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Review: CILKA’S JOURNEY by Heather Morris

Review:  CILKA’S JOURNEY by Heather MorrisCilka's Journey by Heather Morris
four-half-stars
Series: The Tattooist of Auschwitz #2
Published by St. Martin's Press on October 1, 2019
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 352
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CILKA’S JOURNEY Review

 

Cilka’s Journey by Heather Morris is the heart-wrenching story of Cilka Klein, who in 1942, at the age of sixteen, is sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp.  Cilka is a beautiful girl and her beauty catches the eye of some of the guards at the camp, who decide to separate her from her fellow prisoners.  By playing the role these men want her to play, Cilka manages to survive three years in the camp until it is liberated.  Unfortunately, young Cilka’s harrowing journey has just begun.  She is arrested by the Russians, charged as a collaborator for sleeping with the enemy (even though she had no choice in the matter) and is sent to prison for 15 years in Siberia.

While Cilka’s Journey itself is a work of historical fiction, it is based on a true story and as such is just all the more heartbreaking to read.  Cilka is an incredibly sympathetic character. I liked her immediately because of the way she nurtures some of the younger prisoners.  It’s clear that she is a victim of an unfair system and I found myself immediately rooting for her to find a way to survive.  In showing what happens to Cilka from the moment she is arrested, Morris does an incredible job of exposing the many wrongs that all prisoners, but especially female prisoners, faced.  The abuse is rampant, both physical and sexual, the conditions they are kept in are barbaric, and the treatment is inhumane, making the Russians appear, in many ways, not very different from the Nazis.

I thought the pacing of the novel was excellent too.  Because I was so invested in Cilka and worried for her well-being, I was just glued to the book to see how things would turn out for her.

Thankfully though, it’s not all doom and gloom.  Morris shows that there are a few bright spots in Cilka’s life in spite of her prison sentence.  Her cellmates become somewhat of a “found family” for her, and she even befriends a female doctor at the hospital where she has been assigned to do administrative work because of her language skills.  And while working at the hospital, she meets someone who inspires her to think about her future and what her life could possibly be like once she is finally free.  It was nice to have moments like these woven into what is otherwise one heartbreak after another.

With every page of Cilka’s Journey, Morris brings to life Cilka’s heart, her bravery, and her strength.  Her journey is filled with loss and grief, but also with resiliency and the will to live. And while Cilka’s Journey is a harrowing tale of survival, it is also ultimately a story of hope and love.

I didn’t realize when I requested Cilka’s Journey that it is a sequel to The Tattooist of Auschwitz, which I haven’t read yet.  Thankfully, however, it works quite well as a standalone and I highly recommend it to fans of historical fiction, especially from the WWII era.  It’s a powerful read, an emotional read, and one that will stick with you long after you’ve finished the last page.

 

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

From the author of the multi-million copy bestseller, The Tattooist of Auschwitz, comes the new novel based on an incredible true story of love and resilience.

Her beauty saved her life – and condemned her.

Cilka is just sixteen years old when she is taken to Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp, in 1942. The Commandant at Birkenau, Schwarzhuber, notices her long beautiful hair, and forces her separation from the other women prisoners. Cilka learns quickly that power, even unwillingly given, equals survival.

After liberation, Cilka is charged as a collaborator for sleeping with the enemy and sent to Siberia. But what choice did she have? And where did the lines of morality lie for Cilka, who was sent to Auschwitz when still a child?

In a Siberian prison camp, Cilka faces challenges both new and horribly familiar, including the unwanted attention of the guards. But when she makes an impression on a woman doctor, Cilka is taken under her wing. Cilka begins to tend to the ill in the camp, struggling to care for them under brutal conditions.

Cilka finds endless resources within herself as she daily confronts death and faces terror. And when she nurses a man called Ivan, Cilka finds that despite everything that has happened to her, there is room in her heart for love.

four-half-stars

About Heather Morris

Heather Morris is a Native of New Zealand now resident in Australia, working in a large public hospital in Melbourne. For several years she studied and wrote screenplays, one of which was optioned by an academy award winning Screenwriter in the U.S. In 2003, she was introduced to an elderly gentleman “who might just have a story worth telling”. She says the day she met Lale Sokolov changed her life, as their friendship grew and he embarked on a journey of self scrutiny, entrusting the inner most details of his life during the Holocaust. Morris originally wrote Lale’s story as a screenplay – which ranked high in international competitions – before reshaping it into her debut novel, The Tattooist of Auschwitz.

Review: THINGS YOU SAVE IN A FIRE by Katherine Center

Review:  THINGS YOU SAVE IN A FIRE by Katherine CenterThings You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center
five-stars
Published by St. Martin's Press on August 13, 2019
Genres: Romance, Women's Fiction
Pages: 320
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

 

 

 

 

 

 

THINGS YOU SAVE IN A FIRE Review

 

Katherine Center’s Things You Save in a Fire is a heartfelt, engaging story about family, love, and the power of forgiveness.  It follows Cassie Hanwell, a young woman who unexpectedly has to uproot her life and relocate from Texas to Boston to take care of her ailing mother.  Cassie is a superstar firefighter at her precinct in Texas, but it’s a whole new ballgame when she has to start over in another city.  Then there’s also the fact that Cassie’s mother abandoned her when she was 16 and Cassie has pretty much written her off ever since.  Moving in with her after all these years is awkward, to say the least.

I’m just going to throw it out there right now and say that Things You Save in a Fire was a 5 star read for me.  It’s just one of those wonderful books that checks off all the boxes I look for in a read.  The writing is excellent, the characters are well developed – both the main characters and the secondary characters, and Cassie’s journey is such a compelling one to follow on every level.

I really adored Cassie from the moment we are introduced to her.  Cassie, a female firefighter trying to make it in what is traditionally a male-dominated profession, is impossible not to root for.  She’s one of those messy, complex characters that I love so much.  She’s scrappy, smart, strong, and she’s very good at what she does – the best honestly, and she knows she has to be if she’s going to be taken seriously.  While she’s calm, cool, and collected when it comes to putting out fires and saving lives, she’s the opposite when it comes to all areas of her personal life, especially her rocky relationship with her mother and her non-existent love life.  Cassie has made a conscious choice not to date and not to fall in love.  She doesn’t have the time or interest in doing either…until she meets the Rookie.

Don’t even get me started on how precious the Rookie is.  He’s adorable, like a Golden Retriever in a firefighter’s uniform.  He’s sweet, polite, and he even bakes a mean chocolate chip cookie.  He’s practically perfect in every way that matters and Cassie is finding him pretty hard to resist in spite of her no dating rule. But it’s not all sunshine and roses for the Rookie either. He has a few messy layers too, in the form of a secret he has carried around since he was a child that weighs him down, a secret that could potentially crush his father if he were to ever find out.

Aside from really enjoying reading about Cassie and the Rookie individually, I was of course rooting for them to get together.  They were hired at the firehouse on the same day and their chemistry was immediately off the charts.  The more time they spent together, whether it was being tied to a flagpole all night as part of a hazing prank or sharing a late-night omelet (of course cooked to perfection by the Rookie), the more I wanted to scream at Cassie to abandon her no dating rule.

What I loved the most about Things You Save in a Fire is how multi-layered the story was and how every aspect of it was equally compelling.  Aside from loving the Cassie/Rookie relationship as it developed, I also enjoyed reading about the firefighting aspect of it – all of it, the pranks, the actual fighting of fires, the EMT training, and of course how the all male dynamic evolves once they have a woman in their midst.  It was all quite fascinating to read about.  I’m also all about a story that features a complicated family dynamic and that is exactly what I got with Cassie agreeing to move in with her ailing but estranged mother.

As fantastic as all of these elements were though, the themes of Things You Save in a Fire are what really captured my heart.  Yes, it’s a story about a woman making it in a man’s world, but it’s also an incredibly moving story about family and the power of forgiveness.  And finally, and most importantly, it’s a story about strength and finding the courage to let love into your heart.

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

From the New York Times bestselling author of How to Walk Away comes a stunning new novel about family, hope, and learning to love against all odds.

Cassie Hanwell was born for emergencies. As one of the only female firefighters in her Texas firehouse, she’s seen her fair share of them, and she’s excellent at dealing with other people’s tragedies. But when her estranged and ailing mother asks her to uproot her life and move to Boston, it’s an emergency of a kind Cassie never anticipated.

The tough, old-school Boston firehouse is as different from Cassie’s old job as it could possibly be. Hazing, a lack of funding, and poor facilities mean that the firemen aren’t exactly thrilled to have a “lady” on the crew, even one as competent and smart as Cassie. Except for the handsome rookie, who doesn’t seem to mind having Cassie around. But she can’t think about that. Because she doesn’t fall in love. And because of the advice her old captain gave her: don’t date firefighters. Cassie can feel her resolve slipping…but will she jeopardize her place in a career where she’s worked so hard to be taken seriously?

Katherine Center’s Things You Save in a Fire is a heartfelt, affecting novel about life, love, and the true meaning of courage.

five-stars

About Katherine Center

Katherine Center is the New York Times bestselling author of How to Walk Away, the upcoming Things You Save in a Fire (August 2019), and five other bittersweet comic novels. Six Foot Pictures is currently adapting her fourth novel, The Lost Husband, into a feature film starring Josh Duhamel, Leslie Bibb, and Nora Dunn. Katherine has been compared to both Nora Ephron and Jane Austen, and the Dallas Morning News calls her stories, “satisfying in the most soul-nourishing way.” Katherine recently gave a TEDx talk on how stories teach us empathy, and her work has appeared in USA Today, InStyle, Redbook, People, Vanity Fair, The Atlantic, Real Simple, Southern Living, and InTouch, among others. Katherine lives in her hometown of Houston, Texas, with her fun husband, two sweet kids, and fluffy-but-fierce dog.