Posted in Lists

Thursday Musings: Recent book purchases

One of my favorite pastimes is scouting the Amazon Kindle books section for deals on some great books. My TBR pile is out of control and I love it. In recent weeks, it seems like there’s been plenty of great deals to keep me in books for a long time. Here’s some of my finds: 

The Betrayal by Laura Elliot

Nadine and Jake Saunders were married as teens. Tied to one another by a night of passion that resulted in a pregnancy neither could turn away from.

Now, years later, their children have all flown the nest and the pact they made as teenagers – to give one another the freedom to pursue their own dreams – has resurfaced. 

While Nadine and Jake begin to untangle their lives from one another, Jake embarks on a passionate affair with a beautiful woman, Karin Moylan. What he doesn’t know is the dark history Karin shares with Nadine. 

As lust spirals into dangerous obsession, Jake must break free from Karin. But he must also ask himself how well he ever really knew Nadine. What secret is she hiding? The truth, when it is revealed, could destroy them all. 
The Girl in the Maze by R.K. Jackson


When Martha Covington moves to Amberleen, Georgia, after her release from a psychiatric ward, she thinks her breakdown is behind her. A small town with a rich history, Amberleen feels like a fresh start. Taking a summer internship with the local historical society, Martha is tasked with gathering the stories of the Geechee residents of nearby Shell Heap Island, the descendants of slaves who have lived by their own traditions for the last three hundred years.

As Martha delves into her work, the voices she thought she left behind start whispering again, and she begins to doubt her recovery. When a grisly murder occurs, Martha finds herself at the center of a perfect storm—and she’s the perfect suspect. Without a soul to vouch for her innocence or her sanity, Martha disappears into the wilderness, battling the pull of madness and struggling to piece together a supernatural puzzle of age-old resentments, broken promises, and cold-blooded murder. She finds an unexpected ally in a handsome young man fighting his own battles. With his help, Martha journeys through a terrifying labyrinth—to find the truth and clear her name, if she can survive to tell the tale.

The True Story of Hansel and Gretel: A Novel of War and Survival by Louise Murphy

In the last months of the Nazi occupation of Poland, two children are left by their father and stepmother to find safety in a dense forest. Because their real names will reveal their Jewishness, they are renamed “Hansel” and “Gretel.” They wander in the woods until they are taken in by Magda, an eccentric and stubborn old woman called “witch” by the nearby villagers. Magda is determined to save them, even as a German officer arrives in the village with his own plans for the children. Combining classic themes of fairy tales and war literature, this haunting novel of journey and survival, of redemption and memory, powerfully depicts how war is experienced by families and especially by children, and tells a resonant, riveting story.

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Posted in Author Q&As

Author Q&A: Affinity Konar, “Mischling”

Mischling_Graphics3

To celebrate the paperback release of the amazing and emotional read, “Mischling,” I got a chance to ask author Affinity Konar some questions about the novel. I am a big fan of her debut work so I am thrilled to share her answers with you!

And if you haven’t read the book yet, go get a copy; you won’t be disappointed.


Why was this subject important for you to write about?
It was so important to me actually, that I wanted to not write it. My family left Poland in 1932, and were harbored safely in America, so while I was growing up I always felt pulled back to the period, and to what could have been, if my ancestors weren’t offered this refuge. I think it’s necessary to live with that warning in the back of your mind, especially today, to let it echo in remembrance. When I was a teenager, I found the story of the twins in Children of the Flames by Lucette Lagnado, and so many of the testimonies approached questions of to how to retain one’s own humanity, how to survive, resist, and attempt to restore oneself after unimaginable trauma. After I read that, I couldn’t stop imagining a conversation between a pair of twins whose bond was their refuge, their means to survival.


How did you find the balance between such a dark subject and an ultimately uplifting story?
The trickiness of finding that balance is one of the reasons that the book took so long to write. One doesn’t want to impose any kind of veneer that might lessen the trauma of a very real experience. But I wanted to pay tribute to stories of incredible endurance that I can’t help but be inspired by, specifically because they arose out of the extreme darkness of Shoah. So managing this element came down to voice for me, in the end. The imagery that arises out of the voices of Stasha and Pearl may be charming, but they function as veils for horror. It was my hope that the very necessity for these veils–or the fact that the girls would resort to such transformative thinking–would magnify the true peril that they endure.


What is your advice to aspiring authors?
I have to quote Sarah Manguso from “300 Arguments”. “I’ve written whole books to avoid writing other books.” That was my life for a long time. Nothing that came out of that avoidance was very good. So I’d say that honoring your desire to write about what scares you most is important. If it’s not terrifying you on a certain level, if might feel necessary enough to bring out the best you have to offer as a writer. Also, oatmeal is cheap and nutritious when times are lean, dogs are good for getting you out of the house, and you should read everything you can, whether you’re drawn to the text or not, because it all informs the kind of stance you’ll take on the page


What are you working on next?
It feels odd to talk about this, because this book has felt like my life’s work, and I honestly never expected to finish it, much less start another. But I have found myself writing in hotel rooms while touring, so I guess I won’t be stopping any time soon? It’s currently in chaos, but it’s a chaos centered by a search for meaning and restoration, and I suspect that this is an element that will always be afoot in whatever I attempt to do.



About the Author

2894415Affinity Konar was raised in California. While writing MISCHLING, she worked as a tutor, proofreader, technical writer, and editor of children’s educational workbooks. She studied fiction at SFSU and Columbia. She is of Polish-Jewish descent, and currently lives in Los Angeles.

She dearly misses writing about Pearl and Stasha, and is grateful to any reader who might find the company of the twins.

Posted in Reviews

Mischling by Affinity Konar

MischlingMischling by Affinity Konar

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Starting off: Mischling is about twins in Auschwitz and is a work of fiction. I highly, highly recommend Eva Kor’s memoir “Surviving the Angel of Death,” for a true story of this experience. Eva is a true hero and survivor – and is even mentioned in this book. I recommend reading Eva’s book first, to provide context and understanding of Mischling.

Now, to Mischling itself.

This book is difficult because of its subject – Mengele’s experiments on humans at Auschwitz – but it is an important work because it shines a light on one of the lesser-known horrors of the Holocaust and the after effects that weigh heavy on survivors.

The book follows Polish twins Stasha and Pearl, who are placed in Mengele’s “zoo,” with the other assortment of individuals he deemed interesting: twins/triplets primarily, but also dwarves, people with albinism, anyone he deemed “special.” Stasha and Pearl become separated before the camp’s liberation and face two distinct paths afterward toward a new future, in a new Poland scarred by war.

This book was incredibly moving and depicted the struggles not only of surviving the camps but also surviving afterward. It’s something that we don’t really think about, but survivors weren’t just suddenly welcomed back with open arms and given their homes and valuables back; they faced violence, fear, and uncertainty, along with the after effects of their terrible ordeals. This book does a good job of depicting that. It also shows why it was so important for these survivors to get justice – even years after the fact. Too often, people today dismiss this need for healing, but when you see the devastation and impact of someone like Mengele or other guards, you can get a glimpse of why it is so important.

At times, the book was hard to follow. The line between reality and illusion is purposely blurred in the book, which is presented as a bit of a gruesome fairy tale, but that also makes it hard for the reader to follow at certain points.

Overall, a very good work which chronicles something we must never forget.

View all my reviews