First Line Friday: My Real Name is Hanna by Tara Lynn Masih #travelingsistersread #BookBloggers

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First Line Friday is hosted by Hoarding Bookswere we share the first line or lines of a book we are currently reading or going to start soon.

Our first lines are to a Traveling Sisters Group read that Lindsay and I are going to be starting soon.

I will say my real name to you for the first time. Hanna Slivka. Don’t be scared. I am still your mother.

Goodreads Summary

Inspired by real Holocaust events, this poignant debut novel is a powerful coming-of-age story that will resonate with fans of The Book Thief and Between Shades of Gray.

Hanna Slivka is on the cusp of fourteen when Hitler’s army crosses the border into Soviet-occupied Ukraine. Soon, the Gestapo closes in, determined to make the shtetele she lives in “free of Jews.” Until the German occupation, Hanna spent her time exploring Kwasova with her younger siblings, admiring the drawings of the handsome Leon Stadnick, and helping her neighbor dye decorative pysanky eggs. But now she, Leon, and their families are forced to flee and hide in the forest outside their shtetele—and then in the dark caves beneath the rolling meadows, rumored to harbor evil spirits. Underground, they battle sickness and starvation, while the hunt continues above. When Hanna’s father disappears, suddenly it’s up to Hanna to find him—and to find a way to keep the rest of her family, and friends, alive.

Sparse, resonant, and lyrical, weaving in tales of Jewish and Ukrainian folklore, My Real Name Is Hanna celebrates the sustaining bonds of family, the beauty of a helping hand, and the tenacity of the human spirit.

About the Author

Tara Lynn Masih is editor of the Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction (a ForeWord Book of the Year), The Chalk Circle: Intercultural Prizewinning Essays (winner of a Skipping Stones Honor Award; a New England Book Festival award; a Benjamin Franklin silver medal award; and a ForeWord Book of the Year Award), and author of Where the Dog Star Never Glows, a National Best Books Award finalist in the short story category. She is the founding series editor of The Best Small Fictions, and My Real Name Is Hanna, her debut novel for young readers and adults set in WW II Ukraine, is due out Sept. 2018 and received a 2018 SKIPPING STONES HONOR AWARD.

Tara received an MA in Writing and Publishing from Emerson College, and has published fiction, poetry, and essays in numerous anthologies and literary magazines, and her essays have been read on NPR and translated to dance. Several limited edition illustrated chapbooks featuring her flash fiction, along with poet’s farthing cards, have been published by The Feral Press.

Awards for her work include first place in The Ledge Magazine’s fiction contest, a finalist fiction grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, The Lou P. Bunce Creative Writing Award, multiple Pushcart Prize nominations, and Best New American Voices and Best of the Web nominations.

Tara was the assistant editor for STORIES literary magazine, and a regular contributor to The Indian-American and Masala magazines. She divides her time between Andover, MA, and St. Augustine, FL.

Have you read this one?  Want to read it? Please add your first line to a book you have started or going to start.  We love to hear from you!!!


The Light-Keeper’s Daughters by Jean E. Pendziwol @JeanPendziwol #travelingfriendsread #BookBloggers


This was a fabulous read and was quickly placed on my favourite reads shelf!

* Traveling Friends Group Read *

Norma’s review

THE LIGHTKEEPER’S DAUGHTERS by JEAN E. PENDZIWOL was an absolutely fantastic, charming, and touching novel that had me totally engaged and held dear right to the very last word.  I was mesmerized by how beautiful and heartfelt this story was.

I was immediately drawn into this story by the absolutely gorgeous storytelling here and totally intrigued by the storyline which had me feeling so much emotional warmth for this book.  This was one of those books for me that I had to have it close to me at all times even when I wasn’t reading it. I’d pick it up, smell it, and give it a hug. I was the proud owner of this book!  

JEAN E. PENDZIWOL delivers a complex, descriptive, and beautifully written story here that flowed absolutely perfect.  The characters, the setting, and the premise of this novel were all so captivating to me and had me totally fascinated in what I was reading.  I love books with dual storylines and the transitions between the two were done seamlessly and blended so well together.

Norma’s Stats:
Cover:  Love that beautiful and eye-catching cover!
Title:  Fits the story well and had me totally intrigued.
Writing/Prose: Beautifully written, eloquent and spellbinding.
Plot:  Interesting, held my attention, and loved everything about it.
Ending: Took me a little by surprise and loved how all the storylines came together. Moving, memorable and satisfying.
Overall: An outstanding read! Would highly recommend!

Rose’s review

I’m completely enamored of this book, partly because I didn’t read much about it beforehand. I left it sitting on my shelf for several weeks, totally unaware of the magic I was postponing. I went into this relatively blind, so the surprises never stopped. For that reason, I’ll give only a cursory summary.

“I knew enough of the Lake to comprehend their fate. Once someone was in her icy clutch, Superior was not inclined to let go. I could tell by the faces of the men perched on chairs in our humble dwelling, huddled beneath blankets, that they knew the same.”

A young girl named Morgan is doing community service at a retirement home after she left graffiti on its fence. She has angst. Elizabeth Livingstone, born in 1925 to a mother and father who manned a lighthouse on the nearby shores of Lake Superior, is one of the home’s elderly residents. She has spunk. Both have foggy pasts, but they find that they can help each other immensely. And that’s it. That’s the extent of what I feel comfortable giving away. The book does a better job speaking for itself than I ever could:

“I have learned that most of us…we are merely life’s spectators. Those who have allowed their demons to inhabit their lives – to sleep with them and wake with them and let them whisper in their ear – they are the architects of life, constructing the world as we know it.”

Every page of The Lightkeeper’s Daughers breathes as if very much alive. It wrapped me up so entirely that I’m having a hard time coping with the fact that it’s a work of fiction. For me, that’s one of the best things a novel can be: so damn visceral you can’t imagine the world without its characters. I NEED these people to have existed. They did. They do. Don’t tell me otherwise.

I also LOVE IT when an author does a lot with just a little. Pendziwol was brilliantly efficient, accomplishing in 300 pages what most authors would take over 500 to say. This was an epic story told on a very non-epic scale. It ebbed and flowed and flickered and crashed with so much force, I can’t believe it wasn’t longer.

“Who decides when they’ve crossed from tortured to talent, to be embraced and immortalized? When we like what our eyes see and our ears hear? Genius and insanity. Which brings the other?”

Seriously. The whole thing is like that. I could open up to any page right now and find a quote that would tug at your heartstrings or inspire introspection without ever coming across as pretentious. I read this with the Traveling Friends, and it’s safe to say it’s charmed us all.

I truly would recommend this to every reader. This book is for you if you are interested in any of the following: lighthouses, lakes, history, romance, family, foxes, flowers, violins, art, journals, coming-of-age, war, ships, mystery, and I could go on LITERALLY FOREVER JUST READ IT PLEASE.

Regardless of what you’re expecting The Lightkeeper’s Daughters to be, I promise it will become something greater. This is one of those novels that really gives verity to the phrase don’t judge a book by its cover.

From Debra’s review

I loved every single page of this book. From the setting, the characters, the descriptions, the art, the music, the mystery, the personalities, they all were quite perfect. I was instantly drawn in and captivated by this book. When I lived in Massachusetts, I visited several lighthouses and my family had one we visited every couple of months, it was quite easy to imagine the one in this book and I could see the family climbing the stairs to make sure everything was working and to protect the ships on Lake Superior. Being able to transport a reader to your setting, takes great skill and Pendziwol has it. Debra’s full review

Brenda and Lindsay read this a while back with our Traveling Sisters and this was also loved by all of the TS.

From Brenda’s Traveling Sisters review 

We were right away drawn into these strong and interesting characters and their relationship to each other as we are shown how a complex web of secrets are unraveled. The characters are so well-done and we came to really care about them and they brought out a few emotions that we shared with each other. We all love the strong sister bond between two of the characters and we could feel their love, commitment and unspoken understanding of each other that bonded them together.

We all really appreciated all the research Jean E. Pendziwol put into this story and so vividly gave us such a wonderful sense of place. We could visualize the lighthouse and the lake and it gave a good sense of how isolated it must have been.

From Lindsay’s review 

I’m blown away – loved every word of this beautiful story! This novel is moving right to the top of my 2017 Favourites list!

The characters, the atmosphere, the secrets – every part of this story was done to perfection! The author, Jean E. Pendziwol, created an unforgettable tale of family, love and hidden secrets all wrapped up in an intoxicating, mesmerizing and captivating atmosphere.  I highly, highly recommend this beautiful gem of a book!

Have you read this title?  Or want to read it?  Drop us a comment!  We would love to hear from you!