewed today, I invite you to use my Amazon affiliate links in the right sidebar to do so.
Please stop by to see what my friend Alison has been reading lately…click here to be magically transported to her blog! And click here to sign up for The Blended Blog’s virtual book club. Join us, won’t you?
Enjoy your weekend, dear friends.
Hugs and kisses,