I really liked this. Really. And I'm still blown away that it was a Newbery book. 1962 just wasn't that long ago, and I'm surprised this made the cut....moreI really liked this. Really. And I'm still blown away that it was a Newbery book. 1962 just wasn't that long ago, and I'm surprised this made the cut. Of course, there's plenty of floofy we-are-one-with-nature stuff in the Newbery lexicon, so why shouldn't a clear gospel presentation of Jesus' life make it in, but still. I'm shocked.
This was really well done, if a little bloodthirsty for a pre-teen. I loved Daniel's story and growth. I loved his innate sense of responsibility, and I loved Joel and Thacia. This really captured me, and I had a hard time putting it down.
This author managed to make me feel hot and dusty when Daniel did, and long for the cool night air in the caves. That doesn't happen very often, and I appreciate it when it does.
This book was not at all as it seemed. Sure, it was chick-mom-lit and sure it was pretty funny and sure it went fast. But it also had a more depth tha...moreThis book was not at all as it seemed. Sure, it was chick-mom-lit and sure it was pretty funny and sure it went fast. But it also had a more depth than I expected, and actually made me cry a couple of times. I'll admit I was as shocked as you are.
You don't usually see a lot of depth of character in a book like this, nor real personal growth. Usually the main character just loses weight and gets the guy. In this case, you get crazy, hateful neighbor antics. But also some things you'd never expect (at least I didn't), a lot of twists and turns, and two relationships that were ... rather deep and heartwarming. Without giving away too much, I loved the relationship between Mindy and Aaron - that was probably the best part of the book to watch unfold.
It did seem like some of the Aaron stuff was glossed over pretty easily -- the clown thing, especially -- it didn't need to be in there if it wasn't going to be "handled" better. But overall, this was both hilarious and surprisingly deeper than I ever would have expected.
Last, I need to note that this was not edited well - I don't blame the author for it - I fully blame the editor, and in fact I went to the author's website and volunteered to edit her next book myself. I noted some of the most egregious problems here on Typoze.com. My personal favorite? "dog and Sony show". LOL!(less)
My heart started breaking from page 8, and I continued reading with ... trepidation. And yet, I couldn't put it down, either. Here's the thing that wa...moreMy heart started breaking from page 8, and I continued reading with ... trepidation. And yet, I couldn't put it down, either. Here's the thing that was distracting, though (and I noted it in a couple of status updates, too) - in the chapters about Sarah, the author has chosen an unfortunate voice for the narrative. I'm not even sure what to call it. It's supposed to be from the girl's point of view, but it's also third person. So the author ended up with some convoluted narrative that could have been so much better, because the fact is that what she said could have been said and the story is so interesting that the reader keeps reading, but keeps pausing because these are not things a 10-year-old child thinks and feels. Here's just one example: "She was safe, she thought. She was safe, with her mother, with her father. This was not going to last long. This was the French police, not the Germans. no one was going to harm them."
She's TEN. There are many other ways that could have been written without writing things 10 year olds don't think and feel. So that was really distracting.
The other thing that was jarring was the juxtaposition of Sarah's story with the (modern-day) journalist's story in short chapters in alternating fashion. At the beginning, most of the chapters were only a couple of pages (some less), and the only purpose it served, as far as I could see, was to draw Sarah's story out over a longer period of time. Maybe it's just me, but I feel as if I've read a lot of books lately with alternating perspectives (every other chapter), and frankly I'm a little tired of it. Obviously as the book went on, I became more interested in Julia, but I have to say I really didn't care much for her in the beginning, and sort of felt like her story was interrupting Sarah's story all the time, and really, Sarah's was the only one I wanted to hear. I cared more about Julia by the end, but not a ton.
All that said, it might sound like I didn't like this book. Not true. I really liked it. It's kind of amazing that such a poor choice in narrative could be overcome by the actual story enough that I'd even venture to say it was a good book. Or maybe just a fascinating story, revealed to the reader in a compelling way.
I didn't mark much while I was reading -- just a few things. The first thing was remarkable in that with all my Holocaust reading, I don't think I knew about this - or maybe I did, but forgot. In speaking to people who had helped Jews,
"You know your grandparents could be declared 'Righteous among the Nations.'" I said.
"What does that mean?" he asked, puzzled.
"The Yad Vashem Institute in Jerusalem gives medals to those, non-Jewish, who saved Jews during the war. It can also be obtained posthumously."
I tell you, every time I read "Righteous among the Nations," I get choked up. Every. Time.
I'm not purposely seeking out Holocaust and Holocaust-adjacent reading lately - it just seems to find me. It keeps falling into my lap. I think this bout may have started with Nicole Krauss'Great House. Then I read Day After Night for one of my book clubs, and then My Father's Country because a review here on GR made it sound so intriguing (it was!), and now this. All that to say I'm going to cheer myself up tonight by watching the beginning of the 1978 miniseries Holocaust with some friends.
Why? Lots of reasons. But the most important to me:
This is one of the most interesting books I've ever read, I think. From the poignant subtitle "The Story of a German Family" to the last lines of the...moreThis is one of the most interesting books I've ever read, I think. From the poignant subtitle "The Story of a German Family" to the last lines of the book:
One of my first memories of the new era: I got slapped hard in the face. I can't remember who did it, whether it was Else or Barbara, I just remember flying through the kitchen. I had to become an adult before I understood why. Half-pint as I was, I had asked out of the blue, "Where did all the love for the Führer go? Why does nobody say Heil Hitler anymore?" Perhaps I should have asked, "Why did anybody ever say it?"
I didn't want to put it down and I was annoyed when I was interrupted. Beyond that, I realized that the vast majority (heck; basically all) of books I've read on this topic are from a Jewish point of view or about Jews, except for that Doris Kearns Goodwin book on Eleanor Roosevelt, which I read in tandem with The Twilight of Courage. So this was a first for me, and it was a big one.
I think I have too many things in this book marked. Now to choose which ones to write about and what to say ...
There are quotes in this book that seriously made me pause. And think. "Only we, the next generation, were to deal with the catastrophe that our country had wrought on others. My sister told me how Else learned of the extermination camps after the war. White in the face, she stood in the doorway and said, "We Germans will never be forgive that. We Germans. Auschwitz -- a mortgage. Not a word, not a single word in all those years about the victims."
And "Sixty years on I can't sit here ruthlessly 'being right.' My luck was the caesura -- I began when everything had stopped."
And then the reason for this book "I want to understand what it was that did such damage to my generation, to those born later. For this I must return to the history of those who have written my history, to my family's forefathers. I must go to Halberstadt."
Sometimes when I hear something about Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), I am not sure if it's real or made up. And then I read something that so simply explains it that I know it's real. For the author, it affected her entire cache of memories:
I have my own story about Easter eggs. It happened in 1945, the first time I had blown eggs for the Easter wreath and glued silhouetted figures all over it. The wreath stood on the dining table, and my dangling eggs were the loveliest, of course. When the inferno struck over Halberstadt on April 8, the Sunday after Easter, when that large-scale raid reduced 80 percent of the old town to rubble, the house stood firm, no one died. But the chandelier over the dining table crashed down on the Easter wreath and broke my eggs. The conflagration scorched my memory. Everything that existed before was buried in rubble and horror. Sic years were blown away, I know nothing about myself. My life began with my fury at the destruction of my Easter eggs.
And again, around her sister's wedding: "I try to imagine what my sister, then still so young, must have felt inside. Years later I asked her. She couldn't remember -- "I wasn't there!" The horror of what came later had consigned that time to oblivion.
In speaking of "destruction through labor" and the camps in Auschwitz, Majdanek, and Bergen-Belsen, the author asks for us, Why am I telling this? Because the story can never be told too often ... which incidentally, is why, I suppose, I keep reading books on this topic.
I found sections like this haunting: Whom does HG talk to instead? Nobody, I think. All these men, unless they are sitting in the eye of the hurricane, are condemned to silence. They do their duty, their task is the solution of upcoming problems, not a preoccupation with their own fears. There is a reason almost all of HG's letters from 1944 end with the words "Your lonely husband."
And then there is the discussion of "Sippenhaftung", or "punishment of kin", which makes me think that only people who thought to rid the world of a certain race, or somehow-crippled members of their own race would think to further punish "officially" members of the family of the people who carried out the plot.
And the part that made me cry -- some of the author's comments to her father:
Have I misunderstood you, because you never said anything? now you are dying as an "Untermensch." They deprived you of the cleric you requested. But your Mount of Olives is behind you, and you are a hero in your death. You lived in awful times, and if you wanted things to be better for your children, then you succeeded. You have paid the "blood toll" so that I don't have to. I have learned from you what I must guard against. That's what a father's there for, isn't it? I thank you.
I'm to the end of my review and have no way to close. I'm a girl who doesn't even like non-fiction, and yet, this book captivated me from start to finish. It will stay with me for a while.(less)
My biggest complaint about this book is that the ending was too abrupt. On the other hand, that is exactly what happened to the women in the story, so...moreMy biggest complaint about this book is that the ending was too abrupt. On the other hand, that is exactly what happened to the women in the story, so it makes sense. But oh, I wanted to linger with them for a little while longer!
This isn't a light book to read, and at one point I had to put it down because I knew if I kept reading that particular part, I would start crying, and I was in the wrong place to do so. And in fact, it made me cry several times. But it is right to cry about this subject.
I'm still .... flabbergasted that people who had survived the effing Holocaust were expected to come up with papers at the end of it. The mind boggles.
There was some beautiful language in this book, and also, the polyglotinous (best word I can come up with) nature of the book really spoke to me. As the people already in the camp see new arrivals coming through the gates:
"Shalom, friends, shalom," the Bulgarian girl cried, cupping her hands around her mouth. "Shalom. Welcome." Others joined her, calling out greetings in Hebrew and Yiddish, German, Romanian, French, Polish, Italiand, and Greek.
Isn't that lovely? The way they shared language amazed me.
And then there was this, which makes me think that observing Yom Kippur might be a very worthwhile thing to do:
"On Yom Kippur, everyone weeps for the dead," said Shayndel, who had not cried when her friends had died, nor since.
"Weeping is terrible for the complexion," said Leonie, holding Shayndel close, "but it is very good for the heart."
This book made me want to go find the copy of "The Red Tent" my sister sent and read it immediately. Unfortunately, I have 6 other library books waiting to be read first :)(less)
So ... I've been reading this book for a while, and have finally finished it ... and I still don't have a clue as to what I'd write for a review for i...moreSo ... I've been reading this book for a while, and have finally finished it ... and I still don't have a clue as to what I'd write for a review for it. I think I'll just ramble a bit as I would if I were talking to someone about it.
First, it's not History of Love. And although that book is still in my top 10 or 20 faves, ever, I'm not sure I'll even bother reading another Krauss for a while unless someone who knows me tells me it's really, really, REALLY good. I've only read a total of three books by her, but ... well, majority rules, and the two that weren't HoL have both been so depressing, I don't know what to think except I won't rush to any store or library for new books by her any more.
If a book is any way to judge a person, I'd think she lives a most depressing life. She has a horrible view of marriage, has been in a horrible marriage, and/or is a most unhappy person. I honestly felt sorry for her as I was reading the story of the first woman.
Which brings me to "second", I suppose. This really felt like a series of short stories, of which I'm already not fond. I "got it", but that didn't mean I liked it. A bunch of stories around a desk could be a really creative way to write, but in this case ... well, I felt that it fell flat.
I think it boils down to the fact that I'm not sure there was even one sympathetic character in this book. Not one character I really liked or identified with. I did feel sorry for Mr. Bender and Mrs. Fiske at the end, but that was about it.
I had marked three different passages in this book to come back to or possibly quote in my review, and I just now re-read them; not a single one really spoke to me. In fact, they were all three even more depressing than I remembered the whole book had been, overall!
I don't want to leave this review with the idea that Ms. Krauss can't write, or is a bad writer (although I didn't prefer the construction of this book) - the fact is that she puts words together beautifully. She can create amazing word pictures. So well, in fact, that because the pictures she was painting were depressing, I literally felt depressed as I read this. I was cold, I was down, I was unhappy ... quite an impressive feat, actually. Because I am none of those things normally, but actually felt them while I read this book. So ... make of that what you will, fellow reader - perhaps you'll like this book more than I, simply because of the author's command of her craft. I, on the other hand, want to shake her and say, "use your powers for good; not evil!"(less)
If you like reading fiction and non-fiction at the same time, try reading Doris Kearns Goodwin's No Ordinary Time at the same time as this book. The b...moreIf you like reading fiction and non-fiction at the same time, try reading Doris Kearns Goodwin's No Ordinary Time at the same time as this book. The books cover the same period in time, and each provides interesting insights on the other.(less)
Wow -- this book was very heavy. Of course, I expected that, but oh! this was hard to read. Maybe because it covered so many scenarios? Each of them p...moreWow -- this book was very heavy. Of course, I expected that, but oh! this was hard to read. Maybe because it covered so many scenarios? Each of them painful. I read the first half or so in one sitting and then took a break to read another book. Came back and finished it, and then thought a lot about my review. It's hard to just write a short "review" of the book, isn't it? These were real people. It was good to take a breath between each chapter.
I think we must read things like this, no matter how difficult or upsetting. As Agafia says in "Behind the Hedge", "We have to know about it. And look at it. And remember."
I asked my Polish sis-in-law if she'd heard of this book before. She hadn't. But when she saw the name of the title in Polish, she said the name hadn't been changed at all -- in Polish, that's exactly what it means -- A Scrap of Time.(less)
I'm obviously on a Scottoline binge right now -- possibly because they go so quickly, or possibly because I like orderly lists and there is one in the...moreI'm obviously on a Scottoline binge right now -- possibly because they go so quickly, or possibly because I like orderly lists and there is one in the fronts of these books (Also by Lisa Scottoline), and so I'm getting them from the library in order of writing. Is that so wrong?
Anyway, this might be one of my favorites so far. It was definitely the cleanest. And I liked the judge a lot. Cate Fante is nothing like the Stephanie Plum-esque lawyers (lawyers!) in some of the other books. She's smart and does smart things ... mostly.
There are always some quirky things in her books I'd like to ask her about, like the two wacky courtroom clerks in this one. Or feeding the bad guy his dinner in the hospital. But, like an episode of "Three's Company", if they just cleared the air, there wouldn't be a show. And so, the story unfolds, even though parts of it are cuh-razee.
This also had some of Scottoline's trademark lighthearted comedic moments. "Did you like the bodyguard I sent you?" was one. Another:
The trip home went quickly, the sun clear and cold outside the car window. Brady opened up about his feelings, the way people tend to do on long car rides, except his only feelings concerned the Eagles. He was so annoyed by Terrell Owens that he almost drove over the divider and he believed that Donovan McNabb was "too damn happy" to win a Superbowl.
Anyway, I liked Gina, who turned out to be a normal good friend with good advice (albeit from Dr. Phil), and I really liked Nesbitt.
Best part? There wasn't a single Dansko clog in the entire book.(less)
This book review was written 4 months or so after I read the book. Thus the lameness.
I do remember that I really liked it. So much that I've been look...moreThis book review was written 4 months or so after I read the book. Thus the lameness.
I do remember that I really liked it. So much that I've been looking for other Pete Hamill books since then. In addition, I know I really liked it at the time, as I listed this book in the Book Talk Forum (on BookCrossing) as one of the "best books I'd read this year" (in July).
Something else I remember is that the man sitting next to me on the plane was asking me about the book, and why I'd chosen to read that book in particular. I found myself explaining BookCrossing to him so that I could explain release challenges so I could explain why I'd come across the book and chosen to read it in the first place. I'm sure he thought I was odd, but he did tell me that Mr. Hamill had written many other books and even told me a bit about his biography or auto-biography -- I can't remember which, but that it was very interesting.
Anyway, I remember that I loved the relationship between the young boy, the "shabbes goy" who turned on the light switch for the rabbi on a snowy day when his real shabbes goy didn't show up. The continuing relationship between these two was just beautiful. A catholic boy learning Hebrew (or was it Yiddish?), and the old rabbi learning English and enjoying baseball by the radio was just charming. I remember that the rabbi called the boy "Boychik", which always warmed my heart.
Two remaining things: I didn't really get the whole magical part at the end. It didn't quite make sense, but it did make the story more fairy-tale-ish. And last, the anti-semitism and the way it was fought in this book made me cry. I loved the way the men pitched in, stoic and solemn, as if that was what they should do. Which, after all, is true.(less)