Monday, February 22, 2016

Book Review: Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys


Series:Standalone
Genre:YA Historical Fiction
Published by:Philomel Books
Publication date:3/22/2011
ISBN13:9780399254123
Pages:344
Format:Hardcover
Source:Library

Synopsis

Lina is just like any other fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl in 1941. She paints, she draws, she gets crushes on boys. Until one night when Soviet officers barge into her home, tearing her family from the comfortable life they've known. Separated from her father, forced onto a crowded and dirty train car, Lina, her mother, and her young brother slowly make their way north, crossing the Arctic Circle, to a work camp in the coldest reaches of Siberia. Here they are forced, under Stalin's orders, to dig for beets and fight for their lives under the cruelest of conditions.

Lina finds solace in her art, meticulously--and at great risk--documenting events by drawing, hoping these messages will make their way to her father's prison camp to let him know they are still alive. It is a long and harrowing journey, spanning years and covering 6,500 miles, but it is through incredible strength, love, and hope that Lina ultimately survives. Between Shades of Gray is a novel that will steal your breath and capture your heart.

My Thoughts


I knew Stalin was a sadist, but geez. This book is of course fiction, however, the things that happened to Lina and her family really did happen to millions of people. Stalin was a paranoid that's for sure so even though the Gulag type system has been around since the time of the czars Stalin found a way to make it into a great big killing machine. Not only a place for prisoners of war or citizens from countries that came under communist rule, the Gulag did not discriminate taking in even small children, anyone viewed not just as criminals but as enemies of communism (including some people that were communist, but apparently not the right kind of communist) were forced into these camps and worked to death. Or died of disease or starvation. Some people actual just froze to death. I compared Lina's story to true survivor stories and found that they were shockingly similar. The cattle trains, the starvation, lice, disease, rapes, beatings, the cold weather, and the forced hard labor killed millions of people yet not many people know about it. I am glad that at the end we do get to find out what happened to Lina and that there wasn't just a big gapping hole at the end. Wonderfully raw and emotional you realize that circumstances could just have easily been reversed, you could have been a girl just like Lina and she could be you.

Thanks for coming by,
Amy

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Book Review: Ravensbruck by Sarah Helm




Series:Standalone
Genre:Non-Fiction/History
Published by:Nan A. Talese
Publication date:3/31/2015
ISBN13:9780385520591
Pages:768
Format:Hardcover
Source:Library

Synopsis

A groundbreaking, masterful, and absorbing account of the last hidden atrocity of World War II—Ravensbrück—the largest female-only concentration camp, where more than 100,000 women consisting of more than twenty nationalities were imprisoned.

Shortly before the outbreak of World War II, Heinrich Himmler, the head of the SS and the architect of the Holocaust, oversaw the construction of a special concentration camp just fifty miles north of Berlin. He called it Ravensbrück, and during the years that followed thousands of people died there after enduring brutal forms of torture. All were women. There are a handful of studies and memoirs that reference Ravensbrück, but until now no one has written a full account of this atrocity, perhaps due to the mostly masculine narrative of war, or perhaps because it lacks the Jewish context of most mainstream Holocaust history. Ninety percent of Ravensbrück's prisoners were not Jewish. Rather, they were political prisoners, Resistance fighters, lesbians, prostitutes, even the sister of New York's Mayor LaGuardia. In a perverse twist, most of the guards were women themselves. Sarah Helm's groundbreaking work sheds much-needed light on an aspect of World War II that has remained in the shadows for decades. Using research into German and newly opened Russian archives, as well as interviews with survivors, Helm has produced a landmark achievement that weaves together various accounts, allowing us to follow characters on both sides of the prisoner/guard divide. Chilling, compelling, and deeply unsettling, Ravensbrück is essential reading for anyone concerned with Nazi history.
 


My Thoughts

Concentration Camps are not easy subjects to read about obviously due to not only the human depravity that surrounds them but also just the heaviness of the subject itself. What I mean by the heaviness of the subject is to write a truly good piece of non-fiction about concentration camps the author must delve into great detail not just about the prisoners experiences but also about the experiences of the guards, the German citizens living around the camps, and don't forget the liberators, that is a lot of information and as you can see by the number of pages (768) of this book that Sarah Helm did a fantastic job of showing us inside Ravensbruck. Not to mention when showing so many sides of a story it is really hard not to offend one of these parties of people over another I feel though that Helm's did an excellent job of this staying as objective as humanly possible when presenting the information to us the reader. I know there is a lot of material out there that broaches the subject of concentration camps but as far as I can tell this book is the only one that focuses on Ravensbruck, sure other camps are mentioned since a lot of them were interconnected and of course prisoners were shipped back and forth between different camps, but Helm's is vigilante about sticking to the main setting of Ravensbruck. I personally had heard of Ravensbruck through other books on concentration camps however there was not very much information about it all I knew was that it was in Germany, that there was a Siemens factory there, and that it was for women only, but that was the extent of it, not a lot to go on so picking up this book was like discovering a whole new concentration camp which was eye openingly horrifying. I particularly had a hard time reading about deaths of children especially babies, there was many times I had to put it down and couldn't pick it back up for many days after. I can't even say I enjoyed this book because what is really to enjoy about this type of content but it feeds a need that I have to know how things like this occur. How countries full of people could be so complacent that others were suffering in such a way and nothing was being done, I was especially horrified to hear how General Eisenhower didn't want to piss off the Russians by going into Ravensbruck and liberating it since the Russians were given the go ahead to be the first into the area. Basically the whole book shows us not only the evil in people but also the hope that these women had in each other. If you want to read a great work of non-fiction you have to look no further than Ravensbruck.

Thanks for stopping in,
Amy

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Book Review: Nimona by Noelle Stevenson



Series:Standalone
Genre:Graphic Novel
Published by:HarperTeen
Publication date:5/12/2015
ISBN13:9780062278234
Pages:266
Format:Hardcover
Source:Library


Synopsis

The graphic novel debut from rising star Noelle Stevenson, based on her beloved and critically acclaimed web comic, which Slate awarded its Cartoonist Studio Prize, calling it "a deadpan epic."

Nemeses! Dragons! Science! Symbolism! All these and more await in this brilliantly subversive, sharply irreverent epic from Noelle Stevenson. Featuring an exclusive epilogue not seen in the web comic, along with bonus conceptual sketches and revised pages throughout, this gorgeous full-color graphic novel is perfect for the legions of fans of the web comic and is sure to win Noelle many new ones.

Nimona is an impulsive young shapeshifter with a knack for villainy. Lord Ballister Blackheart is a villain with a vendetta. As sidekick and supervillain, Nimona and Lord Blackheart are about to wreak some serious havoc. Their mission: prove to the kingdom that Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin and his buddies at the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics aren't the heroes everyone thinks they are.

But as small acts of mischief escalate into a vicious battle, Lord Blackheart realizes that Nimona's powers are as murky and mysterious as her past. And her unpredictable wild side might be more dangerous than he is willing to admit.



My Thoughts

So this was my first graphic novel and I'm glad that my delve into this genre was with Nimona because it was wonderfully illustrated and the plot was engaging. I know that there are many graphic novels to choose from out there but I was never into comics or the like when I was younger so I never thought as an adult that I would enjoy them, but on some recent posts on Facebook on a penpal group I belong to there was some talk of graphic novels so I thought why not give it a go so I decided to try the library first because I didn't want to shell out a lot of money for a book from a genre that I've never read and needless to say my small town library was not a hot bed of graphic novels, shocking I know! However, there was Nimona, so I paged through it and liked what I saw and thought it was worth a chance.

I really enjoyed the sarcastic jokes made about heroes and villains, Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin and Lord Blackheart trying to play your typical hero and villain is comical considering they are in love with each other (spoiler)! It is not spoken of but it is definitely hinted upon! Lord Blackheart and Nimona's relationship is cute, that of little sister and big brother, to bad Nimona is not really truly human, but then again some humans are more monster then human so why can't a monster be more human then monster? Just a little question to ponder. If you have never tried to read a graphic novel I definitely recommend them as fun reads. I liked Nimona so much I went out and bought my first graphic novel, The Sandman Vol. 1 by Neil Gaiman, I will let you know what I thought of it when I get done with it!

Thanks for stopping in,
Amy