31. March 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, History, Informational Book, NonFiction

What You Never Knew About Tubs, Toilets, & Showers by Patricia Lauber, 40 pages, read by Angie, on 03/31/2014

There is a lot of information packed into this small book. Most of the history covers baths and what people thought of them through the ages. There is a nice variety of information from around the globe included. Fun little book!

30. March 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Autobiographies, History, Inspirational, Memoirs, NonFiction, Rachel

The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom, 228 pages, read by Rachel, on 03/29/2014

This was a fantastic autobiography! Reminiscent of Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank, The Hiding Place provided the perspective of a Christian family in Holland hiding those who were fleeing Nazi persecution. I was amazed by the organization of the resistance and the positivity of Corrie ten Boom during one of the darkest times of history.

This is the true story of how Corrie ten Boom and her family became leaders in the Dutch underground when the Nazis invaded Holland, hiding Jewish people in their home in a specially built room.

27. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: History, NonFiction, Tammy · Tags:

1776 by David McCullough, 755 pages, read by Tammy, on 02/07/2014

1776One of America’s most popular history writers gives us another beautifully written and exciting to read history. Reading more like a novel, 1776, pulls us into the year of our nation’s birth. He tells the story from both sides of the Atlantic and covers decisions on both sides that led to the American Revolution. Once war begins, McCullough relates the story of those who marched with George Washington, the farmers, schoolteachers, shoemakers and boys trying to be soldiers. As well as relating stories of some of the King’s men, under British commander, William Howe.

Based on extensive research in both American and British archives, 1776 is a powerful narrative and winner of the Pulitzer Prize.

11. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Helen, History, NonFiction

In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson, 448 pages, read by Helen, on 07/30/2012

The time is 1933, the place, Berlin, when William E. Dodd becomes America’s first ambassador to Hitler’s Germany in a year that proved to be a turning point in history.

A mild-mannered professor from Chicago, Dodd brings along his wife, son, and flamboyant daughter, Martha. At first Martha is entranced by the parties and pomp, and the handsome young men of the Third Reich with their infectious enthusiasm for restoring Germany to a position of world prominence. Enamored of the “New Germany,” she has one affair after another, including with the suprisingly honorable first chief of the Gestapo, Rudolf Diels. But as evidence of Jewish persecution mounts, confirmed by chilling first-person testimony, her father telegraphs his concerns to a largely indifferent State Department back home. Dodd watches with alarm as Jews are attacked, the press is censored, and drafts of frightening new laws begin to circulate. As that first year unfolds and the shadows deepen, the Dodds experience days full of excitement, intrigue, romance—and ultimately, horror, when a climactic spasm of violence and murder reveals Hitler’s true character and ruthless ambition.

Suffused with the tense atmosphere of the period, and with unforgettable portraits of the bizarre Göring and the expectedly charming–yet wholly sinister–Goebbels, In the Garden of Beasts lends a stunning, eyewitness perspective on events as they unfold in real time, revealing an era of surprising nuance and complexity. The result is a dazzling, addictively readable work that speaks volumes about why the world did not recognize the grave threat posed by Hitler until Berlin, and Europe, were awash in blood and terror.

11. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Biographies, Helen, History, NonFiction

Ghosty Men by Franz Lidz, 161 pages, read by Helen, on 05/30/2012

A true tale of changing New York by Franz Lidz, whose Unstrung Heroesis a classic of hoarder lore.

Homer and Langley Collyer moved into their handsome brownstone in white, upper-class Harlem in 1909. By 1947, however, when the fire department had to carry Homer’s body out of the house he hadn’t left in twenty years, the neighborhood had degentrified, and their house was a fortress of junk: in an attempt to preserve the past, Homer and Langley held on to everything they touched.

The scandal of Homer’s discovery, the story of his life, and the search for Langley, who was missing at the time, rocked the city; the story was on the front page of every newspaper for weeks. A quintessential New York story of quintessential New York characters.

11. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Helen, History, NonFiction

Isaac's Storm by Erik Larson, 316 pages, read by Helen, on 04/30/2012

September 8, 1900, began innocently in the seaside town of Galveston, Texas. Even Isaac Cline, resident meteorologist for the U.S. Weather Bureau failed to grasp the true meaning of the strange deep-sea swells and peculiar winds that greeted the city that morning. Mere hours later, Galveston found itself submerged in a monster hurricane that completely destroyed the town and killed over six thousand people in what remains the greatest natural disaster in American history–and Isaac Cline found himself the victim of a devestating personal tragedy.

Using Cline’s own telegrams, letters, and reports, the testimony of scores of survivors, and our latest understanding of the science of hurricanes, Erik Larson builds a chronicle of one man’s heroic struggle and fatal miscalculation in the face of a storm of unimaginable magnitude. Riveting, powerful, and unbearably suspenseful, Isaac’s Storm is the story of what can happen when human arrogance meets the great uncontrollable force of nature.

11. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Helen, History, NonFiction

The Devil in the white City by Erik Larson, 447 pages, read by Helen, on 03/30/2012

Author Erik Larson imbues the incredible events surrounding the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair with such drama that readers may find themselves checking the book’s categorization to be sure that ‘The Devil in the White City’ is not, in fact, a highly imaginative novel. Larson tells the stories of two men: Daniel H. Burnham, the architect responsible for the fair’s construction, and H.H. Holmes, a serial killer masquerading as a charming doctor.

Burnham’s challenge was immense. In a short period of time, he was forced to overcome the death of his partner and numerous other obstacles to construct the famous “White City” around which the fair was built. His efforts to complete the project, and the fair’s incredible success, are skillfully related along with entertaining appearances by such notables as Buffalo Bill Cody, Susan B. Anthony, Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison.

The activities of the sinister Dr. Holmes, who is believed to be responsible for scores of murders around the time of the fair, are equally remarkable. He devised and erected the World’s Fair Hotel, complete with crematorium and gas chamber, near the fairgrounds and used the event as well as his own charismatic personality to lure victims.

11. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Biographies, Brian, History, NonFiction · Tags: ,

Isaac's Storm: A Man, a Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History by Erik Larson, 323 pages, read by Brian, on 02/07/2014

stormI am a weather freak and I love to read Erik Larson, it’s almost like a perfect storm.  The book talks about oddities in weather but more importantly Isaac Cline and is ill fated hurricane prediction that destroyed Galveston, Texas.  This was one of the worst natural disasters in America’s history.  Nature beats arrogance every time.

 

03. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: History, Kira, NonFiction · Tags:

Christmas : a Candid History by Bruce David Forbes., 179 pages, read by Kira, on 01/17/2014

banxmas
Did you know that the Puritans banned the celebration of Christmas in the US & UK for almost 2 Centuries!  So working Christmas was the norm, when Bob Cratchit asked Scrooge for the day off.  The christmas-a-candid-historyChristmas Carol story makes it seem as if, Scrooge is being a mean person, as opposed to a law-abPURITAN-BAN-ON-CHRISTMAS-WAS-TO-PREVENT-DEMONIZATIONS-OF-CITIZENS-IN-COMMUNITYiding citizen, a shrewd business person.  The biggest reason for the revival of the winter holiday celebration in Britain & America was the book, the Christmas Carol; the 2nd reason for the revival of celebrating Christmas, was the press’ fascination with the young Queen Victoria & Prince Albert from Germany who captured the royal families’ Christmas Tree in the newspaper.  The “tradition” caught on.cmaspuritans

30. January 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: History, NonFiction, Tammy · Tags: , ,

100 Cats who Changed Civilization: History's most Influential Felines by Sam Stall, 175 pages, read by Tammy, on 01/09/2014

100 cats True stories about cats that created laws, inspired their owners or were present at historical moments. Each story is about a different cat and ranges from 1 to 3 pages in length. Quick fun read for cat lovers, history lovers or trivia nuts.

27. January 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, History, NonFiction

The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History by Robert M. Edsel, 473 pages, read by Angie, on 01/26/2014

This book has been on my “to read” list for a while, but with the movie coming out I thought I had better move it to the top of the list. It was definitely worth the read. While this is a work of nonfiction it reads like a mystery. Robert Edsel makes sure the reader connects with the men and women who were part of the Monuments Men during WWII. You get to know them and their families and their motivations.

I find it fascinating that not only did Hitler want to conquer Europe he also wanted to conquer its culture and artifacts. Hitler believed himself to be a connoisseur of art and set about acquiring as much as possible to build his collection and the collections of the museums he wanted to create. This meant the pillaging of Jewish art collections and the pillaging of museums in conquered lands. No one really knew the extent of his acquisitions and the acquisitions of his men until near the end of the war.

While the creation of the Monuments Men came from the top of the military brass, it was never fully staffed or given the materials needed to do the job properly. However, with little to help them out the Monuments Men were able to find and restore thousands of pieces of stolen art. I really enjoyed reading about how little conversations or bits of information would lead them to more bits which would lead them to a cache of stolen treasure. The Monuments Men were detectives on the trail of the biggest art heist in history. The fact that all of the stolen materials were found doesn’t not in any way diminish their acts of heroism and determination. These men and women were and went on to be some of the pillars of the museum and art world and I am glad they are finally getting the recognition they so richly deserve.

15. January 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Autobiographies, Classics, History, Rachel, Teen Books

The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank, 274 pages, read by Rachel, on 01/15/2014

Anne Frank, June 1929 – March 1945 Anneliesse Marie Frank was born on June 12, 1929 in Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany. She was the second daughter of Otto and Edith Frank. Anne’s father was a factory worker, who moved his family to Amsterdam in 1933 to escape the Nazi’s. There he opened up a branch of his uncle’s company and Anne and her sister Margot resumed a normal life, attending a Montessori School in Amsterdam.

The Germans attacked the Netherlands in 1940 and took control, issuing anti-Jewish decrees, and forcing the Frank sisters into a Jewish Lyceum instead of their old school. Their father Otto decided to find a place for the family to hide should the time come that the Nazi’s came to take them to a concentration camp. He chose the annex above his offices and found some trustworthy friends among his fellow workers to supply the family with food and news. On July 5, 1942, Margot received a “call up” to serve in the Nazi “work camp.” The next day, the family escaped to the annex, welcoming another family, the van Pels, which consisted of Hermann and Auguste van Pels and their son Peter. Fritz Pfeffer also came to stay with them, causing the count to come to eight people hiding in the annex.

Anne, Margot and Peter continued their studies under the tutelage of Otto, and all of the captives found ways to entertain themselves for the long years they remained hidden. On August 4, 1944, four Dutch Nazis came to arrest the eight, having discovered their hiding place through an informant. Anne’s diary was left behind and found later by one of the family’s friends. The eight were taken to prison in Amsterdam and then deported to Westerbork before being shipped to Auschwitz. At Auschwitz, the men were separated from the women and Hermann van Pels was immediately gassed. Fritz Pfeffer died at Neuenganme in 1944.

Anne, Margot and Mrs. van Pels were taken to Bergen-Belson, leaving behind Anne’s mother, Edith, who died at Auschwitz of starvation and exhaustion in 1945. At Bergen-Belson, Anne and Margot contracted typhus and died of the disease in March of 1945. Anne was 15 and Margot was 17. The exact date and the place they were buried is unknown. Otto Frank was the only one of the original group of eight who were hidden in the annex to survive. He was left for dead at Auschwitz when the Russian Army came to liberate the camp. It is due to him that Anne’s diary was published and became the success it is.

08. January 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Biographies, Courtney, Graphic Book, History, NonFiction, Teen Books

A Game for Swallows: To Die, to Leave, to Return by Zeina Abirached, 188 pages, read by Courtney, on 12/30/2013

A Game for Swallows is a graphic memoir of life in Lebanon during their civil war in the ’80’s. Zeina and her family live in an apartment building that is situated right next to the dividing line. One night, Zeina’s parents leave home to check on family members across town, risking their lives to pass through various security checkpoints and sniper territory. While the parents are out, the neighbors drop in to check on Zeina and her little brother. As time passes, more and more of the apartment’s inhabitants make their way down to Zeina’s apartment because the foyer there is the safest room in the building. Before long, everyone they live with is grouped together in the small room. As the bombs start falling, the adults tell the children stories and fix them food to help them keep their mind off of their absent parents. The reader learns a bit about each character and how the war has affected them.
It’s a sweet story and it gives the reader a bit of perspective on how everyday citizens dealt with an ongoing civil war in their own backyards. The artwork will definitely draw comparisons to the now-classic graphic memoir, Persepolis, with its bold, black-and-white illustrations. It is, however, stylistically different and well-suited to the story it tells. I wish there were more to the story. Readers not familiar with the region’s troubled history will probably be left with more questions than answers. The ending feels very abrupt and anti-climatic, which is probably best for the real-life individuals involved, but not as exciting or compelling for the reader.

02. December 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Bryan, History, NonFiction

Washington's secret six: the spy ring that saved the American Revolution by Brian Kilmeade, 235 pages, read by Bryan, on 11/26/2013

WashingtonIf you were to mention the American’s attempt to spy on the British, most people could come up with Nathan Hale.  Unfortunately, he was caught before he did much spying.  Kilmeade examines the lives and work of Washington’s spy ring in New York that was so secretive, that even today some of the actual names are not known.  They are credited with capturing a British Navy signal book that helped the French fleet stop the British from evacuating Cornwallis at Yorktown, uncovering the plot by Benedict Arnold, and many other acts of bravery — all while living in British occupied New York.  Many of the techniques that they used are still used today — yet most Americans have never heard of the Culper ring.

I don’t normally read nonfiction, but this one is a keeper.  It is short, informative and well-written.  I highly recommend this to any history buff.

02. December 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Autobiographies, History, Memoirs, NonFiction, Pamela

I, Toto by Willard Carroll, 96 pages, read by Pamela, on 11/27/2013

I totoDuring the expansion of the Ventura Freeway in Los Angeles, Willard Carroll unearthed a leatherbound scrapbook from a site that was once a pet cemetery. To his amazement, its yellowing pages contained the rags-to-riches story of Terry, the cairn terrier who played Toto in the enduring film The Wizard of Oz. Reprinted here in its entirety, I, Toto traces the canine star’s tragic beginnings, her exhilarating film career, and her happy retirement in Southern California. Best of all, it offers the inside scoop on Toto’s signature role, her costars, and the making of The Wizard of Oz.

There are also some endearing passages about Terry’s (a.k.a. Toto) interaction with Clark Gable, Shirley Temple, and Spencer Tracy.  A book written from a dog’s point of view is not unique, but from this famous dog’s point of view it is unique.

Children and adults alike will like this book.  There are plenty of pictures to entertain the young ones while an adult reads the story.  It’s a very quick read and packed with lots of entertainment about a very special little dog.

19. November 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, History, NonFiction

The Lost Museum: The Nazi Conspiracy To Steal The World's Greatest Works Of Art by Hector Feliciano, Tim Bent (translator), 336 pages, read by Angie, on 11/18/2013

Hitler loved art and it was one of his goals to return many of the masters to Germany and to set up one of the best museums in the world. In order to do that he pillaged and plundered Europe. This book covers Paris and its stolen art and is based on an article written in France. I knew about the Nazi’s agenda to steal art, but I didn’t realize how systematic it was. Hitler and Goering were determined to find and send to Germany as much art as possible, most of which was taken from wealthy Parisian Jews. As in other areas during WWII, there was a lot of collaboration from the Paris art dealers. In fact the Paris art world was booming during this period. Art was going for outrageous prices (both high and low) and dealers were becoming really wealthy. None of the activities during the war really surprised me. What surprised me most was what happened after the war when the owners tried to get their possessions back. Barely half of the art stolen by the Nazis has been found and returned. There was a great deal of effort immediately after the war, but there was also a lot of stonewalling and dead ends. If the art ended up in Eastern Europe, it became the spoils of war or reparations for the Soviet Union. Most of that art has never been seen. If it ended up in Switzerland, a supposed neutral country, there was no recourse to get it back. Swiss law was such that it was almost impossible to claim stolen goods there even if you knew where they were. I think what really surprised me was the French museums and the auction houses. There are some 2000 pieces in French museums that are Nazi contraband and have never been claimed; however, the museums have made almost no effort to find the owners. The auctions houses are even worse. Places like Christie’s and Sotheby’s have sold stolen art repeatedly with little or no investigation into their provenances.

Of course all this information is from The Lost Museum. While I found the information really interesting, the book was not. It was not well written or easily readable. Part of this may be the translation, but that does not explain how boring it was in parts. I found myself skimming probably half of the book just to get through it. There are paragraphs long lists of paintings. The author also gives biographies of the Jews whose art was stolen, but spends very little time on the actual story of the theft. Instead of a laundry list of paintings, I would have preferred more on the actual story about the journey the art took and what happened to it after the war. There is some of this but not enough.

17. November 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, History, NonFiction · Tags:

Secrets of a Civil War Submarine: Solving the Mysteries of the H.L. Hunley by Sally M. Walker, 112 pages, read by Angie, on 11/17/2013

The H.L. Hunley was the first submarine to sink a ship in wartime. It was built during the Civil War and actually sank twice before completely a mission successfully. On February 17, 1864 the Hunley sank the USS Housatonic off the Charleston Harbor. Unfortunately, the Hunley never made it back to shore nor was it ever seen again. The Hunley was found buried in the mud in 1995. It took several years and lots of work before the Hunley revealed its secrets. Scientists still don’t know exactly why the Hunley sank with all eight crewmen aboard. However, the crew have now been put to rest while the investigation into the Hunley continues.

16. November 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, History, Madeline, NonFiction

Sugar changed the world : a story of magic, spice, slavery, freedom, and science by Marc Aronson, Marina Budhos, 166 pages, read by Madeline, on 11/06/2013

When this award-winning husband-and-wife team discovered that they each had sugar in their family history, they were inspired to trace the globe-spanning story of the sweet substance and to seek out the voices of those who led bitter sugar lives. The trail ran like a bright band from religious ceremonies in India to Europe’s Middle Ages, then on to Columbus, who brought the first cane cuttings to the Americas. Sugar was the substance that drove the bloody slave trade and caused the loss of countless lives but it also planted the seeds of revolution that led to freedom in the American colonies, Haiti, and France. With songs, oral histories, maps, and over 80 archival illustrations, here is the story of how one product allows us to see the grand currents of world history in new ways. Time line, source notes, bibliography, index.

16. November 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Autobiographies, Children's Books, History, NonFiction · Tags: ,

The Boy on the Wooden Box by Leon Leyson, 240 pages, read by Angie, on 11/14/2013

I couldn’t put this book down; I didn’t want to put it down. Leon Leyson captured my attention and held it throughout his entire story. We learn a lot about the Holocaust and what happened during those years, but I haven’t ever really read an autobiography about it. Leon Leyson was just a young boy when Germany invaded Poland. He and his family lived in Krakow and quickly began to feel the effects of the Nazi machine. Because his father had a job, most of his family was protected, but they were never really safe. His father worked for Oskar Schindler at his enamel factor and was one of the first on “the list”. Leon, his mother and his brother David also had their names added to the list. Unfortunately, two of his brothers did not; one fled to the country and one was rounded up during one of the ghetto cleansings. His sister worked for another factory and was protected until the end. Being on Schindler’s list did not necessarily mean full protection however. The family was still subjected to the ghetto and the guards who terrorized it. They were also all sent to concentration camps during the move from Krakow to Brunnlitz. This is a very compelling story of one family’s survival during the atrocities of WWII. Leon didn’t die horribly like so many others during that time. He survived, moved to America and became a teacher. It wasn’t until the release of Schindler’s List that he started to speak about his experiences. Leon Leyson was the youngest person on the list, but he was not the only one. Oskar Schindler’s bravery and dedication to saving his Jews was amazing. Reading this book made me want to learn more about Schindler (beyond what I remember from the movie!).

13. November 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, History, Informational Book, NonFiction, Teen Books

Unsettled: The Problem of Loving Israel by Marc Aronson, 192 pages, read by Angie, on 11/12/2013

Marc Aronson takes a look at the history of Israel and what it means to be Jewish in Israel. This is not a straight-forward historical book, but a personal soul-searching by the author. He does a lot of back and forth between the ideal Israel and the actual Israel. He also compares Israel to America and American Jews to Israeli Jews. Even though he does touch on some controversial topics in this book, it is still more of a personal journey about why Aronson does not live in Israel and what he wishes it was. It wasn’t exactly what I thought it was going to be and was a little difficult to read. Aronson never really comes to any conclusions, just back and forth on the topics he discusses.