Thursday, July 5, 2012

In the Garden of Beast: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin, by Erik Larson


Book Title: In the Garden of Beast: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin
Author: Erik Larson
Published By: Crown Publishing Group
Date Published:  January 1, 2011
Genre: Non-Fiction, Biography, History, Politics, WWII
Pages: 365, Kindle edition
Recommended Age: mature adults
Read & Reviewed By: Me
Rating: C/3

I received this book from Amazon.  It was one of Amazon’s free Kindle books they were giving away on a particular day.

When none of the regular government politicians will take the post as the American Ambassador in Germany during the time of Hitler’s reign in 1933, William E. Dodd, a mild-mannered history professor from Chicago is given the post.  Professor Dodd brings along his wife, son, and audacious daughter, Martha.  Through Ambassador Dodd’s letters and journals and through Martha’s journals Erik Lawson tells the reader what Berlin was like during 1933 and 1934.

My Thoughts:
In the Garden of Beasts was okay.  I liked being able to “see” what Germany was like through an American’s eyes.  It shows that Hitler and his army treated anyone horrible that didn’t fit his view of the perfect German or follower.  Even Americans staying in Germany for one reason or another was treated badly.  It’s sad that a lot of people, mostly the Germans saw nothing wrong with how the Jews were treated; for example the one man telling Martha why a woman was being dragged through the street.  It was because she was planning to marry a Jew. He was blasé about it; the man said it as if she deserved the treatment and was even disgusted that the woman would marry a Jew. It disgusts me that there were people like that.  They actually believed that Jews were evil and were the cause of all their problems just because one man said so. It makes me wonder if these people were already subconsciously racists and were relieved to show their hatred for another race and culture that was different from theirs?  Or were they easily manipulated and brain washed and not able to think for themselves?

I really didn’t care for Martha Dodd at all. She had to be an embarrassment for her father.  I found her to be a self-indulgent slut who disrespected her parents’ home by bringing all those men in the house and having sex with them up in the family library. I also did not like that she had turned a blind eye to what was truly going on in Germany, even when reports were coming in about Americans being attacked.  She always took the Nazis side, saying things like, “well, they must have done something” and she was also known to say she approved of what Hitler was doing.  She believed Hitler was making Germany a better place. It was only when the injustice started hitting too close to home and affecting her friends did she open her eyes.  I found her to be a very selfish, “it’s about me me me me” kind of woman.

I gave In the Garden of Beasts three stars and a grade of C because I really didn’t like it all that much. I didn’t like that the last 25 percent of the book was reference pages; it made the book seemed quite short in my opinion. Yes, I know that references must be included in any non-fiction work, but Erik Larson could have made the book longer somehow.  It might have helped if it was more detailed orientated and more descriptive. In the Garden of Beasts seemed to just list the basic facts, pulled from journals and letters. It was quick and to the point. 

It also seemed to talk more about how other people in America’s government was against Ambassador Dodd from the beginning, because he wasn’t rich and didn’t live flamboyantly like they thought an Ambassador should live. It seemed that the other government officials were constantly trying to put Ambassador Dodd in a bad light and embarrass him. They cared less about what Hitler was doing to fellow human beings.  All they wanted was to be on good “party” terms with the German government and retrieve back the money Germany owed America.  It also made the American President a push over, who listen to the men around him and did not follow his gut.  I was quite disappointed in the President, as I was in this book.  If you “see” what Germany was like through an American’s eyes, I recommend In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin by Erik Larson.

Language: some
Adult Content: some sex, heavy topics about the treatment of Jews and Americans in Germany
Violence: Some violence against Jews and Americans

A Vintage Affair, by Isabel Wolff


Book Title: A Vintage Affair
Author: Isabel Wolf
Published By: Bantam Books
Date Published: June 29, 2010
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, British Literature
Pages: 346
Recommended Age: Adults
Read & Reviewed By: Me
Rating: B/4

 Internationally Bestselling Author

I borrowed it from the library

Phoebe Swift owns a boutique dealing with vintage clothing called Village Vintage.  She is also dealing with the loss of her best friend and her guilt over the part she played in her friend’s death.  While at an elderly Frenchwoman, Thérèse Bell’s apartment looking through old clothes she may buy she comes across a child’s sky-blue coat, an item which Bell is stubbornly reluctant to part with.  As she becomes friends with the dying Thérèse, Thérèse tells her the story of why she will never part with the coat. Hearing the tale, Phoebe discovers a connection between herself and Thérèse, one that will heal her own pain and help her to love once again.

My Thoughts:
I am surprised that I actually like this book. When my book club voted on what book to read this month, I had voted against this book and was disappointed it got majority of the votes.  It didn’t seem like a book I would choose to read on my own…a book about clothes, really? 

It is well written and easy to read. Yes, it talks a lot about clothes. It talks about the designer, the year the clothing was made and the costs, but it also tells the history of who last wore the dress, pants, or even the accessories like a purse. It seems that some of the clothing gave the women courage to do things they felt they couldn’t do on their own, like blow the whistle on their bosses, or break up with an overbearing and bossy boyfriend.  Some of the stories are quite touching such as the story of the Jewish girl during WWII, which has a big part in making the book more interesting for me as I am fascinated by stories of WWII and the plight of the Jewish people during the war. A Vintage Affair is emotionally tugging and I found myself crying towards the end of the book.

I gave A Vintage Affair four stars and a grade of B because I enjoyed the book and found myself actually wanting to finish it, and not dragging my feet, kicking and screaming through it because I had to have it read for my book club. If you like contemporary fiction, I recommend A Vintage Affair by the internationally bestselling author, Isabel Wolff.

Language: none
Adult Content: Talks about concentration camps from WWII and other forms of death, some sex
 Violence: none

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte


Book Title: Jane Eyre
Author:  Charlotte Bronte
Published By:  Bantam Classics
Date Published: September 30, 2003 (First published in 1847)
Genre: Classics, British Literature, Romance
Pages: 493
Recommended Age: Young Adults, Adults
Read and Reviewed By:  Me
Rating: B/4

I borrowed this book from the library.  I also own it on my Kindle.

Jane Eyre is a woman who spent the first 10 years of her life with an aunt who didn’t want her around, and then she was sent to a deplorable boarding school.  At the young age of twenty, Jane takes a governess position working for arrogant Mr. Rochester teaching his adoptive French daughter.  Jane eventually falls in love with her employer, which leads her on a journey of self discovery and finding family she never dreamed of having.

My Thoughts:
I enjoyed the book very much. I liked that it was clearly written.  I did not feel like I was trudging through a swamp to get an idea of what was going on.  Jane Eyre was clear and precise.  I also liked how she would talk to us, the readers; as if she was writing her memoirs and knew someone would be reading the book.

Charlotte Bronte did a wonderful job telling how two unlikely people with two different personalities and a huge age gap can fall in love.  She also threw in a bit of mystery and some obstacles for the two love birds, making the path to the altar not an easy one for the two.  I gave Jane Eyre four stars and a grade of B.  If you like the Classics and romance novels, I recommend reading Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.

Language: None
Adult Content: None
Violence: None