Saturday Savings: More histories, more mysteries

Endeavour Press discounted two biographies of Queen Victoria and one of Prince Albert, her husband, today (Saturday, 10 September 2016):

victoria1Queen Victoria, compiled by the queen’s librarian, was written to celebrate her Diamond Jubilee in 1897 and relies on the queen’s own notes. Richard Rivington Holmes provides contemporary insight into the queen, her peers, her background and her heirs. He also explores her lineage and how she came to inherit the throne and rule the British Empire. It’s on sale today for 99 cents (USD), a significant savings from the print list price of $25.95 (hardbound) or $26.95 (paperback). Sir Richard Rivington Holmes (1835-1911) was a British archivist and courtier, best known for being Librarian to the Queen at Windsor Castle. He was reappointed this role in 1901 by King Edward VII. He is also well known for his large Ethiopian artefact collection that has been catalogued into the British museum. Holmes is buried in Buckinghamshire.

A second Jubilee memoir, Victoria, Queen and Empresswas also written tovictoria2 celebrate 50 years of rule. G. Holden Pike received access to Victoria’s diaries to pen his biography.  It, too, has been discounted to 99 cents (USD), from a list price of $22.95 (hardbound). Holden Pike covers topics such as the Queen’s education, through to Prince Albert’s death, and finally to the Golden Jubilee, alongside other contextually relevant aspects of the Victorian era. Godfrey Holden Pike (1836-1910) was the sub-editor of The Sword and The Trowel for twenty years. He contributed many articles to the magazine, alongside penning many historical and biographical works such as Oliver Cromwell and His Times, and From Slave to College President.

albertHector Bolitho, the renowned biographer of royals, tackles Victoria’s husband in Albert, Prince ConsortThis one is also on sale for 99 cents (USD) today. Bolitho explores the life and personality of Prince Albert, from his birth in Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, his marriage and restraining influence on Queen Victoria and his early death from typhoid.

Earlier this week, Lea Wait’s Shadows on a Morning in Mainethe eighth in her Antique Print Mystery series, was released. It’s available for $4.99 (USD). (See my Sister Sites page for more info on Lea’s website.) I’m really, really, really ready to escape from the unrelenting heat and humidity of the Gulf Coast, so a virtual vacation to Maine sounds perfect.

shadowsDescription: Antique print dealer Maggie Summer’s making big changes in her life. She’s taken a sabbatical from her college teaching job and moved to the coast of Maine to run an antique mall with Will Brewer, her significant other, and is finally hoping to adopt the daughter she’s been hoping for. However, the troubled girl referred to her doesn’t want any part of the plan, showing affection only for harbor seals, which remind her of her “real mother.” Maggie’s distraught when someone starts shooting the seals — and the a young fisherman is murdered. When Will then confesses a secret from his past, she begins to wonder if moving to Maine is the biggest mistake of her life.

R. Allen Chappell has been compared to Tony Hillerman — which is recommendation enough for any mystery fan. His Navajo Autumn is discounted to 99 cents (USD) today from $2.99. I read a sample, enough to make me want to read more.

Description: Thomas Begay is found dead-drunk under the La Plata Bridge …not unusual for Thomas Begay. What is unusual, is BIA investigator Patsy Greyhorse, found lying beside him …not drunk, or even a Navajo, but very dead nonetheless. Long time friend Charlie Yazzi, fresh from law school, risks his career …and even his life to help his old schoolmate. The Answer seems to lie with the Yeenaaldiooshii …should one choose to believe in such things. In the far reaches of the reservation there still are traditional Navajos living their lives with few concessions to modern mores. Guided by their strong sense of cultural heritage these outliers remain a strong anchor for the Navajo Nation. This story follows the lives of such people, caught up in a plot that could have far-reaching implications for the entire tribe.

Saturday Savings 03.09.2016

Histories, mysteries and more . . .

Labor Day weekend brings an end, for some, to summer, and the beginning, to others, of college football season. Mister Sister and I spent the last few days giving our house a much-needed deep cleaning as we get ready for Game Day celebrations. I’m ready to relax (after the game, of course) with some good books. Here’s what I’ve found on sale today:

TitanicWalter Lord’s account of the Titanic disaster earned him a reputation for meticulously researched literary non-fiction. Open Road Media brings his A Night to Remember and The Night Lives On, which examines factual and fanciful theories surrounding the ship and its sinking, in The Complete Titanic Chronicles, discounted today to $4.99 (USD) — $20 off its list price!

Endeavour Press offers the sensational and best-selling history from Lord Russell of Liverpool of Nazi war crimes, detailing the illegal as well as immoralScourge atrocities committed against Germany’s own citizens, prisoners of war and others.  Lord Russell of Liverpool—né Edward Frederick Langley Russell, 2nd Baron Russell of Liverpool—was Deputy Judge Advocate General for the British Army of the Rhine, and was a chief legal adviser for Britain during the war crimes trials following World War II. The Scourge of the Swastika, his history of those crimes, is on sale today for $1.99 (USD), down from $14.99 (USD).

Mysterious Press discounts Aaron Elkins’ fourth Gideon Oliver mystery, Old Boneswhich won the Edgar Award and which was voted one of 100 Favorite Mysteries of the 20th Century by the Independent Booksellers Association, to $1.99 (USD) from $7.99.

BonesBook description: With the roar of thunder and the speed of a galloping horse comes the tide to Mont St. Michel goes the old nursery song. So when the aged patriarch of the du Rocher family falls victim to the perilous tide, even the old man’s family accepts the verdict of accidental drowning. But too quickly, this “accident” is followed by a bizarre discovery in the ancient du Rocher château: a human skeleton, wrapped in butcher paper, beneath the old stone flooring. Professor Gideon Oliver, lecturing on forensic anthropology at nearby St. Malo, is asked to examine the bones. He quickly demonstrates why he is known as the “Skeleton Detective,” providing the police with forensic details that lead them to conclude that these are the remains of a Nazi officer believed to have been murdered in the area during the Occupation. Or are they? Gideon himself has his doubts. Then, when another of the current du Rochers dies—this time via cyanide poisoning—his doubts solidify into a single certainty: someone wants old secrets to stay buried . . . and is perfectly willing to eradicate the meddlesome American to make that happen.

I love Rudyard Kipling’s stories, and Kim, the classic story of an orphaned boy, a lama and two empires clashing over one magical land, is free today, thanks to Open Road Media.

The torch burns in Rio

Saturday Savings 06.08.2016 celebrates the games

Olympic LordsReady or not, Rio de Janeiro is aflame with the 2016 Olympic Games. The athletes, and the spectators, have arrived and it’s time to look beyond the accommodations, the displaced, and the threat of Zika to the competition.

It’s also a good time to look back, to past games and past glories. Endeavour Press is discounting two ebooks — one which is really a long essay originally published in 2012 about the three lords who brought the Olympic Games to London, the other , the other about the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin — to help readers get in the mood.

Lords of the Olympics by John Bryant tells the story of the three British Lords who brought the Olympic Games to London, the only city to host them three times.  It’s a short read, 40 or so pages, written by a Fleet Street journalist and lifelong athlete who also coached an Olympian, but it’s only 99 cents (USD) today.

Each of the three brought the games to London in his own way. Each also snatched triumph when the Games faced disaster and crisis.

Lord Desborough, the perfect Edwardian sportsman – cricketer, sculler, fencer and huntsman – masterminded the Games in just two years when a near bankrupt Italy pulled out. He bequeathed the Edwardian concept of “play up, play up and play the game” which was to set the tone of international sport for 70 years.

Lord Burghley stepped in when two great wars ripped the world apart. There were no Olympics in 1940 or 1944, but with just two years to go he demonstrated that the Olympics were about sport and not war. Britain was almost bankrupt, rationing was rife, and bombsites littered the London landscape. But in these make-do-and-mend Olympics, Lord Burghley and the indomitable spirit of London overcame every obstacle.

Lord Coe, one of the greatest middle-distance runners that Britain has ever produced, faced a different problem when he entered the race to bring the Olympics back to London. In a fiercely commercial word everyone wants the Games. He’s had to see off the threats of corrupt and unethical practices, the gift-giving and inflated budgets that have haunted recent bids to secure the Games.

Remember Gabrielle? Grace, Gold, and Glory is the autobiography of the girl Gabbywho stole hearts and made U.S. Olympic history in London during the 2012 games.  It’s a tale of faith, perserverance and determination, from the first U.S. woman’s gymnast to win gold in team and individual events. The ebook is $1.99 (USD) today. Gabrielle began her training at age six, and became the Virginia State Champion only two years later. When she was 14, she left her family in Virginia Beach to train with coach Liang Chow in Des Moines, Iowa. Under Chow’s guidance, and with tremendous faith in God’s plan for her, Gabrielle competed in the Olympic Trials and walked away with the only guaranteed spot on the team. Since her Olympic triumph, Gabrielle has used her platform to inspire millions with a powerful message: With hard work and persistence, any dream is possible.

Nazi OlympicsThe Nazi Olympics by Richard D. Mandell, also 99 cents today, describes the staging of a fantasy-drama that was, in essence, a superbly engineered piece of Nazi “realpolitik.” Over 5,000 athletes from 28 nations fought as political gladiators. Hundreds of pampered foreigners, journalists, businessmen, and diplomats abandoned themselves — and their judgment — to the extravaganza. The Nazis controlled Germany, and they expected the games to prove Aryan supremacy (and all their other bigoted beliefs) to the watching world. It didn’t work out that way, thanks to the athletes:

Jess Owens:  black, beautiful, and innocent.

Helen Stephens: “the fastest woman in the world.”

Kitei Son: a Korean running the marathon under the hated Japanese flag

Helene Mayer: the statuesque, half-Jewish fencing champion who became a “cause célèbre” by competing under the swastika.

Richard D. Mandell (1929-2013) was a professor of history at the University of South Carolina. He was also the author of Sport: A Cultural History, The First Modern Olympics. and The Nazi Olympics

Kindle ebook $9.99 (USD)
Kindle ebook $9.99 (USD)

I anticipated the games by starting The Boys in the Boat, another tale from the 1936 Olympics, but one which is not discounted.  Daniel James Brown recounts an irresistible story about beating the odds and finding hope in the most desperate times with this improbably and intimate account of nine working-class boys from the American West who showed the world what true grit really means.

It was an unlikely quest from the start. With a team composed of the sons of loggers, shipyard workers, and farmers, the University of Washington’s eight-oar crew team was never expected to defeat the elite teams of the East Coast and Great Britain, yet they did, going on to shock the world by defeating the German team rowing for Adolf Hitler. The emotional heart of the tale lies with Joe Rantz, a teenager without family or prospects, who rows not only to regain his shattered self-regard but also to find a real place for himself in the world. Drawing on the boys’ own journals and vivid memories of a once-in-a-lifetime shared dream, Brown has created an unforgettable portrait of an era, a celebration of a remarkable achievement, and a chronicle of one extraordinary young man’s personal quest.

Saturday Savings 23.07.2016

The Scottie Barked at Midnight

Scottie BarkedThe ninth book in this popular cozy mystery series is on sale at $2.99 (USD), half the $5.99 price. This is a series I’ve only recently started, so I have yet to read this mystery, but the whole series gets an enthusiastic endorsement from one of my reading friends, Stacey, and I think she’s a good judge of a good cozy mystery.

Description:  Spring is just a few weeks away, but winter is still digging its claws into Moosetookalook, Maine. With business at the Scottish Emporium frozen up, Liss MacCrimmon is cautiously optimistic when a twist of fate lands her on a reality competition show—until the contest gets a little too cutthroat . . . While driving on an icy road one night, Liss swerves her car when something darts out in front of it. The Scottish terrier she finds shivering in the snow turns out to be a reality TV star. But when the pooch’s owner is murdered, her daughter asks Liss to take her place on the reality show. Before Liss can tell her she’s barking up the wrong tree, she finds herself ensnarled in the strange world of reality competitions and hot on the trail of a deadly competitor. And just as she starts pawing at the truth, Liss realizes she could be next on the murderer’s list.

DunnettAbout the Author:  Kaitlyn Dunnett first caught the Scottish heritage bug when her husband learned to play the bagpipes. Many Scottish festivals and parades later, and after a brief stint as bass drummer with a bagpipe band, she decided to combine her love of things Scottish with her love of writing. The Liss MacCrimmon mysteries are the result. Kaitlyn lives on a Christmas tree farm in the mountains of western Maine and can be reached through her website at www.kaitlyndunnett.com.

Click the image below to see the entire Liss MacCrimmon series:

Kilt Dead

is scheduled to be released 26 July 2016.

I’d heard of Nicholas Sparks, but I never read any of his best-selling novels until I started borrowing them from my beautiful mom-by-marriage, and, I confess, I enjoy them almost as much as she does.  I found The Rescuea novel published in 2000 on sale today for $1.99 (USD). Most of his ebooks are priced at $7.99 (USD), so this is a significant savings.

RescueDescription: When confronted by raging fires or deadly accidents, volunteer firefighter Taylor McAden feels compelled to take terrifying risks to save lives. But there is one leap of faith Taylor can’t bring himself to make: he can’t fall in love. For all his adult years, Taylor has sought out women who need to be rescued, women he leaves as soon as their crisis is over and the relationship starts to become truly intimate. When a raging storm hits his small Southern town, single mother Denise Holton’s car skids off the road. The young mom is with her four-year-old son Kyle, a boy with severe learning disabilities and for whom she has sacrificed everything. Taylor McAden finds her unconscious and bleeding, but does not find Kyle. When Denise wakes, the chilling truth becomes clear to both of them: Kyle is gone. During the search for Kyle, the connection between Taylor and Denise takes root. Taylor doesn’t know that this rescue will be different from all the others.

roger ackroydI’ve collected Agatha Christies since I was in my teens, and I had at least one copy of every title when I was in my twenties, but one in particular — The Murder of Roger Ackroyd — mysteriously disappeared every time I moved. Now, I have a Kindle edition which cannot go astray. Today, this classic mystery is discounted to $1.99 (USD), and it is one that belongs in the library of every mystery fan if not of every well-rounded reader. This is the book that made Christie, the bestselling mystery writer of all time, a household name. Debates raged over whether Christie played fair. I think she did. Other writers have since copied her clever plot device, but, to my mind, no one has ever equaled this effort. This is one I can read over and over and over again and enjoy each reading as much as I did the first time.

Description:  In the village of King’s Abbot, a widow’s sudden suicide sparks rumors that she murdered her first husband, was being blackmailed, and was carrying on a secret affair with the wealthy Roger Ackroyd. The following evening, Ackroyd is murdered in his locked study — but not before receiving a letter identifying the widow’s blackmailer. King’s Abbot is crawling with suspects, including a nervous butler, Ackroyd’s wayward stepson, and his sister-in-law, Mrs. Cecil Ackroyd, who has taken up residence in the victim’s home. It’s now up to the famous Hercule Poirot, who has retired to King’s Abbot to grow vegetable marrows, to solve the case of who killed Roger Ackroyd.

And, last but by no means least, the bestselling, epic account of one of the most significant battles of the Vietnam War, We Were Soldiers Once . . . and Young by retired Lt. Gen. Harold G. Moore and Joseph Galloway, is on sale at $2.99 (USD) today. Soldiers Once

Description:  In November 1965, some 450 men of the First Battalion, Seventh Cavalry, under the command of Lt. Col. Harold Moore, were dropped into a small clearing in the Ia Drang Valley. They were immediately surrounded by 2,000 North Vietnamese soldiers. Three days later, only two and a half miles away, a sister battalion was brutally slaughtered. Together, these actions at the landing zones X-Ray and Albany constituted one of the most savage and significant battles of the Vietnam War. They were the first major engagements between the US Army and the People’s Army of Vietnam. How these Americans persevered—sacrificing themselves for their comrades and never giving up—creates a vivid portrait of war at its most devastating and inspiring. Lt. Gen. Moore and Joseph L. Galloway—the only journalist on the ground throughout the fighting—interviewed hundreds of men who fought in the battle, including the North Vietnamese commanders. Their poignant account rises above the ordeal it chronicles to depict men facing the ultimate challenge, dealing with it in ways they would have once found unimaginable. It reveals to us, as rarely before, man’s most heroic and horrendous endeavor.

Saturday savings . . .

The Great War, WWII, and so much more

The Battle of the Somme, Britain’s bloodiest battle in all time, occurred 100 years ago, and the UK’s Endeavour Press marks the sacrifice with a sale on several books about the great battle and the Great War, most for a mere 99 cents (USD).  Other significant savings are available today, from biographies & memoirs to historical fiction set in World War II.  It’s a great day to have a Kindle!

SommeSubaltern on the Somme  is the memoir of a junior officer whose regiment suffered the heaviest casualties of any unit on the first day of the battle, with 70 percent killed or wounded.  Max Plowman, who served in the 10th Battalion, the West Yorkshire Regiment, tells the story of trench warfare from the perspective of a junior officer.

“The war of attrition” entered the military lexicon in 1916, and Attrition: The Great War on the Western Front by Robin Neillands explores the beginning of this new form of warfare.

At the start of 1916, the outlook was the Franco-British Armies on the AttritionWestern Front. They were getting the men and guns they needed. New technology in the shape of tanks and aircraft was about to appear and, after more than a year of fighting what amounted to private wars, the Entente Powers (Britain, France, Italy and their allies) were about to mount a number of co-ordinated offensives against the German and Austrian Armies, culminating in the Big Push – a joint Anglo-French offensive astride the Somme.

But then, unfortunately for the Allies, the Germans struck first, at Verdun. By New Years Day, 1916, the fighting on the Western Front had cost some two million lives – by the end of the year it had risen to four million men and the territorial gains had been negligible. Focusing on this crucial year, Neillands examines the actions of the principal commanders as they sought a way to win the war and opted for the deadly doctrine of attrition: the notion that it was only possible to win by killing a vast number of soldiers. The soldiers, German, French, British, Canadian, Australian, died in their hundreds of thousands at Verdun, along the Ancre and on the Pozieres ridge in the muddy fields above the Somme.

A controversial and compelling text, Attrition points at the failure of the high command to realise that until new offensive technology was invented to overcome the bias of defensive technology, the death toll could only rise, and asks why no system of Supreme Command was set up to handle the strategic direction of the war. Although 1916 did see some Allied success – the French held Verdun against the German assault, the British introduced the tank – when that fatal year ended, victory and peace were as far away as ever … and another two million lives had been lost.

Days to rememberDays to Remember explores the conflict in terms of Empire.  This is not merely the history of the Western Front, but the history of the colonials who fought, willingly or not, for the British Empire.

In this fascinating study, Henry Newbolt and John Buchan take a general overview of the First World War, from its causes to the aftermath, with the focus on the central role played by both Britain and its colonies. They cover the major campaigns on the Western Front – Ypres, Loos, Cambrai, Marrières Wood and the Marne, as well as the battles fought around the globe – in particular Galipolli and the capture of Jerusalem – and the main campaigns at sea.

Henry Newbolt was born in Wolverhampton in 1862, and went on to become a poet, novelist and historian. He was also a very powerful government adviser. John Buchan was a Scottish novelist, historian and Unionist politician who also served as Governor General of Canada. During the First World War he worked for the British War Propaganda Bureau. He is most famous for his classic thriller, ‘The 39 Steps’.

Animal Heroes of the Great War is the history of the furred and feathered Animal Heroessoldiers, from beasts of burdens to mascots and messengers:

During the World War I nearly 70 million combatants served in the armies of all the countries and empires, but there was another army involved, one that is often overlooked in the history of war: The army of animals that supported the armies of men.

From regimental mascots to beasts of burden, animals played a vital part in the war machine of all involved, and often beyond anything we might imagine. There was man’s best friend — brave, loyal dogs who served as patrolmen, messengers, sentries, even combatants and detectives. Communication has increased importance in modern warfare, yet at times a homing pigeon’s instinct of orientation was the sole hope available to soldiers in the field. And despite the lowering esteem in which conventional cavalry was held, horses were still able to go where the most modern of vehicles could not.

Focusing on the Allied Powers, Ernest Harold Baynes tells of “the work done by animals in helping to win the war,” recording the services and sacrifices borne by these noble animals and more, including the advent of chemical warfare and what it meant.

Ernest Harold Baynes (1868-1925) was an American writer and naturalist. After reporting for The New York Times, he regularly contributed articles to other newspapers and to magazines. A natural with wild animals, he became known for hand-rearing, protecting and championing their cause. Animal Heroes of the Great War was his last book.

Her Privates WeErnest Hemingway praised Her Privates We as “The finest and noblest book of men at war.” The classic novel of the Great War is set during the Battle of the Somme.

Her Privates We follows the story of Private Bourne, an ordinary soldier dealing with extraordinary circumstances. It conveys the camaraderie and heroism of the trenches and also explores the terror and monotony of being a soldier. A cloud of fatalism hangs over the narrative, which is brightened up through friendships, a shared, grim sense of humour and colourful conversations between the privates.

Bourne and his comrades must fight their demons within, as well as the enemy across No Man’s Land. Men die, but still a sense of duty endures. Her Privates We is as much a triumph of realism as it is of the imagination. Readers of both military history, and literary fiction, will continue to be haunted by its prose and insights.

“The book of books so far as the British army is concerned” T.E Lawrence

Frederic Manning was an Australian-born poet and novelist who moved to England at the age of 21. Much of his writing was inspired by his experiences in the infantry during the Great War. Her Privates We remains his most enduring work on the subject.

Delville Wood is the history of the one of the most bitterly contested battlesDelville Wood on the Western Front and of the 3,200 soldiers of the 1st South African Infantry Brigade that entered the battle on 14 July 1916.  Fewer than 800 mustered afterwards.

For six days and five nights, in the solitary square mile of Delville Wood, the South Africans stood firm against three crack German divisions. By the time they were relieved a legend had been born, but who were these men that took and held the wood in an inferno of exploding shells, flame-throwers, machine-gun and rifle fire? Fresh-faced youths, Boer War and South West African campaign veterans, enlistees with false names … all were volunteers whose overriding desire was to serve in France.

First published in 1983, Delville Wood remains a landmark volume commemorating the daring and fortitude of South Africa’s soldiers at the Somme during the First World War. In forming an overall picture of each day’s fighting through the words of the survivors, the statistics of battle are cast aside by Uys in favour of something altogether more profound, exploring their characters and ensuring they will never be forgotten

Ian Uys (b. 1942) is a South African accountant and author. A co-founder of the Military Medal Society of SA and former committee member of the SA Military History Society — and related to a survivor of the battle of Delville Wood — his interests have led him to write many books on the subject.

And, finally, a profile of the Desert Fox, Johannes Erwin Eugen Rommel, Rommel’s Great War by Gordon Corrigan.Rommel

Born in 1891, Rommel did not come from a militaristic family, nor from the military stronghold of Prussia, but instead from a small town in southern Germany and son to a long line of schoolmasters. Initially he showed no inclination towards a military career with interests in physics and engineering, but his father pushed him towards the army.

He joined the army in 1910 at the age of eighteen, within one year he would rise to the rank of sergeant. As war broke out in Europe Rommel and his regiment marched out of the barracks to the sound of drums and cheering as they boarded the troop train to the western front.

Gordon Corrigan provides expert analysis of World War I, both in terms of what it would have been like for a young officer like Rommel as well as the wider political and militaristic movements that were occurring at this time. This thoroughly researched profile gives fascinating detail on Rommel’s life, from when he was first shot and wounded in trench warfare, his experience of combat in the Romanian mountains and on the Italian front, through to his life after the war in the tumultuous years of the Weimar Republic. It was in these years that the Desert Fox learned his trade and forged into Rommel such a formidable opponent during the Second World War.

Beyond the ShadowMoving forward to World War II, today brings what is likely to be a short-term offer of Beyond the Shadow of War, the long awaited sequel to Diane Moody’s bestselling Of Windmills and War (currently, $4.99 USD).

When the war finally ended in May of 1945, Lieutenant Danny McClain made good on his promise to come back for Anya in Holland. He expected her to put up a fight, but instead found her exhausted and utterly broken. Maybe it was unfair, asking her to marry him when she was so vulnerable. But this much he knew: he would spend a lifetime helping to make her whole again.

The war had taken everything from Anya–her family, her friends, her home, her faith. She clung to the walls she’d fortressed around her heart, but what future did she have apart from Danny? At least she wouldn’t be alone anymore. Or so she thought. When the American troops demobilize, Danny is sent home, forced to leave Anya behind in England. There she must wait with the other 70,000 war brides for passage to America. As England picks up the pieces of war’s debris in the months that follow, Anya shares a flat with three other war brides in London and rediscovers the healing bond of friendships.

Once again, Danny and Anya find themselves oceans apart, their marriage confined to little more than the handwritten pages of their letters while wondering if the shadow of war will ever diminish.

Enjoy!

Five Chimneys: A Woman Survivor’s True Story of Auschwitz

Highly Recommended

Five ChimneysIf you decide to read one and only one Holocaust memoir, you must consider Five Chimneys: A Woman Survivor’s True Story Of Auschwitz [Illustrated Edition] by Olga Lengyel, the wife of a Transylvanian physician who ended up in the Nazis’ most notorious death camp only because she could not believe, even as late as May of 1944, how treacherous they could be.

She learned quickly — starting with her first step on the platform of the train station at Cluj. Her husband, Dr. Miklos Lengyel, director of a 72-bed hospital and a Berlin-trained surgeon, had been detained and was to be deported to Germany. An S.S. officer graciously assured her that she was welcome to join him if she wished. She, their two sons, and her parents realized her mistake when the entire station was surrounded by armed sentries and they were forced with 90 others into a railcar designed to hold eight horses. It was the first, and perhaps the easiest, of the many lessons she would learn at the hands of the Nazis.

Mrs. Lengyel’s painfully poignant memoir — “Mea culpa,” she begins, “my fault, mea maxima culpa!” — was published within two years of the end of World War II. It has been on my Wish List since I read that Albert Einstein praised it as the best Holocaust memoir. Indeed, he wrote her personally to thank her for her “very frank, very well written book. You have done a great service by letting the ones who are now silent and most forgotten speak,” he wrote.

That, she tells us, is exactly why she wrote it. The few who survived carried a burden to tell the world what had happened there, to ensure the justice was served, and, more, to work to see that this should never happen again. It can be hard for us to realize now how successfully the Nazi regime concealed the atrocities that were carried out so blatantly behind the battle lines . . . even as similar atrocities happen again and again elsewhere around the globe.

“The Germans sinned grievously, but so did the rest of the nations, if only through refusing to believe and to toil day and night to save the wretched and the dispossessed by every possible means,” she wrote.

I have read many, many such memoirs, including in the last year those of two women who also survived Auschwitz-Birkenau, one of which I would recommend to anyone (see my review of Here There Is No Why) and one of which I would not recommend. Each woman has a different perspective. Mrs. Lengyel’s is both as personal and intimate as either and more comprehensive. Hers is a story of deeply painful, personal tragedy, yet she also saw and observed what went on throughout the camps and ensured that she survived to record it so that those who suffered it should not suffer in vain. Her account is detailed, and damning, and it includes lessons that cost more than anyone should ever be forced to pay.

“Perhaps the greatest crime the ‘supermen’ committed against us was their campaign, often successful, to turn us into monstrous beasts ourselves,” she writes in the final pages. Earlier chapters detail exactly how they did this, and how those of once unimpeachable integrity could be, and were, reduced to the lowest moral level. But that wasn’t all she saw, or all she learned. She also wrote of those who resisted on every level. “Because of these few, I have not entirely lost my faith in mankind. If, even in the jungle of Birkenau, all were not necessarily inhuman to their fellow men, then there is hope indeed. It is that hope which keeps me alive.”

That faith is one of the reasons her memoir is indispensable. If she, who witnessed and suffered all of this, could hold on to hope for us, we can’t be entirely lost. Yet.

Five Chimneys: A Woman Survivor’s True Story Of Auschwitz [Illustrated Edition] by Olga Lengyel, 234 pgs., biography & memoir, Holocaust, WWII history.  Hardcover and paperback editions also available.

The Hiding Place, 35th anniversary edition

The Hiding Place, 35th anniversary edition by Corrie ten Boom with Elizabeth and John Sherrill

foreword by Joni Eareckson Tada

“Every experience God gives us . . . is the perfect preparation for the future only He can see.” — Corrie ten Boom

One of Sis’s all-time favorite among biographies & memoirs, now in a special 35th anniversary Kindle edition. Sis hopes you didn’t miss the special sale price, but she assures you this story is worth the list price.  Hardbound and paperback editions are also available.  

Corrie ten Boom was a Dutch watchmaker who became a heroine of the Resistance, a survivor of Hitler’s concentration camps, and one of the most remarkable evangelists of the twentieth century. In World War II she and her family risked their lives to help Jews and underground workers escape from the Nazis, and for their work they were tested in the infamous Nazi death camps. Only Corrie among her family survived to tell the story of how faith ultimately triumphs over evil.  Here is the riveting account of how Corrie and her family were able to save many of God’s chosen people. For 35 years, millions have seen that there is no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still. Now The Hiding Place, repackaged for a new generation of readers, continues to declare that God’s love will overcome, heal, and restore.

Sis freely acknowledges that she has yet to know the depth of faith exhibited by either Corrie or her sister, Betjie, in either this book or in other books about their lives — but that doesn’t stop her from striving towards it. This is not only a riveting account of one family’s efforts to save Jews during World War II, but a compelling story of faith in action. Sis has read it dozens of times, as has her younger sis.  It is timeless, as important today as when it was first penned.  Or, possibly more?

Paperback Edition

Here There Is No Why

Available in Kindle ebook, paperback or used hardbound editions at Amazon.com
Available in Kindle ebook, paperback or used hardbound editions at Amazon.com

“Here There Is No Why” was the infamous Dr. Joseph Mengele’s answer to Roma, the author of one of the most compelling Holocaust memoirs, and to millions of Jewish victims of the Holocaust. Written to fulfill a promise made in the darkest moment of human history, this simple and eloquent story is unique in that it spans the geography of the Nazi’s Final Solution.

Rachel Roth, or “Roma” in Polish, has written perhaps the most compelling, the most powerful Holocaust/World War II memoir I have ever read.  If you only read one, you must consider this before you make your choice.

In part, it is powerful simply because Rachel Roth survived not only the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, but also three of the most notorious concentration camps, including Bergen-Belsen and Auschwitz — and Mengele’s infamous selections. It is also powerful because of the deftness with which she describes the experiences, at times painting terrifically detailed scenes, at times allowing the horrific events to speak for themselves without cloaking them in emotionally charged language. Yet the emotions are there, when they are most telling. One of the ways she survived was to dream of better times, to transport herself — and others, too — away from the camps to better times and places. After sharing one of these stories with those around her, an anonymous prisoner made her promise to write of what happened there. It would be decades before she was ready to do so.

In keeping her promise, she has given us a tremendous gift — and one that cost her a great deal in recalled pain. It is understandable that she needed time to fulfill the promise, though it is also unfortunate that earlier generations were denied the gift she offers here.

The result is a rare first-hand look at life in the Jewish Ghetto until its destruction, as well as life in some of the most notorious concentration camps, and a tale that encompasses love and hate, kindness and cruelty, grace and horror. It deserves a lasting place in the library of anyone interested in history or the Holocaust. Or simply in human nature.

About the author:  Rachel Roth was the teenage daughter of a journalist when Hitler became a topic of conversation in her family’s summer colony. She is an outspoken witness to life in the Warsaw Ghetto and a participant in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising.  She poignantly relays to audiences the daily events of a schoolgirl under German occupation of Poland. She survived the remainder of the war with her Aunt as they were transported into and out of Majdanek, Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen concentration camps. She has spoken in English and Hebrew before countless audiences of children and adults, in schools, universities, and synagogues as well as at the U.S. Department of State. Rachel was awarded an honorary diploma from the Ramaz Upper School in New York City in recognition of her studies in the Warsaw Ghetto and her dedication to Holocaust education

Note:  Sis first read this through the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library.  Its impact on her affected many of her friends and fellow readers, who then borrowed or bought copies . . . and one of those friends, realizing that Sis didn’t even own a copy of the book she had so highly recommended, sent her the gift of the ebook for her very own.  It is definitely one she’ll read again.

Kindle Edition, $3.99 list price

Paperback, $14.55

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