book review, history

The Tattooist of Auschwitz

Since beginning social distancing, I’ve been diving into my massive TBR list containing books that I’ve had waiting for months upon months. First up, The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris. It’s the memoir of Ludwig “Lali” Sokolov nee Eisenberg, called Lale in the book, and he was once the tattooer of Auschwitz.

  • Genre: Memoir
  • Overall Rating 5/6 Glass Slippers

In April of 1942, Lale arrived in Auschwitz-Berkinau. Due to his wit and talent for languages, he was soon made the tattooist’s apprentice, then the tattooist himself. He was put in the dangerous and prestigious position of tattooing the numbers on the arm of everyone who entered the camp. He had to be a cog in the Nazi machine, but was also able to help save a few lives.

His tattooing bag is a free pass through the camp, a sign of his status as an essential worker. He’s able to speak with guards, meet the workers from the nearby village who are building the crematoriums, and barter for food with goods slipped from the warehouse used to store and sort the stolen possessions of the prisoners. But Lale uses the most of his influence to keep someone special alive.

He first notices Gita’s dark eyes, and soon he’s smitten with the young woman in a way he can’t explain. He begs and steals, cutting deals to get her a job in the administration office where at least she’ll be warm in the long winter months. He trades hidden gems for chocolate with the village workers for her, and does everything in his power to make sure that when they’re free, they’ll have a future together. But first, they have to survive.

In college, I studied the Holocaust in depth, reading memoirs, taking classes, and taking advantage of my school’s Holocaust Resource Center where survivors would often come to speak. Overall, I found the memoir to be both heart wrenching, and a good lesson in humanizing what happened and how it changed the world. It’s easy to look at numbers in a text book and skim over the labels of Jew and Gypsy without really internalizing what those numbers truly mean. Lali wasn’t a number, nor were any of the other victims.

I wrote many papers on that part of history in my genocidal studies program, Auschwitz-Birkenau and Dr. Mengele in particular. I found some inconsistencies in how Morris portrayed Mengele and his experiments, fabricating some parts perhaps for shock value, although what he did was so terrible without the additional attractions, I didn’t see the reason for them. There were other inconsistencies highlighted by the Auschwitz Memorial Research Center, but I won’t go into because after all is said and done, this isn’t a history book, it’s a memoir based on the extraordinary life of one man.

Overall, I enjoyed the book and the story it told, even with the inaccuracies and simple phrasings. Memories, like memoirs, are tricky things, but I don’t think I’ll ever be able to forget the story of Lali Sokolov.

history, Podcast

My Fav Podcasts

With the quarantines and social distancing , we’re all looking for ways to escape a bit. While I love reading and writing, I always adore a good podcast. I’ve compiled a list of shows I really enjoy, so while you’re working out, taking walks, driving, cleaning, whatever, you can immerse yourselves in some awesome stories. I listen strictly on the Apple Podcast app, but these shows are usually available on all podcast platforms.

Crime Junkies

Crime Junkies is a true crime series hosted by a pair of best friends who lay out the facts about murders, kidnappings, and missing people in a way that really pulls you in. While they cover the big stories, they also dive into the lesser known cases that might be new for you. It’s great for true crime lovers who aren’t looking to be bogged down with too much back story. The hosts are also really good at connecting with their fans and have active blogs and Facebook pages so you can double down. You can listen on any podcast platform HERE.

Tumanbay

This podcast was inspired by the Mamluk Slave Dynasty of ancient Egypt and pulls historical themes and all new elements in to build a sweeping story. It follows the intertwining lives of several people, including the nephew of a Sultan, a king turned slave, a slave trader’s daughter, and a mysterious queen with a vast network of spies. It really feels like you’re listening to an episode of Game of Thrones without the dragons. Really, the narration and the background noises are insanely good. From BBC Radio, it’s available HERE or wherever you listen to your podcasts.

History Extra Podcast

A podcast that follows the stories published in BBC History Magazine, it delivers bite sized facts for any history lover. From war to food to famous figures, there are dozens of episodes that cover a multitude of themes and periods. History fans really shouldn’t miss this informative show, which has taught me quite a few lesser-known tales from bygone ages. You can begin listening HERE.

Dateline

This one is exactly what you think…Dateline shows turned podcast episodes. Watching Dateline was never my thing, but I really like true crime and enjoy how each Dateline episode is folded into a neat story. It’s edited in such a way that not seeing the evidence and photos doesn’t complicate things. You can start listening now HERE.

Noble Blood

Noble Blood is a new favorite of mine. It lays out the darker stories of the kings, queens, and other blue bloods who had less than picture perfect lives…or ends. It’s sparked more than a few midnight Google searches, which is basically what we all need right now. History and royalty lovers will adore listening to tales of poison, jilted lovers, and missing gems. Dive in HERE.

The White Vault

A fictional found footage drama, each season follows a new cast as they explore and unearth ancient secrets that are more dangerous than they could ever imagine. The cast is amazing and the storyline is detailed, but easy enough to follow, even if you’re multi-tasking. Fans of horror and sci-fi will probably really enjoy following the repair team to an arctic outpost or a team of archeologists as they explore hidden caves. Start listening on any platform HERE.

Stuff you Missed in History Class

This show is a lighter look at some of the stranger pieces of history, like the Victorian Orchid craze or the haunted Flannan Islands. Of course they cover some of the basic historical themes like World War II, but from new angles that are great for old fans of specific eras or newbies interested in learning some fun facts. It’s a nice way to learn a fun fact or two incase Jeopardy ever calls. They’re on all platforms, so start listening HERE.

We’re Alive

Set in the backdrop of a zombie apocalypse, it follows a ragtag military team as they try to contain an outbreak and pick up civilians along the way. Each character has their own voice actor and the stories, while deep, are easy to follow. The story continues for decades with the cast aging, dying, having kids, and exploring new ways of finding out how to rebuild in a post-undead world. Horror and sci-fi fans will declare this one a hit. Start listening HERE.

Blackout

Rami Malek is the star host of this apocalyptic drama where he plays a small town radio DJ who watches as the world goes dark. As his teenage son and his friends try to make their way home from a camping trip, Rami’s character tries to stick to the facts on his radio show as things around him fall apart. Part thriller, part drama, it’s a must for lost who enjoy heart racing stories. Begin episode one HERE.


I’m always on the lookout for something new. If you have a podcast to share, please let me know! And Sarah and I both hope that you and your families stay safe, happy, and healthy in this difficult time.

audiobook, book review, New Book, review

The Broken

My favorite time hopping series is back in audiobook form. That’s right, I’m talking about Echoes from the Past by Irina Shapiro. Today, I’d like to discuss the series’s grand finale, The Broken. As always, I will try to keep my review relatively spoiler free, but if I surprise you, remember this amazing series is on book eight!

  • Overall Rating: 6/6 Glass Slippers
  • Genre: Historical and Contemporary Romance and Drama
  • Heat Rating: ♥♥

In 2015 Dr. Quinn Allenby is called to inspect the skeletal remains of an infant for the hit TV show Echoes from the Past, a program that “solves” old murders and deaths from centuries ago. A mother herself, the work is especially difficult, as the remains have been tampered with and the skeleton is new enough that, for the first time, the family might be still alive. But with the help of a broach found with the baby, she’ll work to put a name to the remains.

In 1955 nurse Helen meets David, who sweeps her off her feet. At first, their courtship is secretive, as Helen’s mother despises the thought of her only child being whisked away. And once they’re allowed to wed, Helen believes herself to be the luckiest woman alive. But when a chance discovery in her mother’s bedroom threatens not only her marriage, but her immortal soul, Helen will have to decide if the truth is worth her happiness.

Through the decades, a secret has been kept, one buried in the garden of an unassuming London home.

As always, I was immediately drawn into the story in a way I’m normally not when it comes to most books. Falling back into Quinn’s complicated life with her messy, extended family is always fun, as is following her into the past to untangle the life of someone who’s only left bones behind. Her tale is one of back stabbing siblings, unreliable parents, and a marriage stronger than most I read about. She has to fight for the shreds of normalcy like packing her daughter Emma’s lunch for school and setting up coffee meetings with her boss in between fact checking her visions.

Since this is the last book in the series, I’ll miss it greatly. The way Shapiro is able to weave the past and present together to form a seamless story is something I’ll always admire. She ended the series in a strong, yet organic, way where most storylines are tied up, and while the future is uncertain for some of the cast, they’ve all more or less ended up just where they needed to be.

Overall, and as always, I recommend this book, and all of Echoes from the Past to all contemporary and historical fiction fans who are looking for their next six glass slipper read.

book review, history, review, television

The Bonfire of Destiny

Hello, everyone! It’s freezing here in New Jersey, which means it’s time to binge read and watch until I can go outside without 64 layers on. So between my usual book reviews, I’ll be sharing shows I think you should be watching. And if it’s based on true events, I’ll give you the real deal.

The first show? The Bonfire of Destiny.

Genre: Historical Drama

Where to Watch: Netflix

In 1897 Paris, the aristocracy has descended on an annual charity bazaar to see the moving picture show, shop with all their wealthy friends, and generally be seen. It’s just one of the many social functions for the French elite who have no idea, tragedy will strike.

Adrienne is the unhappy wife of a politician who mistreats her terribly. Although he has just sent their daughter away to boarding school to punish Adrienne, she must still make an appearance at the bazaar. As soon as she shows her face, she slips back outside and into a waiting carriage, safe from the impending flames. But she’s not free from danger.

Alice, Adrienne’s niece, is thrilled to go out on the town with her maid Rose, both to do some shopping and to see a man she’s had her eye on. Wide eyed and wealthy, she’s has a good heart and doesn’t expect one small fire to destroy everything. And as those around her being sifting through the rubble, she sees everything in a new light.

Rose the maid is gearing up to sail to a new life with her husband Jean. She’s fiercely dedicated to Alice, and even goes back into the building to se if she can save her mistress before the fire gets out of hand. She enters the bazaar a nobody, and like a Phoenix, rises from the ashes.

The mood is electric and stories are intertwined as a fire both destroys lives and gives the chance for new ones. As the show goes on, murder, intrigue, and secret affairs are revealed with death in the background.

Even if historical shows aren’t usually your deal, the soapy dramas and lovable, and hatable, characters pull you in. The voiceovers are immaculate, and every episode leaves you wondering when the other shoe will drop.


Onto the facts! Starting in 1885, the Catholic aristocracy of Paris held the annual charity bazaar. It was a chance for the wealthy women and their maids to socialize while giving back to a good cause. But in 1897, everything would literally come crashing down.

The bazaar that year was held in a wooden building, where the inside was transformed into a medieval Paris street with the use of wood, papier-mâché, canvas for a roof, and other various other flammable things. Scheduled to last for four days, it was expected to be a hit.

More than 1,500 people were in attendance on the second day of the bazaar. Even Americans and other Europeans came to see the sites. One of the most notable was Duchess Sophie, the sister of Empress Elisabeth of Austria. At around four thirty, the projector in the small cinema caught on fire. The fire burned hot and fast, rapidly engulfing the building in flames and setting the cloth ceiling alight.

There were several exits, but none of them were clearly marked, and some were hidden behind the decorations. Many ran for the main doors, which were soon clogged with people. There were men in attendance, who were faster and stronger than the women, who struggled to move quickly in their mass of skirts. There were reports of men pushing women and children out of the way to escape first.

This was before the idea of modern fire safety. There was a fire brigade, but no contemporary hydrants or way for them to really put out the flames. People escaped though some of the exits, though many of the doors opened inwards and jammed when frantic people pushed against them. Those outside broke out windows to help people climb to the streets. Most notably, the cook and manager of the Hotel du Palais broke bars off a window and saved over 150 women while also poring water down on the flaming bazaar from the hotel.

But the fire moved quickly and soon it became too risky to try to save anyone else. People, mostly women, were still trapped inside. Their skirts were flammable, many had been trampled, and the walls and ceiling were beginning to fall. The fireman continued to spray the building as those inside screamed until the only sound that was left was the crackle of fire.

In the end, 126 people were confirmed dead while around 200 were injured. Many were so badly burned, they could only be identified by their jewelry. Some dentists were even called on to identify their patients by their teeth, one of the first uses of dental records in the identification of a body.

The aristocracy, and the Parisians at large, we’re shocked and demanded both an explanation and justice. In the end, it was officially noted to be an accident. But the public still wanted someone to answer for the tragedy.

The President of the Charity Bazaar Committee Ange-Ferdinand-Armand, the Baron of Mackau was the first. His charge was negligence, as he didn’t hire enough staff or ensure the doors were clearly marked. Then came the cinema operator Victor Bailac and his assistant Gregoire Bagrachow. Apparently, the light for the projector went out and the cinema staff had to hurry to relight the small flame. But in their haste, a mistake was made as the match they used lit the ether gasses that surrounded them. Soon, the drapery caught fire and the damage was done.

In the end, all charged were set to pay fines, and Bailac and Bagrachow were sentenced to short prison terms. Items found in the bazaar’s rubble were auctioned off and the lessons learned from the tragedy resulted in better fire safety laws in France.


I hope you enjoyed this little look into The Bonfire of Destiny. Check back soon for similar posts on shows like Vikings, You, Daybreakers, Banished, and more.

book review

Twenties Girl

It’s the ’20s again, and for the first review of the year, I’d like to talk about Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella.

  • Genre: Romantic Comedy/Chick Lit
  • Heat Level: ❤️❤️
  • Overall Rating: 5/6 Glass Slippers

Lara is adrift in the world when she’s forced to go to her estranged Great Aunt Sadie’s funeral. She barely knew Sadie existed, as her father and rich, coffee baron uncle never really brought her up. But as Lara sits in the nearly empty funeral home, a slim, chic, upset young woman yells, “Where’s my necklace?”

Lara soon learns she’s the only one who can see Sadie’s ghost. Sadie appears as she did in the 1920’s, glamorous and blunt with a smart mouth and a missing dragonfly necklace, and she won’t rest until Lara finds her favorite jewelry. And no one is louder or pushier than Sadie.

She needs to save her failing business, reclaim the love of her ex boyfriend, and stop Sadie from using her shrill scream to persuade people to do her bidding…including having an American man go on a date with Lara so Sadie can live vicariously through her. From vintage shops and police stations to the London Portrait Gallery and backstage at a fashion show, Lara will do whatever it takes to help her new favorite aunt.

I’m a big Sophie Kinsella fan and always love the lighthearted stories she tells. I was skeptical of the paranormal aspect, as the only time I read ghost stories are when murder and horror are general themes. But Sadie is both a phantom and a real character with real feelings.

The romance in the story took a backseat to the relationship between Lara and Sadie. Their growing bond has highs and lows speckled with hilarious moments. I also enjoyed the small bits of flapper lifestyle like the makeup routine and how to do the Charleston dance.

Overall, Twenties Girl is a charming, witty take on chick lit and what it means to have a guardian angel.

Book Lists

Marietta Bound

Hello everyone!

While Sarah and I are working on some fun, new projects together and some solo books, I have some exciting news! Next year, I’ll be publishing a series of steamy, contemporary romances set in the fictional town of Marietta, Montana.

What makes the cozy, mining town full of cowboys unique is that it was created by Tule Publishing. Featuring a solid roadmap of businesses and landmarks, authors insert their own characters to bring Marietta to life. At the moment, I’m busy writing my own love stories in Marietta, so for now, here’s just a few of the books set in the town, from steamy rodeo romances to sweet holiday tales.

When Rachel inherits a bookstore in Marietta, she doesn’t think small town life would be for her. Texas born Atticus wants to expand his empire, starting with Marietta. Find out what happens during their first white Christmas HERE.

The Love in Montana Series features a cast of crossover characters from firemen to baseball stars, and can be read as individual standalones, or as a series. Start reading today HERE.

Christmas at Sleigh Bell farm is a sweet, holiday romance, perfect for Christmas. Order your copy HERE.

Love blooms in the Copper Mountain Chocolate Shop for three lucky couples. Date your sweet tooth HERE.

The Doctor’s Christmas Proposal follows Dr. Wyatt as he nurses his broken heart with the help of his best friend Mia. This steamy, second chance romance is available HERE.

The Zabrinski family are a tight knit clan of locals with big hearts and big stories to tell. Begin with book one of the Big Sky Mavericks series HERE.

In The Patolays of Montana series, Marietta locals find romance. Or more like romance finds them and refuses to let go. Begin reading HERE.

The Wildflower Ranch series is a sweet collection of stories about old fashioned cowboys and girls meeting their matches. Order your copy HERE.

Collie’s in Marietta to escape from a failed engagement. Michael’s tasked with getting the engagement ring back from Collie and going back to Chicago. But a simple task gets more complicated when sparks fly. Order your copy HERE.

The Frontier Montana series is a collection of steamy Historicals set in the early years of Marietta when cowboys reigned supreme. Begin reading HERE.

The Big Sky Hathaways series consists of two sweet, Christmas romances. One is already a fabulous Hallmark Channel movie you just might have seen! Order your copies HERE.

The Scot’s Montana Bride follows a Scottish man as he crosses an ocean to convince a cowgirl he’s the one for her. Start reading today HERE.

The Hanson Brothers series follows a trio of brothers as they search for love. This series is available HERE.

The Watson Brothers is a series that gives the mail order spouse theme a refreshing twist. Pick up your copies HERE.

A small town sweetheart and a bad boy turned big city tycoon cross paths once again in Falling for the Hometown Girl. Snag this second chance romance HERE.

Christmas Lights and Cowboy Nights follows Rosa, who’s looking for Mr. Right and Calvin, who’s looking for Miss Right Now. Find out if they can find some middle ground HERE.

The Bar V5 Ranch is the last place these five couples think they’ll find love. But romance blossoms in the most unlikely of places. Start reading this series HERE.

Scotswoman Emma’s been left at the alter. Ex football star Mitch wasn’t prepared for his Christmas to get all shook up. Meet them under the mistletoe HERE.

Bridal salon owner Lisa is poised to help make a celebrity wedding a success. Dr. Adam is enjoying his role as Marietta’s newest doctor. Wedding fever’s hit the town. Find the cure HERE.


There are dozens of other Marietta books and fun facts at the Tule website HERE. Small towns don’t mean small romance, and Marietta never disappoints. Happy reading!

book review

The Betrayed

Every time Irina Shapiro releases a new book, I wonder if it’ll have a happy ending. Will the couple who left only bones behind actually end up together? Will Quinn unlock her own past, which seems more unlikely with each page? In a collection of books that never get old, I’m always left with questions that never have easy answers.

Introducing The Betrayed, Echoes From the Past book seven by Irina Shapiro.

As always, I will try to avoid spoilers, but since this is the 7th book in the series, some things will slip through the cracks. Want to avoid that? Start with book one today, The Lovers. Trust me.

  • Heat Level: ❤️❤️
  • Genre: Historical and Contemporary Fiction
  • Overall Rating: 6/6 Glass Slippers

In 2005, Dr. Quinn Allenby unearthed a crucified skeleton in Ireland. Among the bones and dirt is a hamsa charm, a protective amulet often often used by Muslims. She can’t figure out how a Muslim would have found his way to Ireland and what led to the crucifixion.

In 1588, the Spanish Armada ship Rafael de Silva was sailing on crashes on the rocky coasts of Ireland. With limited English, a hidden hamsa, and wounded comrades, he’s trapped in hostile territory with no way home. And as the Protestant English forces progress into Catholic Ireland, protecting his identity becomes more vital than ever.

While trying to learn more about Rafael, Quinn is mired in mysteries in the present day as well. Her long lost sister isn’t lost anymore, not physically at least. But as Quinn pushes to get closer to Jo, Jo begins to run before her own past catches up to her. The secrets never end for poor Quinn, although she’ll do anything to set things right.

As always, I need a breather after each of Shapiro’s books. Not since Outlander has a series so completely set the bar for what a good book is. Each installment is so deliciously dark, but still makes you hope for just once, things won’t be as bad as Quinn’s skeletons make them out to be.

Quinn is completely lovable. Kind, selfless, and always eager to see the best in people, she’s never prepared for those close to her to betray her. Every book, I root for things in her life to go east on her, just once, and things always seem to just fall apart in both the past and present.

Overall, I suggest this book in ebook and audio format to all book lovers.