Renia’s Diary: A Holocaust Journal by Renia Spiegel

Disclaimer: I received this arc from the publisher. Thanks! All opinions are my own.

 

Book: Renia’s Diary: A Holocaust Journal

 

Author: Renia Spiegel

 

Book Series: Standalone

 

Rating: 4/5

 

Diversity: Jewish main character and side characters

 

Publication Date: September 24, 2019

 

Genre: YA History

 

Recommended Age: 14+ (teen angst, some love, inner thoughts, some violence, some horrifying events especially at the end)

 

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

 

Pages: 336

 

Amazon Link

 

Synopsis: The long-hidden diary of a young Polish woman’s last days during the Holocaust, translated for the first time into English, with a foreword from American Holocaust historian Deborah Lipstadt.

Renia Spiegel was a young girl from an upper-middle class Jewish family living on an estate in Stawki, Poland, near what was at that time the border with Romania. In the summer of 1939, Renia and her sister Elizabeth (née Ariana) were visiting their grandparents in Przemysl, right before the Germans invaded Poland.

Like Anne Frank, Renia recorded her days in her beloved diary. She also filled it with beautiful original poetry. Her diary records how she grew up, fell in love, and was rounded up by the invading Nazis and forced to move to the ghetto in Przemsyl with all the other Jews. By luck, Renia’s boyfriend Zygmund was able to find a tenement for Renia to hide in with his parents and took her out of the ghetto. This is all described in the Diary, as well as the tragedies that befell her family and her ultimate fate in 1942, as written in by Zygmund on the Diary’s final page.

Renia’s Diary is a significant historical and psychological document. The raw, yet beautiful account depicts Renia’s angst over the horrors going on around her. It has been translated from the original Polish, with notes included by her surviving sister, Elizabeth Bellak.

 

Review: I don’t like to rate people’s diaries because a diary is much like poetry. It’s a place to write as you will and want outside of the limitations of language. I really liked the diary and I felt like it can definitely appeal to younger people as Anne Frank’s diary does and it can help younger kids understand more of the war from multiple viewpoints. I know Anne Frank is still assigned reading in some schools and I don’t doubt that this one will be as well. The war was more vast than Anne Frank’s neighborhood and that’s where Renia’s viewpoint shines. Many people forget the Soviet’s impact and fault in the war and much of it has been lost in history in order to skim past the timeline (thanks school constraints). This isn’t saying that this compares to Anne Frank. Anne Frank was introspective and more of a journalist whereas Renia is a poet who discusses feelings and items “in the moment”, so the grip of the war isn’t as great as it is in Anne’s, but both are about young girls facing one of the greatest horrors of thie world and how they chose to survive and process it. Anne did so through detailing her living conditions and what was happening outside, whereas Renia reverts back into her first love and how her inner circle is handling things. In fact, her sister’s detailing at the end of the book was much better, in my opinion, than the whole of the book but I like facts whereas some people like feelings, nothing wrong with either of those things. And although I did find it weird that the poems rhymed in English (this was obviously a translation) I can’t fault the book for anything because I can’t fault how someone writes their personal thoughts because thoughts transcend language.

 

Verdict: Definitely recommend and if you are in school or are a teacher consider using this alongside Anne Frank!

Cilka’s Journey by Heather Morris

Disclaimer: I received an arc from the publisher. Thanks! All opinions are my own.

 

Book: Cilka’s Journey

 

Author: Heather Morris

 

Book Series: The Tattooist of Auschwitz Book 2

 

Rating: 5/5

 

Diversity: Some LGBTQA+ relationships mentioned, Jewish main character and side characters

 

Publication Date: October 1, 2019

 

Genre: Historical Fiction (based on a true story)

 

Recommended Age: 18+ (TW rape, TW child molestation, TW sexual assault, TW torture, gore, violence, language, childbirth)

 

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

 

Pages: 352

 

Amazon Link

 

Synopsis: In this follow-up to The Tattooist of Auschwitz, the author tells the story, based on a true one, of a woman who survives Auschwitz, only to find herself locked away again.

Cilka Klein is 18 years old when Auschwitz-Birkenau is liberated by Soviet soldiers. But Cilka is one of the many women who is sentenced to a labor camp on charges of having helped the Nazis–with no consideration of the circumstances Cilka and women like her found themselves in as they struggled to survive. Once at the Vorkuta gulag in Sibera, where she is to serve her 15-year sentence, Cilka uses her wits, charm, and beauty to survive.

 

Review: I thought this book was absolutely wonderful. The writing immediately drew me into the book, the story saddened and depressed me, and the main character was very well done. It’s hard to make likeable characters out of characters who do bad things sometimes, but the author did this very well with Cilka. The book was also very well paced and the world building was marvelous.

 

My only issue is that the book time jumps a lot, sometimes with dates at the top, but sometimes not, so you really have to pay attention to the timeline of the book.

 

Verdict: A very well done and beautiful book!

Song of Blood and Stone by L. Penelope

Disclaimer: I bought this book on my own! Support your authors!

Author: L. Penelope

Book Series: Earthsinger Chronicles Book 1

Rating: 3/5

Publication Date: May 1, 2018

Recommended Age: 16+ (some violence, some gore, romance, duty, and love)

Genre: YA Fantasy

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Synopsis: A treacherous, thrilling, epic fantasy about an outcast drawn into a war between two powerful rulers.

Orphaned and alone, Jasminda lives in a land where cold whispers of invasion and war linger on the wind. Jasminda herself is an outcast in her homeland of Elsira, where her gift of Earthsong is feared. When ruthless soldiers seek refuge in her isolated cabin, they bring with them a captive–an injured spy who threatens to steal her heart.

Jack’s mission behind enemy lines to prove that the Mantle between Elsira and Lagamiri is about to fall nearly cost him his life, but he is saved by the healing Song of a mysterious young woman. Now he must do whatever it takes to save Elsira and it’s people from the True Father and he needs Jasminda’s Earthsong to do it. They escape their ruthless captors and together they embark on a perilous journey to save Elsira and to uncover the secrets of The Queen Who Sleeps.

Thrust into a hostile society, Jasminda and Jack must rely on one another even as secrets jeopardize their bond. As an ancient evil gains power, Jasminda races to unlock a mystery that promises salvation.

The fates of two nations hang in the balance as Jasminda and Jack must choose between love and duty to fulfill their destinies and end the war.

Review: I thought this book was pretty good. The beginning just grabbed my attention immediately and it held me for most of the book. The writing is gorgeous and the world building is fantastic.

However, this was more romance heavy than what I wanted it to be and the love story was too Taylor Swift song perfect and the plot felt like it didn’t go anywhere after awhile.

Verdict: For the most part I felt this was a good book and definitely worth the read if you’re into books like Kiss of Deception.