Book review: Internal Lockdown by Ernie Quatrani

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Title: Internal Lockdown

Author: Ernie Quatrani

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Publisher: Prodigy Gold Books

Publication date: 30th October 2018

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Summary:

Over a morning, you can tend to your garden, paint a room, watch the morning news repeat its talking points. Over a morning, you can do the laundry or visit the doctor for a check-up; you can run errands…Over a morning, you can stop a school in its track, or lockdown an AP English class. Over a morning, you can get revenge.
Green Hill is a small, ordinary Pennsylvania town where nothing ever happens until the morning its normalcy is crushed by a shocking act of violence. One morning the school is interrupted by the frantic announcement calling for a lockdown. AP English teacher, Mike Zarlapski, swings into action, following the lockdown procedures. Although his students help pile as many desks in front of the classroom door as possible, their panic is not allayed as they communicate with what is now the outside world first-in responders, police entering the building, and the shooters who remain at large via cellphone.

My review:

Suspense and tragedy play a huge part of this book and I was very impressed with how the author developed both of these key themes to create an intriguing and thought-provoking story. We are immediately introduced to several key characters who would later endure a school shooting with many lives at stake. The plot delves right into action with a brief introduction of the main character, Mike Zarlapski, and sets the scene of what appears to be a normal morning at school. From here on, the action-filled plot unravels quickly as the characters are subject to the terrors of the shooting and law enforcement is called on the scene. I especially liked how the third person narrative was used as an asset to justify and analyse the decisions that each character took.

With reference to the characters, I must confess that I sometimes found it difficult to keep track of where each teacher and student was located in relation to the shooters and this could perhaps have been made easier with the use of an attached map of the school. I felt that there were too many characters which prevented the opportunity to fully connect with each one. However, I understand the author’s decision to proceed this way as situations like this always affect a wide range of the population and consequently this should be reflected in the story line.

Internal Lockdown is a difficult but compelling read and I encourage anyone interested in developing a better understanding of the implications and lives involved in school shootings to consider reading it. The final chapter, although bittersweet, offered the best possible conclusion to a series of tragic events affecting this community. I applaud the author for handling such a sensitive topic and hope to read more by him in the future.

Internal Lockdown is available to buy now!

Many thanks to Laura from Prodigy Gold Books for providing a free advanced reader’s copy in exchange for my honest review.

Book review: The Map of Us by Jules Preston


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Title: The Map of Us

Author: Jules Preston

Genre: Romance

Publisher: HarperImpulse

Publication date: 4th May 2018

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Synopsis:

Violet North is wonderfully inconvenient. Abandoned by her family and lost in an imagined world of moors and adventure, her life changes in the space of just 37 words exchanged with a stranger at her front door.

Decades later, Daniel Bearing has inherited his father’s multi-million pound business, and is utterly lost. He has no idea who he is or where his life is headed.

When Violet’s granddaughter’s marriage falls apart, Tilly, always adept with numbers, compiles a detailed statistical report to pinpoint why. But the Compatibility Index Tilly creates has unforeseen consequences for everyone in her world.

Tilly and Daniel share a secret too. 10.37am, April 22nd.
Soon, a complex web of secrets and lies is exposed and an adventure begins with a blue typewriter…

My review:

It’s not often that I come across a book with such a distinct style of writing so I was pleasantly surprised with the choppy and quirky narrative. However, it wasn’t quite for me; the story line was monotonous and the characters  too flat for my liking.

Around halfway into the book the reader starts to understand the direction the story is following and the characters’ plot lines begin to intertwine. I enjoyed Tilly’s story and the Compatibility Index that she ultimately designs to explain why her marriage is failing. Looking back, I also think that the author revealed the link between Tilly and Violet in a very clever way and it was a joy following Tilly in her adventure to pursue her grandmother’s tales.

This was an uplifting and inspiring book and I wish that I was more patient at the start rather than rushing to understand from the beginning how the characters are connected. I recommend it to anyone who is looking for something different and is able to look past the short chapters and unconventional writing style.

 

Book review: The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris


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Title: The Tattooist of Auschwitz

Author: Heather Morris

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: Zaffre

Publication date: 11th January 2018

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

I tattooed a number on her arm. She tattooed her name on my heart.
In 1942, Lale Sokolov arrived in Auschwitz-Birkenau. He was given the job of tattooing the prisoners marked for survival – scratching numbers into his fellow victims’ arms in indelible ink to create what would become one of the most potent symbols of the Holocaust. 
Waiting in line to be tattooed, terrified and shaking, was a young girl. For Lale – a dandy, a jack-the-lad, a bit of a chancer – it was love at first sight. And he was determined not only to survive himself, but to ensure this woman, Gita, did, too.
So begins one of the most life-affirming, courageous, unforgettable and human stories of the Holocaust: the love story of the tattooist of Auschwitz.

My review:

This was an incredibly difficult book to put down despite how harrowing and complex the subject matter is. Perhaps what makes it even more challenging is the knowledge from the start that it tells the true story of Lale, a survivor of Auschwitz, and that all the difficulties he faced as the tattooist were real. It may be a horrifying story but the overwhelming themes of courage, loyalty and the willingness to survive are present throughout making the book truly gripping.

Apart from the strong willed character of Lale, this book also manifests similar strong traits through the hardships that Gita and Cilka lived through, from disease to malnutrition to abuse. The writing is very matter-of-fact and the author doesn’t delve much into the characters emotions, yet as the event of Auschwitz unfold, the reader is able to interpret the mixture of feelings experienced in such a confinement.

I am pleased that I decided to read this novel after much doubt. It is important that stories like Lale’s are retold and reconstructed so the horrors of war are not forgotten and are avoided. What made this book stand out from others in this genre was the brilliant way that the author gave Lale a voice and retold his story with honesty, proving how sincere relationships can form even in the most extreme situations. Everyone must read this book, regardless of the intricacy it boasts, to fully appreciate the buried memoirs of many prisoners that are finally being unearthed.