Tag: WWII

The Tattooist of Auschwitz

Author: Heather Morris
Published: January 27, 2018
288 pages

Reviewed By: Kim
Kim’s Rating: 3 stars

Book Description:

In April 1942, Lale Sokolov, a Slovakian Jew, is forcibly transported to the concentration camps at Auschwitz-Birkenau. When his captors discover that he speaks several languages, he is put to work as a Tätowierer (the German word for tattooist), tasked with permanently marking his fellow prisoners.

Imprisoned for over two and a half years, Lale witnesses horrific atrocities and barbarism—but also incredible acts of bravery and compassion. Risking his own life, he uses his privileged position to exchange jewels and money from murdered Jews for food to keep his fellow prisoners alive.

One day in July 1942, Lale, prisoner 32407, comforts a trembling young woman waiting in line to have the number 34902 tattooed onto her arm. Her name is Gita, and in that first encounter, Lale vows to somehow survive the camp and marry her.

A vivid, harrowing, and ultimately hopeful re-creation of Lale Sokolov’s experiences as the man who tattooed the arms of thousands of prisoners with what would become one of the most potent symbols of the Holocaust, The Tattooist of Auschwitz is also a testament to the endurance of love and humanity under the darkest possible conditions.

Kim’s Review:

I have had my eye on this book for quite a while, so when I found it at Sam’s Club for cheap, I grabbed it! Unfortunately, it didn’t live up to the hype. I love Holocaust literature and I am a huge supporter of Holocaust education. I’m not going to say that this is a bad book, because it isn’t. However, it is not my favorite Holocaust book. And to be clear, it is a work of fiction. Jessica sent me an article from the Auschwitz Memorial Museum and they pointed out that there’s too much vagueness and even straight up inaccuracies in Tattooist for them to recommend it as “valuable reading for people who want to learn and understand the history of Auschwitz.” I knew it was fiction when I picked it up so that doesn’t really surprise me nor does it change my feelings.

There are two reasons I’m giving it 3 stars:

The first does go along with what the Memorial said, that it wasn’t completely accurate, even in its general portrayal of Auschwitz. I’m a historian and I’ve studied the Holocaust so I have a standard already set in my head when it comes to the concentration camps and Tattooist doesn’t really meet it. Auschwitz sounded too livable in this book. It lacked a sense of horror that other accounts convey. I had to fill in what I already knew about Auschwitz to get that dread and terror that normally comes when reading about the Holocaust. That did bother me some.

The second reason is Lale himself. Far be it from me to criticize a Holocaust survivor and I completely acknowledge that our modern society influenced me in this case: Lale was a little pervy. He admitted to learning how to flirt with his mother, that his romantic expectations were set by his mother . . . and I just kept waiting for it to come out that he was actually a serial killer! I know that’s such a horrible thought, but it’s truly what I was expecting every time he brought up his mother and their relationship! I get that boys can learn how to treat women from their mothers, and I know that’s what was going on, but it still got a kinda cringey the more he talked about it. Too many times, I thought, “ok TMI! Didn’t want to know that! Keep that crap to yourself!”

I really wanted to love this book and it was ok, but I wouldn’t recommend this to too many people. Obviously if you like historical fiction, you’ll probably enjoy this book, but I would not recommend this to teens or as educational material.

Purchase Links
Amazon US
Amazon UK

Orphan Monster Spy by Matt Killeen

Author: Matt Killeen
Published:  March 20, 2018
423 Pages

Reviewed By: Kim
Kim’s Rating: 3 stars

Book Description:

A Jewish girl-turned-spy must infiltrate an elite Nazi boarding school in this highly commercial, relentlessly nail-biting World War II drama!

After her mother is shot at a checkpoint, fifteen-year-old Sarah–blonde, blue-eyed, and Jewish–finds herself on the run from a government that wants to see every person like her dead. Then Sarah meets a mysterious man with an ambiguous accent, a suspiciously bare apartment, and a lockbox full of weapons. He’s a spy, and he needs Sarah to become one, too, to pull off a mission he can’t attempt on his own: infiltrate a boarding school attended by the daughters of top Nazi brass, befriend the daughter of a key scientist, and steal the blueprints to a bomb that could destroy the cities of Western Europe. With years of training from her actress mother in the art of impersonation, Sarah thinks she’s ready. But nothing prepares her for her cutthroat schoolmates, and soon she finds herself in a battle for survival unlike any she’d ever imagined.

Kim’s Review:

This book was slightly disappointing to me. I had just finished the exhilarating Resistance by Nielsen; I got this book brand new off the shelf at Barnes and Noble, and the cover is so beautiful, so I picked it up right away. I know it’s not fair to compare books, so I’m going to try not to. Orphan Monster Spy just felt shallow to me. I didn’t feel any real connection to Sarah.

The story itself was good, but often times it felt inconsequential. By the time I finished it, it was empty, I felt very little. I really didn’t like the way Sarah was constantly comparing herself to the Nazis. It annoyed me that someone who was standing up against a regime that was so obviously evil, could then put herself into the same category as the “monsters” she was trying to fight. Killing someone who is about to kill an innocent person does not put you on the same level as the killer. I like having clearer distinctions of morality and this book suffered because it didn’t have those distinctions. It kept my attention well enough and I did like certain things about the story. Certain circumstances came to light to show just how evil individual Nazis were, and I liked the perspective of condemning not just the Nazi organization, but individuals as well. Seeing the brutal standards that the Nazi held not just for themselves but for their children was interesting.

I think my favorite part of the book was when Sarah participated in the River Run. She showed courage and cleverness and it was the one time in the book where I actually found myself rooting for her. I am glad I read this book, I did learn a little from it, but I don’t plan on reading it again and I can’t really bring myself to recommend it.

 Purchase Links:
Amazon US
Amazon UK

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The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Authors: Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
Published: July 29, 2008
277 Pages

Reviewed By: Kim
Kim’s Rating: 4 stars

Book Description:

Written with warmth and humor as a series of letters, this novel is a celebration of the written word in all its guises, and of finding connection in the most surprising ways.

“I wonder how the book got to Guernsey? Perhaps there is some sort of secret homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers.”

January 1946: London is emerging from the shadow of the Second World War, and writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject. Who could imagine that she would find it in a letter from a man she’s never met, a native of the island of Guernsey, who has come across her name written inside a book by Charles Lamb….

As Juliet and her new correspondent exchange letters, Juliet is drawn into the world of this man and his friends—and what a wonderfully eccentric world it is. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society—born as a spur-of-the-moment alibi when its members were discovered breaking curfew by the Germans occupying their island—boasts a charming, funny, deeply human cast of characters, from pig farmers to phrenologists, literature lovers all.

Juliet begins a remarkable correspondence with the society’s members, learning about their island, their taste in books, and the impact the recent German occupation has had on their lives. Captivated by their stories, she sets sail for Guernsey, and what she finds will change her forever.

Written with warmth and humor as a series of letters, this novel is a celebration of the written word in all its guises, and of finding connection in the most surprising ways.

Kim’s Review:

There’s been a buzz around this book since Netflix announced that they would be turning it into a movie. I definitely wanted to read it before I watched. I really liked this book! It’s an easy read with a simple story and likable characters. I was a little hesitant with the letter format and it definitely isn’t my favorite, but by end, I had gotten used to it. The small issue of homosexuality was introduced and handled maturely but not historically.  No one during that time would have been so open to a stranger about homosexuality when it was literally against the law. Thankfully, it wasn’t a major part of the story.

Juliet is a funny, passionate protagonist and I couldn’t wait to turn the page to find out what happened to her. Interestingly, one of the most potent characters didn’t even make an appearance! Most of the people on the island of Guernsey are spunky and fun. I had such a great time getting to know them! Even the nasty people on the island made me laugh! While there is a set story-line that was entertaining, this is definitely a character-centric book! If you don’t want to visit Guernsey to meet the people there, then you read the book wrong! A great one for lovers of historical fiction! A great book!!!

Purchase Links:
Amazon US
Amazon UK

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