Monthly Book Blog Wrap-Up: October 2021

Happy first of November, everyone! (I can’t believe it’s already November?!) I thought I’d try a new post series where I summarize everything book blog-related that I did during the past month. That way, in case you missed anything, all my blog activity will be in one post. I might even throw in a few personal updates here and there.

Early in October I felt stressed because I had two blog tour deadlines, my very first blog tours ever; I wanted to finish and review at least one more NetGalley request to boost my percentage; and I had a library due date for a book I’d been trying to finish for over a month. So I set myself some goals in a pinned tweet and I’m happy to say I met them all!

So what was I up to in October 2021?

Book Reviews
I posted six reviews in October, two of which were for blog tours. From earliest to latest, I reviewed:

Book Memes
I only posted one book meme during October:

Other Book-ish Progress
I finished reading The Bone Ships by RJ Barker after seeing it pop up over and over on Twitter. Look for my review before the year is out! I also binge read A Deal With the Elf King by Elise Kova to lift my mood and absolutely loved it. It was exactly what I needed to read at that point in time.

I started my NetGalley ARC for The Bone Shard Emperor by Andrea Stewart. I’m very happy to be reading about Mephi again.

Lastly, I finally wrote my review for For the Wolf by Hannah Whitten. I finished it in July, but then we moved and writing a review for it got lost in the shuffle. But, again, look for that review before the end of the year.

If you’ve been following me, you probably know we moved to a new place (our first house!) in August. Since then we’ve mostly unpacked. We also did a lot of big outdoor projects during the hottest part of the summer. (Because why do it any other way?) In October we finally tackled the front yard landscaping. And by that I mean we dug up most of the shrubs/plants close to the house and put in all new shrubs/perennial flowers. That was a lot of work to remove established plants. We replanted a few of them in the back yard; we’ll see if they survive.

Now we need to tackle things like hanging up artwork, fixing dry wall, etc. Luckily we didn’t have to order a lot of additional furniture. But we did order a love seat for what I call the “fireplace room,” which will be a large reading nook. It’s velvet and emerald green and supposed to arrive tomorrow! Then we can finally decide if the 3 different rugs we bought match or if we need to return them.

We also had family visit to check out our new place. It’s nice to actually have comfortable space to host family overnight, not to mention perhaps entertain for a dinner. I also started my Christmas shopping because the news keeps talking about all of the shipping delays. Yes, some of those gifts will be books. Obviously.

What have you been up to during October?

Blog Tour: The Book of Uriel by Elyse Hoffman

Author: Elyse Hoffman
Publisher: Project 613 Publishing
Publish Date: January 26, 2021
Pages: 373
Type: Paperback
Amazon Link: The Book of Uriel*

*This is not an affiliate link and I do not make a commission from any purchase made using this link.

Official Synopsis
In the fires of World War II, a child must save his people from darkness…

Ten-year-old Uriel has always been an outcast. Born mute in a Jewish village known for its choir, he escapes into old stories of his people, stories of angels and monsters. But when the fires of the Holocaust consume his village, he learns that the stories he writes in his golden notebook are terrifyingly real.

In the aftermath of the attack, Uriel is taken in by Uwe, a kind-hearted linguist forced to work for the commander of the local Nazi Police, the affably brutal Major Brandt. Uwe wants to keep Uriel safe, but Uriel can’t stay hidden. The angels of his tales have come to him with a dire message: Michael, guardian angel of the Jewish people, is missing. Without their angel, the Jewish people are doomed, and Michael’s angelic brethren cannot search for him in the lands corrupted by Nazi evil.

With the lives of millions at stake, Uriel must find Michael and free him from the clutches of the Angel of Death…even if that means putting Uwe in mortal danger.

The Book of Uriel is a heartbreaking blend of historical fiction and Jewish folklore that will enthrall fans of The Book Thief and The World That We Knew.

My Review
Thank you to The Write Reads, the author, and the publisher for providing me with an e-copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

As someone who occasionally flits back to historical fiction, particularly of the WWII era, I found the synopsis of this book compelling and unique. Never before have I read a WWII-era historical fiction that incorporates Jewish folklore. As someone who’s unfamiliar with it, the opportunity to learn and read about it really “sold” this book to me.

Before I get ahead of myself, let’s start with Uriel, the main character. At 10 years old he’s just lost his mother, father, and entire village due to hate crimes perpetrated by the Polish. Alone, devastated, and injured, Uriel wakes up to find two angels looking for the missing Archangel Michael, guardian of the Jewish people. Eager to help his people and put an end to the violence, Uriel emphatically agrees to help search for Archangel Michael.

Thus Uriel finds himself on a mission that thrusts him into German-occupied Poland. Along the way he befriends Uwe, a linguist and translator who unwillingingly finds himself working for the Nazis, and encounters the Angel of Death, who holds Michael hostage. To free Michael, Uriel makes a deal with Samael, the Angel of Death. If he fails, the future of the Jewish people remains grim.

I appreciated the stubbornness and tenacity of Uriel. Though the attack on his village pulled his world out from under him, he remains a beacon of hope despite the challenges he encounters. Born mute and facing social challenges since the beginning of life (for some school children can be mean), he learned to never let anything stop him. This serves him well in his deal with Samael. At times I thought perhaps his persistent optimism was a bit unrealistic, but it works to balance the dark components of the story.

Uwe is a sensitive soul, recruited by Major Brandt to translate prisoners’ answers during interrogation. The nature of this work introduces him to the jarring realization of the horrors the Germans inflict on the Jews and partisan Polish people. If I didn’t know a little bit about the escalation of the mistreatment and genocide of Jews, I would have thought Uwe ignorant. But it’s important to keep in mind that the hate crimes didn’t immediately start with death camps. This is perhaps a generalization, but it started slowly with Jews being forced to move away, then being put in work camps, and then being sent to death camps. Regular civilians of all ilk weren’t immediately aware of what exactly the Nazis did to the Jews. The important thing is that Uwe becomes aware of the Nazis’ hate crimes and must decide whether to keep his head down or help those in need, risking his own life.

The author does a great job characterizing Major Brandt. He comes off as pleasant, genial, and generous, but there’s something sinister simmering under the surface. Frankly, he made me uncomfortable. Think Christolph Waltz’s character as Colonel Hans Landa from the movie Inglorious Basterds, but not as sadistic or cunning.

Though I found the premise of this story interesting, I thought it unrealistic that the tasks Uriel needs to complete to free Michael are all within easy running/walking distance from the central “rendez-vous” point. Uriel’s tasks are less quest-like than I expected for the things Samael asks him to do. I expected to learn of some sort of religious event that might explain why his tasks are concentrated in the same area. It was almost too easy for Uriel and makes the writing err more on the style of folklore than historical fiction; there aren’t a lot of details to explain the “why.” I also thought it odd that Uwe never pries into why or what drives Uriel to the woods so frequently.

However, while I prefer more realism in historical fiction, I think to try to make the folklore aspect more logical would negate the concept of having and keeping faith. I’m not a religious scholar or Jewish, so I’m sure some of the concepts are lost on me. That said, I still appreciated the introduction to Jewish folklore. Through flashbacks to the past, we see that Uriel learns these stories from his father, for whom he has a great respect. So important are these stories to Uriel that they inspire him to write them down so he can remember them forever. To see how much joy these stories spark in Uriel was a real treasure. My favorite part, though, is the epilogue, which is a fitting finish for Uriel and his tales.

For those looking for a different kind of WWII historical fiction that includes a mythological aspect, look no further than The Book of Uriel.

Rating: 3.5/5
Content warnings: death, murder, fire, guns, genocide
Reading format: Kindle e-book

About the Author
Elyse Hoffman strives to tell historical tales with new twists: she loves to meld WWII and Jewish history with fantasy, folklore, and the paranormal. She has written six works of Holocaust historical fiction: the five books of The Barracks of the Holocaust and The Book of Uriel.

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WWW Wednesday: October 20, 2021

WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme revived and hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Words.

The idea is to answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses.

What are you currently reading?

What have you just finished reading?

What are you going to read next?

Currently Reading: I’m currently reading The Book of Uriel by Elyse Hoffman since I’ll be taking part in The Write Reads book tour later this month. The description is so intriguing I just couldn’t resist!

Recently Finished: I originally posted about this in a First Lines Friday post. I should have finished it earlier, but instead I devoted time to my first book tour review. I also really wanted to review another approved NetGalley request to increase my review percentage. Nevertheless, I’ve finally finished it and will post my review before the year is out! Spoiler alert: I definitely recommend it!

Reading Next: Next I’ll read The Bone Shard Emperor by Andrea Stewart. It’s the next book after The Bone Shard Daughter, which I reviewed earlier this year. I’m fairly new to NetGalley so my review percentage isn’t the best right now. However, if you don’t try you’ll never know what could be, so I decided to request it anyway. To my surprise my request was accepted, so I’m very excited to read this ARC!