This is the story of one week in the lives of two Russian young men, Lev who is Jewish and Kolya a deserter (maybe) from the Russian army. When both aThis is the story of one week in the lives of two Russian young men, Lev who is Jewish and Kolya a deserter (maybe) from the Russian army. When both are arrested on the same night they are given a chance to avoid death. They must find a dozen eggs for a colonel, who wants them for his daughter’s wedding. Being that it is Stalingrad in the winter of 1942, and no one has seen an egg for months, and most people are starving the chance of success are slim to none. Yet Lev and Kolya set off on this journey to find the impossible.
I loved the two boys in the book; they were the yin and yang to each other. Lev is 17; a dark, shy, quiet, smart boy who until the war led a sheltered life. Kolya is tall, blond, and handsome and if he is to be believed at 21 he is quite successful with the ladies. In the week they are on their quest they experience a number of adventures, some quite horrific others somewhat comical. Throughout the book the friendship blossoms and changes, becoming a realistic look at two young men changed by war. Even when some events seemed almost fantastical the friendship always felt realistic.
Although I have read many books about WWII I have never read much about the siege of Stalingrad and this book really opened my eyes to the horror of that time. The details of the starvation and unbearable cold as well as the brutality of the Nazi’s were often difficult to read.
Aside from the two main characters there are many other wonderfully written characters, some whom we know briefly others a bit longer, yet each of them has an impact not only on Lev and Kolya but on the reader as well. The main point of the book is not just the horrors of war but also the ultimate absurdity of it all, which became all too clear toward the end.
I’m actually surprised this hasn’t been made into a movie since David Benioff is a successful writer of screenplays as well as the co-creator and writer for Game of Thrones. His writing is very accessible and you can picture every scene. I will be looking for his first book The 25th Hour. I recommend this book very highly; it packs a lot into what is a relatively short book. ...more
I have read many books set during World War II and it is one era of history that I find utterly fascinating. It’s hard to find a story set in that tim I have read many books set during World War II and it is one era of history that I find utterly fascinating. It’s hard to find a story set in that time frame that doesn’t feel like something I’ve read before. All the Light We Cannot See rises to the challenge and exceeded all my expectations. Marie Claire is a young girl living in Paris with her father Daniel; she has been blind since the age of six. When the German Army prepares to March on Paris Marie and her father flee to the walled city of Saint-Malo, where Daniel’s brother Etienne lives in seclusion.
Werner is an orphan, living with his younger sister Jutta in Children’s House, an orphanage in Germany. He is a bright enterprising young boy, a gifted mechanic, but because he is an orphan he is destined to work in the coalmines. Through a chance encounter with a high ranking official Werner is admitted to an academy for Hitler Youth, which alters the course of his life.
The Sea of Flames is a supposed cursed diamond that an officer in the Nazi Army is determined to add to his collection of stolen art and jewels that are being accumulated in Germany.
To say much more would reveal too much, it is much more enjoyable to read the book to see how these lives very slowly become entwined.
The writing in the book is so beautiful and the story is peopled with such rich characters, from Etienne, a damaged soldier of The Great War to Madame Manec, Etienne’s housekeeper who is harboring some secrets. Even some of the minor characters are very well drawn and add so much to the tale.
Written in short chapters the book moves back and forth between 1940 and 1944, when American forces laid siege to the German stronghold in Saint-Malo. At the start I found it a little confusing, but once I paid attention to the dates on every chapter it was easy to follow.
This is a long book, 544 pages, but it is a very fast read, I couldn’t put it down and read every chance I could. It took me three days to read it, which is very fast for me.
This is my favorite book of 2014, so far, and is a very strong contender to be my top book of the year. ...more
The story of a 91 year old woman, Vivian, and 17 year old Molly who find they have more in common than meets the eye.
Molly has been given 50 hours of The story of a 91 year old woman, Vivian, and 17 year old Molly who find they have more in common than meets the eye.
Molly has been given 50 hours of community service and is threatened with Juvenile Hall. Her crime? She stole a library book. That’s right, she isn’t asked to pay for the book she is treated like a delinquent. Why? Well she has black hair, wears heavy makeup and has a nose ring. Gasp – she’s a ‘Goth’. Oh no, the town is going to come to ruin if we let this girl roam free. Sorry Ms. Kline but Molly is what my daughter would label a “mall Goth” that shops in Hot Topic, and is about as dangerous as a housefly. In addition she is a foster child and everyone knows how bad those kids are. In order to complete her community service Molly is brought together with Vivian, a well to do widow in her 90’s who needs someone to clean out her attic. That’s right, Molly’s service to the community at large is house cleaning. Never mind the fact that you cannot pick your own community service, you have to pick from an approved list. But why bother with facts?
Vivian’s story is far more interesting; although I had a few issues with it, in particular the voice of young Vivian, who speaks like a college educated student, not like a poor young girl.
Vivian came over with her family from Ireland in 1927; the book says Ellis Island but Ellis Island was closed to immigration in 1924. At the time her name is Niamh (pronounced Nieve) and she is seven years old. When her family dies in a fire she is taken in by the Children’s Aid Society and eventually placed on an Orphan Train headed west where fine families are just waiting to take them in. Unfortunately it doesn’t work out that way for Nieve, or many of the children on the train. She is taken in as a laborer in a sewing factory, her named changed to Dorothy and then she is put out, placed in a home where she is abused, and eventually helped to find a good home by a kindly school teacher. Her name is changed again, this time to Vivian. Life is very good for Vivian for quite some time and then, she commits an act so out of character that I was shocked beyond words and found it unbelievable. Changed the rest of the book for me completely.
I seem to be in the minority when it comes to this book, because I thought it was just okay. I had a lot of problems with the book, starting with the writing, which I found mediocre at best. At times it felt like a YA book, but that’s an insult to the many excellent YA books I have read. The author spent a great deal of the book telling us things that happened, rather than showing. In addition to some factual errors there were so many stereotypes peppered throughout the book: The drunkard Irish father, the mean and shrewish matron on the train, the drunk and abusive foster father, the perfect school marm (I kept picturing her as Laura Ingalls Wilder), all in Vivian’s story. In Molly’s story there was the mean foster mom who was only in it for the money, and the spineless man she is married to and the inept social worker (most social workers I know are dedicated, overworked and underpaid). I felt no emotional connection to the story line, never really believed in Molly and Vivian’s relationship and don’t get me started on the unbelievable all tied up in a bow ending.
My apologies to those of you, who loved this book, and there are thousands of you, but I am not a member of the club. ...more
Cartwheel is a novel loosely based on the real murder trial of Amanda Knox. For those who don’t know Amanda Knox is an American student charged with kCartwheel is a novel loosely based on the real murder trial of Amanda Knox. For those who don’t know Amanda Knox is an American student charged with killing her roommate while studying abroad. Although I was aware of the case I didn’t follow it enough to know the ins and outs of the crime, so whatever the author chose to portray, change or leave out wasn’t relevant to me. In point of fact this is less about the crime than about the way the media can manipulate people’s perceptions, and how these perceptions can be changed multiple times.
The author’s focus is mostly on the psychological impact of this alleged crime on the accused and her family and a few friends. It also exams how we perceive ourselves can be at odds with how others see us. I think this was her greatest strength. I did have a few problems with her structure, which was often confusing. Flashbacks occurring over a few months alternating with ‘current’ storylines that also occurred over several months. Her writing was frequently beautiful, however the habit of throwing in pretentious dialogue really broke up the flow since I had to stop and look up the words, often multiple times in one sentence. It got very annoying. Nobody talks like that – nobody.
I also had issues with her introduction of characters and leaving tantalizing hints about them and then not following through on them. The ‘boyfriend’ had parents who probably were not who they seemed; the family that hosted Amanda and her roommate may have ties to a criminal element; the prosecutor has a wife who comes and goes with no bearing on the story. All of this just added to a feeling of everything left hanging, especially the resolution (or lack thereof) of the central mystery.
Overall I was disappointed in the execution of what started out as a tantalizing story but fizzled out in the end. I would however try another book by the author because I did love a great deal of her writing – just not enough. ...more
This is a painful review to write, I am a huge fan of Amy Tan, but this book was one long slog of a read.
Set in Shanghai from 1897 through 1937, withThis is a painful review to write, I am a huge fan of Amy Tan, but this book was one long slog of a read.
Set in Shanghai from 1897 through 1937, with some small asides in San Francisco and New York, this is the story of three generations of women who live lives that fluctuate from one extreme to another. Violet is raised in her mother’s First Class Courtesan house, living a life of privilege. When her mother, Lulu decides to move back to her home of San Francisco they are separated which leads Violet to stay in Shanghai and follow much of the same life her mother escaped. The main focus of the book, a good 75% is all about Violet, with her mother’s life and eventually her daughter Flora’s story taking up the rest.
My problems with this book are numerous. It is quite clear that Amy Tan did a great deal of research for this book, in fact in her afterword states that it took eight years to write the book. However, the fact that you have a ton of research doesn’t mean you should put it all in your book. Quite honestly 45 pages describing every nuance of a courtesan’s sexual training is over the top. Every dress, hairdo, piece of jewelry, item of furniture, curtain, book and knick-knack doesn’t need to be expounded on. It seemed where one word would do five were written. Since this is a book about courtesans it is expected that there are sexual encounters. Many of these sexual acts are described, once again, in great detail and it is often extremely graphic and quite brutal.
The book is set in Shanghai during some of the most tumultuous times in Chinese history, yet except for some comments on how these things impacted the houses I felt like the book could have been set anywhere, I really didn’t get a feel for the time period at all. Surely this is the time when all that research should have come into play, but for the most part it doesn’t.
My biggest issue is the three women. If you are going to write a six hundred-page book at least include characters that are somewhat likeable. Lulu and Violet are two of the most self-centered, selfish, vain women ever. Clearly like mother like daughter, although Violet insists she is not like her mother she is virtually a carbon copy. One thing I didn’t understand is that both women are presented as being fairly good at business and yet they make utterly stupid choices over and over again. Violet often makes choices based on the fact that someone advices her against it so she decides to “show them” often with disastrous results. Then there is Flora who is pretty unlikeable in her own right, but there are believable reasons for that.
Last, but not least are the chapters Moon Pond Village and Heaven Mountain. These chapters were filled with so much deprivation, cruelty and depravity and it was difficult to read and I just wanted to be done by then.
I’m not the fastest reader, but it took me over a month to read this book, and I read two others while reading this, mostly because I had no desire to read the book after I put it down each day. I finished only to find out what happens in the end and I was disappointed even then because the one character I really cared about in the book, Magic Gourd, is given short shrift in the end.
So major disappointment for me. I would say the writing itself was solid but I really disliked this book and wouldn’t recommend it. ...more
It's more ike a 3.5 rating, better than average but no where near as good as A Time to Kill, even though it is a sequel. The saving grace for this booIt's more ike a 3.5 rating, better than average but no where near as good as A Time to Kill, even though it is a sequel. The saving grace for this book is the ending, which packs a wallop- although I must say I saw it coming....more
The Bone Season is the start of a new series with a lot of hype surrounding it. There are a lot of comparisons to Harry Potter, but aside from the facThe Bone Season is the start of a new series with a lot of hype surrounding it. There are a lot of comparisons to Harry Potter, but aside from the fact that there is a projected seven books in the series, I didn’t see a lot of similarities. There is also a question as to whether or not this is a YA book, it isn’t being marketed as such but I would call it YA. That said this is a very dark, very violent book from the get go so you may want to check it out before letting your child read it. I would equate the book more to The Hunger Games than HP.
The Bone Season is extremely complex and frankly I am not sure I understand all there is to know about this world. The setting is an alternate history of earth, where clairvoyance is common, but these “voyants” are considered deviant and are hunted and placed in a penal colony in Oxford, England. The voyants are placed in the care of the Rephaim, who are either supernatural or aliens – to be honest I never understood which. Paige Mahoney is a voyant who is captured and imprisoned and placed in the care of a Rephaite called Warden. While in this prison Paige becomes aware that all is not as it seems and makes it her goal to escape and get back to her friends and pseudo family, a syndicate known as the Seven Seals.
There is a lot of information to take in as the world-building takes place. Sometimes there was so much info that I found myself having to reread passages, sometimes several times over. There is also a lot of jargon, unfortunately I had no idea there was a handy glossary at the end of the book, it would have been better if this was in the front with the description of the various levels of clairvoyance; I had a friend who had a print copy of the book, I had the Kindle version. I was able to photocopy that chart of voyants and that was helpful because I referred to it a lot. It took me several weeks to read this book because there was just so much to take in.
This book was very slow moving for well over half the book, there really wasn’t a tremendous amount of action until the latter portion of the book, which was so fast paced it was like a whirlwind. There were a lot of characters and they were hard to remember, so with the exception of the handful of main characters I found myself having to go back to remember who was who. In addition this book is very violent, often brutal, some of those scenes were a little hard to read.
Despite theses issues I will most likely continue with the series as long not years until the next book because I’m not sure I can remember all the salient points. The author is quite young, only 22, and she was working on this book for two years. I am sure that as she and her writing matures that this can become a very compelling series. And since it ended with a lot of loose ends I will need to find out what will come next.
In 1747 Katie O’Toole is living in Lancaster, Pennsylvania when ‘savages’ attack her home and two Indians take Katie away. One of these men tells herIn 1747 Katie O’Toole is living in Lancaster, Pennsylvania when ‘savages’ attack her home and two Indians take Katie away. One of these men tells her that he is a seer and he has been seeking her, a creature with hair of fire and eyes of ice.
The Spirit Keeper is a journal written by Katie as she recounts her travels with her two captors, Syawa and Hector. I’m a fan of fiction that features Native Americans, but this book fell a little flat for me. The books is not labeled young adult but it seems like a book that would appeal to a teenage girl. I found the story to be repetitive and I never connected to the three main characters. The overall story seemed rather improbable and although the tale picks up after the first half it wasn’t until the last hundred pages that I became pulled more into the story. The ending was disappointing, it seems as if there is the possibility for a sequel as there isn’t a satisfying ending to the quest that Syawa and Hector embarked on, although at this point I’m not sure I would read it....more