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A Few of the Girls: Stories
A Few of the Girls: Stories
by Maeve Binchy
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $18.36
76 used & new from $3.29

3.0 out of 5 stars Not the best collection, but proves diverting, May 10, 2016
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I have been reading Maeve Binchy's novels since I was a college student nearly twenty-five years ago. My first Binchy novel was CIRCLE OF FRIENDS which my younger self easily identified with, and eventually I discovered her other novels such as the memorable ECHOES, the heartbreaking THE GLASS LAKE, FIREFLY SUMMER, SILVER WEDDING, COPPER BEECH, and so many more. I confess that I am partial to her earlier novels and collection of short stories like LONDON TRANSPORTS (I have read every single Binchy novel and short story collection). Her newer novels, such as WHITETHORN WOODS, MINDING FRANKIE, etc. are still highly readable, but lack the intricate plots and in-depth character development that were hallmarks of her earlier works.

When I saw this short story collection, I purchased it, not so much because I was expecting something new, but more to get a sense of the old and familiar, warm and cozy feelings I have always experienced reading Ms. Binchy's books. This is a mixed collection: some stories are well-written with insight into the flaws and frailties of Binchy's characters, and those ah-ha moments that her writing is known for. However, there are also many stories that I felt were not reflective of Binchy's tremendous talent and wit and seemed like they were unfinished or incomplete - perhaps these were just stories she had kept in a portfolio someplace that were not intended for publication, they seem raw and unpolished and lack insight, seeming rather banal. Unlike her earlier works, there is no deep sense of setting (one of the things I have always enjoyed about Binchy's novels is how they were able to transport me to Ireland). Whatever the reason, I am not sorry that I read this, but would caution readers not to expect something spectacular. Think of it instead as a way to re-connect and remember Ms. Binchy, who will always remain a beloved and much missed Irish storyteller.

Unequal Affections: A Pride and Prejudice Retelling
Unequal Affections: A Pride and Prejudice Retelling
by Lara S. Ormiston
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $20.55
96 used & new from $9.82

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent pastiche, and ranks as one of my favorite retellings of P&P, April 23, 2016
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Frankly, I'm not really a fan of Pride and Prejudice retellings, but UNEQUAL AFFECTIONS by Lara Ormiston is a refreshing exception. I found myself transported back to Jane Austen's PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, with the characters true to themselves and even though the storyline here takes quite a turn from the original, it is not far-fetched and quite imaginative and well-written.

The story here has Elizabeth Bennet considering and accepting Mr. Darcy's proposal several days after he proposes to her at Hunsford Parsonage. Elizabeth's motivation are driven primarily by her cognizance of her family's situation, and of what would befall her mother and sisters if her father should die and the estate be entailed to Mr. Collins. She is quite honest with Mr. Darcy and tells him that she does not love him, but Darcy is willing to accept Elizabeth on these terms. He then follows her back to Longbourn (he stays at Netherfield, upon Bingley's invitation), and the newly-affianced couple begin to get to know each other.

Much of the novel focuses on the relationship between Elizabeth and Darcy and how both overcome their objections to what they perceive as faults in the other - Darcy has to learn to overcome his revulsion of Elizabeth's family, and Elizabeth has to come to grips with Darcy's haughty and condescending manner to her relatives. I loved reading about how both learn to understand the other better, and there are startling revelations and insights into how each thinks. Wickham also features prominently here and remains true to his character as Austen wrote him.

I also enjoyed how the author managed to weave in important phrases from the original text into the current story, enabling the story to flow well. Austen's language is not the easiest to duplicate but Ms. Ormiston does so very well and quite credibly. It does not sound stilted as so many other Austen pastiches tend to be. Overall, I found myself diverted and entertained, and I hope the author will continue the story as I'd like to read about how Elizabeth copes with her new life as mistress of Pemberley, and of how she addresses the challenges of being in a new circle of acquaintances, whilst navigating married life with Darcy.

Women's Solid Color Boat Neck 3/4 Sleeve Pullover Long Tee Shirt Top (Large, Black)
Women's Solid Color Boat Neck 3/4 Sleeve Pullover Long Tee Shirt Top (Large, Black)
Offered by Jubilee Couture
Price: $19.97

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fits great and feels awesome!, March 21, 2016
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I needed a long pullover top that would go well with my printed soft pants, so when I saw these lovely neutral tops, I decided to purchase one. The reviews were most helpful and I bought one in a size L. It fit my 5' 6" frame perfectly. I am between a 10 and 12 and this top slid over comfortably. The material is neither too heavy nor too light. I didn't need to wear a camisole underneath as the fabric isn't see-through. I am so in love with this that I plan to purchase some of the other colors as well as I can wear these comfortably over jeans. Great product at a great price!

When Marnie Was There (Blu-ray + DVD)
When Marnie Was There (Blu-ray + DVD)
DVD ~ Hailee Steinfeld
Price: $24.99
32 used & new from $15.02

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gorgeous, memorable, and a pure delight, March 20, 2016
Studio Ghibli never disappoints and in WHEN MARNIE WAS THERE, the studio proves once again why it is such an esteemed producer of quality animation. Directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi, this gentle and poignant coming-of-age tale is full of wonders, with elements of the supernatural.

Based on the book of the same title by Joan G. Robinson, this gentle tale tells the story of young Anna, who is immensely talented in art but who is painfully shy and reserved, to the extent that she has no friends. Concerned about her health, Anna’s foster mother sends her away from their home in Sapporo to stay with relatives, kind and humble farm folk in a beautiful, small, coastal town. Here, Anna quickly becomes enamored with a rather run down marsh house that seems mysterious. Anna begins to dream of a beautiful, blonde-haired girl who lives there, and when she encounters the girl in the flesh, a friendship blossoms between the two. Marnie, the girl of Anna’s dreams begins to exert a strong pull on Anna, and as their friendship becomes deeper, Anna begins to realize that there is some elemental, deeper connection between the two.

There are plenty of twists and turns in this beautiful film to keep viewers engaged. My eleven-year-old daughter, a budding artist was not only mesmerized by the gorgeous visuals, but also by the storyline. We both enjoyed it so much, we have watched it four times already. This is a keeper and I intend to add it to our Studio Ghibli library. I also hope that at some future time, the studio will release this in the form of a picture book as has been done with other Ghibli productions. A memorable film that I believe is destined to become a classic.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 28, 2016 6:52 AM PDT

The Auschwitz Album: A Book Based Upon an Album Discovered by a Concentration Camp Survivor, Lili Meier
The Auschwitz Album: A Book Based Upon an Album Discovered by a Concentration Camp Survivor, Lili Meier
by Peter Hellman
Edition: Hardcover
38 used & new from $23.96

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Haunting portraits of the Holocaust, March 20, 2016
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THE AUSCHWITZ ALBUM was found by a young Jewish girl (Lili Jacob Meier) during the final days of the Third Reich, when she was awaiting liberation. The album is the only surviving visual evidence of the entire process of extermination as perpetrated by the Nazis against the Jews, except for the actual murder itself.

The photos are presumed to have been taken by Ernst Hofmann or by Bernhard Walter, two SS men, although there is no conclusive evidence of this. The time frame of the photos is May or June 1944, which saw the liquidation of a massive number of Hungarian Jews. Lili herself was the sole surviving member of her family, who had been deported from the Carpathians, from a small community living in Bielke.

The photographs, all in black and white, are accompanied by text written by Peter Hellmann, and the images are haunting: men and women, entire families, waiting on the ramps after their exhausting journey by cattle cars to Auschwitz-Birkenau; wondering looks; doubt, uncertainty, hope clouding their faces, as they wonder about their fate; old people, young children, the infirm, all waiting to be selected for what we now know would be certain death. These images are not only poignant but horrifying because the threat to these innocents is implied in the photographs, with the crematoria looming in the background, with the implacable SS presence on the ramps and all over. I will not soon forget these images.

Secrets of War
Secrets of War
Price: $4.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Coming of age during wartime, March 20, 2016
This review is from: Secrets of War (Amazon Video)
I streamed this via Netflix. SECRETS OF WAR is a 20144 Dutch film about the Holocaust as seen through the eyes of children. It is rather unique among Holocaust films in that the violence is almost non-existent, and even the horrors that we have come to associate with the Holocaust is alluded to via clever filmmaking techniques. The film is set sometime during the war, perhaps around 1943, in the Dutch town of Limburg which borders French-speaking Belgium. Two 12-year-old boys, dark-haired Tuur (Mass Bronkhuyzen) and blonde Lambert (Joes Brauers) are the best of friends and enjoy all the exploits that young boys of their age indulge in. Then a new girl comes to school in the form of dark-haired Maartje (Pippa Allen), who is living with the Hoffmann's, who she says are relatives. The boys accept her into their circle and the three become fast friends.

However, all is not as bucolic as it may appear - the lovely countryside belies the fact that the Nazis are very much present and are the occupiers. Lambert's older brother is part of the Hitler Youth, his father is elected mayor of the Limburg due to his Nazi connections, and this places Tuur in a quandary. Tuur's family is anti-Nazi and involved in the resistance, and Lambert's father is a Nazi sympathizer and collaborator, which eventually places the boys at odds with each other. When Maartje reveals a secret to Tuur, the two get closer and this eventually sets events spiraling out of control.

The three young actors playing the lead roles do a commendable job of portraying the innocence of childhood even though all three find themselves growing up amid the harsh reality of war. Both my 11-year-old and I found this an insightful and engaging film.

And the Violins Stopped Playing [Region 2]
And the Violins Stopped Playing [Region 2]
DVD ~ Horst Buchholz
8 used & new from $11.63

4.0 out of 5 stars A film exploring the Porajmos or genocide of the Romani people in WW II, March 20, 2016
Of the two million gypsies living in Europe during WW II, it is estimated that between 250,000 and 500,000 gypsies were murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators, and this mass murder of the gypsies is referred to as Porajmos or "The Devouring". This Polish-American production was written, produced and directed by Alexander Ramati, based on actual accounts of Romani people persecuted by the Nazis during WW II.

As much as the film records the suffering of these gypsies as they are persecuted wherever they go, it also portrays the beauty of the gypsy culture: their passion for music and dancing, the strong sense of family solidarity and of taking care of their own, and above all, their love of freedom. The theme of survival against all odds and the Gypsy culture portrayed reminded me a lot of the more contemporary film, the 2009 French production, KORKORO (which means "freedom").

The film's focus is on Dymitr Mirga (Horst Buchholz), who is a prominent Gypsy violin player and the film opens in Warsaw in 1941. Dymitr plays for the SS officers and his tribe of gypsies appear to enjoy the patronage of the SS officers at the beginning, but of course there is a lot of tension, especially when Dymitr's cousin, a recent escapee of the Warsaw Ghetto, tells him that not only are the Nazis deporting the Jews to death camps, but that they are also deporting gypsies. Initially, a rival gypsy leader refuses to believe Dymitr and ignores his exhortations to lead their tribe away from Warsaw and into Hungary which at the time was still independent and unoccupied by the Nazis. The film follows Dymitr and his family through their escape efforts and eventual and inevitable imprisonment in Auschwitz and the repercussions.

I find AND THE VIOLINS STOPPED PLAYING as well as KORKORO to be indispensable as part of the must-watch WW II films focusing on the genocide of a group of people, just that in this case, it is the annihilation of the gypsies or Romani people that is the film's focus.

Naked Among the Wolves ( Nackt unter Wölfen ) [ NON-USA FORMAT, PAL, Reg.0 Import - Germany ]
Naked Among the Wolves ( Nackt unter Wölfen ) [ NON-USA FORMAT, PAL, Reg.0 Import - Germany ]
DVD ~ Armin Mueller-Stahl
9 used & new from $10.83

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A stirring WW II movie set in Buchenwald concentration camp, March 18, 2016
This movie is absolutely riveting from start to finish. It is based on a true story of how a group of prisoners in the camp go to extreme risks to protect a three year old Polish Jewish boy [smuggled in a valise and who had escaped extermination in Auschwitz] from the Nazis and certain death in Buchenwald concentration camp.

Besides facing problems in keeping the boy hidden, the prisoners involved , many of whom are members of the communist resistance are also grappling with the issue of armed resistance and how they are going to go about it. The Nazis in charge of the camp suspect something is afoot and try to find the identities of the ringleaders of the resistance, whilst at the same time fearing the advancing Allied forces and what that means for them.

The acting is amazing, and the cast of characters, with familiar names like Armin Mueller Stahl as Hovel, a member of the communist resistance,do a good job of credibly portraying the various characters. The Nazis are also well-portrayed from the two officers who are evil incarnate, bent on finding the little boy and exterminating him, as well as killing off as many prisoners before they retreat, these roles are well done indeed.

Besides the main drama of keeping the boy hidden and organising the uprising against the Nazis, not much else os portrayed about the camp. Buchenwald may not be as infamous as Auschwitz, Majdanek or Dachau, but it was a grim place in its own right. It was the scene of mass murder and also medical experiments. And its history after liberation wasn't exactly a happy ending as Buchenwald was used by the Russians to house Nazi war criminals and also dissenters of the Stalinist regime.

But, despite some flaws, the movie itself is riveting and each scene is filled with a sense of desperation in line with the period in history that it portrays. A must watch for anyone interested in World War Two history. I would also recommend movies like Escape from Sobibor and The Grey Zone, both of which deal with armed resistance against the Nazis in the camps.

Giants: The Dwarfs of Auschwitz: The Extraordinary Story of the Lilliput Troupe by Yehuda Koren, Eilat Negev on 12/02/2013 Revised edition
Giants: The Dwarfs of Auschwitz: The Extraordinary Story of the Lilliput Troupe by Yehuda Koren, Eilat Negev on 12/02/2013 Revised edition
77 used & new from $7.26

5.0 out of 5 stars A compelling tale of resilience and a unique Holocaust story, March 13, 2016
I have read hundreds of Holocaust accounts in the past two decades, and each story is always unique despite the shared grief and pain. "In Our Hearts We Were Giants" is a compelling and unique Holocaust account as it is a chronicle of the lives of the Ovitz family which hail from Rozavlea, Transylvania from 1868 through the Holocaust and after - and what makes this unique is the fact that the family was afflicted with dwarfism (excluding a few family members), and this very condition saved them when the family arrived in Auschwitz in May, 1944. Most of the Jews in that transport were sent on to their deaths in the gas chambers - but the Ovitzes were spared because their sheer numbers and their dwarfism made them stand out amongst the crowds. The Nazi guards realized that this family would interest Dr. Mengele, the infamous Nazi doctor who with a flick of his finger sent Jews to either their deaths or to life (albeit a harrowing one spent in arguably the worst concentration/extermination camp in WW II).

Dr. Mengele does become interested in the dwarves and keeps them for his personal quasi-medical experiments. In turn, the dwarves themselves soon realize that Mengele is the one person standing between them and death - and do all they can to survive. Though they are generally treated better than the other Auschwitz inmates (better food, clothing, kept together for the most part, etc.), they are also subjected to horrific and senseless medical experiments - tests, invasive procedures, being gawked at by strangers (in the nude) etc. The Ovitzes did manage to survive, and in the process also saved those not related to them (such as their family coachman Shimon Slomowitz, his wife and children) and some relatives who were not afflicted with dwarfism.

The book is also interesting in that it not only tells the story of the Ovitzes, but also the perceptions of those inmates who were critical of the Ovitzes, feeling that they were on too good terms with Mengele. However, it is apparent to the reader that the Ovitzes' survival was entirely dependent on Mengele's whims, which makes their dependency and obsequious behavior towards him justifiable. But despite surviving Auschwitz, the legacy of their camp experience continues to haunt them as is testified to by their nephew Shimshon Ovitz, who was only an infant when the family came to Auschwitz. He tells of not being able to sleep at night because of the tormented screams of his aunts and uncles. But despite all these travails, their resilience of spirit is to be admired as they do go on to make a new life for themselves after the war, making their way to Israel where they resume their careers in the entertainment line. This is a story of resilience and inner courage, and of survival in the most harrowing of circumstances. A must-read in the annals of Holocaust literature. Also recommended Surviving the Angel of Death: The Story of a Mengele Twin in Auschwitz, andChildren of the Flames: Dr. Josef Mengele and the Untold Story of the Twins of Auschwitz.

One Day in Auschwitz
One Day in Auschwitz

5.0 out of 5 stars A survivor recounts her survival in Auschwitz, March 13, 2016
I can't believe this isn't available for viewing or DVD purchase. I found this compelling production on Youtube and found it to be riveting. Kittie Hart-Moxon, who is in her late 80s, also happens to be a Holocaust survivor of the extermination camp Auschwitz-Birkenau, and in the present day (documentary was released in 2015) leads two teenage girls through the former camp, recounting her harrowing experiences.

Kittie was only 16-years-old when she and her mother were deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau and together. mother and daughter traversed the horrors of the camp. Kitty leads her two teen companions through the camp, providing an in-depth account of her life in Auschwitz, making the horrors of the camp come alive in ways that is hard for the ordinary human mind to imagine. Kitty details day-to-day life in the camp, how the difference between living and dying was based on whether someone had shoes, could learn the complex system of "organizing" supplies essential to survival, of how she herself was rescued from selection for death by her brave mother (Kitty's mother spoke impeccable German which accounted for her being able to get herself and her daughter out of precarious situations). As Kitty guides the girls and viewers through the now quiet camp, I felt chills as she recounted how people were led to their deaths in the gas chambers; how people were selected for extermination; the process of calming victims down; people who were sent to work on outside details that perished due to the elements; her own experiences cleaning latrines, and more.

Kittie Hart-Moxon is a courageous woman who unflinchingly conveys the horrors of the Holocaust as witnessed by her in Auschwitz. Throughout her testimony, viewers are also shown archival photographs and film from the time, many of the pictures depicting Nazi brutality at its worst, and certainly not for the faint of heart. At only 45 minutes long, this is not a lengthy production but its message is nevertheless clear: that despite it all, the Nazis could not completely eradicate the human will to survive against all odds.

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