We Were the Lucky Ones

30267929.jpgWe Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter

Rating: ★★★.5 // A familiar subject told in a new light.

Favorite Line: “What matters, she tells herself, is that even on the hardest days, when the grief is so heavy she can barely breathe, she must carry on. She must get up, get dressed, and go to work. She will take each day as it comes. She will keep moving.”

Review:

Written as a fictional novel, this book relives the horror and pain one family went through as they were separated during World War II.

Summary (Via GoodReads)

It is the spring of 1939 and three generations of the Kurc family are doing their best to live normal lives, even as the shadow of war grows closer. The talk around the family Seder table is of new babies and budding romance, not of the increasing hardships threatening Jews in their hometown of Radom, Poland. But soon the horrors overtaking Europe will become inescapable and the Kurcs will be flung to the far corners of the world, each desperately trying to navigate his or her own path to safety.

As one sibling is forced into exile, another attempts to flee the continent, while others struggle to escape certain death, either by working grueling hours on empty stomachs in the factories of the ghetto or by hiding as gentiles in plain sight. Driven by an unwavering will to survive and by the fear that they may never see one another again, the Kurcs must rely on hope, ingenuity, and inner strength to persevere.

A novel of breathtaking sweep and scope that spans five continents and six years and transports readers from the jazz clubs of Paris to Krakow s most brutal prison to the ports of Northern Africa and the farthest reaches of the Siberian gulag,We Were the Lucky Ones demonstrates how in the face of the twentieth century’s darkest moment, the human spirit can find a way to survive, and even triumph.

I found this story to be very good. This book is a great example of how many stories are left to be told from WWII. This story of the Kurc family is just one in a million different stories yet to be told, but being that it is based on the real story of this family’s survival it really brings to life the struggles and stories of all the other millions who have yet to be revealed.

I gave this book 4 stars on GoodReads because I do think it is a worthwhile book to read, but my real rating of 3.5 is based off my opinion that, while it is good, I don’t think it ranks in one of my favorite WWII novels.

We Were the Lucky Ones jumps around from family member to family member, so you really have to pay attention to who is where and what their story is at the time. This can be confusing at times, but I tended to remember the details within a paragraph into the new chapter. But be prepared to jump around a lot.

The pacing of the book was interesting, because sometimes it felt like it goes day by day and then all of the sudden it jumps ahead 6 months, and that, along with the many P.O.V.’s, makes following the multiple plots a little more difficult (not impossible but just more difficult than necessary).

I don’t think I say this often, but I think this book could’ve been longer. I may think this because I just finished a WWII book by Ken Follett, who writes super long novels and includes ever detail possible. This may affect my opinion of the length of this book, but I really wanted more details or at least more depth with some of the characters.

The characters are very beautiful, and written very well. It is very easy to have empathy for this family and I immediately became emotionally invested in their survival. There weren’t really any characters who I disliked, which is very interesting in a WWII book. There were obviously some jerks in the book, but they were not substantial enough characters for me to really dislike them. I think this really shows that this wasn’t really a WWII book–the setting was primarily WWII Europe and the plot was driven by the actions of WWII, but this book wasn’t about the good and the bad of WWII, but rather it was about the Kurcs an their means for survival. This book is much more character driven than most WWII novels and it is a nice change. Yes, WWII plays a HUGE part of the book–it’s the reason the family had to survive, for goodness sake, but it is much much more than that, and I really appreciated this aspect of the book.

Upon finishing the book I was satisfied with the ending, but it wasn’t until I read that this is heavily based off the true lives of the author’s family, that the book really took a hold of me. I definitely look on it more favorably knowing that it is real, which is why I gave it 4 instead of 3 stars on GoodReads, however even before knowing that I would have recommended this book to WWII book fans.

 

 

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Recently added to the TBR list

Today the gals at The Broke and Bookish Blog asked us to make our Top Ten Tuesday about books from a specific genre that we have added to our TBR! This is a really fun challenge because there are so many genre’s out there that all the lists will be incredibly unique. My TBR is all over the place so I decided to do this week’s challenge about Foreign Translated Books on my TBR. 

I’m a sucker for a good translated book, and recently I’ve been eyeing them like crazy–there is something truly magical about reading a book that was written in a different language. The real beauty here is that books are so unique and yet so universal that even when they jump from language to language the ideas and the philosophies can be understood and discussed–ah, the beauty of words. 


1. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy 

Every time I look at the beautiful turquoise copy of War and Peace on my bookshelves, my desire to read it grows stronger–what’s stopping me? Well, it’s over 1,000 pages long, that’s what. However, I’ve recently become addicted to the new broadway musical “Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812” which is about one of the love stories woven within this massive book. It has made me determined now to pick it up and read it! 

2. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon 

I don’t know much about this book aside from the glowing reviews and the amazing cover. I’m really looking forward to reading it! 

3. The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen

When I heard this book and it’s sequels were similar to The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, I was sold! I just got it on Audiobook for my trip this weekend, and I’m so excited! 

4. The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco 

I have read very few books translated from Italian, and I’m looking forward to seeing the difference in styles, especially compared to old French writers.

5. Laurus by Evgenji Vodolazkin

This is probably my most anticipated read of this year. This is a newer book, but is said to resemble Russian classics in style, philosophy, and complexity. 

6. We, the Drowned by Carsten Jensen

This one also had some amazing reviews, plus the description looks so intriguing! 

7. The Man Who Laughs by Victor Hugo

I’ve been meaning to read more Victor Hugo, and I added this one to the list mainly because I had never heard of it before. It looks beautiful. 

8. Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust

This is apparently a book everyone needs to read, and I’ve heard it’s a literary beauty.

9. The Emigrants by Vilhem Moberg

This is a story of a Scandinavian family who immigrants to Canada. I love these types of stories and I’m interested in reading this series and hear their story! 

10. The Big Green Tent by Lyudmilla Ulitskaya

Surprise! Another Russian novel! I have a problem, but it’s definitely a good problem to have! This book, I heard, is terribly sad, yet very good. It is about post-Stalin Russia, which isn’t as common in novels as other time periods in Russia. 

There you have it! My top ten most anticipated translated books! Should I add any others to the list? Let me know! 

Around the World in 80 Posts: London

I’ve started this series to highlight my favorite real world settings for books and what makes them so good! Feel free to join in on the fun and explore the world through your books! 

London

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London, London, London. My time with you was much too short. We will meet again, but until then, books.

 

1.The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

This may be one of the first classic that I really loved, and it was also the first book that helped me realize how awesome creepy books can be. The setting plays a pretty significant role in this book, as it helps visualize the different social parties Dorian associated with, and how the city changed while Dorian stayed the same.

“I don’t want to be at the mercy of my emotions. I want to use them, to enjoy them, and to dominate them.”

2. A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

If you have read A Darker Shade of Magic you know that the setting an absolute key component, if not the most important component, of the story. Whether you are a fan of Red London, White London, or Grey London, you surly agree that London is the perfect setting for this book.

“I’m not going to die,” she said. “Not till I’ve seen it.”

“Seen what?”

Her smile widened. “Everything.”

3. The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare by G.K. Chesterton

Most of G.K. Chesterton’s work takes place in London, so the setting here is no surprise, but this book happens to be my favorite Chesterton story and it deals with undercover agents in the heart of London. It’s a fantastic story.

“The Iliad is only great because all life is a battle, The Odyssey because all life is a journey, The Book of Job because all life is a riddle.”

4. 1984 by George Orwell

Is this techically in London? I mean it’s supposed to be London but it’s a rather disturbed version of the city…however, I’m counting it! This version of London is one we hope we never see, yet it shows hows easily and blindly people and cultures can be corrupted.

“But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.”

5. The Girl of the Train by Paula Hawkins

This book really takes place outside of London, but when she’s on the train she is headed to London, so in that sense the city is influential to the story. This book surprised me because I thought it lived up to the hype and that doesn’t always happen.

“There’s something comforting about the sight of strangers safe at home.”

6. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

I mean, I don’t really have to explain this one. One could easily argue that these stories are the most influential/popular stories based primarily in London. They were popular when Doyle was alive, and they remain just as popular, if not more, to this day. These stories prove that no matter how hard people try, Sherlock will truly never die.

“I listen to their story, they listen to my comments, and then I pocket my fee.”

 

And that’s a wrap for London! There are so many others that could be added to my list, but as I’m trying to keep these posts shorter, I’m limited myself to only six. If you have any suggestions of London books for me, please let me know, I love revisiting this city, even if only in books!

Everything I Need to Know I Learned From a Little Golden Book

51QR3OUXC+L._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgEverything I Need to Know I Learned From A Little Golden Book by Diane Muldrow

When I was little, my mom used to take me grocery shopping with her, as most mothers do, but instead of dragging me along with her other 4 kids, she would drop me off in front of The Little Golden Book display, and I would sit there and look through book after book until she was done shopping. I would then beg her to get one (or all) of the books, but as we were a large, one-income family, I almost never got my wish. However, my mom would console me by assuring me the books would be waiting for me the next time we came to the store.

These days, mother’s would cringe (as do I and my mom when we think back on it) and probably call my mom out on every form of social media for leaving her child unattended in a grocery store, but we all know back in the early 90’s, this was completely acceptable. While I wouldn’t dream of doing that now, I have to say those trips I spent sitting on a cold grocery store floor are some of my fondest memories of books as a child.

I was a very slow reader (thanks a lot, dyslexia), so reading was very very frustrating for me. I really thought I would never be able to read. I know for a lot of kids like me, the frustration turns into an indifference or even a hatred of reading, but my love of books stayed and when my ability to read finally clicked in my brain, I took off in turbo mode and soon I was reading everything I could get my hands on. As silly as it sounds, I give quite a lot of credit to the Little Golden Books.

These books are fun, uplifting, beautifully illustrated, and highly appealing to kids. I never thought, however, that those books had real life lessons in them until this weekend when my mom gave me Everything I Need to Know I Learned From A Little Golden Book by Diane Muldrow, the editorial director at Golden Books. This book takes the themes from the books and shows us just how they formed us as children.

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For example, do you have money problems? Well you should read 5 Pennies to Spend, which teaches you how to budget properly. Do you feel stuck in one place? Read Open Up My Suitcase and plan that dream vacation. Stressed out? Take a page out of The Little Red Hen and take a day off when you need it.

This book is so cute and it really took me back to my childhood. Pick it up for your kids, your little siblings, as a graduation present, or just for you!

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Poem of the Week: And Death Shall Have No Dominion

In honor of those who have lost their lives defending others…I hope you all have a safe and peaceful Memorial Day Weekend

And Death Shall Have No Dominion
-Dylan Thomas

And death shall have no dominion.

Dead man naked they shall be one

With the man in the wind and the west moon;

When their bones are picked clean and the clean bones gone,

They shall have stars at elbow and foot;

Though they go mad they shall be sane,

Though they sink through the sea they shall rise again;

Though lovers be lost love shall not;

And death shall have no dominion.

And death shall have no dominion.

Under the windings of the sea

They lying long shall not die windily;

Twisting on racks when sinews give way,

Strapped to a wheel, yet they shall not break;

Faith in their hands shall snap in two,

And the unicorn evils run them through;

Split all ends up they shan’t crack;

And death shall have no dominion.

And death shall have no dominion.

No more may gulls cry at their ears

Or waves break loud on the seashores;

Where blew a flower may a flower no more

Lift its head to the blows of the rain;

Though they be mad and dead as nails,

Heads of the characters hammer through daisies;

Break in the sun till the sun breaks down,

And death shall have no dominion.

A Star Wars Book Tag

Today is the 40th anniversary of Star Wars, so I’m reposting the tag I made for May the 4th Be With You day.

There aren’t really any rules of you want to do this tag, just tag me so I can read your answers!
So, without further ado:

Long ago in a galaxy far, far away….


I. The Phantom Menance: A book (or series) you pretend not to like but secretly do (guilty pleasure). 

Percy Jackson and The Olympians by Rick Riodan. I’m an adult, these book are for children, I’m an adult, these books are for children…maybe if I keep telling myself that, I’ll one day believe it 😉

II. The Clone Wars: An emotionally powered YA novel.

Kissed by an Angel by Elizabeth Chandler. I read this series in high school, and I finished it in 3 days, which is shocking for me because it’s close to 700 pages–I was totally captivated! I reread some of it a few years ago and I was cracking up because it was so emotional and drama filled, not at all like something I would like now.

III. The Revenge of the Sith: A Trilogy with a tragic end.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. I really had a hard time with Mockingjay and the ending just devastated me.

IV. A New Hope: Your favorite classic.

I have so many favorite classics it’s really hard to choose, but for this one I’m going to say A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens.

V. The Empire Stikes Back: An action packed adventure.

The Shades of Magic Series by V.E. Schwab. I haven’t yet read the third one, so this might be premature, but the first two are non-stop action!

VI. The Return of the Jedi: A trilogy with a wonderfully satisfying ending. 
I’m gunna have to go with my favorite trilogy, The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. This ending just feels right. You’ve gone on a long, hard journey full of suffering and doubt, but at the end there is peace.

VII. The Force Awakins: A new book that feels like an old friend. 

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles. Oh this book warmed my soul. It really felt like I was sitting down with a friend and having a nice long chat.

VIII. The Last Jedi: A sequel you can’t wait to read.

I don’t think she has a title for it yet, but I can’t wait to read the next book in the Ember in the Ashes series. I was delightfully surprised by how much I enjoyed this series.

Bonus: Rogue One: your favorite spinoff

I don’t read a lot of spinoffs, but I did read Finn by Jon Clinch, and I really enjoyed it. It is about Huckleberry Finn’s father and it is very interesting.
There you have it, kids, my first ever book tag!  If you love Star Wars and love books, I would love for you to do this tag! Just remember to pingback to me or this post so I can see your answers!!
I tag all you Star Wars fans out there! 


Reading Inspiration

Hey fellow readers!

I’ve been in a horrible reading slump as of late, and it’s really wearing me out. As someone who decompresses by reading, I really feel the strain not wanting to read has on me.

This slump has drastically affected my reviewing pace as well, I feel like either the books I’ve finished haven’t been reviewable or I just haven’t finished many books since I’ve been working on some longer ones recently. Having a book blog really adds the pressure to review what you read, and I’m sorry for not having many quality reviews lately 😦 I’ll get out of the slump soon, I’m sure!

Anyway, sometimes when I’m in a reading/writing  slump, I look to my favorite authors, and I’ll share some of my favorite quotes from them (about reading, writing, life, or all three).

 

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Well, let’s hope I get out of my slump, but in the meantime, if any of you wonderful bibliophiles have any suggestions, such as tips or quick reads you think will help get me back on track, please let me know!

 

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Summer Freebie

Today for our Top Ten Tuesday, the Broke and Bookish Blog gave us a Summer Freebie. I actually just did a small form of this blog for my Friday Five post last week, so I’m going to try to name books other than the ones on that list.

For my summer freebie, I’m going to do Audiobooks for Your Summer Road Trip. This summer I’m traveling like crazy. I have weddings/bachelorette parties, birthdays, and vacations filling up my calendar, and so I really rely on audiobooks to get me through the long drives. Not all audiobooks are created equal, so I’m going to let you know which ones I think you pass on and which ones you should press play.

*Disclaimer: I have not listened to all of these, but the one’s I haven’t, come highly recommended to me

  1. Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee, narrated by Reese Witherspoon 24817626.jpg
  2. Anything by Neil Gaiman (read earlier post here)9e63081d-a68a-4163-a44d-d20327cb4191
  3. The Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Larrson, narrated by Simon VanceMillennium-Trilogy-by-Stieg-Larsson-on-BookDragon.jpg
  4. The Nightingale by Kristen Hannah, narrated by Polly Stone21853621
  5. Sherlock Holmes’ Rediscovered Railway Stories by John Taylor, narrated by Benedict Cumberbatch*24737122.jpg
  6. Life of Pi by Yaan Martel, narrated by Jeff Woodman51xufiFRCtL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_
  7. Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari, narrated by author*23453112.jpg
  8. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, narrated by Claire Corbette, Louise Brealey, and India Fisher22557272.jpg
  9. The Martian by Andy Weir, narrated by R.C. Bray 18007564.jpg
  10. The Selfish Giant by Oscar Wilde, narrated by Martin Jarvis, musical adaptation by Dan Goeller.

51XLA8y2isL._SX385_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgThis one is for the kids (and really the adults, too). This beautiful rendition of The Selfish Giant is one everyone should hear.  Not only is the narration amazing, it is set to a symphony that elevates the story. I bought it for my nephews and they always ask for it when they are in the car.

*Indicates I have not listened to this particular audiobook, but that it come highly recommended to me.

So there you have it, the 10 Audiobooks I recommend for your summer road trips! Happy reading (or listening), and I can’t wait to read all the other TTT lists for today!

 

The Boys in the Boat

16158542.jpgThe Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1939 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown

Rating: ★★★★★ // History lesson that reads like fiction

Favorite Line: “All were merged into one smoothly working machine; they were, in fact, a poem of motion, a symphony of swinging blades.”

Review:

During the years which stood on the eve of WWII, a group of young men thought not of going off to war, or even of making their everlasting mark on history, instead their thoughts were on a narrow long boat in the cold waters at Washington University. This boat became an extension of their bodies,  their most treasured possession, and before they knew it, their ticket to the 1939 Olympic Games to represent their country in Berlin.

GoodReads Summary 

Daniel James Brown’s robust book tells the story of the University of Washington’s 1936 eight-oar crew and their epic quest for an Olympic gold medal, a team that transformed the sport and grabbed the attention of millions of Americans. The sons of loggers, shipyard workers, and farmers, the boys defeated elite rivals first from eastern and British universities and finally the German crew rowing for Adolf Hitler in the Olympic games in Berlin, 1936.

The emotional heart of the story lies with one rower, Joe Rantz, a teenager without family or prospects, who rows not for glory, but to regain his shattered self-regard and to find a place he can call home. The crew is assembled  by an enigmatic coach and mentored by a visionary, eccentric British boat builder, but it is their trust in each other that makes them a victorious team. They remind the country of what can be done when everyone quite literally pulls together—a perfect melding of commitment, determination, and optimism.

Drawing on the boys’ own diaries and journals, their photos and memories of a once-in-a-lifetime shared dream, The Boys in the Boat is an irresistible story about beating the odds and finding hope in the most desperate of times—the improbable, intimate story of nine working-class boys from the American west who, in the depths of the Great Depression, showed the world what true grit really meant. It will appeal to readers of Erik Larson, Timothy Egan, James Bradley, and David Halberstam’s The Amateurs.

I would have never thought a book about a rowing team could be so amazing. While the story is very different, this book feels like Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken. This story is non-fiction, yet it reads like a historical fiction novel…a very detailed and well written historical fiction. By the middle I was soaking up all the information about the rowing team, and by the end I felt like the biggest rowing team in the world, and felt very invested in the collegiate rowing rivalries.

The best parts of the story follow Joe Rantz, a hard-working boy who had fallen on the wrong side of luck many times. He was an unlikely hero of the rowing team, but the amazing thing is that his crew mates were all untraditional rowers. They were all blue collar kids, barely making it into college, barely staying in college, but yet somehow made it on the country’s best rowing team.

“Harmony, balance, and rhythm. They’re the three things that stay with you your whole life. Without them civilization is out of whack. And that’s why an oarsman, when he goes out in life, he can fight it, he can handle life. That’s what he gets from rowing.”

This story is very detailed and precise, which makes it seem like you are watching it as a movie and not reading it. The narrative is beautiful and it fills you with pride for these boys. The characters are so real and alive, you feel as if you were one of the fans watching their races in live time, or the ones all over the country listening to their races on the radio. You feel pain with them, you struggle with their doubts and their anxieties, and you feel elevated with their triumphs and joys.

It’s hard to pinpoint who is really the most important character of the story, because, like rowing, the book relies on so many different characters to make the story work. Any one character could not impact the end as they did without any of the others. They boys work off each other, and they thrive from their mentors, coaches, loved ones, and countrymen.

“Rowing is perhaps the toughest of sports. Once the race starts, there are no time-outs, no substitutions. It calls upon the limits of human endurance. The coach must therefore impart the secrets of the special kind of endurance that comes from mind, heart, and body.

—George Yeoman Pocock”

This is not like many WWII books, because it really does not speak much of the upcoming war. It addresses it, and of course the Olympic games take place at the beginning of the Nazi era, but the lack of the war was so important to the message of the book. These boys were normal, everyday kids. They had pains and troubles, joys and amazements. They had dreams like any other, and like many boys of that age, they had the small bit of dread in their stomach that all their hopes and dreams could be crushed with the impending war.

“The wood…taught us about survival, about overcoming difficulty, about prevailing over adversity, but it also taught us something about the underlying reason for surviving in the first place. Something about infinite beauty, about undying grace, about things larger and greater than ourselves. About the reasons we were all here.”

This reality was worldwide. Millions of people were impacted by the war, but first, before it all began, 9 boys in a boat, backed by their entire country, were able to grasp their dreams and ensure their spot in history.

“Standing there, watching them, it occurred to me that when Hitler watched Joe and the boys fight their way back from the rear of the field to sweep ahead of Italy and Germany seventy-five years ago, he saw, but did not recognize, heralds of his doom. He could not have known that one day hundreds of thousands of boys just like them, boys who shared their essential natures—decent and unassuming, not privileged or favored by anything in particular, just loyal, committed, and perseverant—would return to Germany dressed in olive drab, hunting him down.”

Poem of the Week: The Tyger

The Tyger

-William Blake 
Tyger Tyger, burning bright,
In the forests of the night;
What immortal hand or eye,
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
In what distant deeps or skies.
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand, dare seize the fire?
And what shoulder, & what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? & what dread feet?
What the hammer? what the chain,
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp,
Dare its deadly terrors clasp!
When the stars threw down their spears
And water’d heaven with their tears:
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?
Tyger Tyger burning bright,
In the forests of the night:
What immortal hand or eye,
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?