The Tattooist of Auschwitz

By Heather Morris

Author Heather Morris uses such a light touch to tell the harrowing tale of the prisoner of Auschwitz who became the tattooist. Despite the sheer horror of the setting, this is ultimately an uplifting story about love, survival and triumph. She came to know the tattooist, born Ludwig “Lale” Eisenberg, over the course of three years, and this book is based on his story. In the book, he is a truly remarkable human being. Viktor Frankl-like, he absolutely refuses to be a victim and chooses instead to survive. Lale, who has to tattoo numbers onto the arms of all newcomers to the camps (those who are not sent immediately to the gas chambers), is smitten by one of the girls he has to ink. Then, against the awful backdrop of death, torture and deprivation, the love story between Lale and Gita unfolds. Beautifully written, disturbing yet compelling.

To read more about Lale, and this book, visit http://www.bbc.com/news/stories-42568390

Publisher’s summary:

The Tattooist of Auschwitz is based on the true story of Lale and Gita Sokolov, two Slovakian Jews who survived Auschwitz and eventually made their home in Australia. In that terrible place, Lale was given the job of tattooing the prisoners marked for survival – literally scratching numbers into his fellow victims’ arms in indelible ink to create what would become one of the most potent symbols of the Holocaust. Lale used the infinitesimal freedom of movement that this position awarded him to exchange jewels and money taken from murdered Jews for food to keep others alive. If he had been caught, he would have been killed; many owed him their survival.

There have been many books about the Holocaust – and there will be many more. What makes this one so memorable is Lale Sokolov’s incredible zest for life. He understood exactly what was in store for him and his fellow prisoners, and he was determined to survive – not just to survive but to leave the camp with his dignity and integrity intact, to live his life to the full. Terrible though this story is, it is also a story of hope and of courage. It is also – almost unbelievably – a love story. Waiting in line to be tattooed, terrified and shaking, was a young girl. For Lale – a dandy, a jack-the-lad, a bit of a chancer – it was love at first sight, and he determined not only to survive himself but to ensure that Gita did, too. His story – their story – will make you weep, but you will also find it uplifting. It shows the very best of humanity in the very worst of circumstances.

Like many survivors, Lale and Gita told few people their story after the war. They eventually made their way to Australia, where they raised a son and had a successful life. But when Gita died, Lale felt he could no longer carry the burden of their past alone. He chose to tell his story

 

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On the Bright Side, The New Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen

By Hendrik Groen

What a total delight. I hadn’t read the first book in this series, The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83 ¼ Years Old, so wasn’t sure what I was letting myself in for. What I didn’t expect was this screamingly funny, desperately sad and ultimately incredibly uplifting read. Hendrik’s short daily diary musings are often hilarious as he describes his life, what’s happening in the world around him, his friends and other occupants of the retirement home. He gives real insight into the indignities of old age – as well as the issue of care for the elderly. Hendrik and his friends are all in their eighties and most rely on something (a cane; a wheelchair) to get around. They are, however, determined to enjoy life rather than sit around complaining or being spiteful and judgemental, as are many of their fellow residents. Instead, they organise outings and get involved in running the home. They’re great fun, a joy to meet and just a little subversive. Adding a measure of mystique is the fact that no-one seems to know who penned these books. Whoever it is, I really hope there’s another in the pipeline!

Book blurb:

The new diary from one of literature’s most beloved octogenarians.

On The Bright Side picks up where The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen left off, at the care home of the anarchic Old-But-Not-Dead Club where Hendrik and his friends are determined to enjoy their autumn years full of optimism. Written with his characteristic charm and humour  Hendrik proves, yet again, that age is simply a number.

Blood Moon

By Alexandra Sokoloff

Another cracker of a novel from Alexandra Sokoloff. I was full of trepidation as I set out to read the second in her Huntress FBI series.  I simply adored her first, Huntress Moon. Could book two even come close to it? Boy oh boy did this live up to the first!  Blood Moon is another suspenseful, all-consuming, gripping story that kept me totally intrigued and entertained. I found the profiling insights fascinating – FBI Special Agent Matthew Roarke is a former FBI profiler, and again ropes in his old mentor to help solve this new case. I was also drawn in by the continuing fascination Roarke has for the murderess he’s pursuing (which seems to be mutual) and by the increasingly urgent hunt for yet another serial killer who’s bound to wreak havoc when the moon becomes full – just days away.  Alexandra Sokoloff continues to build her wonderful characters, such as the slightly comic forensics twosome who work so seamlessly together. Epps and Singh, on Roarke’s team, although not always centre-stage, are finely wrought – I really felt as though I was coming to understand them and could start to predict how they would behave.

Book blurb:

Book II in the Thriller Award-nominated Huntress/FBI series

Twenty-five years have passed since a savage killer terrorized California, massacring three ordinary families before disappearing without a trace.

The haunted child who was the only surviving victim of his rampage is now wanted by the FBI for brutal crimes of her own, and Special Agent Matthew Roarke is on an interstate manhunt for her, despite his conflicted sympathies for her history and motives.

But when his search for her unearths evidence of new family slayings, the dangerous woman Roarke seeks – and wants – may be his only hope of preventing another bloodbath.

It is highly recommended that you read Book 1 of the series, Huntress Moon, first.

Deadly Intent

By Sheryl Browne

Deadly Intent really comes into its own during the second half  when author Sheryl Browne drags us along on a horrendous journey, in a claustrophobic, confined space, that at any moment could go horribly wrong. She delves into the dynamics of relationships: an estranged couple, pushed apart by tragedy; a ‘friendship’ based on blackmail, manipulation and distrust; and the frightening interactions between a drugged up psychopath and his prisoners. She brings all these interactions alive which made me feel I was really there. She does dialogue so well and manages to sustain the suspense. I continue to adore DI Matthew Adams, a decent, uncomplicated policeman who’s caring and empathetic. I’m pleased Sheryl didn’t feel it necessary for him to have a huge major flaw. Her other characters, however, are much more complex and I hated it when I actually started rooting for one of the ‘baddies’!  A great read if, like me, you enjoy psychological thrillers. Recommended.

Book blurb:

Tormented to the edge of sanity … 
Just when DI Matthew Adams thinks he’s left the past behind him, it comes back to haunt him once again; this time in the form of the Conner family.
Like Matthew, the Conners have lost a child in tragic circumstances – and they’ve also found themselves in the hands of one of the most depraved criminals to walk the streets: ‘Dead-eyed’ Charlie Roberts, a drug addicted low-life with a penchant for extreme violence.
Matthew’s greatest affinity lies with Daniel Conner, the brooding father who still blames himself for his youngest child’s death. But when Daniel’s wife and daughter are tortured and tormented by Roberts, can Matthew prevent him from completely ruining his own life for an act of revenge particularly when, once upon a time, that’s exactly what Matthew would have done too?

 

Huntress Moon

By Alexandra Sokoloff 

Wow, did I devour this thriller! This was a great, fast-paced story that kept me totally enthralled. It’s the first in a series by Alexandra Sokoloff and I can’t wait for the next. A thoroughly likeable and totally believable FBI agent is pitted against a complex, fascinating serial killer, who – against all odds – is female. Why is she killing these seemingly unrelated victims? And why is former top profiler, FBI Special Agent Matthew Roarke, so reluctant to get drawn back into profiling? This was a clever, interesting story, told extremely well. I couldn’t put it down and cannot recommend it highly enough.

Book blurb:

A Thriller Award nominee for Best eBook Original Novel… Book 1 in award-winning author Alexandra Sokoloff’s riveting new Huntress FBI series about a driven FBI agent on the hunt for that most rare of all killers: a female serial.

FBI Special Agent Matthew Roarke is closing in on a bust of a major criminal organization in San Francisco when he witnesses an undercover member of his team killed right in front of him on a busy street, an accident Roarke can’t believe is coincidental. His suspicions put him on the trail of a mysterious young woman who appears to have been present at each scene of a years-long string of “accidents” and murders, and who may well be that most rare of killers: a female serial.

Roarke’s hunt for her takes him across three states…while in a small coastal town, a young father and his five-year old son, both wounded from a recent divorce, encounter a lost and compelling young woman on the beach and strike up an unlikely friendship without realizing how deadly she may be.

As Roarke uncovers the shocking truth of her background, he realizes she is on a mission of her own, and must race to capture her before more blood is shed.

 

99 Red Balloons

By Elisabeth Carpenter

I loved this psychological thriller. 99 Red Balloons is a clever, well-written debut novel that caught me up right from the very beginning. When asked to describe her novel in one sentence (by author/blogger Sam Carrington), author Elisabeth Carpenter says, ‘two girls go missing, decades apart, and family secrets are slowly revealed’. The story gallops effortlessly along with a large cast of very believable characters and great dialogue. Elisabeth skilfully blends a number of different threads, each told from a different point of view. She led me totally astray – cleverly misleading me for most of the story. It’s a great ride – a skilful, suspenseful roller coaster of a book which left me breathless. Highly recommended if this is your genre.

Book blurb:

Two girls go missing, decades apart. What would you do if one was your daughter?

When eight-year-old Grace goes missing from a sweetshop on the way home from school, her mother Emma is plunged into a nightmare. Her family rallies around, but as the police hunt begins, cracks begin to emerge.

What are the secret emails sent between Emma’s husband and her sister? Why does her mother take so long to join the search? And is Emma really as innocent as she seems?

Meanwhile, ageing widow Maggie Taylor sees Grace’s picture in the newspaper. It’s a photograph that jolts her from the pain of her existence into a spiralling obsession with another girl – the first girl who disappeared…

The Praying Nun

By Michael Smorenburg

The Praying Nun is a novella based on a horrendous part of the history of the Cape coast – the slave trade. Part one describes Michael Smorenburg, the author, and his wonderfully colourful mate, Jacques, diving a wreck off Clifton beach.  The authorities think it is the wreck of a coal barge and the divers think it’s a ship laden with gold bullion. It turns out to be that of a slave ship which ran aground in the late 1700s en route from Mozambique to Brazil. The author becomes obsessed with what looks like a giant tooth sticking out of the ancient wreckage. I absolutely loved the first half of the book – Smorenburg made me taste the salt, feel that freezing sea and imagine I was right there under water. I was totally caught up in the excitement of the treasure hunt.

Part two is a dramatisation of the true story of the voyage and shipwreck of the São José de Afrika, which was carrying hundreds of slaves, in 1794; a tale of horror and brutality, combined with human courage. I think I would have preferred the two halves of this book to have been intertwined, so that the reader was taken from the present to the past and back again. I found it a little jarring – almost like reading two short stories. Despite this reservation, I found The Praying Nun really fascinating, and enjoyed watching YouTube videos about the wreck’s subsequent salvage by an international research partnership. The artefacts from the sunken slave ship now reside in the National Museum of African American History and Culture in the US.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HhJUEOQzYDg

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cgj9KYtyanA

Book blurb:

The Praying Nun – A Slave Shipwreck Saga

A TRUE STORY OF DISCOVERY AND EXCAVATION, 1985
A LOVE STORY OF TERROR AND TRAGEDY, 1794

1794—Naked and shackled, Chikunda, a newly wedded man who cannot hold his tongue is heaved aboard the slaver São José off the coast of Mozambique, bound for the slave markets of Brazil.
Once below decks, down in the stinking holds with 400 naked captives, he instinctively knows that it will all be over… Faith, his new bride, will be lost to him.
Chikunda desperately needs a plan… and Chikunda always has a plan.
But on this voyage, fate has other plans.

 

The Walls

By Hollie Overton

Wow! I’ve just finished Hollie Overton’s The Walls and it’s a complete cracker. It kept me totally enthralled the entire way through. Kristy’s grim work environment – as a prison public relations officer she spends long hours dealing with death row matters – contrasts with her happy home life.  She’s a single mum who lives with her teenage son whom she adores and her sickly dad who’s always been there for her.  Life looks set to become even better when she meets charming, gorgeous Lance. Now she has it all. Or does she? The suspense is relentless as this book hurtles towards the inevitable, and challenges its readers with tough questions about murder and the death sentence. This is not for the faint-hearted – the description of the lead-up to execution by lethal injection in Texas, where the death sentence still applies, was very tough.  But despite the grimness, the book is full of wonderful humanity and is by no means depressing. In many ways it’s uplifting.  And the ending – which I absolutely didn’t see coming – was just totally, totally satisfying.

Book blurb:

What if murder is your only way out?

Single mom Kristy Tucker works as a press agent for the Texas Department of Corrections handling everything on death row from inmate interviews, to chronicling the last moments during an execution. Her job exposes Kristy to the worst of humanity and it’s one that’s beginning to take its toll.

So when Kristy meets Lance Dobson, her son’s martial arts instructor, she believes she’s finally found her happy ending. She’s wrong.

Kristy soon discovers that Lance is a monster. Forced to endure his verbal and physical abuse, Kristy is serving her own life sentence . . . unless she’s willing to take matters into her own hands. Perfectly poised to exploit the criminal justice system she knows so well, Kristy sets out to get rid of Lance – permanently.

Beneath the Surface

By Sibel Hodge

This is a stylish thriller that I really, really enjoyed. It’s well-written, pacey and packed with great characters. Just out of a traumatic relationship, Holly has returned to her hometown and a dead-end job. She’s drinking too much and wallowing in the past. And then she finds a cause.  Suddenly she’s pitted against a mighty pharmaceutical company in a David and Goliath-type battle – and her life, and those of her loved ones, are under threat. Beneath the Surface is an intelligent, wonderful read with several surprises.  Sibel Hodge really has a knack of creating characters that stay with you, no matter how small a part they play.  I can’t wait to read more of her books.

Book blurb:

Dean Hudson didn’t look evil…so what could drive an ordinary boy to kill?

When the teenage son of Holly Gold’s school friend brutally murders his parents before killing himself, her sleepy home town is rocked by the sudden tragedy.

Appalled, Holly investigates. What could have caused the happy-go-lucky boy she remembers to commit such a heinous crime? When another teen commits suicide, she uncovers a horrifying link between the recent deaths and a dark conspiracy to hide the truth.

But someone doesn’t want Holly asking questions and, as she hunts for evidence to prove her theory, she’s dragged into a nightmare that threatens her life and her sanity. Then tragedy strikes again—and this time it’s closer to home…

Beneath the Surface is a gripping psychological suspense-thriller from the bestselling author of Duplicity, Look Behind You and Where the Memories Lie.

The Summer Son

By Craig Lancaster

I cannot possibly do justice to this astounding book. Rich and insightful, it’s the beautiful yet tough story of a man reconnecting with his father, a complicated and difficult man. In the process, he’s working his way back into his own disintegrating marriage. It’s in a league of its own and I absolutely loved it. The Summer Son is not for those wanting a fast-paced, easy read. This is a tale that Lancaster unfolds gradually in his perfect prose. I didn’t want it to end and found the personal essay about Lancaster’s own father at the end added immensely to the read. Highly recommended – it’s a stunner.

Book blurb:

Mitch Quillen’s marriage and career are failing, and his relationship with his father has been a disaster for decades. Approaching forty, Mitch doesn’t want to become a middle-aged statistic. When his estranged father, Jim, suddenly calls, Mitch’s wife urges him to respond. Mitch heads to Montana and a confrontation that will alter the course of his life. Amid a backdrop of rugged peaks and valleys, the story unfolds: violence that triggered the rift, thirty years of miscommunication, and the possibility of misplaced blame.

In The Summer Son, award-winning author Craig Lancaster delivers a powerful novel that invites readers into a family where conflict and secrets prevail, and where hope for healing and redemption abides.

This second edition of the book, a finalist for the 2010 Utah Book Award in fiction, includes a foreword by the author and a personal essay about family.