Testimony covers a lot of ground, from the making of the movie, Schindler's List, to the idea of filming Holocaust survivor testimonies, to the actual...moreTestimony covers a lot of ground, from the making of the movie, Schindler's List, to the idea of filming Holocaust survivor testimonies, to the actual project, and now sharing the testimonies and collecting new ones from ongoing genocides around the world.
The first half of the book kept my attention better than the second half. I love the movie so seeing the behind-the-scenes photos and reading about the actor's thoughts was fascinating. I also liked reading about the real people the characters were based on and how filming such harrowing scenes affected all the cast and crew. When the narrative moved on to the idea of the Shoah foundation and collecting the survivor/witness stories, I was still on board. I liked reading about how the USC Shoah Foundation is sharing their expertise with other groups around the world with similar goals. I was reading in bed wondering how you get a job collecting stories. I even searched StoryCorps to see if they were hiring (They were but I'm not bilingual). The idea of such a huge, important undertaking just appealed to me--no, it called to me.
The second half got more technical, focusing on ensuring that the testimonies are secure and stay in a format that is always relevant to the modern age. That started to lose me. I'm proficient with the technology that's relevant to my life. I don't really stay on the cutting edge of anything. And I definitely don't understand anything about movie editing, etc. I do understand that all of this is important but I didn't really follow it. I was back on slightly firmer footing when the narrative switched to sharing the testimonies with the world. Even at that, I quickly got to the point where I just wanted to know what website I could go to for myself.
What kept me going were the transcribed excerpts sprinkled throughout the book. I'm drawn to stories of the Holocaust so reading about what these survivors endured was a highlight of the book. I was glad that the editors chose to include narratives from not only Jewish survivors, but also a homosexual survivor, rescuers/witnesses, a Jewish woman active in the resistance, a Sinti and Roma survivor, and survivors from other genocides (Rwanda and Cambodia). I personally know very little about other genocides or even really other perspectives on the Holocaust. I especially like that all these excerpts included current photos of the speakers and photos from their past.
Anyone interested in the Holocaust and/or Schindler's List will find this book fascinating. Pick it up for yourself and bear witness. We must never forget.
Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy for review.(less)
Rahima lives in a family of girls. Her father was a fighter for the local war lord in their Afghan village and he's now addicted to opium. With custom...moreRahima lives in a family of girls. Her father was a fighter for the local war lord in their Afghan village and he's now addicted to opium. With custom demanding that the girls never leave the house without a male family member to escort them, they're struggling. When Rahima's aunt comes to visit, bearing stories of an ancestor, Shekiba, who dressed as a bacha posh and made her way through life as a boy, the answer to their problems appears. Rahima's hair is cut and she becomes Rahim, going to school, running errands, and supporting her family as best she can.
My reading doesn't venture outside my own culture as often as it should. When I read books like this, I always resolve to do better and then I don't. I need these reminders of how blessed I am in my life and how difficult it is for others who didn't happen to be born here.
Reading about Rahima's years as a bacha posh was pretty easy. Life was better for her and her family. But afterwards... oh my gosh. Things just got worse and worse for her. But this is daily life for a lot of women in a lot of countries. How does life change for them? It always seems like change has to come from within but with this kind of oppression, how does that happen? Even that's addressed a little bit toward the end of the book.
The secondary narrative tells of Rahima's ancestor Shekiba. Shekiba may have had an even harder life than Rahima. She's completely alone with only an extended family that seems to hate her for her scarred face. I usually prefer one story over another in a dual narrative like this, but I was almost relieved when the point of view switched. I needed a break from the bleakness of the character's life I was reading about at that moment!
I wasn't entirely happy with the ending. I felt like I had as much closure as I needed for Rahima but I would have liked to have known more about Shekiba. I really felt like her story just stopped.
I read an early copy of the book and it could have used a little more editing. I'm sure most of that will be cleaned up by the time everything is finalized. Overlooking that kind of thing, this book was an excellent first novel and I expect the author to get even better as she continues writing.
If you're interested in stories of other cultures, I do recommend that you give this one a try. It's emotionally difficult but an important story to be shared.
Thanks to the publisher for offering me early access to the book.(less)
Talmadge is in town selling the fruit from his orchard one day when he notices two girls watching him. They're very young and very pregnant. He dozes...moreTalmadge is in town selling the fruit from his orchard one day when he notices two girls watching him. They're very young and very pregnant. He dozes off for a few minutes and wakes as the girls run away with some fruit they've stolen. He decides not to chase them because they look hungry. A day or two later, the girls show up at the orchard. He starts cooking extra food and leaving it out for them but they won't let him get too close.
Meanwhile, a stranger shows up in town looking for girls who sound an awful lot like the two Talmadge is watching over. Talmadge ponders things for a while and decides to meet with the stranger at his homestead. Talmadge does not like what he sees. The man, Michaelson, eventually offers to let Talmadge have 20 minutes with a nine-year-old girl for $2. Talmadge quickly leaves, resolved that Michaelson will never get his two girls back.
I really liked this on audio. Narrator Mark Bramhall's rough voice suited the feel of the story perfectly.
I got frustrated with the book though. A large part of it centers around Talmadge trying to find the youngest girl, Della, after she's grown up and left home. Della doesn't seem to give a flip about anything at that point, and she definitely doesn't care that she's breaking his heart. I tried to tell myself that she'd been through unimaginable things and I needed to cut her some slack but I couldn't. Then I would try to remind myself of the Prodigal Son and the parable of the lost sheep and that still didn't work (I don't know what it was about this book that brought out the Biblical references; it's not remotely religious). Della doesn't want to be found and I thought that should be the end of it. I'm obviously not a parent.
I tried looking at it from Talmadge's point of view. He feels responsible for Della. But he also lost a sister when he was in his teens. She went into the woods one day and never came back. He just can't find it in himself to let Della go as long as he thinks he knows where she is, and especially not after he learns that she's in trouble. I could wrap my head around things a little better from his perspective. But I still wanted to shake him and point out that he was neglecting the girl who was still at home--sweet, faithful Angeline.
Angeline got the short end of everything. She's a good girl so Talmadge doesn't feel he has to worry about her too much. She's pretty self-sufficient too. But even she seems to be hurt that Talmadge starts running off and leaving her alone to chase after Della, whom she barely remembers. I can't decide if it was Bramhall's narration falling short in this one respect or if Angeline was really written this way, but she did come across as a bit clueless. I had a hard time remembering how young she was as well. Her whole dialog seemed to be, "I don't understand," or "What's going on?" or "Tell me what's happening." Bramhall's high, breathless narration for her part didn't help.
By the last few chapters, I was pretty much done so I'd tuned out. I kind of heard what happened to everybody but I was lost in my own thoughts by then.
The book really is well-written and has a strong sense of place. This could have been a case of the wrong book at the wrong time for me. If you're in the mood for something fairly dark that explores the way that families can be formed and torn apart, give it a try.(less)
Bernadette Fox is an...eccentric...mother and wife living in Seattle. Her daughter, Bee, is an excellent student and has asked for a family cruise to...moreBernadette Fox is an...eccentric...mother and wife living in Seattle. Her daughter, Bee, is an excellent student and has asked for a family cruise to Antarctica as a reward for earning all A's (or her school's equivalent) throughout her middle school career. Bernadette and her husband, Elgin, can't think of a reason to say no so the planning begins.
Bernadette is in a fragile place mentally due to a Huge Hideous Thing that happened when she was still living in L.A. The stress of planning the trip, or having her virtual assistant in India plan it, added to the stress of the terrible parents at Bee's school and the general anxiety Bernadette experiences every day prove to be too much; Bernadette disappears. This book is a collection of emails and other ephemera as Bee tries to figure out where her mom went.
This was hilarious but it was also so sad at the same time. The parents at Bee's school were horrific beyond words. One in particular took helicopter parenting to an entirely new level. No wonder poor Bernadette calls them "the gnats." She tries her best to just lie low and let them do their thing but they won't let her. All parents must be joiners! All parents must volunteer in the classroom! All neighboring parents must keep their backyards in the condition that chief helicopter mom dictates! Holy cow.
Bernadette herself was an enigma. I liked that she just kind of gives the other parents the finger but it was obvious that something just wasn't right with her. She would go on huge rants about how she hates Canadians and 5-way intersections, both of which are apparently innumerable in Seattle. She seemed to be most honest in emails with her virtual assistant. She chose a house that used to be a girls' school and then let it crumble down around her family's ears. I couldn't figure out what the heck was going on with her. And then I found out what the Huge Hideous Thing was and I just had to gasp out loud and sit back and process it for a minute. It was nothing that I had ever expected at all. Once I knew what had happened, I had much more sympathy for Bernadette.
I flew through the first half of the book with all the emails and notes and twists and turns. The second half is more of a straightforward journal written from Bee's point of view. I can't say that I lost interest but my reading definitely slowed down. I think it had to be written this way but I preferred the first half.
I highly recommend this funny romp through the lives of a modern American family.(less)
Annajane Hudgens and Mason Bayless got married when they were fairly young. Both their mothers were opposed to the idea but the young lovers didn't ca...moreAnnajane Hudgens and Mason Bayless got married when they were fairly young. Both their mothers were opposed to the idea but the young lovers didn't care; they were in love. Their relationship slowly fell apart due to miscommunication, stubbornness, and the crumbling effect of both their mothers chipping away at them at every opportunity.
Five years after the divorce, Annajane is engaged to another man and attending Mason's second wedding. She finally admits to herself that she cares for him and she has to stop the wedding just as Mason's young daughter gets violently sick in the church aisle. Annajane finds herself with an unexpected opportunity to set things right with him.
I just adore Mary Kay Andrews's books because they are so much fun to read! The characters generally come to life for me, I find myself laughing at the trouble they inevitably get themselves into, and the settings feel real. Spring Fever is no exception.
Annajane is not perfect by any means but I liked her. She's doing her best with her life. She works hard, she's trying to get over Mason, she's trying to deal with her overbearing mother, and she's trying not to let her good sense be overruled by her ticking biological clock. Her best friend, Pokey--who has the best nickname I have ever heard-- is Mason's sister, so the ex-couple have been involved in each other's lives through Pokey whether they like it or not. When Mason unexpectedly brings home an infant daughter from a brief "fling" shortly after their divorce, Annajane is hurt, of course. But she learns to love little Sophie and the feeling is mutual.
I didn't know what to think of Mason at first. We first see him through Annajane's lens of "what went wrong" and he doesn't come out of that looking too good. But as the story moved on, I really started to like him. He's a true, responsible gentleman to be counted on. I pretty much loved him as much as Annajane did by the end!
There were a couple of things that did have me wanting to reach through my car speakers and knock some sense into everyone's heads. I don't want to spoil anything but there was one obvious whopper of a lie that gets told and everyone buys it, hook, line, and sinker. I knew what was going on as soon as the character in question said it! Ugh! There were a couple of other small instances of this too. I get frustrated when otherwise intelligent characters get a convenient case of brain death to further the plot.
I was a little disappointed by the ending. There were three characters who desperately needed a good old karma-slap but they never really got it. Two of them did to an extent, but it happened "offstage." The reader doesn't really get to see it happen, Annajane and Pokey just mention it in the epilogue. Talk about unsatisfying!
I have listened to several of Mary Kay Andrews's books but this is the first one I've listened to that was narrated by Kathleen McInerney. She sounded a bit young for the roles and her accents were uneven to say the least. Otherwise, I did enjoy her narration.
If you're looking for an easy, breezy beach read, you can't go wrong with this book or any of Andrews's other work.(less)
Percy Jackson finds himself entering a camp of Roman demigods near San Francisco with only the vaguest memory of who he is. The Romans accept him and...morePercy Jackson finds himself entering a camp of Roman demigods near San Francisco with only the vaguest memory of who he is. The Romans accept him and he finds himself on a quest with Hazel and Frank, a couple of other demigods. They must make their way to Alaska, "The Land Beyond the Gods," defeat a giant, win back the Roman standard, and free Thanatos, aka Death. All in about four days. No sweat.
As much as I loved reading Percy Jackson in print, I have to say that I love listening to Joshua Swanson's narration of this spin-off series even more. He sounds as excited as I feel to find out what's going to happen next. He does a great job of voicing all the different characters, and he makes all these smart alecky demigods sound as smart alecky as they really are. I can't recommend this series on audio highly enough!
I do really like this series so far. I seem to have never reviewed the first book, The Lost Hero, but I did enjoy it. I mostly listen to audio books in the car but I had to bring this one in the house with me and listen as I cooked or cleaned or even just got all my stuff ready for the next day. I couldn't wait to see what was going to happen next.
Percy sounds a little older and wiser in this book. He's kind of filling a big brother role for Hazel and Frank. He's been on enough quests to know how it works, even if he has lost his memory. He doesn't dominate the other two; he acknowledges that Frank is the leader and he lets Frank make the tough calls. I respect him for that. He's still hilarious though and I just love him.
I felt bad for Hazel but I liked her a lot. She's carrying around some serious baggage from her past. She sees this quest as a chance to correct some mistakes she's made. She's a tough warrior in her own right and wise beyond her years.
Frank's pretty cool too. His demigod ability is awesome! He's been going through a rough time as well. It was nice to watch him dealing with that and growing past his insecurities and into his abilities.
The book is full of action and humor and is a fast read in any format. Rick Riordan fans will not be disappointed. I'll be picking up the third book pretty soon, I'm sure!(less)
The Penderwicks are going in different directions for two weeks. Mr. Penderwick, Iantha, and Ben are heading off to England; Rosalind is going to New...moreThe Penderwicks are going in different directions for two weeks. Mr. Penderwick, Iantha, and Ben are heading off to England; Rosalind is going to New Jersey with a friend; and the remaining three Penderwicks are going to Maine with Aunt Claire. This arrangement leaves Skye as the OAP--Oldest Available Penderwick--and she is not happy about it. She's not used to keeping her sisters out of trouble! When they arrive, they love the little house they're staying in and even their next-door neighbor--but not his dog, Hoover. But who does neighbor Alec remind them of?
I love this series. It's just so innocently fun! The girls are funny but caring, as are their circle of friends. Girls in their "tween" years should love these books as well.
This installment was just as much fun as all the others. I missed having Rosalind around but without her guidance, the three younger Penderwicks had that many more adventures. Moose- and golf ball hunting, encounters with neighborhood boys, minor injuries, heartbreak, hurt pride, there's a little bit of something for everyone here.
I loved seeing Skye grow into her role as OAP. She gets off to a rocky start but the others have faith in her even when she doesn't have faith in herself.
I was completely surprised by the turn this book took! I thought it was going in one direction and all of a sudden it blindsided me with incredible revelations! I was driving along listening to this and talking to myself, I was so surprised.
I love Susan Denaker's narration of this series. She has voices for characters which are distinct enough that I'm able to follow along but they aren't distracting. She speaks clearly and its almost as if she's smiling throughout her whole narration, its just that homey.
I highly recommend this for any young girls out there and for girls who are only young at heart.(less)
During the siege of Leningrad in World War II, Lev and Kolya find themselves in jail at the same time. After a sleepless night in which they expect to...moreDuring the siege of Leningrad in World War II, Lev and Kolya find themselves in jail at the same time. After a sleepless night in which they expect to be executed the next morning, they instead find themselves facing a Colonel in the Red Army. He will let them go free if they agree to find a dozen eggs for his daughter's wedding cake. Leningrad is surrounded by Germans and people are starving to death in the streets. They don't know how they're going to do it but they undertake the task.
I really think I would have enjoyed this more in print. There was nothing really wrong with Ron Perlman's narration, but the tone of his voice is just so low that it was pretty easy for me to unintentionally tune him out as I was driving.
That said, I did enjoy it. Poor young, serious Lev, to be stuck with Kolya! But I loved Kolya. He's like that one person that you really like even though you're uncomfortable around him more often than not because of the things that he says. He has no idea when to shut up but he's so charming that he generally gets away with saying whatever he's thinking. He thinks a lot about girls and how much he hates the Germans and a book named The Courtyard Hound. He quotes it all the time! I would have been more of a Lev in their situation, terrified of everything, but Kolya kept young Lev going. He kept me laughing and shaking my head.
The novel felt a bit like The Odyssey, with the young man drifting from one insane adventure to the next. While their journey only lasts a week, so much happens that it felt like much longer. Cannibals, sadists, epic chess games, I just never knew what they were going to get into next. I liked that.
What I did not like was the ending. Not one little bit. I can see that it was necessary but that doesn't mean I have to like it.
This was a perfect read during the--what are they calling it? Polar Vortex?--that has chilled most of the US. I'll complain about the cold all day if I can but reading about these young men in the frigid temperatures of Russia, well the USSR at the time, with no food and inadequate clothing helped me keep things in perspective. Settle in to read this when it's cold outside, enjoy it, and be thankful for what you have.(less)
Malala Yousafzai was only fifteen when she was shot in the head by a member of the Taliban for speaking out for education for everyone around the worl...moreMalala Yousafzai was only fifteen when she was shot in the head by a member of the Taliban for speaking out for education for everyone around the world, but especially for girls, and especially in Muslim countries. She miraculously survived and now has an even larger audience for her message.
I think I'd heard a little bit about Malala before this book came out but only a little. Then I just happened to catch her on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart one night and I was blown away. This young lady is intelligent, well-spoken and seems to be fearless in speaking her mind. I can't remember if Jon Stewart asked if he could adopt her or vote for her (probably both) but I echo that sentiment. I knew I had to have this book after seeing her speak.
The Malala in these pages is everything I expected her to be. She makes it clear that she's not perfect but her conviction rings throughout the book. She knows it is one of her basic human rights to get an education. She has a brain and she wants to use it. She is disturbed by the spread of a version of Islam that she doesn't recognize. She doesn't want the Taliban keeping the populace in ignorance and gaining even more control. She thinks we should all make an educated choice in our beliefs, whether those beliefs are personal, political, or religious.
She begins by painting a picture of Pakistan as she saw it before the Taliban started gaining control. It sounds like a beautiful place with a troubled past. Then she tells about all the ways, both little and big, that the Taliban started to affect daily life. This was the scariest part for me. It felt like it could happen anywhere. It seemed to begin with a radio show and a man who slowly gained power by starting with small statements that a lot of people agreed with and then slowly getting more and more fanatical until he had too much power for anyone to stop him. It was scary. Then Malala's valley is evacuated as the Pakistan army and the Taliban finally fight for control.
Throughout all of this, Malala's father was an outspoken opponent of all the radical changes. As the owner of a school, he was especially outspoken about every child's right to receive an education. Malala wanted to join him in that fight since it directly affected her. Her father started receiving death threats and losing friends as they were murdered for similar beliefs. He carried on though and Malala did too.
As I read, I wondered what I would do in their shoes. I'll be honest: I'm more of a keep-my-mouth-shut-and-my-head-down-and-hope-I-make-it-through kind of person. But that's how these crazy agendas gain so much ground; they count on the majority of people having exactly that reaction. When we wonder how one person can ever make a difference, we can always find an example of one person who already has. To that list, we can add Malala Yousafzai. She's one of our bright hopes for the future. Pick up this book and find out why.(less)
Mariatu Kamara was twelve years old when she was caught up in the civil war in Sierra Leone. Most of her village was killed in a raid. Boy soldiers cu...moreMariatu Kamara was twelve years old when she was caught up in the civil war in Sierra Leone. Most of her village was killed in a raid. Boy soldiers cut off both her hands but let her go. She shares the story of how she learned to cope in the new world she found herself in.
Holy cow. I just can't imagine living through the things this young woman has experienced. And she was so young when everything happened! I just shudder to think of it.
But she's a strong girl. She knows from the beginning that she must learn to live on her own. From the time she turns down the first helpful stranger's offer to feed her a bite of mango, she struggles to live her new life on her own terms.
Her story is inspiring and heart-breaking and important. I know I as an American sometimes forget that most of the world doesn't have it as good as I do. I get caught up in the day-to-day of "I can't believe I have to deal with this at work," or "Traffic is a nightmare, I hate this commute," and forget that in some places in the world, children are killing and maiming each other in wars they don't understand. I for one need a reality check like this from time to time.
Anyone who reads this should also read A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah. Mariatu avoids demonizing the boy soldiers but it's still a good idea to get their perspective as well. They were also victims in this terrible conflict.
This is by no means an easy read but I highly recommend it. (less)