Thursday, July 24, 2014

Surviving Hitler: The Unlikely True Story of an SS Soldier and a Jewish Woman by O. Hakan Palm

Surviving Hitler: The Unlikely True Story of an SS Soldier and a Jewish WomanSurviving Hitler: The Unlikely True Story of an SS Soldier and a Jewish Woman by O. Hakan Palm
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is an astonishing story of two people who were both deeply impacted by Hitler's Third Reich but from very different perspectives written by one of the sons of the couple. The book begins at a church regional conference where Thomas S. Monson announces to the congregation two very important things about Gustav Palm, a humble, respected local leader. Gustav served in Hitler's army during WWII. Gustav was and is a good, moral man. Until that moment, Brother Gustav Palm had kept this part of his story a secret. With the blessing of President Monson, Brother Palm finally allowed the shame of his past to be known and embraced the truth. He is and was a good man.

Gustav joined the Nazi party at a young age, blinded by the hopeful future it promised. He was in a different country at the time but quickly conscripted for duty. He went through a brutal training that cured him of his ideologies regarding Nazism. Unfortunately, it was too late and he was pulled along in the wave of war, primarily on the Eastern Front.

Agnes was a baptized Roman Catholic young woman of Hungarian Jewish ancestry. Obviously, Agnes' experiences were that of a Jewish Hungarian even though she was Christian. She survived the cattle cars, the concentration camps, and woman without a home after the war. She is clearly the more outgoing of the two. She chooses optimism daily. She reports her experiences to her son but seems to want to celebrate more of the goodness of individuals rather than the horrific details.

Their love story is a sweet one that overcomes all biases and prejudice. Their children include some of their observations how the war impacted their parents. It is an intriguing and uplifting book.

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

Big Little LiesBig Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Very well written and timed but not my favorite Liane Moriarty book. That said, she still sets the bar very high and I still love her books.

This novel centers around three main women, their spouses or previous interests, and the politics of Kindergarten, at least the parental politics. The real drama takes place outside the classroom and at home but I'm getting ahead of myself. Each chapter contains quotes from a parent or two from the party where they served alcohol (a clear violation of a drug free zone, by the way - but this is Australia) and possibly there was a death. There seems to talk of a huge brawl, too.

Like previous books by Moriarty, the answer to who possibly died and how is comprised of a complicated web of events and perceptions. The crux of the books is a microcosm of the violence of even polite society carried out in its many forms. What is bullying and who is to blame? Thought provoking but a little too socially conscious for my shallow mind. My weakness, not the author's. It's summer. All I want to do is frolic.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Prototype by M.D. Waters

Prototype (Archetype #2)Prototype by M.D. Waters
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I devoured the first book and received an ARC yesterday for this book. I loved this story. Both books. Can't say much without it being a spoiler so I'll say that I felt unsettled and a little guilty when Emma was tricked by someone else and taken against her will to a place she really did not ever want to go. She arrived and started to fight and it was time for my husband and I to go to the gym. Emma stayed captive that entire hour I was gone. And it really bothered me. I needed to get home.

Character development is superb. Standing ovation for Leigh, Foster, and Miles. And definitely Dr. Malcolm. The main characters were fleshed out in the first book, although Emma becomes much more of an individual in this one.

Action packed and well timed, highly recommend to adults. Once again I stress adult content, although only one sex scene, a few "f" words, I still loved it and recommend for a surprising science fiction with a solid love story.

Prototype is book 2. For a link to book 1, Archetype, click HERE.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Summer of YesterdaySummer of Yesterday by Gaby Triana

Summer of YesterdaySummer of Yesterday by Gaby Triana
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

So many things I liked.

All of the things 1982. I've never been to Disney World but the description of the campgrounds and water park are wonderful. Included are the fashions, music, pop culture, and pace of the world in 1982.

The story had a great concept. Haley does a little Back to the Future blip and finds herself in 1982. She passes her parents, age 15 and 16, right at the beginning of their relationship. This is not the central part of the story. The central part is Jason, the 1982 19 year old. He's hot. He wears too short of shorts with piping and a gold chain. People feather their hair. Olivia Newton John is singing about getting physical. Blade Runner is coming out.

So I was a teenager in 1982. We did wear a lot of rainbows and our socks came up to our knees. To consider seeing an IPhone in 1982 would have seriously caused me to doubt my sanity. A little computer you carry in your pocket that makes calls, takes pictures, types messages, and plays games? No way. I was playing Asteroids at the Arcade. That was cutting edge. Pretty sure our telephones weren't cordless. Charlie's Angels had car phones but I didn't. It was fun to delve into that train of thought.

What I didn't like was the rushed ending. It could have taken so many different directions and it seemed like it took the easiest road that left more questions than answers. It was incomplete and rushed. I think there were too many strands left within the story and not enough pages to pick them up at the end. I have no problem with how it ended for Haley and Jason. It was just sudden and complete.

I think a major turning off point for me was that the central part of the story was Haley's and Jason's romance. There was the side story of Haley's in the wrong time and that part was fun. If that was moved more center stage, I think I would have enjoyed it more. But Haley is a thinking about how to lose her virginity to a guy who is well into his forties in her real time. Not okay with that. At the end Haley has some conclusions that I don't know how she reached because they weren't developed.

*Disclaimer* I read an ARC so the book was not final. I received a copy from Edelweiss for an honest review.

Just Call My Name by Holly Goldberg Sloan

Just Call My Name (I'll Be There #2)Just Call My Name by Holly Goldberg Sloan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the second book I've read by Holly Goldberg Sloan, the first being I'll Be There which I loved. I thought the first book had to be a fluke. It was just really well written and the story was very well developed, particularly for a YA novel. Clean, too. Yep. It had to be a fluke.

So Just Call My Name is Act II. Sam and Riddle are settled into a "normal" life after growing up with a father who is a sociopath. Emily's parents take in Riddle and are working towards adoption. Sam is living in an apartment close to campus and Emily is finishing her senior year. The author stays true to each character. Emily is still kind-hearted by nature, although she is pushed just a little bit to the shadows with the introduction of Destiny, another throw-away child who has learned to survive. Her eyes seemed to have landed on Sam.

Meanwhile, Sam has the mentality of the kind of kid he grew up believing he was; undeserving. He questions how he got where he is and how he will probably mess it up. Meanwhile, the entrance of Destiny reminds him who he really is; a nobody. He has a lot of self doubt and Destiny is a temptation. She is a little bit of neon sex in the window, blinking like a lighthouse. So there is more innuendo in this book.

Then we still have Bobby whose ego is bruised from Emily leaving their date. He had big plans for the two of them and she just went home. Of course, on the way home, she met up with Sam who had just escaped his psychotic dad. But that was last book. Bobby still wants to get his game on and Destiny is presenting herself. It's not about sex, it's about... well, it's about sex but it's veiled. Destiny is about survival. Bobby is about redeeming his pride and reputation. Bobby is a fantastic character. Hilarious, actually. With a lot of redeeming qualities.

Last of all, we have Sam and Riddle's father. He's still alive but currently incarcerated. He's been greatly wronged, you know. He didn't do anything wrong. His kids are just rotten and they turned against him. Because of that girl and her family. But the man without a conscience is not without a brain. He has a plan. The author writes a very well developed psychopath.

The first book wasn't a fluke. It's really good.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

On the Fence by Kasie West

On the FenceOn the Fence by Kasie West
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It's cheesy. It's cute. It's sweet and it's fun. It's even clean. Can't tell you why I liked it except it was a good, clear reading experience with fun dialogue and easy to summarize characters that were neither too complicated nor cliche. Just a good, fun book.

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

A Man Called OveA Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ove is ornery and rigid. He doesn't like people. He loves his wife but she's gone. Ove is tired of his empty life. But that's not the way the story begins. We begin in the middle or more at the end where Ove is arguing with the sales associate over an IPad. All he wants is the best computer and it has to be an IPad and he's handed this little, flat box and he wants to know where the keyboard is. Computers have keyboards.

We then go back in time where the real story begins, at least as far as all the main characters are concerned. Ove is ornery, rigid, and tired. Ove has just been forced to retire so he's also rather irritated. Ove's life and how he came to be the Ove we know and also the Ove we don't comes in short flashes that are very clever and very enlightening. But first we have to meet Parvana.

Admittedly, I read this book weeks ago and I've already forgotten the names of everybody except Ove and Parvana. Because this book would not be a story worth reading without Parvana. A few things to know about this book is that it is Swedish. That helps marginally in putting it into perspective yet, for reasons I can not fathom, the translation is absolutely perfect for American English. Flawless.

So Ove is planning his death when he hears a horrible sound. He exits his place of residence which is in an HOA of some sort (this is important to Ove and to other characters) and finds Parvana, beautiful, Iranian, and very, very pregnant Parvana, looking incredibly peeved at her too tall, lanky, good natured husband who is in the process of backing up the trailer to their new home. Except he runs over Ove's mailbox.

The book is about Ove who the reader comes to love for all his quirks and his prickly personality issues but the book could not, absolutely could not be enjoyable AT ALL without Parvana. She barges into Ove's life, his orderly, deserted life, and makes him a part of a bigger community. She is high strung, high maintenance, feels absolutely no boundaries apply to her, highly ethical and she drags Ove into every real and slightly contrived crises of which he resents.

It's a "Feel Good" read which I recommend.