It took me quite a while to get caught up with the characters and their stories, but once it happened, I was hooked! At that point, I didn't stop read...moreIt took me quite a while to get caught up with the characters and their stories, but once it happened, I was hooked! At that point, I didn't stop reading until I reached the end. There were times when I felt like I was there with the characters sharing what they experienced.
Now I see that this is just the first of NINE books! I'll be waiting until I have a large chunk of time, but I will definitely be reading more in this series.
The authors had the characters tell me what I should be learning from these experiences a bit more than I wanted, but not so much that I was annoyed while I was reading. In fact, some of the "teaching" bits were very memorable, so I guess I shouldn't be complaining about them. Here is one of my favorites:
We all began exactly alike, like lumps of coal, maybe in different shapes and sizes. The fire and the pressure of hatred consume some men until they consume others around them in a white-hot fire. And others, trapped in the same fierce pressure and terrible heat, become diamonds to glisten in the hand of God. To shine bright when the blackness is all around, to find love when others are burning in their hatred [is] the essence of God.
There's always room for another book telling the story of a Holocaust survivor. This is a particularly nice one for young adults. It isn't too long or...moreThere's always room for another book telling the story of a Holocaust survivor. This is a particularly nice one for young adults. It isn't too long or graphic, but still doesn't pull punches in sharing the experiences of 15-year-old Jack Mandelbaum.
Jack survived his time in concentrations camps for several reasons. He made good friends who gave him good advice and who helped him to laugh and keep his optimism going through his darkest days and moods of despair. His family was also a huge factor. He had a burning desire to survive so that he could be reunited with his family. He also made several key decisions. He decided, based on advice from a friend, that he would not take what was happening to him personally. He would treat it like a game in which he would outlast the Nazis. Also, he would not complain, but would act respectful, be likable and cooperative, and as good of a worker as he could. He chose not to hate the kapos, the guards, or the officers. He felt that the negative emotion of hate would consume energy that he needed for survival. He said, "In spite of all the terrible things that happened to me, I did not allow Hitler to make me feel less than human. I had been raised well and I knew who I was. My strategy was not to allow myself to hate. I knew I could be consumed by hate."
After all of that, with good decisions and some luck, Jack survived the concentration camps. The sad part is that of the 80 people in Jack's extended family, only five survived. None of his immediate family survived.
Because of the way Jack chose to live during his concentration camp experiences, he has some very wise advice for the rest of us. He says:
One thing people wonder is why the Jews did not defend themselves, why we were like lambs led to the slaughter. In truth, many Jews fought back bravely. But the Holocaust was so well planned that we were overwhelmed. It started with little acts of racism and discrimination and eventually led to the murder of millions of innocents. We thought the European people would rise up out of basic decency and defend us. Some tried, but not enough. We must never think the Holocaust cannot happen again.
This is so different and interesting that I'm not quite sure what to say about it. I'll probably have more to say once I get my hands on a copy of the...moreThis is so different and interesting that I'm not quite sure what to say about it. I'll probably have more to say once I get my hands on a copy of the second part.
One quick comment: I feel like he does an awesome job of portraying his personality and his father's personality - which isn't an easy thing in the graphic novel format.(less)
Powerful and horrible, yet beautiful as well. This had some details of the Holocaust that I had never heard before. I was anxious for the mystery of G...morePowerful and horrible, yet beautiful as well. This had some details of the Holocaust that I had never heard before. I was anxious for the mystery of Gemma's past to be solved, and it seemed like I had to wait a long time in the book for it to happen. When it did, it was worth the wait and much more than I had imagined. Yolen's use of the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale to tell a story of the Holocaust was masterfully done. I thought this quote from the book was particularly appropriate and can be applied to many fairy tales: "It ends happily, even though it's awfully sad along the way."
Note: Some adult themes are dealt with in this story, including some of the horrible violence done in concentration camps and extermination camps during the Holocaust. (less)
Powerful. A must-read for those interested in reading about the holocaust. I felt guilty reading while eating my lunch.
This is also a wonderful book...morePowerful. A must-read for those interested in reading about the holocaust. I felt guilty reading while eating my lunch.
This is also a wonderful book for putting your own life experiences and suffering into perspective. I especially liked his theories about responsibility - that we are all responsible for our own choices and for finding meaning in our life.
I wouldn't have been nearly as interested in the second half, "Logotherapy in a Nutshell" and "The Case for a Tragic Optimism," but he made it very readable and interesting by sharing many practical examples and stories. (Although it was this half of the book that brought my rating down to four stars.)
This is the type of book that you could read many times throughout your life and always learn something new, based on whatever you are experiencing in life at the time.
Some favorite quotes: "Love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire. . . The salvation of man is through love and in love."
"Man is ultimately self-determining. What he becomes - within the limits of endowment and environment - he has made out of himself. In the concentration camps, for example, . . . we watched and witnessed some of our comrades behave like swine while others behaved like saints. Man has both potentialities within himself; which one is actualized depends on decisions but not on conditions."
"If one cannot change a situation that causes his suffering, he can still choose his attitude."
"The world is in a bad state, but everything will become still worse unless each of us does his best."
There were many other quotes I liked as well, and if I end up reading this again someday I will add to my list.(less)
I absolutely loved this book. It doesn't hurt that I know the author, but even without that connection, I would love this book.
Marie Jacobson parachut...moreI absolutely loved this book. It doesn't hurt that I know the author, but even without that connection, I would love this book.
Marie Jacobson parachutes into France during WWII to help train Résistance leaders on a new code system - and to spend time with her fiancé, Félix, who is a member of the Résistance. Marie could not have predicted the outcome of this decision, or the changes it would mean in her life.
Although this is LDS fiction, anyone who enjoys gripping historical fiction set in France and Germany during WWII with realistic characters you really care about would enjoy this book. I highly recommend it!(less)
I LOVED this book. I felt a little rushed while I was reading it because I had to get it back to the library before a trip. I wanted to take my time w...moreI LOVED this book. I felt a little rushed while I was reading it because I had to get it back to the library before a trip. I wanted to take my time with it and enjoy each letter. This is a book I would love to read again when I'm not in a rush. It's a great book for people who love reading and writing.
This hit on several things that I love in a book. First, it has a GREAT title! The title alone made me want to read it, although I could never seem to get it exactly right when I wanted to discuss it with people.
Also, I loved ALL of the characters. Such a great mix of people live on the island of Guernsey, and they all feel so real to me. I wish this was a nonfiction book so that all of those characters would have been real people.
I also love that the book is written entirely in letters. I remember when people used to write such personable and informative letters to each other. It really wasn't all that long ago, but we live in an entirely different world now.
I had an issue with the ending, though. It ended JUST when it was getting good! I NEED A SEQUEL!(less)
This is one of the most beautifully written books I've ever read - and I almost didn't read it at all. The first time I checked it out from the librar...moreThis is one of the most beautifully written books I've ever read - and I almost didn't read it at all. The first time I checked it out from the library, I felt like I had too many books to read and it was very long. It didn't immediately catch my attention, so I returned it. This time I didn't stop after the first few pages, which gave Zusak's amazing words and characters a chance to pull me in. They wouldn't let go until I had finished the book. I literally read it in one sitting. At the end, I felt like I had experienced a lifetime's worth of emotions.
Maybe it was good that I waited, though. I recently read a biography of Hitler that attempted to answer three questions: What sort of man could plan and carry out such horrendous schemes? How was he able to win support for his deadly ventures? And why did no one try to stop him until it was almost too late? The Book Thief also answers these questions, but in an entirely different way. Yet even more important themes in the book are the power of words, the love of family, and the bonds of friendship.
I can't believe I almost missed reading The Book Thief. Everyone should read this book.(less)
From the back cover: "Hitler's murderous actions left their mark, in one way or another, on everyone who lived in the latter two-thirds of the twentie...moreFrom the back cover: "Hitler's murderous actions left their mark, in one way or another, on everyone who lived in the latter two-thirds of the twentieth century. What sort of man could plan and carry out such horrendous schemes? How was he able to win support for his deadly ventures? And why did no one try to stop him until it was almost too late?" These are some of the questions this book explores.
I never realized how much I didn't know about Hitler - especially about his childhood and his early life as he attempted to earn a living as an artist before serving as a soldier in World War I. Giblin has written a well-researched, interesting, and very readable biography in his attempt to answer the questions above about a complex and evil man. Pair this with Hitler Youth: Growing Up in Hitler's Shadow for older students who are researching the Holocaust or WWII.(less)
This took much longer to read than I expected. I was very interested in the content, but it took me quite a while to get used to Diane Ackerman's writ...moreThis took much longer to read than I expected. I was very interested in the content, but it took me quite a while to get used to Diane Ackerman's writing style. It's not that this isn't well written and extremely well researched. Her style is actually quite close to fiction as opposed to a dry nonfiction retelling of events. But she made sure I never forgot that she was getting her facts from researched sources - even though she didn't go so far as to include footnotes in the text but saved them for a separate section at the end of the book. In the beginning, I kept wishing she would have just gone completely over to the fiction side and written a mostly-true but fictionalized account of these events. Then she could have relaxed a bit and been freer in her writing. I could feel her being careful to include only facts as she knew them. It felt like she very seldom included something that wasn't spelled out in her research, and made sure the reader knew the few times that she was speculating by saying, "one wonders if..." or "it is likely that..." I felt like I would have gotten to know the characters better and could have more quickly been drawn into the events in a fictional retelling.
All of that isn't to say that I didn't learn a lot from this book! As I moved further through the text, I became more accustomed to her writing style and appreciated more what Ackerman had accomplished. This is an excellent account of the events of the Holocaust as they affected the people in Warsaw, and specifically Jan and Antonina Zabinski, the animals of the Warsaw Zoo, and the Jewish refugee "Guests" who found safety in the zoo. Even though I probably would have enjoyed a fictional retelling more, I appreciate the power of this story as a nonfiction testament to those who accomplished extraordinary things as they were caught up in the events of the Holocaust. She quotes Jan as saying, "I only did my duty--if you can save somebody's life, it's your duty to try." Yet he and his family were definitely heroes who saved the lives of many even though it put their own lives at risk. I can't read too many books about people like that. 3.5 stars.(less)
This is a book I wish I would have read with a group or in a class. I think I would have benefitted from reading it with others and discussing things...moreThis is a book I wish I would have read with a group or in a class. I think I would have benefitted from reading it with others and discussing things like the themes and symbolisms while I was reading it. It reminded me a lot of Catch-22, yet this was easier to read and not quite as dark.
It contains lots of recurring things: the "Poo-tee-weet" sound of a bird, the barking of a dog, the blue and ivory color of cold or frozen feet, Three Musketeers (both as a group of three and as a candy bar), and the phrase that Tralfamadorians (the aliens who abduct Billy) say about dead people: "So it goes." Those are just the ones I noticed and remembered while reading. I'm sure there are many more to be found, although I'm not sure that all of these recurring things have deeper meaning.
The obvious Lost connection is Billy Pilgrim becoming unstuck in time and jumping around to different times of his life, just like Desmond. Because of this he knew things that would happen in the future, but unlike Desmond, he never tried to change anything - even his own death.
I don't think this book will ever be a favorite of mine, but I did find it very interesting. I think it is a book you could read again and again and still find new themes, symbolisms and connections.
I found the Tralfamadorian's way of seeing time very interesting: "All moments, past, present, and future, always have existed, always will exist. The Tralfamadorians can look at all the different moments just the way we can look at a stretch of the Rocky Mountains, for instance. They can see how permanent all the moments are, and they can look at any moment that interests them. It is just an illusion we have here on Earth that one moment follows another one, like beads on a string, and that once a moment is gone it is gone forever." (less)
Wow, what can I say about Yellow Star by Jennifer Roy? It is an amazing story of the Holocaust written in a very poetic manner. The story is based on...moreWow, what can I say about Yellow Star by Jennifer Roy? It is an amazing story of the Holocaust written in a very poetic manner. The story is based on the memories of the author's aunt who was one of twelve children who survived in the Lodz ghetto during World War II. It is told in first person from a child's point of view, which makes the events all the more heart-wrenching. I recommend this book to everyone.(less)
Night is a spare, yet vivid account of the Nazi concentration camp as experienced by Elie Wiesel. I find it very sad that he lost his faith throughout...moreNight is a spare, yet vivid account of the Nazi concentration camp as experienced by Elie Wiesel. I find it very sad that he lost his faith throughout the trials he experienced. While I was reading, I kept thinking of The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom. She experienced similar atrocities, yet came through with an even stronger faith in God.(less)