Blog Tour: The Keeper of Hidden Books Excerpt

Hello, all!

As mentioned last week, I'm back in my historical fiction era, so I'm excited to be a part of the blog tour for The Keeper of Hidden Books by Madeline Martin. Big thanks to the publisher for having me!

Pub Date: 8-1-23
Adult - Historical Fiction

This is based on the true story of the underground library of Warsaw during WWII, and follows Zofia who risks everything to save her best friend and her beloved books from the horrors of war.

You can check out an excerpt below!

Warsaw, Poland August 1939

ZOFIA NOWAK SAT BACK on her calves in the warm sum­mer grass while her friend Janina clumsily wound a bandage around her head. The other pairs of Girl Guides sat in a semi­circle beneath the oak trees in Łazienki Park, all working to perfect their first aid skills. Not that the looming war on Po­land would ever come to Warsaw.

Still, it was wise to be ready and everyone in the city was preparing in their own particular way. For Papa, it was stocking medical supplies at the hospital while Zofia’s mother waited in endless grocer’s lines to ensure their cabinets were overflowing with tinned food. Posters were plastered all over the city ask­ing men to line up at elementary schools and enlist, and radio stations filled the air with the pulse of patriotic music.

And it was why Helen Keller’s The Story of My Life was nes­tled in Zofia’s bag, another read inspired by the list of books Hitler had banned in Germany.

Zofia pulled the bandage from her head and repurposed the linen to bind a splint onto Janina’s lower leg. “How’s that?”

“It feels good.” Janina wriggled her limb. “Studying medi­cine like your father might be a good choice for next year.”

Rather than reply, Zofia considered her handiwork.

“Have you decided what you want to do after our final exams?” Janina’s voice was gentle as she spoke, but nothing could lighten the pressing decision that weighed on Zofia every day.

This was their last year of secondary school, a final exam away from graduating. They would be eighteen then—adults. The whole world stretched out ahead of them like a runway so they could soar into the future.

For everyone, except her.

“You sound like Matka,” Zofia groused.

Though it wasn’t really true. Janina’s characteristic delicacy was nowhere near the brusque tone of Zofia’s mother. Whether she was insisting Zofia dress nicer, be more outgoing, or be more proactive with choosing a career path—something lucra­tive, like medicine—there was always a demanding air about her mother. Which was precisely why Zofia referred to her in the more formal regard as Matka, rather than Mama.

Janina’s mother was a Mama. The type to smile and ask after a test, or to offer hugs on a bad day rather than criticism.

Perhaps that was why Janina was always so kind and con­siderate. It was that congeniality that started their friendship so many years ago when they were children. Zofia had never been gregarious, more the kind to keep to herself and tuck into a book than drum up conversation with people she didn’t

know. Being the tallest in class did her no favors, leaving her feeling as though she stuck out like an ugly duckling among baby chicks. On Janina’s first day in school, she’d strode over to Zofia with an enviable confidence and shared some of the flower-shaped butter cookies her mother had baked, filling in any silence between them with an animated chatter that made Zofia instantly like her.

Now, Janina moved her leg, testing Zofia’s bandage. “If I sound like Matka, then I take back my suggestion.” The loosely tied bandage gave and the neat knot slipped free, the band un­raveling from her leg. One of the splints tilted over into the grass.

“Being in medicine is not my path, evidently.” Zofia col­lected the splint with what she hoped was an uncaring smile. “I think Papa understands.”

Her father was a renowned doctor in Warsaw, specializing in surgeries. His was a name that would be impossible to live up to, especially for a daughter who couldn’t commit to any kind of future.

“You love to read.” Janina blew a lock of dark hair out of her brown eyes. “Maybe you could study literature.” She gasped in excitement and sat up straighter. “Perhaps you could become an author, like Marta Krakowska.”

It sounded ridiculous even when Janina said it with such sin­cerity. While Zofia had no idea what she wanted to do, she did know she was no Marta Krakowska. The author penned epic tales of romance featuring lovers who meet amid the strife of war. Every story was better than the last, each ending in con­tented happiness for the couple and a little calico cat.

But Zofia didn’t believe in romance, and she didn’t have the lyrical voice of Krakowska. She was no author, to be sure.

Zofia pulled the other splint from Janina’s leg and wound the bandage into a neat ball. “Did you read The Story of My Life yet?”


Janina’s eyes lit up. “I did. What an incredible—”

“No,” a voice called out from the pair beside them.

Their friend Maria shook her head, blond curls swaying, her arm extended toward her Guide partner, who had it wrapped partially to the elbow. “You can’t talk about the book right now, when I can barely hear you.”

“At the library then.” Janina turned her attention back to Zofia with a mischievous glint in her eye. “But you clearly want to change the subject, so let’s turn to something more pleasant. Like how much you’re looking forward to school tomorrow.”

Zofia groaned and Maria turned away with a quiet smile.

Math was tediously dull, the series of numbers lacking any real challenge. Government was dryer than the dust gathering on her unopened textbooks from last year. Even art was awful. While Zofia appreciated the beauty of it, the medium of their application was of little interest to her. Oh, and how she hated, hated, hated being subjected to the mediocrity of her own lim­ited skills when forced to try her hand. On and on it went with every class, each one more lackluster than the last.

Except literature. She did enjoy that subject.

At least at university, her courses would be tailored to her future endeavors. Whatever they might be.

Their Girl Guide captain, Krystyna, clapped her hands to get their attention, sparing Janina a sardonic reply from Zofia about just how much she was not looking forward to school tomorrow.

“Great job today, Guides.” Krystyna looked around the cir­cle of paired-off girls, her head lifted with satisfaction. “War with Germany is coming, and Poland must be ready. At least the Girl Guides definitely are.”

Warmth effused Zofia’s chest at those words.

The Girl Guides was a scouting organization meant to pre­pare girls and young women for life with social skills, phil­anthropic ideals, and the ability to offer aid to the public in whatever form was needed.


If Germany did attack, the Girl Guides’ efforts would help Poland.


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