Passenger is another time travel book with a beautiful cover. And it has a ship on it. I am all about ship covers right now.
Etta Spencer is a violin prodigy just weeks from her professional debut. Etta's lived a quiet life focusing on violin and limiting her close relationship to her mother and her teacher. On the night of a concert at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Etta is snatched from the present. She awakes on a ship in 1776 that has just been boarded by privateers. One of the leaders of the privateers is Nicolas Carter to whom Etta feels a persistent pull.
Taken to New York City, Etta learns that she is a member of a time-traveling family and because of her genetics, capable of time travel. She and Nicolas are compelled to travel through time in order to find a stolen and powerful time-traveling artifact.
Passenger is a lot of fun, but it definitely has a slow start. There is quite a bit of explanation and background that has to be established before Etta can even begin her time traveling adventures. After all, she didn't even know that time travelers exist.
Once Etta and Nicolas begin their journey things really pick up. I like how the pair jumps to several locations on their journey through space and time. I especially appreciate that those locations are not all in the Western world.
Etta and Nicolas experience an irresistible pull toward one another, and although the romance seems a bit rushed, and there's way too many secrets between the two, I guess I was won over to their romance by the end. Mostly.
The book ends with a crazy cliffhanger, and I'm sure that many will be eagerly awaiting the next addition to the series.
I am a sucker for time travel novels with blue covers, and look at this amazing cover.
Nix Song lives aboard a time-traveling ship with her father and his crew. They could be described as time-traveling pirates because they roam from era to era collecting unusual artifacts to sell to their contacts. All of this is done in the service of Nix's father's one obsession: to return to a time where his wife, Nix's mother, is living.
I love the way that time travel works in The Girl from Everywhere. To time travel, the crew must obtain an original, hand-drawn map. Using that map to navigate allows the travelers to journey to the year the map was made. When Nix's father finally finds a map that will allow his to travel back to 1868 Honolulu to save his wife, Nix is full of misgivings. What if saving her mother means that she'll no longer exist? Why isn't she enough for her father?
Other than the fabulously original method of time travel, the other big draw of this book is that it's primarily set in the Hawaiian past. I love how Heidi Heilig wove the story of Nix and the crew with the true history of Hawaii. (And, I love how she explains all this in the Author's Note at the end. When there's an Author's Note, I always read it.)
Martin W Sandler's book is a history of the Japanese American experience during World War II. In addition to the several chapters devoted to the internment, Sandler also delves into the contributions of Japanese American who served as GIs and in Intelligence.
The book itself is really nice. Although designed to read a bit more like a textbook than a narrative, the history is aided by photographs and visuals on nearly every page. ...more
Leon Leyson was ten years old when the Nazis invaded Poland. This book is a memoir of his young life. He experienced the Krakow ghetto, survived the Plaszow concentration camp, and was eventually taken under the wing of Oskar Schindler. As one of the youngest children on Schindler's famous list, Leyson's story is the perfect way to introduce young readers to that amazing story of bravery, compassion, and intelligence.
I think everyone in my book club enjoyed reading and discussing this book. It's a very quick read. It only took me about 2 and a half hours to read the whole book, but its power is not at all diminished by its brevity. ...more
Jack Mandelbaum was a young boy when the Nazis invaded Poland. He was quickly separated from his family and sent to Blechhammer concentration camp. Left to survive on his own, Jack's tale is one of fortitude and endurance, great sorrow, and the will to survive.
Andrea Warren excels at writing nonfiction for young readers. She deftly conveys the tragedies and triumphs of Jack's life. ...more
The United States 807th Medical Evacuation Squadron crash landed in Nazi-occupied Albania. It took them three months and a hike of over 1000 miles to reach the sea and an evacuation boat. They battled blizzards and had many close calls with Nazis and Nazi sympathizers. Along the way they were aided by local partisans and several British Special Operatives.
I learned quite a lot while reading Eric Braun's Trapped Behind Nazi Lines. Nazi-occupied Albania is not an aspect of WWII that is often discussed. It was really interesting to learn about the occupation in Albania and what the locals and Allies were doing to thwart the Nazis. I'm particularly interested in the work of the British Special Operatives and would like to learn more about their role in occupied areas during the war.
The escape of the 807th MES is even more remarkable considering that the group consisted of medics and nurses. They were not necessarily trained in combat, had no weapons, and were not prepared for the harsh climate.
It was also interesting to learn about why many of them did not tell their stories in the years after the war. Several kept silent because of the political situation in Albania.
A story of courage and resistance, this is a great nonfiction book for young readers interested in World War II.
Ada has spent her whole life in her flat. Her mother won't let her go outside because she's ashamed of her twisted foot. When the war starts and the cAda has spent her whole life in her flat. Her mother won't let her go outside because she's ashamed of her twisted foot. When the war starts and the children of London are being shipped to the country, Ada sneaks out with her brother Jamie and joins the evacuated children.
The War That Saved My Life felt so familiar to me in the best of ways. This type of book where the child in a bad situation develops a trusting relationship with a caring adult is one that I read a lot as a child.
I absolutely loved Susan Smith, and I thought that Kimberly Brubaker Bradley did a nice job making her feel like an actual adult. I think sometimes these type of books can have adults that are a little too perfect, but Susan definitely had her ups and downs, and she talked to the children in a way that felt very familiar to me.
I like Ada's tenacity. She is a tough little girl, but I was equally pleased to see the real effects of the trauma that she had suffered. And that that trauma stuck around for the entire book.
I also like the way that the war is woven into the story. The Dunkirk episode, especially, was a big turning point for our characters.
I just finished this book this evening and the emotions are all rather raw. This book is powerful, beautifully written, and contains so much heart. It does what historical fiction must do if it's to be done well; it transports the reader to that historical moment and gives a face, a name, and emotions to the individuals who experienced the events we read about in history books.
In the winter of 1945 Germany is losing the war and the Russians are quickly steamrolling their way east. This book is about the civilians fleeing ahead of that mighty juggernaut. With Salt to the Sea Ms. Sepetys tackles a facet of World War II that is not well known, and I love that about this book. The sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff was the world's greatest maritime tragedy, but it is rarely mentioned in the same breath as The Titanic or The Lustitania. In addition, I have not read much about what the people of Eastern Europe and Germany did when faced with Germany's collapse. Due to some of the nonfiction I've been reading lately, this is a facet of the war that has been on my mind in recent weeks.
In Salt to the Sea we follow the perspectives of four teenagers; all with very different backgrounds. They help to convey to the reader the vastness of the folks caught up in this race for survival. Joana is a Lithuanian who repatriated to Germany in order to escape Stalin's Gulag. Attentive readers will remember her from Between Shades of Gray. Emilia is a Pole who was taken in by a Prussian family in order to escape Hitler's extermination of the Slavs. She hides a secret. Florian is a Prussian art restorer seeking revenge. Alfred is an unstable sailor and a late recruit to Hitler's ranks.
I love the style of this book. Ruta Sepetys tells the story in very short chapters that jump from perspective to perspective. Consequently, the book is very fast paced which works well for the amount of heart-stopping danger these characters encounter. Emilia's predicament is basically my worst nightmare, and, for the last seven years, it's been the one that I can't help but think about when I read about tragedy.
Beyond that, the characters themselves are something special. Florian. Joana. The Poet. I'm getting teary-eyed just thinking about them.
Finally, I can't not mention the art angle. (Because art historian here.) I recently rewatched the film based on the book The Rape of Europa which is all about the Nazi's looting of the great art of Europe and the men and women who strove to protect it. I love that this element of the war was worked into the story along with a fiction explanation for the whereabouts of the missing Amber Room. ...more
Symptoms of Being Human opens with: "The first thing you’re going to want to know about me is: Am I a boy, or am I a girl?" These are the opening lines in Riley Cavanaugh's first anonymous blog post. Riley is gender fluid. Some days Riley identifies as a boy, some days as a girl. Sometimes a flip can happen in the middle of the day. As a result, Riley is dealing with some pretty hefty body dysphoria, meaning that the body Riley inhabits often feels like it doesn't fit. The dysphoria causes an anxiety that landed Riley in a mental health facility and with a therapist who prescribed this anonymous blog to help Riley find a community. Then the blog goes viral.
As if Riley's life isn't complicated enough, Riley's father is a congressman running for reelection, and Riley has just transferred to a new school. Facing bullying and pressures at home Riley feels compelled to keep this secret.
Beyond informing its audience of the ins and out of what it means to be gender fluid, Symptoms of Being Human has a lot of heart. Riley finds two friends and allies at the new school, and they are both great characters. Also, Riley has a very supportive family, and ends up finding support in the community as well.
I never like reading about bullying, and Riley suffers through some truly terrible moments. This book definitely feels like an issues-book, but sometimes an issues book is what's needed.
Kristin Lattimer is a track star and homecoming queen. She has two great best friends and a long term boyfriend. Then, at a routine gynecology appointment, she learns that she is intersex. She has androgen insensitivity syndrome meaning that her body is resistant to male hormones. People with AIS have XY chromosomes but the many of the physical traits of a woman.
Author I.W. Gregorio is a surgeon, and she was inspired to write this story because of an encounter during her residency with an teenage intersex young woman who has just discovered her condition. It was clear to me while reading that Gregorio had experience in the medical field as she was able to navigate the reader through all of these aspects of the book with superb adroitness.
Kristin's response to her diagnose is written very realistically. I could quite easily understand why Kristin made the choices she did in the weeks that passed after finding out. I actually grew quite fond of Kristin. She is a very sympathetic character. She's a good person, and, of course, I am always a fan of characters who are runners.
Kristin's biggest challenge is what other people are saying and thinking about her. When the story is circulated around the school you can imagine how betrayed she feels. Luckily, there are some really lovely characters who befriend Kristin while she is navigating this new reality. Darren, is particularly great, but I also quite liked snarky Julia.
Burn, the second book in the Four Sisters series, is more of a companion novel than an outright sequel. Stray, the first book in the series, also made my list of favorite debits of the year in 2014. It's a twisted fairy tale with a feminist flare that gives us a new take on fairy godmothers. I eagerly awaited the next addition to this world, but it didn't quite live up to my expectations.
In Burn Elanor, one of the Orphans who helped Aislynn escape in Stray, returns to the Mountain. And then nothing really happens for a long time. Sure Elanor hears that people are planning on leaving, she participates in a raid, and rescues her brother and a stranger from Josetta's castle, but none of this feels essential or helps to build any sort of tension whatsoever. None of the side characters have any depth at all, not even Aislynn, who was the main character in the last book and surely has some internal motivation.
The last fifth of the book does pick up, and, in a series of reversals, suddenly things are pretty darn exciting. The sad part about this is that it only served to show me how interesting the world of Burn could have been if only it were a bit more fully developed.
Burn is a short novel. Too short, in fact. It reads more like a novella than a fully fledged stand-alone book. I guess the good news is that it only took me an evening to read.
Last year I read the first in the Soulfinder series, Shadow Study, and it completely renewed my love this world and these characters. I'm happy to report that Night Study kept that love fest going.
Night Study picks up right where Shadow Study left off. Owen Moon has been foiled but not captured. With Yelena's powers still mysteriously missing, Yelena agrees to return to Ixia with Valek only to find that Ixia is not a safe haven either. Tensions between Ixia and Sitia are heating up and allies are falling fast.
Night Study, following in Shadow Study's wake, continues to explore Valek's past with some surprising and very satisfying developments. I, like most Study Series fans, absolutely love Valek, and the more time I spend with him the more I love him. Valek makes some decisions in this book that are cause to cheer. Also, there are many lovely moments between Yelena and Valek. I am so happy to see them this devoted and happy together.
I continue to adore the side characters, as well. As Janco says, they have become a little misfit family. Janco, Leif, Ari, and Fisk, are all well represented in this book. Plus, we have the addition of a few new characters that I think readers will find quite intriguing.
Night Study is intense in the best of ways. So much happens in this book and with every page the conspiracy seems to thicken. I kept thinking, "Oh, things can't possible get any worse." And then they would not only get a little worse but much worse! How our characters are going to turn everything around, I just do not know. The set up for the next book is quite well done. I'm going to snatch up Dawn Study as soon as I am able.
I didn't know much about Korean Americans' experiences during the World War II era before I read The W Review first posted on Intellectual Recreation.
I didn't know much about Korean Americans' experiences during the World War II era before I read The War Between Us. I love that it tells a different side of the story, and that I felt like I really learned a lot while being entertained.
Sarah Creviston Lee was a historian before she took up the pen, and all of her experience researching really shines through in this novel. The setting, both in terms of time and place, is so well crafted. All of the meals that Lonnie makes in the book are meals that Sarah has prepared and then shared on her blog, History: Preserved, as part of a year-long project to cook from a wartime rations cookbook. I also happen to know that Sarah sews, and she has made a lot of historical clothing. Her excellent descriptions meant that I could easily visualize the characters' clothing. Little details like these and period-appropriate language really helped set the book in the correct era. The Korean culture was equally well done, with language, food, and other elements of the culture adding authenticity to Alex's character.
In addition to the great setting, the characters in The War Between Us are full and complicated. Their motivations and desires run deep. Just like all of us, they make mistakes, keep secrets, and muddle their way through. I was particularly sensitive to Alex's situation. His conflicted feelings about his family, the war, and his place in America are often so raw and real. He can be quick to anger, but, as a reader, I loved him anyway. I also really love Lonnie' younger siblings and her aunt. That crew has some spunk.
I enjoyed the slow buildup of the romance in The War Between Us. Lee gives her characters time to get to know one another. The added benefit here is that she also gives the town of River Bluff time to get to know Alex so that when things finally come to a head, he's made some good allies.
I'd definitely recommend this book for anyone that is interested in home front World War II era stories. ...more
Westie lives in Rogue City, a place where humans, creatures, and Native tribes freely mingle. It's a rough town, but it suits Westie just fine. There she has the freedom to pursue her one goal: find the cannibals who killed her family.
Revenge and the Wild is a fun combination of urban fantasy and steampunk. Westie's adoptive father, Nigel, is a brilliant inventor. He built a machine prosthetic to replace Westie's severed arm, and a mask that allows Alistair to talk. Now Nigel is building a machine that can amplify the magic in gold. The machine's completion is of the utmost importance because magic is fading.
Michelle Modesto created a really interesting alternate wild west. I liked the gritty feel to the this book. Westie is a pretty single-minded person, and I appreciated her spunk and grit, even as she kept bungling things. I quite liked many of the side characters, as well, especially Alastair and Costin. The cannibals are pretty creepy, making for a heart-stopping conclusion.
Lorelai Diederich, crown princess of Ravenspire, her brother, Leo, and man-at-arms Gabriel have been on the run for seven long years ever since Irina, Lorelai's stepmother overran the kingdom with her terrible magic. It is now time for Lorelai to retake the throne.
Prince Kol of Eldr never expected to be king, but the mantel is thrust upon him when his father and elder brother are killed in the ogre wars. Desperate to save his kingdom, and convinced that magic is the only way to do so, Kol journeys to Ravenspire to seek the help of Irina. Irina sees in the dragonshifter the perfect huntsman.
This retelling of Snow White has a kickass heroine. Lorelai is tough, trained, smart, and very powerful. There's no way she's about to hide in the woods with dwarfs. All of the magical duels in this book were intense. This is a major magical smackdown. Irina is so evil and her magic is pretty horrifying (those apples!).
I love dragons when they are well done, and I quite enjoyed these dragon shapeshifters. It's always fun to see how how an author reshapes the basic elements of a fairy tale in retellings. I like what Redwine did with the huntsman and the dwarfs (they are in there, but subtle) in this one.
I, like so many others, don't quite know what to say about this book. (And yet, looking back, I see that I said so much.) It is bizarrely weird in a good way, incredibly thought provoking, but with subject matter that is hard to stomach.
One great thing about this book was how interesting the fairies are. The fairies have glitter all over their bodies. It's actually kind of annoying to them, but the gnomes think the glitter tastes bad, so it's also a defense mechanism. The fairies need the glitter because the gnomes they've repressed (I guess?) and forced to live underground routinely eat fairies, or at least eat parts of them. Fairies never die and their severed body parts remain sentient even within a gnome's stomach. (It's so crazy weird.) In fact, our main character, Beckan, keeps the bits of her father that remain in a jar. Also, fairy women don't have a uterus. They can't have children, so all fairy babies are products of interspecies relations. Despite that fairies are incredibly racist.
I wish that the other species in the book had been as fully formed as the fairies are. However, the book is written by a fairy, and with all that racism, he probably doesn't known much about the other races.
The book itself is about the war between the Tightropers and the Gnomes and the four young Fairies who stay in Ferrum despite the raging conflict, Beckan, Josha, Cricket, and Scrap. Despite the fact that this is a war between mythical species, the book has a very gritty, realistic feel with modern weaponry. Hannah Moskowitz said she was thinking about World War II and the Holocaust as she wrote the book. The war is one of that pits race against race, which is, of course, related to World War II, but also to so many of the wars that continue to rage now.
The book is also very experimental both in terms of style. The book is Scrap's history of the war. It alternates between past and present, and the main character is Beckan, even though Scrap is writing. The book itself is very meta. Scrap is always interjecting things about how bad his writing is, for example.
So there were actually a lot of things I found really interesting about this book. I just had a difficult time with how the subject of prostitution. It's not necessarily even that the characters were practicing prostitution that was the problem, it's more that it was treated like it was no big thing; that it wasn't traumatizing and mentally scarring, which I really think it would be.
A History of Glitter and Blood is a complicated book, and while I ultimately took issue with parts of it, I can certainly see why it has received so much praise.
In Michael Grant's World War II novel women are eligible to serve as soldiers and must register for the draft.
The book is written from the perspectivIn Michael Grant's World War II novel women are eligible to serve as soldiers and must register for the draft.
The book is written from the perspectives of three soldier girls, Rio Richlin, Frangie Marr, and Rainy Schulterman. We follow the girls through conscription, boot camp, and then onto the front. What I enjoyed most about this novel is how real it felt. I truly believed that these girls were soldiers. That girls could have been soldiers. And the way that Grant navigated the attitudes, prejudices, and inexperience of the soldiers felt so very truthful.
I also like that Grant is taking us through these girls' entire war. We aren't just plopped down in some battle on some beach. We have to slog through boot camp too. We see how that experience changes them and prepares or fails to prepare our girls and their comrades for battle.
In an alternate world Hitler won World War II. Now in 1956 the Axis Powers have craved up the eastern hemisphere. Every year to celebrate their victorIn an alternate world Hitler won World War II. Now in 1956 the Axis Powers have craved up the eastern hemisphere. Every year to celebrate their victory they host a long-distance motorcycle race that covers the whole of their territory. This year Yael, a death camp escapee, will be competing. Highly trained and with the ability to skinshift, she will impersonate last years winner, Adele Wolfe. Her goal: win the race and kill Hitler during the victory dance.
I loved a lot of things about Wolf By Wolf. The alternate world with an Axis Power victory is pretty terrifying in that Ryan Graudin made it seem so plausible. The flashbacks to Yael's days in the camp and training help to create a full character in Yael. We are privy to her demons. The addition of a little bit of the supernatural (the skinshift) is explained through the medical experiments the Nazi's really did perform on their prisoners. The motorcycle race is fast paced with a lot of action. I really enjoyed the various settings. But, most of all, the other characters in the race are not at all straightforward. What are we to make of Felix Wolfe and Luka Lowe? I sincerely hope they are back in the next book. Also, I kind of want a prequel or maybe for Adele Wolfe to be in the next book because she is fascinating even in her absence.
I adore Kasie West's books. I've read them all, loved them all, and was very excited for the release of P.S. I Like You on July 26th. I read the whole book in one day.
P.S. I Like You is about Lily Abbott, a girl who is very bored in Chemistry class. Daydreaming in class, she writes a line from her favorite song on her desk. The next day someone has written the next line. Soon Lily and her mysterious pen pal are exchanging notes daily.
P.S. I Like You reminded me of You've Got Mail. I love that movie, and I thought that a YA/ high version was a pretty swell idea. Both the book and the movie include secret pen pals and main characters who hate each other.
P.S. I Like You is definitely a bit on the predictable side, but that does not mean that I didn't enjoy the ride. The ending, especially, was incredibly cute.
It wasn't my favorite of Kasie West's books, but I did still find it to be a charming tale. I loved Lily's large family. Her parents are hilarious. Her siblings are great.
Stars Above is a collection of short stories set in the world of The Lunar Chronicles. Every title characters gets a prequel to her book, as do Carswell Thorne and Wolf. In one story we get Prince Kai's reaction to events that occur in one of the books. It's hard to pick a favorite, but I especially enjoyed the story with young Scarlett and Michelle Benoit. I also liked Winter's story about why she stopped using her gift. It's suitably dark and creepy, like all stories that take place on Luna.
Another story in Stars Above, The Little Android, stars original characters and takes place in the world of The Lunar Chronicles and is a retelling of The Little Mermaid. At first, I wasn't too excited about leaving behind the main characters, but I actually ended up quite enjoying the story.
The final story in Stars Above is an epilogue to Winter, and it was lovely to have all the characters gathered together again and to know that life goes on for them.
I'm a big fan of the audio versions of The Lunar Chronicles, so, of course, I listened to this book, as well.
So long, Lunar Chronicles. It's been a fun ride. ...more
I have been eagerly looking forward to Rick Riordan's foray into Norse mythology for some time. Magnus Chase is not exactly your ordinary Bostonian.I have been eagerly looking forward to Rick Riordan's foray into Norse mythology for some time. Magnus Chase is not exactly your ordinary Bostonian. He's been homeless for two years, ever since his mother was killed by ferocious wolves. Things come to a head when Magnus turns sixteen.
The Sword of Summer is pretty fun. I liked Magnus, and I especially liked Samira. I liked seeing Riordan's take on Norse gods and goddesses. However, this book is your standard Riordan fare. Magnus is snarky like Percy was in The Lightning Thief. The quest format is very similar to his Greek series, and overall, it felt like the Percy Jackson series recreated in Norse form: Magnus has some quest buddies (a couple of whom are not human), the group goes from place to place and god to god trying to put together the things they need to complete their quest, the language, characterization, and friendships all feel very familiar. Still, I love Rick Riordan, and he's great at what he does, just don't expect this addition to be a departure from what you've read before....more
In Lindsay Francis Brambles's alternate world the Nazis not only won World War II, they also unleashed a deadly virus upon the world; a virus that tuIn Lindsay Francis Brambles's alternate world the Nazis not only won World War II, they also unleashed a deadly virus upon the world; a virus that turned those it did not kill into vampires. Now the world is divided into two distinct groups: the vampires ruled by the Nazis and a small group of people who are naturally immune to the deadly pathogen. Sophie Harkness is an immune. She grew up on Haven, the last bastion of the humanity. When Sophie's best friend is murdered, Sophie begins an investigation into her death that uncovers generations of secrets.
Becoming Darkness has a really interesting premise, and I ended up liking it more than I thought I would. I like how the book is a bit of a genre-bender combining historical, urban fantasy, and mystery into one. I also liked that Brambles did not take the easy way out with this book. The stakes are sufficiently high for a book about Nazis. ...more
The White Rose picks up right where The Jewel left off. Violet and Ash have been discovered and must be whisked to safety by the resistance known as The Black Key. The White Rose definitely has a middle-book feel to it--in that there is a lot of set-up and not the same amount of high-intensity danger that we felt in the first book. However, I think the characters manage to pull it off. I am especially intrigued by Raven and Garnet. I could definitely do with more Garnet. He is a complex guy.
Sadie moved across the country in hopes of reinventing herself after a potentially career-ending injury. Unfortunately everyone already knows who sheSadie moved across the country in hopes of reinventing herself after a potentially career-ending injury. Unfortunately everyone already knows who she is. Her struggles to trust herself and a dance partner again are seriously tested by Luke Morrison and the "game" of sexual conquest that has taken the school by storm.
I liked all the dancing in this book but that was about it....more
I really enjoyed this biography of Charles Darwin. Deborah Heiligman focuses on Darwin's relationship with his wife, Emma, and their family life. It was incredibly interesting to learn about their remarkable relationship and how they raised their children. I also did not know that Darwin was so sick for most of his life.
In Heiligman's book, Darwin's doubts about God and Emma's religiosity are a microcosm from the greater conflict between the theory of evolution and the Christian society. I thought that Heiligman treated each side with respect.
The whole time I was listening to this book, I kept thinking about how much I wanted to discuss it with my book group. As luck would have it, it was my turn to pick a book. And, this book did provide very interesting discussion material. We discussed the historical conflict between religion and science, Emma and Charles's relationship, the way they raised their children, Darwin's reluctance to publish, among other topics. ...more
This book about the life and work of Dmitri Shostakovich, the great Russian composer, is absolutely exquisite. It will be on my favorite reads of the year post.
I read Symphony for the City of the Dead along with several other nonfiction history books as I prepared for a post about historical nonfiction. One of the other books that I read for this post was Candace Fleming's The Family Romanov. Anderson's book picks up just about where Fleming's leaves off, which made me feel like I got a really good review of Russian history over a 70 year period. Also, all that good background information that I gleaned from Fleming's book definitely helped prepare me for this one.
M.T. Anderson deftly navigates atrocities of Stalin's reign, the siege of Leningrad, the experimental art of the 1920s and 30s, and explorations of what art can do. I appreciate modern art and modern music, and so, I found the first part of this book just as interesting as the later chapters that dealt with the war. Russian history is so horrifying in many ways. Anderson does an excellent job conveying the very tricky situation that Shostakovich is in for most of his life and how dangerous Stalinist Russia was for anyone that did not toe the party line (and really for those who did as well).
I read most of Symphony for the City of the Dead while listening to Shostakovich's music which made for a very enjoyable, emotional, and wonderfully aesthetic reading experience. First of all, there is no doubt that Anderson is a master wordsmith, and I was incredibly impressed wit how well he is able to convey the feeling of music with his words. The symphonies themselves proved a powerful backdrop to the Great Terror and the siege. (Listen to Symphony #4 while you read about the Great Terror. Listen to Symphony #5 as you read about Shostakovich navigation of this tricky political climate. Listen to the Leningrad Symphony (Symphony #7) as you read about World War II and the Siege of Leningrad.) I realize that not everyone will appreciate Shostakovich's music (personally, I like modern, experimental music), but, I find that modern art is more easily appreciated when you have a little background, and this book will give you that. Honestly, I do not know how anyone could read Anderson's words and not desperately want to listen to Shostakovich's music.
Reading this book (while listening to Shostakovich's music), gave me a wonderful education on both Russia's role in World War II and Dmitri Shostakovich's art.
Who isn't fascinated by Harry Houdini? He's become an American legend. In this delightful biography for young readers, Sid Fleischman takes us through the life of the great magician, from its humble beginnings to its sudden end.
Escape!: The Story of the Great Houdini was one of the great children's author Sid Fleischman's last books, and I loved the personal touches he included in his biography of Harry Houdini. Fleischman was fascinated by magic and Houdini as a child, and as a young magician, he knew Houdini's wife Bess.
In Escape! the reader follows the Houdinis on their journey to success. Born Ehrich Weiss, the son of a rabbi, Houdini transformed himself into the showman that has become a household name....more