Monday, August 29, 2016

Reading Challenge 2016: Bully!

Week 32: A book with a one word title

by: Ryan Stallings


I missed somehow that this was a modern story in which a historical figure appears. I thought it was set in Roosevelet's time where he became a father figure to our young hero. Oops. Okay.

The writing was well done in the story, I could just never buy the idea of how Roosevelt arrived in the present time ... really? Kid tells teddy bear he wants a real dad and the next day the bear is gone and Theodore Roosevelt is in the bear's place? Weird, creepy, and how the dad ultimately reacts isn't real at all.

Also, for the book to be marketed as a children's book, there's an awful in here that kids won't really understand - like everything from the father's perspective about having lost his wife. I know that's a vehicle for learning about Roosevelt's wife who passed away, but some of it seemed a little much for children.

That said, if I could accept the premise the story was interesting. Lots of tidbits about Roosevelt mixed in and well as conjecturing what he would think about some things we just accept nowadays. But overall, how the adults were just ok with this strange man claiming to be a dead president hanging out with Jamie just never set well with me. So between that and his appearance/disappearance the whole things was just rather incredible (as in, unbelievable) to me.

I was really excited about the idea of this book and series when I started, and the writing is well done, but I just couldn't buy off on the story itself.

I'd read other books in this series if they were free, since the premise is good and maybe others are more believeably crafted, but I won't seek them out. 3 stars.

This review appears as a part of the Reading Challenge 2016, to see other books in the challenge, click here.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Reading Challenge 2016: Tunnel, Smuggle, Collect

Tunnel, Smuggle, Collect: A Holocaust Boy
by: Jeffrey N. Gingold


I have read many books about WWII and the Holocaust, including some personal accounts. I've also read history books and historical fiction. This was the first account I read about someone who lived in a ghetto. This was also one of the most relate-able accounts I've ever read. Maybe that's because I'm an adult, maybe because my time of life is similar to that of Leah's, maybe because of the way the book is written ... I suspect it is some of all of the above. 

I never cried while reading this book, but I definitely got teary. When I'd put the book down, I'd keep thinking about what the Gingold's went through. It's a book that stays with you. And that's important. We need to never forget what happened, and we need to make sure it never happens again.

Personally, I would've left the subtitle "A Holocaust Boy" off the book. The focus of the book is not on Sam, he is just one of the movers and players in the story. The story is really his family's collective story, not his. 

I read an ARC and I'm sure some of these issues have been corrected since I know there was an updated version before the book was published, but I did not read that manuscript. Toward the end of the book there are a couple editing mistakes, and the afterward is somewhat awkwardly attached to the end. It ties the beginning of the book full circle, but it was not seamlessly done. 

My only other complaint in the book is there is a bit of Yiddish in the book that is transliterated, but not translated. I have no problem with including the Yiddish in the book, but I do think translations would be helpful, even if just in footnotes. Many times the Yiddish is paraphrased or the English response gives the context to get a good idea of what was said in Yiddish, but a direct translation is always better.

If the issues I mention above were fixed before publication, it is a 5 star book. If they were not, the book is 4-4.5 stars, depending on how much was changed. 

This is a book that will stay with you and offers a perspective on the war and the Holocaust that is not mainstream. I highly recommend this book.

I received a complimentary ecopy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

This review appears as part of the Reading Challenge 2016. To see other reviews in the challenge, click here.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Constant Reminder

I'm Southern, and proud of it. One of the first things people think of when they think of Southern are the Southern Belles. These ladies were grace and elegance. They were charming and genteel. But they weren't pushovers. They knew how to stand their ground, and they did. They were Velvet over Steel, Steel Magnolias, if you prefer, and they are my inspiration to be who I am and fight for what I believe in - but to be kind and gentle and caring. Grit with Grace is the perfect way to express that sentiment and the necklace would remind myself of my heritage and my future.

Every day, every moment we are making history. Every choice affects our next. We all dream of doing great things, but we often get caught up in the mundane and trivial. While these daily tasks are molding us, we should never let them hold us back. We have the power to change our lives. We have the power to change those around us. This necklace is the perfect reminder that we make history every moment. And we can make it good.

Cents of Style has expanded their incredibly popular Tribe line to include necklaces! There are so many different sayings to choose from!

And this weekend (8/5-8/7) you can get these necklaces for only $11.99 + FREE SHIPPING with the code TRIBE4! Huge savings since each necklace is usually $25! 

We all have something that resonates with us that we want constant reminders of. What in this collection speaks to you?

Monday, August 15, 2016

Reading Challenge 2016: Bat Dad (a parody)

Week 30: A photo essay book

Bat Dad (a parody)
by Blake Wilson


I was unfamiliar with Blake's videos online as Bat Dad, or I would've looked them up before getting this book. I expected a funny book about the adventures of Bat Dad. What we get instead is one picture a page of Bat Dad in various situations with an added caption, sometimes featuring cuss words. I was hoping this would be a cute book to gift a friend who loves batman and is a dad, but with the swearing and the only mildly funny content, it doesn't make the cut. Love the idea, but it just wasn't implemented well.

Advice: If you love his stuff online, you'll probably love this. If you don't like his online content, you probably won't like this. So check that out first. Don't be like me and get it unaware.

2 stars.

This review appears as part of the Reading Challenge 2016. To see the other books in the challenge, click here.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest opinion.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Reading Challenge 2016: The Doll Shop Downstairs

Week 29: A book based on a true story

The Doll Shop Downstairs
by Yona Zeldis McDonough

Wanted to like it

The Doll Shop Downstairs is the fictional story of a Jewish family in New York who has to make changes to keep their business going during WWII. It is inspired by a true story (the author has a nice note in the back of the book about that).

I thought it was cute and predictable. The story is told from the perspective of the middle child, and while I certainly understood her thoughts and perspective the dedicated voice has the potential to alienate a lot of readers ... mainly those who aren't middle children.

I picked this book up for free and really debated about whether to hold on to it or not. Our heroine ends of stealing a stamp from her parents (saying she's going to replace it) and there are never any ramifications for that act. I just didn't like planting that idea in kids' heads. A trivial thing, perhaps, but I never think stealing should be painted in a forgiveable light like that. I think the story would have worked just as well if she had asked her parents for a stamp.

Maybe I'll regret letting go of this book one day, but I think it's mostly forgettable anyway. Maybe if I read this as a child and had nostalgia attached to it I wouldn't feel that way. I wanted to like this book, but I just didn't connect with it.

3 stars.

This review appears as part of the Reading Challenge 2016. To see the other books in the challenge, click here.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Reading Challenge 2016: Avenue of Spies

Week 28: A book about the second World War

Avenue of Spies: A True Story of Terror, Espionage, and One American Family's Heroic Resistance in Nazi-Occupied Paris
by Alex Kershaw

Easy to Read

Given several reviews stated this book read like a thriller, I was mildly disappointed that it didn't. It is engaging, but there's very little emotional attachment to our real-life actors. Everything is presentably readbly factual. We don't feel the terror or the tension they must've felt living on the Paris Gestapo's street. Honestly, for most of the book, I would've had just as much emotionally invested if it had been about the Jackson's neighbor Dr. Kronos (Gestapo) and what he was trying to do during this time.

About halfway through the book things actually start moving and you have a few page turner chapters, but then it moves back to the easy to read - but no longer gripping - story.

I think the pacing could be better. We have vingettes that tie in to the story of the Jackson's, but they feel more like rabbit trails at times. Then we have focus on one member of the family back and forth between that and vignettes ... and I just wanted to know what was happening to the rest of the family!

This book is categorized as a biography. For a biography it is very engaging. Not boring or stuffy. The only problem is I'm not sure whose biography it is. If its the Jackson family's collective biography, we're missing too much information about the parent's early life, and if it's about their son, there is not enough focus on him. And, there is no information at all about the Jackson's religious persuasion, if they had one. Since religion is a major part of many people's lives I felt this was a terrific oversight. If they weren't religious, that should have also been made clear.

Questions about book categorization aside, the book is engaging enough to keep one reading, and it provides another look at the heroes fighting the Nazis from within. The Jackson's took on incredible risk, and they paid a price for that risk. Their commitment to their cause and each other is inspiring and heart breaking.

You get an excellent picture of the Parisian dilemma. What should your average Joe do? Cooperate with the change? Hold out? What was morally right? What was pragmatic? Could you successfully lead a double life? Were the resistance France's saviors? So much conflict and indecision and resentment.

After Berlin, Hitler consider Paris the Third Reich's best jewel. He planned to raze it if he couldn't hold it. Why didn't he?

Kershaw did a great job of weaving all of these elements together. Even though Paris, and not concentration camps, is the book's main setting, we still get a glimpse of the horrors other's have gone on about at great length.

All in all, while there are some pacing and trailing issues, this provides an excellent look at a different aspect of WWII than is usually addressed. I learned a lot. It is particularly nice to have a historical/biographical work be engaging and easy to read, instead of having to force one's way through the pages.

4 stars

This review appears as part of the Reading Challenge 2016. To see the other books in the challenge, click here.

I received a complimentary copy of this work from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review.