Saturday, October 31, 2015

Tunnel, Smuggle, Collect: A Holocaust Boy by Jeffrey M. Ginghold

I’ve been reading a lot about the Holocaust lately, mostly accounts of individuals who witnessed the atrocities committed in concentration camps. However, until this book, I have not had the opportunity to read an account of an individual who witnessed life inside the Jewish ghettos during WWII.

WARNING: Contains Spoilers 

The braveness of the people that lived through these horrendous experiences never ceases to amaze me. At the beginning of this book, Leah gives birth to a baby boy inside of a city and a hospital that is being bombed, with walls crumbling down all around her. Merely a day later, she takes the long trek out of the city with thousands of other people, carrying the swaddled baby while having to run from ditch to ditch in order to avoid the German planes shooting into the masses of people fleeing the city.

Duvid led his wife, her brother and sister, his 6 year-old son and his 1 day-old baby out of their city, while it was being bombed, guiding the family to jump into ditches frequently to avoid the German planed that flew overhead, shooting into the thousands of civilians escaping the bombings, lasting throughout the day, until nightfall. Unfortunately, when the family made it to the Russian border, the Russians handed them over to the Germans, who returned them to the city after their death-defying escape.

Sam and his family were taken to the Warsaw ghettos, where they were forced to share a small apartment with 4 other families. His family of 4, along with Leah’s brother and sister, crowded into one bedroom. Leah and the baby slept on the only mattress, the rest of them “positioned themselves like a set of spoons all facing the same direction. One could only turn if they all turned together.” The family only had 2 blankets, one for the baby and the other had to be passed around and shared.

The family clung so hard to their Jewish heritage, which helped them see some good in everything bad that was happening to them. When another family moved into their already overcrowded apartment, a mohel was among them, which allowed the baby his bris ceremony and circumcision, even if it was a month late. The ceremony made everyone present happy, even those that were not a part of the family and had only met them upon arriving at the ghetto.

The bris was a ritual that affirmed the past, while facing the unknown. It was the only time Sam and his family would smile in the Warsaw ghetto and the last time they would be happy in Poland.

Unlike most others who gave up and died of starvation or waited in hopes that things might eventually get better, Duvid took his family’s future into his own hands. Although it meant teaching his young son to hide and guide his way through the dark and dangerous streets of the ghetto and its secret passages, Duvid would feed his family and find a way to escape from the Germans.

I especially admired Sam’s father, Duvid. Although the family went through a terrible experience, they were lucky in the sense that they were able to remain together during it, with Leah’s brother and sister able to stay with them until they successfully escaped the ghetto. 

I really enjoyed this book! It gave a unique perspective of the Jewish ghettos, while many books tell of experiences in the concentration camps or fighting in the war. I like being able to read many different experiences during that time. This account is well-written and keeps the reader engaged throughout the family’s long journey to safety and freedom. 

Hollow City (Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children #2) by Ransom Riggs

Something that speaks to the quality of this series…I continued reading this book as soon as I finished the first book. I did not write a review for it and just kept reading. So, by the time I went back to write the reviews, I had to think a little about where the first book ended and where this one began.

Needless to say, so far, I am enjoying this series! Just like the first, this book captivated my attention. The only reason I did not continue on to the third book was that I had to place a hold for a digital copy from the library, and I do not have the funds to pay to read, right now. So I have to wait to read the third book, unfortunately. However, I hope that it does just as well as this and the first book in keeping me engaged and wondering what’s going to happen next.

Something I didn’t learn until after reading Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is that the author created the characters based on a pile of strange, old photographs: the ones seen in the book. The Kindle version of this book includes an interview with the author, who said for this sequel, he wrote the scenes, then found photos to include in the book to accompany them. Sometimes, he had to settle for an “almost perfect” photo and adjust the scene to better align with the photo. Riggs said that many of the scenes improved after rewriting them to better describe the photos.

This book was awesome, and I enjoyed it just as much as the first one! I can’t wait to read the third book in the series and hope it lives up to the first two!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

From Stray Dog to World War I Hero by Grant Hayter-Menzies

*Warning: Contains Spoilers*

The beginning stated with the end. The book introduces a soldier at the time of his death and burial. It describes honors, unconditional loyalty and the praise received from the many people (and publications) that recognized his heroism while mourning him.

This soldier of the Great War was buried wearing marks of past glory, but no uniform, because this soldier was a dog, a mutt of indefinable ancestry. 

The book emphasizes that animals have no choice when it comes to war. However, that was not true for Rags. Despite his handlers tries to keep Rags from the front lines, where it was safer, Rags refused to leave his side. He saved many lives because of this.

It is the story of a dog rescued by a soldier who himself serves to rescue soldiers. Rags was found, a stray, roaming the streets of Paris in 1918. From there, he became a member of the First Infantry Division. The "scruffy, taffy colored terrier of about 25 pounds, with floppy ears, fluffy arching tail and perhaps more than a dollop of poodle in his blend" became a mascot to his division, and a legend to people all over the country.

Rags was not interested in learning tricks, he was a war hero for goodness sake. However, he did let his handler, Donovan, teach him one... Donovan taught Rags to stand on his back legs and raise his paw over his eye when he saw soldiers saluting. He remembered this "trick" long after the war was over, even after his best friend died.

Perhaps one of my favorite stories of Rags happened when he got separated from Donovan during the war. He stayed with the First Division men on their journey, though. He made friends with two men that were tasked with rising up into the air in a balloon in order to map out enemy locations. After giving him some food, Rags fell asleep in the balloon's basket. The men left Rags to rest while they worked, perhaps the quietest sleep he got during the war. However, later, someone started shooting at the cables that tethered the balloon to the ground, and the men could see a German plane flying low, coming straight toward them. The men put on their parachutes and jumped, one carrying Rags under his arm. The men reported that the German plane got close enough that they could see the pilot stick his head out of the cockpit in confusion. The men saw the pilot smile and wave, then fly away, apparently not wanting to kill the men and their dog.

Rags saved those men's lives, and he saved many more throughout the war. Unlike the purebred dogs that underwent intense training to deliver messages, Rags was a stray and learned from his handler (who had no training but loved animals) on the fly, during the war. Donovan was a communications specialist, and Rags learned to run ahead of him in order to find broken wires for Donovan to fix. He also learned to successfully relay messages, something that many of even the bravest and fastest dogs could not accomplish.

Possibly most important, Rags boosted the spirits of many men surrounded by war.Rags meant something special to everyone he came into contact with. Even late in his life, Rags did not belong to any one person or family, he belonged to the American people. 
The irony is that soldier dogs make war a little more human.  
I recommend this book for any animal lover. 

Disclaimer: Rags' story is very touching. May cause tears.

I received this book for free from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Perfect Comeback of Caroline Jacobs by Matthew Dicks

I received a free copy of this book from the publishers via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

This was not a book that I would have normally picked out to read. However, I saw that it was available to review through NetGalley and read a bunch of excellent reviews and was intrigued.

It took me a little while to get into this book, but once I got into it, I really liked it. 

I've been reading so may dystopian and YA novels lately, and this was a nice change. 

At first, I did not relate at all to Caroline, but as the book goes on, I think that everyone can relate to some part of the story. I would recommend this story to any woman looking for an easy read with a good message and a sweet ending.

Six of Crows (Six of Crows #1) by Leigh Bardugo

I've been waiting for a while to read this book, and the only disappointing thing is how long I have to wait to see what happens next!

However, I wanted to read this book because I kept seeing things online about its release. I did not do my due diligence and look into anything but the description. So, I did not know that this book follows up after the Grisha series...

So, while it took me a while to get used to the lingo, especially the names of locations and different groups of people, I cannot blame anyone but myself. While reading the Grisha series would have helped this, it is in no way required to understand this book. I quickly caught on upon reading further and was sucked in quickly, forgetting my initial confusion about the language.

I enjoyed the way the book was written. It gives the same events told from different POVs. I liked being able to understand different perspective of the events that unfold in the book.

Great story! Can't wait to read the next installment! I plan to read the Grisha series before the next book is released so that I understand more about their world and its background.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

How to get free books!

    I am an avid reader. However, I don't have a lot of money. Sites like BookGorilla allow you to choose the genres you like to read, then send you an email every day with Kindle books that are free or discounted on Amazon that day.

This is good, but I wanted more!

A couple of months I discovered that authors and publishers will give you copies of their books if you offer to review them! Sites like NetGalley and Eidelweiss allow you to sign up and request books that you would like to read. If the publisher approves your request, you can download a prerelease copy of the book. Then you post your review and send them the link. 

This LINK has even more sites that allow you to request books in exchange for reviews. It also has other ways to read for free!

Happy Reading!

Shattered Blue (The Light Trilogy #1) by Lauren Bird Horowitz

For Noa and Callum, being together is dangerous, even deadly. From the start, sixteen-year-old Noa senses that the mysterious transfer student to her Monterey boarding school is different. Callum unnerves and intrigues her, and even as she struggles through family tragedy, she’s irresistibly drawn to him. Soon they are bound by his deepest secret: Callum is Fae, banished from another world after a loss hauntingly similar to her own.
But in Noa’s world, Callum needs a special human energy, Light, to survive; his body steals it through touch—or a kiss. And Callum’s not the only Fae on the hunt. When Callum is taken, Noa must decide: Will she sacrifice everything to save him? Even if it means learning their love may not be what she thought?
I received a free copy of this book from the publishers via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

I really enjoyed this book! I'm sad that I have to wait to read the next installment, though! 

The story was creative and well-written. The ending was a total surprise! Often, I am able to guess at least somewhat how the book will end. However, this one totally got me! 

I can't wait to read the next book in this series! I hope it is as good as this one!

The Ghetto Swinger by Coco Shumann

A heart-warming and astonishing memoir of an award-winning Jewish jazz musician, who is also a survivor of Nazi concentration camps and was first in Europe to play steel string guitar. The author Coco Schumann was born in 1924. He began playing in jazz clubs illegally in his teenage years in Nazi Berlin. With blond hair, blue eyes and a Berlin wise-guy accent, Schumann passed undetected as Jewish until 1943, when he was arrested and deported to the concentration camp Theresienstadt. There, he played music as part of "The Ghetto Swingers", a jazz band that can be seen in the infamous Nazi propaganda film made at the camp. He was sent to Auschwitz in January of 1945, where he survived only because of his skills as a musician. In 1950, Coco and his wife Gertrud were discouraged with Nazi apologists in Germany, and they emigrated to Australia, but returned to Berlin in 1954 for Coco's career. From that point forward, Schumann played jazz throughout the city and became a local fixture who had the honor of playing with visiting jazz notables like Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald and Dizzy Gillespie. Schumann retired from public performances only upon turning 90 years old. Coco Schumann, his journey and his music have inspired several generations in Germany; however, until now his story has not been widely available to the English speaking world.
I received a free copy of this book from the publishers via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I read a copy of the book that had been translated to English.

I have been reading a lot about the Holocaust lately, specifically the accounts of witness who experiences the atrocities that took place in concentration camps. 

This book is not just about the Holocaust, this book is about the life and career of Coco Shumann. I have to say, it was a refreshing take on a horrific time in history. 

Coco Shumann truly is a musician who just happened to be in a concentration camp, not a victim of the Holocaust that happens to play music....he sums it up much better in the book, though!

Coco did not let the horrible things that happened to him during WWII define him. Throughout it all, it was always about the music. 

I think people overlook the many other things that happened during WWII, such as the swing and jazz club scene in Berlin, and its subsequent ban. I, for one, was completely unaware of its popularity and the dangers that were involved in being a musician during that time. 

The edition of the book that I read was translated to English. I believe it was translated rather well. Although it was not the best written book I've ever read, it certainly was not the worst. However, I feel reading it in its original language might add some meaning in some instances. 

This book gave me a completely different perspective of life during WWII. I would (and already have) recommended it to others.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children #1) by Ransom Riggs

A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of curious photographs.
A horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive.
A spine-tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography,Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children will delight adults, teens, and anyone who relishes an adventure in the shadows.

I've been wanting to read this book for some time now. 

I've been reading a lot about WWII and the Holocaust lately, specifically witness accounts of those who experienced some of the atrocities that occurred during that time. I was completely unaware that this book incorporated events of that time period in it, albeit fictional. I thought it a happy coincidence that I finish a couple of witness memoirs and accidentally stumble upon a fictional account of the next generations of survivors!

However this story goes far beyond WWII. 

I have only recently found myself interested in books about magic and special powers and such... and I must say: this is a good one! Daughters of Smoke and Bone opened my eyes to this genre and to date is still my favorite. This book is a whole different monster (no pun intended) and might end up being on par with DoS&B. I immediately started the second book in the series after finishing this one last night.

This book sucked me in and I can't wait to see what happens in the next book!