03. April 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: History, Kim B, NonFiction · Tags:

A Train in Winter: An Extraordinary Story of Women, Friendship, and Resistance in Occupied France by Caroline Moorehead, 374 pages, read by Kim Bolton, on 04/01/2015

They were teachers, students, chemists, writers, and housewives; a singer at the Paris Opera, a midwife, a dental surgeon. They distributed anti-Nazi leaflets, printed subversive newspapers, hid resisters, secreted Jews to safety, transported weapons, and conveyed clandestine messages. The youngest was a schoolgirl of fifteen who scrawled “V” for victory on the walls of her lycée; the eldest, a farmer’s wife in her sixties who harbored escaped Allied airmen. Strangers to each other, hailing from villages and cities from across France, these brave women were united in hatred and defiance of their Nazi occupiers.

Eventually, the Gestapo hunted down 230 of these women and imprisoned them in a fort outside Paris. Separated from home and loved ones, these disparate individuals turned to one another, their common experience conquering divisions of age, education, profession, and class, as they found solace and strength in their deep affection and camaraderie.

In January 1943, they were sent to their final destination: Auschwitz. Only forty-nine would return to France.

A Train in Winter draws on interviews with these women and their families; German, French, and Polish archives; and documents held by World War II resistance organizations to uncover a dark chapter of history that offers an inspiring portrait of ordinary people, of bravery and survival—and of the remarkable, enduring power of female friendship.

From Goodreads.com.

A beautiful well written story about a group of courageous women!

23. March 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Angie, Fiction, Historical Fiction · Tags:

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, 531 pages, read by Angie, on 03/21/2015

My mom recommended this book to me and I am so glad I finally read it. It is a powerful story, told beautifully. It is a story of love and loss and survival and death. It is the story of two children coming of age during WWII. Marie-Laure is a beloved daughter of a Paris museum locksmith. She has grown up surrounded by the museum and all its treasures. When she goes blind her father builds a replica of their neighborhood so she can find her way around. He also spoils her with little puzzles and treasures. Warner is an orphan living in a children’s home in a mining town in Germany. He is mechanically brilliant, building a radio from scratch and repairing things in the town. He fears being sent to work in the mines and dying like his father. He is protective of his younger sister Jutta, but doesn’t really know how to help them. When he is given the opportunity to attend a Nazi technical school he jumps at the chance. School is a lot more brutal than he thought it would be, but he finds a way to survive.

Marie-Laure and Warner’s stories are told alternatively through their childhood and the present day at the end of the war. They both end up in Saint-Malo on the French coast. Marie-Laure and her father have fled Paris ahead of the Nazi occupation and taken up residence with her great uncle Etienne. Her uncle was traumatized by WWI and doesn’t leave the house; he suffers bouts of PTSD that leave him hiding in his room for days. Marie-Laure’s father again builds a model of the neighborhood so she can find her way about, but then he disappears. Warner has become part of a radio unit that hunts down insurgents. Their quest has led them to Saint-Malo. Little does he know that the radio broadcasts giving out information to the French resistance is the same one he listened to as a child on his homemade radio. Etienne has again taken to the airwaves after being convinced by his housekeeper to join the fight. Warner is intrigued by the blind girl he sees coming out of the house and finds himself protective of her and Etienne. Their stories intersect during the last days in Saint-Malo as it is being bombed by the Allies.

Interspersed with all of this is the story of the Sea of Flames, a singular blue diamond with a heart of fire. It has traveled the world before ending up in the Paris museum. It is said to be cursed, offering immortality to its bearer but death to all those you love. Marie-Laure’s father was entrusted with its safe keeping when he fled Paris. A Nazi officer has been pursuing it across France as he also evaluates other jewels confiscated by the Nazis. He is dying and is determined to get the jewel in the hopes of saving his life. His search leads him right to the door of Marie-Laure.

I loved this book and really had a hard time putting it down. It is beautifully written and Marie-Laure and Warner came alive on the page. I couldn’t wait to see how their stories would finally intersect. This book really brought out the lives of ordinary people in the war. Even though Marie-Laure and Warner are extraordinary in their own ways, there stories are ones shared by others during that time. They are doing what they can to survive and remain themselves. I thought the ending was perfect. It wasn’t a happy ending, yet it was in many ways. This book is definitely worthy of all the praise that has been heaped upon it.

25. February 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: History, Kim B, NonFiction · Tags:

Hitler Youth by Michael H. Kater, 356 pages, read by Kim B, on 02/20/2015

hitler youthThis book gives a good history of how children and teenagers were raised and trained with National Socialist propaganda. The author uses case histories of real people who had grown up during that era in that situation. The book also tells us how these children came to grips with what they had been through long after they had grown into adulthood.

25. February 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Kim B, Teen Books · Tags:

Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman, 401 pages, read by Kim B, on 02/14/2015

prison night fogI enjoyed reading the book. It is a good way to introduce young adults to the years preceding the Holocaust and the events leading up to it. Plot was good and characters believable.

17. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, History, NonFiction, Teen Books · Tags: ,

The Nazi Hunters: How a Team of Spies and Survivors Captured the World's Most Notorious Nazi by Neal Bascomb, 256 pages, read by Angie, on 08/16/2014

Adolf Eichmann was a Nazi commander in charge of emptying Europe of its Jews. He commanded the transportation of Jews from their homes to the ghettos to the camps and to their extermination. He was an essential part of the Final Solution to the Jewish Problem. At the end of WWII, he escaped Germany and ended up in Buenos Ares, Argentina. He lived there in freedom for 15 years before he was identified by a local girl and her Jewish father. Israel was contacted and soon a team of Mossad agents where in Buenos Ares with a plan to capture Eichmann and bring him back to Israel to stand trial. This is their story. It is a compelling story of how the Israelis tracked down Eichmann, confirmed his identity, captured him, and secreted him out of Argentina. The trial of Adolf Eichmann brought the story of the Holocaust into the public consciousness. Survivors were able to tell their stories and the world was ready to listen. This trial was a turning point in the story of the Jews. It is a powerful story and one I hadn’t heard before. Definitely worth the read.

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!).

02. April 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Joyce, Teen Books · Tags: ,

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys, 344 pages, read by Joyce, on 03/22/2013

Lina is just like any other fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl in 1941. She paints, she draws, she gets crushes on boys. Until one night when Soviet officers barge into her home, tearing her family from the comfortable life they’ve known. Separated from her father, forced onto a crowded and dirty train car, Lina, her mother, and her young brother slowly make their way north, crossing the Arctic Circle, to a work camp in the coldest reaches of Siberia. Here they are forced, under Stalin’s orders, to dig for beets and fight for their lives under the cruelest of conditions.

Lina finds solace in her art, meticulously-and at great risk-documenting events by drawing, hoping these messages will make their way to her father’s prison camp to let him know they are still alive. It is a long and harrowing journey, spanning years and covering 6,500 miles, but it is through incredible strength, love, and hope that Lina ultimately survives. Between Shades of Gray is a novel that will steal your breath and capture your heart.

06. March 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction · Tags: ,

Soldier Bear by Bibi Dumon Tak, 145 pages, read by Angie, on 03/05/2013

Soldier Bear is the tale of Polish soldiers in WWII who adopt a baby bear. The soldiers had been prisoners in Russia; when they were released the went to the Middle East as a transport company. One day they came across a young boy with a bear cub in a sack. They traded food for the cub and he became Private Voytek, their mascot. The soldiers raised Voytek and the entire company came to love him. Voytek was almost human in the way he acted. He helped the soldiers carry things and always wanted to go where they went. Voytek traveled with the company through the Middle East to Italy and after the war to Scotland. This is based on true events and the book contains actual photos of Voytek and the soldiers. This book is also the recipient of the 2012 Batchelder Award.

This story is a little unusual but it was an interesting read. I found Voytek to be such a fun character. He was really human in his adventures. He helped the company (he helped unload ammunition) and he seemed to have human reactions. he loved beer and cigarettes, which I thought was hilarious. I especially enjoyed his friendship with the dalmatian and his rivalry with the monkey Kasha. This was translated from Dutch and I think the translation is pretty good. My only comment is that it read like a translation and not like original text. At some times the text was a little stilted and didn’t seem to flow as well as I thought it would. But it was still a fun, quick read.

13. February 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Teen Books · Tags: ,

Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith, 256 pages, read by Angie, on 02/12/2013

Ida Mae Jones wants to fly. She has wanted to fly ever since her daddy brought a plane home. Her daddy taught her to fly, but getting her license was another story. Ida is Black, in the South, and it is the 1940s. No one is going to let a Black girl fly at that time. Then Ida finds out about the WASP program. The Army is recruiting female pilots. Ida makes a bold choice. Whereas the other members of her family are dark skinned, Ida is light skinned and can pass for white. So Ida forges her father’s pilot’s license with her own information and goes to Texas as a white girl. Ida becomes a WASP and flies planes all over the country. She makes friends with the other girls and even has a little romance. But she is always afraid someone will find out her secret.

I thought this book was really interesting. I love women who overcome barriers to do what they want to do. Ida is smart, spunky and ambitious. I admire the courage it took to leave and deny her family so that she could follow her dreams.

15. September 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Biographies, Graphic Novel, History, Memoirs, NonFiction, Tammy · Tags: ,

Anne Frank: The Anne Frank House Authorized Graphic Biography by Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colon, 152 pages, read by Tammy, on 09/14/2012

Drawing on the unique historical sites, archives, expertise, and unquestioned authority of the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, New York Times bestselling authors Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colón have created the first authorized and exhaustive graphic biography of Anne Frank. This is a concise introduction to not only Anne Frank and her family but history of Nazism, concentration camps, general history of WWII and how the conflict spread as well as the years immediately after the war. I had not realized prior to reading this the first concentration camp built and opened in Germany was to house German citizens who opposed the Nazi parties new policies.

31. July 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: History, NonFiction, Tammy · Tags: , ,

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand, 473 pages, read by Tammy, on 07/29/2012

This is the story of one man’s journey from fighting to survive physically from a bomber crash in the sea, and fighting for physical and mental survival as a prisoner of war to coming to terms with his experiences and learning to forgive and reclaim his own life.

Louis Zamperini had trained as an athlete leading him to compete in the Berlin Olympics but WWII changed his calling to airman. On a May afternoon in 1943, with the crash of his bomber, Zamperini began a much longer journey of endurance. A test of his will to live and to overcome.

21. June 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Tammy · Tags:

Tallgrass by Sandra Dallas, 305 pages, read by Tammy, on 06/03/2012

Sandra Dallas is one of my favorite authors. Her characters always come to life for me and I can see the landscape they are living in.

This story is about how the lives of a farm family and their rural Colorado community are affected by the government building an internment camp for Japanese American citizen during WWII right outside their town in an area known as Tallgrass by the locals. After a young girl is killed all suspicions turn on the “foreigners” at the camp. The teenage narrator, Rennie, struggles with her own thoughts of what is right versus her own fears and suspicions. Dallas describes the countryside and the emotional workings of a family that ring true to life and take you back in time to the 1940s.

12. March 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: NonFiction, Tammy · Tags: , ,

Chewing Gum, Candy Bars & Beer: The Army Px In World War II by James J. Cooke, 186 pages, read by Tammy, on 03/12/2012

Chewing Gum, Candy Bars & BeerThis book is full of facts about groups supplying American troops with comfort items from the civil war forward of course the main emphasis is WWII.
Private citizens followed troops around from campsite to campsite selling items for whatever prices they wanted to the soldiers during the civil war. Once World War I started the government didn’t want the soldiers to be cheated like they often had been in the past so they started letting only a few approved vendors sell items like chewing gum, candy, beer, ice cream, razors etc., to the troops. The logistics of keeping supplies with the men, often meant things had to be shipped with the military supplies and the army determined it would be easier and better if they were in charge of all moral booster shops or “post exchanges” or PX’s.
The book also talks about day to day life of the troops and of citizens in both the Pacific and European theaters but mainly in Europe where the soldiers and citizens mingled more often. European civilians often thought all Americans were rich because they had luxury items like chocolate when the civilians had been on strict rations for years for basics like floor and milk. Much stricter rations than the U.S. civilians had at the same time.
I thought it was touching that the majority of soldiers stationed in Germany at the end of the war tried to help the German civilians they encountered and the regular German soldiers. They knew that these German citizens had been victims of the Nazis and the government and they felt that giving humanitarian aid to the citizens would also improve relations between the countries later (taken from several soldiers personal letters back home — not official statements.) It is sad that “fresh” soldiers who never saw battle sent in to replace the war-battered troops for “peace keeping” often treated all the Germans the same and regarded all of them as the enemy, whereas the men who had actually been fired upon by German troops forgave the common soldier and knew the civilians should not be blamed

06. March 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Tammy · Tags: ,

The boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne, 215 pages, read by Tammy, on 03/06/2012

The Boy in the Striped PajamasA story of friendship between a young prisoner of Auschwitz and Bruno, the naive German boy who is the son of the commandant. Bruno never really understands what is happening around him. It’s just unimaginable to him. Which in some ways makes the story all the more poignant.