All The Light We Cannot See book review

World War II nonfiction books are my sweet spot, so when my good friend recommended All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, I jumped at the opportunity to read it.

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

The book begins in Paris when the Nazis were beginning to occupy the city. There are several characters that share the spotlight, but the two main characters are a blind girl, Marie, who lives with her father and a young Nazi soldier named Werner.

Marie and Werner live separate lives but fate brings their paths together in the end. Marie begins in Paris with her father who works at a museum. She uses other senses to experience the wonders of the museum and learns to read braille. Meanwhile her father takes possession of a dangerous jewel, but whether its a replica or the real thing is up for debate.

Marie and her father leave Paris by foot with the dangerous jewel towards their cousins in Saint-Malo. When they get there Marie learns new things and meets new people. An underground resistance begins with loaves of bread, and soon the Nazis come. Marie’s father disappears one day and Marie is left with her cousins. The war rages on in Saint-Malo and Marie learns how to fend for herself, counting her steps to the bakery and back and learning how to transmit a radio.

Meanwhile, Werner studies hard to learn how to fix radios. He gets chosen to go to a Nazi academy, and he begins his training. He meets friends and questions some of what is going on at the academy, but keeps quiet. Eventually he is deployed to France. He locates radio signals of the resistance and his partner does the dirty work. Werner makes it to Saint-Malo and the rest in the book…no spoilers here!

Doerr writes with passion and has the unique ability to mesh two stories into one cognizant thought. Two distinct characters living through Nazi occupied France with two completely different perspectives. This is not an easy feat to write, but Doerr does it well.

I really enjoyed the short chapters because I have a newborn at home and I was able to stop frequently. I also enjoyed the switching back and forth between characters and timelines. Usually I am not a fan of these types of stories because I have hard time following the story from so many different angles. But the way Doerr writes keeps the timeline clear and characters in line.

Things I liked about All The Light We Cannot See

  • Short chapters
  • Interesting characters
  • World War II setting
  • Mysterious writing

Things I didn’t like about All The Light We Cannot See

  • Timeline swapping (going backwards and forwards)
  • Unresolved mysteries

Should I read All The Light We Cannot See?

Yes! The book is only $9 on Amazon, get it here, and it is well worth the read!

Related Reads

Like this type of book? Check out these related books:


Bringing up Bebe book review

When I found out I was expecting I searched for a parenting book that wasn’t based on fear. Then I saw this insider’s guide to French parenting and ordered the book on the spot. An easy and entertaining read, Bringing up Bebe is the perfect parenting book for laissez faire parenting with tricks to get the little one to sleep through the night.

Bringing up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman
Bringing up Bebe in my makeshift Parisian nursery

Bringing up Bebe (original title is French Children Don’t Throw Food) is written by a journalist from New York who marries an Englishman and moves to Paris. She talks about what it is like with a young child living in Paris – the parents are uninterested in chatting at the playground and there is free child care that you register for when you find out you are expecting. Then she becomes pregnant again, with twins, and she discusses all the inside tips that French parents share when expecting.

Parenting tips from Bringing up Bebe

The author does an excellent job of describing parenting tips without an opinion. Unlike majority of American parenting books that scare you and tell you everything not to do, Bringing up Bebe tells it like it is. I found that a breath of fresh air!

Bringing up Bebe talks about teaching children how to wait, how to get on a schedule, and how to sit for long meals. The author describes a parenting doctrine that is very popular in France created by Francis Dolto. It is impossible to get Dolto’s books in English. You have to read French or another language the book has been translated into to read it. So it is very helpful that Bringing up Bebe discusses the highlights!

I highly recommend this book to anyone who is expecting, has children, or wants to have children. It is a fun read with lots a hidden gems.

Best paired with: Heinekin 0.0 🙂



Dragon Teeth by Michael Crichton

Michael Crichton is my favorite author by far. Many books have been published after his death (including the awful flop of Pirate Latitudes), but Dragon Teeth caught my dinosaur loving attention.

The book teeters between history and fiction. Marsh was an actual pioneer in the field and his discoveries gave rise to the Peabody Museum of National History. And Edward Cope was a competing legend in the field. In the history books of paleontology you can read about The Bone Wars between Marsh and Cope when the two would fight for finding the dinosaurs first.

What are The Bone Wars?

The Bone Wars, also known as the Great Dinosaur Rush, was a period of time in the 19th century where scientists ruthlessly competed for fossils. Specifically, Edward Cope and Othniel (Charles) Marsh tirelessly competed for fossil discovery.

Othniel Charles Marsh & Edward Drinker Cope bw.jpg
Marsh (Left) and Cope (Right). Image from Wikipedia, Public Domain, Link.

The two scientists scavenged Colorado, Montana, Wyoming and more. For a full history, I suggest getting this book called The Life of a Fossil Hunter. I purchased it after reading Dragon Teeth as I wanted to learn more about where Crichton developed his characters from.

Onto the review of Dragon Teeth

Jurassic Park Fans Should Read Dragon Teeth

DragonTeeth-Cover-LiveDragon Teeth starts off slow telling a tale of a privileged man, William, who was attending Yale when he accepts a bet to travel west through Indian territory to search for dinosaur bones.

William starts his journey with Marsh, a professor at Yale who heads west during the Bone Wars. After some time Marsh becomes suspicious of William and leaves him behind. Then, Cope swoops up William to join his journey.

William experiences a number of struggles crossing through uncharted Indian territory where Native Americans were fighting for their land. Needless to say being a white male riding through Native territory during the 1800s did not help ones’ case.

The writing and story are not as creative as some of Crichton other books – can you even compare Jurassic Park to any of his other books? – but it is worth a read. This book felt like research and a prequel to what would be Jurassic Park. True dinosaur enthusiasts will enjoy the back story of some of the greatest pioneers in paleontology.

Fun fact about this book: Crichton mentions Cope in Jurassic Park. Comment when you find it 🙂



The Nightingale Book Review

Nightingale-PB-658For those of us that have a soft spot for WWII stories, this is our book. Paris. 1939. A civilized country overtaken by the Nazis in one night. Two sisters separated by a long, strained relationship thrown together. One conservative and subdued, the other rebellious.

Read the Nightingale

I’d be lying if I said I loved this book at the beginning. It’s not my typical style and I found myself annoyed with the use of three adjectives for every sentence. I urge you to stick through the first third of the book! The author’s language and tone develops over the course of the story and eventually pulls you right into small-town France in the middle of war.

The story starts in Paris where one sister is kicked out of yet another boarding school. She must move in with her estranged father who sent her off years ago. Once Paris becomes occupied, her father forces her to go to her sister’s in a small town of Carriveau.

Carriveau is near an airfield and it is not long before a German soldier is billeted at the house of the sisters. The story unfolds with secret rebellion groups, an increasing Nazi eye, and eventually a final fight.

I finished reading this book on a train from Avignon to Paris and discovered that Carriveau is not a real town in France – although it certainly sounds like one. The author drew inspiration for her book after studying stories about the women who led a quiet revolution in France during WW2. History books are silent on these women and she hoped to give them a voice, which she certainly did.


The Ghost Notebooks

Review: The Ghost Notebooks by Ben Dolnick

I found this book off of Belletrist book club, and was hooked by the title. I love scary movies so why not a scary book?

Ghost NotebookThe Ghost Notebooks was written by Ben Dolnick who writes simply and clearly, while painting his pages with words that feel like real life. The book is so addicting that I finished it in five days! It slows down a bit in the middle, just push through because this has an ending you won’t want to miss.

The book starts off by jumping into the life of probably 90% of mid-twenty long-term daters who fall into a rut and question whether to move out or get married. An internal struggle. A breakup. A sad bar. An epiphany. An engagement.

Then, a job opportunity. The twenty-something couple leave downtown New York City to care for a small museum in upstate New York. The museum pays tribute to Edmund Wright, a writer, who also left the city but to safely raise his children.

Wright wrote encyclopedias and novels throughout his life then suddenly went silent. No one knew why he stopped writing, even his family or local citizens who knew his story well. In fact, one family member seems to write the ordeal off completely – while keeping a close eye on the couple we read about.

So, the couple moves into the Historic House Museum having a grand old time taking care of the old house and getting to know each other better. Recently engaged and beginning to plan a wedding, the two enjoy the quiet life and the quirks that come with living in an old house. The explore and learn and host field trips together.

Then some odd things happen, and one of the two begins to slip away. And ultimately, one slips forever. A tragic event. A breakdown. A mystery to solve. A turn of events. A page-turning ending. Pick this one up, you won’t regret it.


The Book Thief | Markus Zusak

If you are looking for a read that will quite literally paint a picture for you – this is it. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak is absolutely outstanding. This book was not on my radar until I saw commercials for the movie (side note – have not seen it yet), but I could not be more pleased with this read.

The Book Thief

Zusak’s writing style is unique, charming and vivid. His story eloquently portrays a young girl’s (fictional) journey during the holocaust. From a train car to a small town outside of Dachau, Zusak writes from the eyes of death. The story follows death through different circumstances of the war. The girl, Liesel, is taken in by a family outside of Dachau. The family consists of Hans and Rosa Hubermann, an older couple who make due by playing the accordion and doing laundry. Hans will teach Liesel how to read and Rosa will swear a lot. Later they will take in and hide a Jew, Max. Max and Liesel grow together and Zusak does a marvelous job of describing certain scenarios to paint a picture in your mind. Instead of saying the sky was blue, Zusak will describe the clouds looking like animals and the sky being a kind of gray full of despair. You can literally see what he is trying to portray – that is a rare gift for a writer to give so eloquently.

There are portions of the structure of the book that may not appeal to every reader. There were many random thought breaks, small paragraphs in the middle with little structure and plot twists given away ahead of the story. I personally always read the last sentence of a book which usually doesn’t give anything up, but in this case Zusak tells you who will die a couple hundred pages before it happens.

Overall – a great read on a time piece that is commonly overused. The Book Thief is a new take on WW2 fiction that will make the most tired readers eager to turn a page. After all, what reader doesn’t like a book about books?

Buy the Book!

1491 Ă© Multipulciano


I started a new book today, 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus by Charles C. Mann. It is a history of the Americas, a region I know little to nothing about and I am hoping this book will change. Mann describes his journey into research and historical comparison to uncover the history of a region still showing signs of advanced irrigation systems thousands of years ago. Some of the cities populations are told be larger than that of Rome in the same age.

The preface is a bit dry, admittedly I skimmed part of it, but overall informative. The first chapter gives great insight into the basics of the early culture and various forms of man-made agricultural systems we can still see today.

This intrigues me…so much was happening in the Americas, yet it is hardly known. Europe, as you should know, is one of my dear passions, but why had I learned so much about European history and so little about my own? Oh right..Catholic schools…I learned about the crusades not about the American Indians who formed our country.

Moving on to the second chapter, I was fascinated that “Tisquantum (an ‘Indian’ leader when the Pilgrims arrived)…told the Pilgrims to fertilize the soil by burying fish alongside the maize seeds”. Going to college in Iowa I experienced this first hand. I always wondered why the hell did farmers in Iowa, and Minnesota, put fish around their corn? I had thought it was to stop us college kids from running off the highway to take a few ears of corn…turns out that Tisquantum was kidnapped by Europeans way back when and learned the trick there (as well as the English language).

Chapter 2 really focuses on Indians in the area now known as Cape Cod. Being from Minnesota, I was intrigued that such an established settlement existed so far from the great plains. Instead of teepees, they had “wetu” which is a dome shaped home with bark layers to be inserted or taken out depending on the temperature and weather. According to Mann, even the Pilgrims were impressed by their architecture and harvesting procedures.

Now the important stuff, what wine was I sipping while learning ancient Americas history? Considering it was a Tuesday…a $7 bottle of Montepulciano classy I know. Check out my thoughts on this steal in my next post.