20 December 2008

46. Sarah's Key

First, thank you to St. Martin’s Press for the opportunity to read the Advance Reader’s Edition of Tatiana de Rosnay's first novel written in her native language of English. This accomplished international writer chose a little known historical event as the basis for her novel, Sarah's Key. This was the Velodrome d’Hiver (more commonly known as Vel de Viv) roundup of Jews in occupied Paris on July 16, 1942. While I have spent years studying the Holocaust especially as it affected Eastern European Jews, I had never learned about the roundups in France. I am glad that I loved the book, but I would have been happy to have learned something new about the Holocaust even if I had not been driven to complete the book.

The story begins with young Sarah in her family’s apartment being rounded up by French policemen. Her mother is calling for her to hurry as the policemen were getting impatient. Sarah looks to bring her brother with them and decides instead to lock him in a secret closet in their bedroom. She plans to release him when she returns. Of course, like many who did not want to believe, Sarah thought she would be back home very soon. Her story of survival is emotional and the reader feels her pain as the story unfolds slowly through the length of the novel.

In alternating chapters, we are brought to the current age and introduced to Julia who is an American journalist married to a Frenchman. She is assigned to write a story on the 40th anniversary of the Vel de Viv. She discovers that her life and Sarah’s are intertwined. In the process of unraveling the mysteries of the past, Julia learns about strength and courage; pain and comfort.

In the end the author brings the idea of remembrance into the spotlight. This fits in nicely with my own philosophy. We must find ways to help people to remember or understand what happened during the Holocaust of World War II. Perhaps it will help us to understand the Holocausts we are ignoring in today’s world.

I found the writing to be very emotive and sound. While the following quotes may or may not appear in the final publication, here are two of my favorite lines:

Think of the things you love, of the things that make you happy. (p. 39, ARE)
Her mother had become like a child. (p. 71, ARE)

I enjoyed the alternating chapters and felt the story lines were neatly arranged. Perhaps the story is improbable, but the history behind the story is based in reality. Doing some research myself, I found Occupied France: Commemorating the Deportation which is a picture and text tutorial with more details about the Vel de Viv. Thank you again to Tatiana de Rosnay and St. Martin’s Press. This is a book I will loan to others and ask for it back so I can read it again.

TITLE: Sarah’s Key
AUTHOR: Tatiana de Rosnay
PAGES: 293
TYPE: fiction
RECOMMEND: I could not put this book down.


16 December 2008

Library Things

Today's Question: The LT Home Page feature. How are you liking it? Or not? Do you go here when you log into LT or do you use your profile page more?

I really do like the LT Home Page. When it was first released, I did not think I would like it and hopped straight to my profile. Now I spend more time on the Home Page checking recommendations, how many people are requesting Early Reviewer Books, reviews - you name it. Sometimes, I never even make it to my profile. It seems that LT just keeps getting better an better.

BB - I am sorry that you will not be continuing the weeky meme as you have really done an excellent job. I hope someone will take over the responsibility. I wish that I thought I could do it, but I am not sure I would know where to start or be creative enough with the questions. Thanks,

45. The Gates of Trevalyan

Thank you to Library Thing and Belle Books for the opportunity to read and review this book about the Civil War,

As a historian and a librarian, I thought that I would really love this book. In the beginning, as I was introduced to main characters Jenny Mobley, Emily Hill, and Charles King, I was still hopeful. In many ways this is the classic Gone With the Wind story with large Georgia plantations and all of the trappings of Southern culture and slavery.

Unfortunately, for me, the story, weak to begin with, got lost in the military and political history. I was able to finish the book only by skimming the long drawn out details. I will say that the history seemed to be well researched. So if you would like to know more about the Civil War era, espeicially in Georgia, you might like this book.

TITLE: The Gates of Trevalyan
AUTHOR: Jacquelyn Cook
PAGES: 365
TYPE: historical fiction
RECOMMEND: Only if you really like military and political history

09 December 2008

Tuesday Things

Most of us book bloggers like to write book reviews- if we don't love to write book reviews- but here's today's question. When it comes to LT (and your blog), do you review every book you read? Do you just review Early Reviewers or ARCs? Do you review only if you like a book, or only if you feel like you have to? How soon after reading do you post your review? Do you post them other places- other social networking sites, Amazon, etc.?

I love your first sentence, because I do like to write book reviews, but sometimes I certainly do not love to! I do reveiw almost every book I read. Because I am often reading four books at a time, one less than impressive book (that I may not even finish) may sleep through the cracks. On LT I usually post at least a portion of the review with a link to my blog for every book that I read. As for when things get posted, it depends on the time of the semester. If I am busy grading, I might take a break to read for relaxation, but not to write. While I try to review all books, I find it most difficult to review the books that I absolutely hate which are thankfully few, and sometimes against the mainstream. I have only posted one review on Amazon, and do not use any other venue. Time is always an issue for me.

My biggest problem with reviewing books is forgetting that ultimately I am writing the reviews mostly for myself and other book lovers. I often agonize over how much to tell about the plot, the characters, or literary style. I think it was Library school that did me in. We had to write reviews for children's books and the instructor's critiques were positively heartless. One would think the result would be better reviews, but sometimes I feel like I became more timid in my reviews. Another slight problem for me is that I find most books rather okay, a few I love, and a very few I cannot tolerate. So you may find that my reviews are mostly positive. I don't know if it is because I do not have discriminating tastes or because I read phone books when I was little!!! Either way, I just have to remember that reading is fun, sharing is fun, and the writing, well, just part of the process.

Happy Holidays,

04 December 2008

44. The Longest Trip Home

First, thank you to HarperCollins Publishers for the opportunity to read the Advance Reader’s Edition of John Grogan’s autobiography The Longest Trip Home. And while I wish I had read the book earlier, when it arrived and before the release, as John’s parents would have said, things happen for a reason.

John shares his memories of growing up in a devoutly Catholic family with three siblings and Mass every weekend. While I was raised Episcopal, I converted to Catholicism twenty years ago and tried to raise my own four children in the Church. Some are still there and some are not – with many of the same issues Grogan describes in his book coming into play as our family deals with the everyday struggles of living and loving one another. Through Grogan’s experiences, I have hope that my own children will forgive me my dogmatic adherence to some Catholic tenets that only a convert can extol as absolute truth. But faith is faith and can only help us through this life; can hopefully make us kinder and more rather than less accepting. At this point, I wonder if Mr. Grogan and I are not the same type of Catholics.

I don’t think I will give anything away to discuss another moment of wonder this book brought to my life. Grogan’s trip home took decades, but the final chapters dealing with the illness of his parents touched me. My own mother went through a very similar experience, and we thought – as did the doctor’s – that she was not going to live. We know that the time is coming soon when she will not continue here with us and I will be strengthened by the author’s words and insights. I would not have fully understood these chapters had I read this book any earlier.

Finally, I am so excited about the upcoming movie based on Grogan’s bestselling book Marley and Me. After reading The Longest Trip Home, I know that the script for the movie has certainly been pulled from the best of writing. And much to my surprise, my favorite actor (secretly known to my family as my boyfriend) plays Mr. Grogan. And while I cannot wait to read the book, I think I will wait and see the movie first - it opens nationally on Christmas Day. Delightfully I will know each family member in the movie because I feel like they are friends of the family from reading this newest book.

So, thank you Mr. Grogan – and once again your parents were right – things happen in their own time. I am very glad this was my time to read your wonderful family story. Your dad and mom are very proud.

TITLE: The Longest Trip Home
AUTHOR: John Grogan
PAGES: 331
TYPE: non-fiction, autobiography
RECOMMEND: As a Catholic, a daughter, and a mother, I am so thankful to have read this book. And to be honest, I think you will appreciate the struggles of the Grogan family even if you are none of those things.

43. Memories of Anne Frank: Reflections of a Childhood Friend

I have been to Amsterdam. I have walked from the center of town, along the canals, to visit the house where Anne Frank and her family hid. I walked through the small spaces and stood in front of Anne’s diary. It was a humbling and emotional moment. It brought the book Diary of a Young Girl to life; intensified the feelings I remembered from multiple readings of this classic Holocaust biography.

But Reflections of a Childhood Friend is more than the story of Anne Frank, it is the story of Hannah Goslar who was friends with Anne from age four until Anne died shortly after being reunited with Hannah in Bergen-Belsen. It was not until after the war that Hannah realized that Anne had not lived but had died shortly before the camp was liberated. I am grateful to Hannah for telling her story and for Alison Gold for recording it in a way that young people can read and appreciate.

Hannah’s story is equally compelling as she was separated from her family with only her younger sister to care for as they were “relocated” from Amsterdam to Westerbork to Bergen-Belsen. The courage of these women who were but young girls is inspiring and through Hannah’s memories, readers will gain a greater understanding of the hardships which were endured and the friendships which were held so close.

TITLE: Memories of Anne Frank: Reflections of a Childhood Friend
AUTHOR: Alison Leslie Gold
PAGES: 135
TYPE: non-fiction
RECOMMEND: I found this book, with photographs, to add to the Anne Frank story, as well as introducing me to another survivor.