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The Nazi Officer's Wife: How One Jewish Woman Survived The Holocaust
The Nazi Officer's Wife: How One Jewish Woman Survived The Holocaust
Offered by HarperCollins Publishers
Price: $1.99

4.0 out of 5 stars A worthwhile addition to the history of the Holocaust, March 28, 2014
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I've read a lot of Holocaust books -- fiction and non-fiction -- so I wondered if there would be anything new in this memoir. This was new, not just because of her situation -- a Jewish woman married to a Nazi party member -- but also in her description of what it was like to be one of the thousands of slave laborers working in Germany and occupied countries. I suspect that very few slave laborers managed to survive, and those who did probably didn't want to revisit that experience.

One caveat though, about the "Nazi Officer's Wife" in the title -- it's deceptive. Edith's husband was a party member when they met but he wasn't high in the party and he wasn't even in the army until they'd been married for some time. So a reader looking for insight into what it was like to be married to an officer or a high-ranking Nazi party member won't find much in that regard.

The book is rich in detail without wallowing or sugar-coating. Her memories feel very honest, not imagined or colored. We meet Edith and her family and friends when she's in her teens and this background makes what happens later very affecting. She's strong and resilient but is often insecure and afraid, and rightfully so, of course. We follow Edith after the war, when she worked for the Communist regime. That was something new to me and while I'm glad it was included, I started to wonder if this woman was ever going to find peace and security.

It's one woman's story of survival, very well-written. It was hard to put down, and I'd love to read more about Edith's life after she left Europe.

Galveston: A Novel
Galveston: A Novel
Offered by Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc
Price: $2.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Please, may I have some more?, March 28, 2014
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After watching True Detective, I was hoping for something equally dark -- I wasn't disappointed. Just like True Detective, there are no likeable, sympathetic characters in Galveston. Pizzolatto doesn't flinch. When an action makes sense for the character, that's what the character does.

In Galveston, a low-level bag man goes on the run from his criminal boss after surviving a trap that was supposed to result in his death. But he doesn't travel alone, and his feeling of responsibility for others is what drives the plot and causes him to face his true nature. An impending hurricane adds tension to an already tense story -- I couldn't put it down.

Highly recommended, but R rated for violence.

Fennel and Rue
Fennel and Rue
by William Dean Howells
Edition: Paperback
Price: $10.71

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mothers and sons, March 16, 2014
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This review is from: Fennel and Rue (Paperback)
This is a short novel, more of a psychological study really, about a young man, his ego, and his mother.

Philip Verrian is 37 years old, never married, and lives with his mother. Philip has found his first success as a writer. He's written a serial for a magazine and is getting some positive attention from readers and critics. He receives a letter from a young woman who claims to be dying and asks him to reveal the ending of the serial. (I'll bet George R. R. Martin is getting similar letters.)

Philip takes the letter to his publisher, who thinks the letter would be good publicity but he wants to make sure it isn't a hoax. He investigates and learns that it is indeed a fake. The young woman who wrote the letter apologizes, explaining that it was a youthful prank, but Philip's having none of it -- his ego is wounded. His response is scathing and unforgiving. He feels a little bit guilty about taking it so seriously, then puts it out of his mind.

Most of the rest of the novel takes place in a country house, where Philip has been invited to spend a week by a vapid but wealthy older woman who's trying to make a name for herself in society. On the train to the house, Philip encounters a young woman who intrigues him. It's not a spoiler to reveal that this is the same woman who wrote the letter -- Howells makes this obvious. The rest of the novel details what happened during that week and a brief time after.

So -- there's not much plot. What kept me reading was Howell's observations about Philip and the people he encounters. Philip thinks he knows himself, and that he knows women. He doesn't see how he's been poisoned against women by his mother. She's really quite smart, and mothers who want to keep their sons close could take lessons from her. In addition to watching her machinations, I also enjoyed Howells' digs at this egocentric writer.

The title of the book puzzled me so I looked up "fennel" and "rue". Fennel is a main ingredient in absinthe, often used in literature as a powerful mind-altering drink, and rue has been used to induce abortion. I'm not sure what to make of that, except that fennel might represent Philip's mother's sly control of her son, and rue as representing independence and freedom of women to control their bodies.

The kindle edition has some formatting issues and a few typos, but not enough to really detract. If you like psychological studies, and fiction set in the early 20th century featuring people of a certain class, I think you'd like this very much.

Boston Harbor Architect Swing Arm Desk Lamp, Black
Boston Harbor Architect Swing Arm Desk Lamp, Black
Offered by toolboxsupply
Price: $22.38
19 used & new from $18.89

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars It has the UL sticker but . . ., March 13, 2014
This was on my wish list and I received it as a gift. I'd return it, but I don't want to hurt my daughter-in-law's feelings.

My issue with the lamp is how quickly the switch heats up. The switch is the round bulb on top of the lamp -- you twist it to turn the lamp on and off. It shouldn't get hot. I'm using a 60 watt bulb as instructed, but after 15 minutes, the switch is very warm to the touch. No other lamp I own has ever done this. You should be able to touch everything but the bulb in a good quality lamp.

I hate to toss it, because other than the switch, I like the lamp. The base is heavy and it adjusts to any angle you need.

But I don't think it's safe, so out it goes.

Savage Continent: Europe in the Aftermath of World War II
Savage Continent: Europe in the Aftermath of World War II
by Keith Lowe
Edition: Paperback
Price: $16.52
68 used & new from $9.45

4.0 out of 5 stars Clear, concise, informative and readable, March 5, 2014
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I'd never given much thought to what happens after a war. The shooting stops, the soldiers go home and everyone resumes their lives. I'm probably not much different from many others in thinking that when the treaties are signed, it's over. Americans especially -- at least those of us who didn't serve overseas -- have no idea of the aftermath. It's not a subject that's covered in general history classes or in books and films. The Third Man touched on it, but that's the only movie I can think of and that only covered one small area.

This is the first book I've read that discusses the aftermath of war. I'm not a student of history so don't have anything to compare Lowe's book to, so all I can really say is that it seems to cover all the bases, and that it does so in a way that's easy to understand without making me feel like Lowe dumbed things down for the average reader, someone who's not a historian.

Having read it, I think I understand a bit more about subsequent conflicts in Europe, especially Russia, Italy, and Ukraine. I think this would be a valuable resource for people who work in government, especially in foreign service. It's an eye-opener, to be sure.

The Long Ships (New York Review Books Classics)
The Long Ships (New York Review Books Classics)
by Frans Gunnar Bengtsson
Edition: Paperback
Price: $13.84
75 used & new from $7.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Michael Chabon was right: "It's really good!", February 12, 2014
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This novel, originally published in the 1940's as two books, tells the story of Orm Tostesson, a Dane who did what many Scandinavian men did in the 10th century -- he went a-Viking. Orm's voyages take him to Andalusia (Spain), Britain, and Russia. He makes friends and enemies, has wins and losses, and while I've never been a fan of pillaging, I had to admire him.

Bengtsson's writing style might seem odd (even staid) to modern readers. There are no "literary" embellishments -- Bengtsson simply tells Orm's story -- explicitly. It's all on the page. There will be passages that make the reader pause and ponder, not to decipher meaning but to consider the differences between present day and the 10th century.

Religion -- Christianity and Islam -- has a large role in the book. In one of my favorite passages, a character wonders why a king has converted to Christianity. He determines that "...kings drink stronger ale than other man, and have many women, and that can tire a man over the years, so that his understanding darkens and he no longer knows what he is doing."

I wasn't bored for a minute. The book is loaded with everything that makes a good adventure story, and even when Orm is living quietly at home, there's plenty going on. I totally agree with Chabon, who says in the introduction that this book "stands ready . . . to bring lasting pleasure to every single human being on the face of the earth."

Binscombe Tales - The Complete Series
Binscombe Tales - The Complete Series
by John A. Whitbourn
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $37.89
24 used & new from $28.76

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Surprising and original, January 28, 2014
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When I read a description of Binscombe Tales that included the words "Twilight Zone", I didn't think the stories would have many surprises. As a longtime fan of TZ and a longtime reader of weird and supernatural fiction, I thought I'd read everything, or almost everything (or a lot). These stories surprised me with their originality.

The gentleman who recommended these stories warned me to take them in short doses, not to read them all at once so as to preserve their freshness. Well, HE couldn't have been more wrong. Once I started, I couldn't stop. I had to know what new facet of Binscombe Mr. Oakley would encounter next. When I was finished, I wanted more.

The "energy" of Binscombe (for want of a better term) ranges from the mundane to the cosmic. Some of the stories made me chuckle and some made me skittery, and all of them were imaginative and entertaining.

I heartily recommend this book, with a warning that some of these stories are quite dark, and that bad things happen to good people (but not all the people are all that good).

Readers who are offended by profanity and explicit sex or violence won't find any of that in these stories.

Thanks to Amazon for offering the digital version free of charge, for people who purchased the book.

The Hollow City
The Hollow City
by Dan Wells
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $10.40
12 used & new from $8.21

4.0 out of 5 stars What's real and what's not?, January 18, 2014
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This review is from: The Hollow City (Hardcover)
Who knows? Michael Shipman doesn't. The protagonist of this novel is a paranoid schizophrenic, struggling with demons, real and imagined. When the story starts, he's lost two weeks of his life and is in a hospital after jumping out a window. He's off his meds and seeing faceless men. To make things even worse for him, he believes he's a suspect in a series of murders where the victims' faces were removed.

What I liked best about the book was the insight into Michael's mind. Wells' description of the effects of schizophrenia is unsettling, and makes Michael a very sympathetic character, even though he might well be a serial killer. The book also has surprising bits of humor, which kept the story from getting too dark.

Resolution is important in a book like this, where we have such an unreliable narrator. Will it turn out to have been a dream, like Bobby Ewing in the shower? Will it make sense? Were all the pieces there? Or will the ending come out of left field, and introduce a new element at the last minute? In my opinion, it really doesn't matter. This is a "journey" book, not a "destination" book.

The Barkeep
The Barkeep
Price: $4.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting premise, boggy second half, January 12, 2014
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This review is from: The Barkeep (Kindle Edition)
Five years after Justin Chase's father was convicted for the murder of Justin's mother, Justin is approached by a seedy alcoholic who says he did it, and for $10,000, he'll tell Justin who hired him. Justin always believed his father was guilty but the hit man gives him a memento of the crime, and Justin begins to doubt. Justin starts to dig, and the first half of the book is quite compelling, as Justin uncovers the truth of his parents' marriage. A side plot involving the hit man and his "muscle" adds to the tension.

The book bogs down in the second half. The plot stays interesting but is slowed down considerably by philosophical asides, as several characters gaze at their navels and wonder why their lives are such a mess. So do what I did -- skim those sections and concentrate on the plot.

I've read several of Lashner's books and enjoyed them. I would have liked this one better if Lashner would have lightened up on the introspection. None of it was very original.

We Are Gathered Here: A Novel
We Are Gathered Here: A Novel
by Micah Perks
Edition: Hardcover
48 used & new from $0.01

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Honest and compelling, January 6, 2014
Regina Hammond Sartwell and Olive Honsinger are two young women who couldn't be more different, on the surface. Regina is a spoiled child of wealth; Olive is the wife of a miner who works in Regina's uncle's mine. Regina is fearful and subject to epileptic fits; Olive is strong and sturdy, realistic and hard-working. The one thing they have in common is spirit and imagination.

Their friendship begins when Regina is sent to live with her uncle in a mining town in the Adirondacks. The first sentence of the book sets the scene: "Nobody is left to remember the day Miss Regina Hammond Sartwell dressed in pure white and threw herself out a third story widow, but Olive saw it all."

The two women have an instant connection and Regina asks (demands) that her uncle hire Olive to come work in the Hammond household as Regina's companion/maid. Perks explores what it was like to be female in the late 1800's, how women found and used power to change their lives. We're introduced to Gypsies and a colony of Shakers -- outsiders who, like Regina and Olive, found ways to thrive, or if not thrive, get by in a rich white man's world.

The writing is descriptive, the mundane historical details are blended without unnecessary exposition. The dialogue is realistic. There is some rawness, not vulgar rawness, honest rawness. And there's tension and excitement, when Regina and Olive come up against the power of men.

I'm really glad I read this book and would recommend it to anyone interested in a slice of life in that time and place.

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