Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly

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New York socialite Caroline Ferriday has her hands full with her post at the French consulate and a new love on the horizon. But Caroline’s world is forever changed when Hitler’s army invades Poland in September 1939—and then sets its sights on France.
 
An ocean away from Caroline, Kasia Kuzmerick, a Polish teenager, senses her carefree youth disappearing as she is drawn deeper into her role as courier for the underground resistance movement. In a tense atmosphere of watchful eyes and suspecting neighbors, one false move can have dire consequences.
 
For the ambitious young German doctor, Herta Oberheuser, an ad for a government medical position seems her ticket out of a desolate life. Once hired, though, she finds herself trapped in a male-dominated realm of Nazi secrets and power.
 
The lives of these three women are set on a collision course when the unthinkable happens and Kasia is sent to Ravensbrück, the notorious Nazi concentration camp for women. Their stories cross continents—from New York to Paris, Germany, and Poland—as Caroline and Kasia strive to bring justice to those whom history has forgotten

I read a physical copy of this, that I purchased at Black Tree Books in Oneonta, NY.

I actually finished this a few weeks ago but never saved it on my Goodreads list so this book isn’t quite fresh in my mind but hopefully I can do the book justice.

I don’t read too many historical fiction novels, but when I do they tend to be books from the later half of the 20th century. I’m not super proud of this fact but the truth is, I never really connected with history unless it was something I could relate to.

Lilac Girls takes place during WWII, a subject that I do have an interest in. I does take a little time to get aquainted to the three characters that the story is told by but once you get a sense of who everyone is, its easy to get hooked. Caroline and Kasis are great narrators. Herta is challenging, as she is clearly the enemy and gets the least amount of attention in the book but at the same time-I felt for her. Recent events have taught me that it is very easy to get swept up in what is happening around you and to buy in to what the people in authority are telling you. I wish her story had been different, but the juxtaposition from Caroline and Kasia was startling and worked well.

After reading this, I have found that now I want to read more historical fiction and I would like to try branching out to different historical periods. I recently purchased The Red Tent that has been on my radar for a long time and I am interested in giving Circe a go.

Rating: Four and a half stars

“It only hurts you to hold on to the hate.”

― Martha Hall Kelly, Lilac Girls

Fiction Ruined My Family by Jeannie Darst

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Jeanne Darst shares with humor her memoirs, stories about growing up around writers and journalists, and figuring out how to make her own way.

I read the ebook version of this via Libby.

I picked up this title by chance through Libby. I had never heard of this memoir and I have never heard of Jeanne Darst but I liked the title and thought I’d give it a shot.

I enjoyed this memoir, though, I found it similar to other memoirs like The Glass Castle or Mary Karr’s memoirs.. Screwed up families make for good reads, though, there comes a time when they all start to blend in together.

Darst has a good sense of humor, and if not ashamed to hide her true self from her audience. She will freely admit that most of her high school, college and early/mid adulthood years are tainted by substance abuse from both herself and her parents so it’s clear to see why she chose to call her memoir Fiction Ruined My Family as at times the line between fiction and reality seem a little too close to comfort. Jeanne and her family often resorted to use fiction when the reality of their life and family dynamic became too much.

Rating: Four Stars

“And yes, the Hemingways, the Fitzgeralds, the Faulkners and the Capotes. Drank while writing. Drink next to the typewriter. But the longer I lived in Brooklyn, the more writers I met, and I guess I was just too drunk to put it together before but now I realized about half of them were sober. So you could be a writer and be sober. Very interesting”

― Jeanne Darst, Fiction Ruined My Family: A Memoir

Happy Birthday

Today is my birthday. Unfortunately I was stuck at work all day, but yesterday I was off work and my family celebrated. We bought sandwiches and had a picnic lunch at one of our favorite spots on top of a mountain. We then went book shopping, or at least I went book shopping. I bought four books. Olive, Again; When Dimples Met Rishi; The Red Tent; and Anne of Green Gables to add to my collection. Then a stop for milkshakes and deep fried Oreos before heading home to watch Monsters Vs Aliens.

It was a really good day. This past year has been tough, I know it’s been tough for almost everyone but there was a lot in my personal life that wasn’t very good and even the good things were tinged with sadness because they couldn’t be celebrated the way they should have been celebrated. So I am glad that we were able to have a good time today.

Book haul!
30 seconds of peace

One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus

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Pay close attention and you might solve this.

On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention.
Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule.
Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess.
Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing.
Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher.
AndSimon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High's notorious gossip app.

Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention, Simon's dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn't an accident. On Monday, he died. But on Tuesday, he'd planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who's still on the loose?
Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them. 

I read the ebook version of this.

At the beginning of this novel, I almost gave up on this. It seemed like it was going to be a complete shit show. Everything just seemed sloppy. The cops were imcompetent. The school was incompetent…the characters were kind of caricatures of The Breakfast Club and I was almost sure that the rest of the book would be trash…

But I held in there, at first because I wanted to at least see whodunit and then I continued to read it because I found that I was actually kind of enjoying getting swept up in the mystery and while I stand by my assessment on the characters with just a bit more depth to make them seem not completely ridiculous, it was actually a pretty fun reading experiences.

If you are looking for a more serious thriller, then maybe this wouldn’t be worth the time but if you want to read a more fun mystery then this is a good pick.

Rating: Three and a half stars

Think Like a Freak by Steven D. Levitt, Stephen J. Dubner

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The New York Times bestselling Freakonomics changed the way we see the world, exposing the hidden side of just about everything. Then came SuperFreakonomics, a documentary film, an award-winning podcast, and more.

Now, with Think Like a Freak, Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner have written their most revolutionary book yet. With their trademark blend of captivating storytelling and unconventional analysis, they take us inside their thought process and teach us all to think a bit more productively, more creatively, more rationally—to think, that is, like a Freak.

Levitt and Dubner offer a blueprint for an entirely new way to solve problems, whether your interest lies in minor lifehacks or major global reforms. As always, no topic is off-limits. They range from business to philanthropy to sports to politics, all with the goal of retraining your brain. Along the way, you’ll learn the secrets of a Japanese hot-dog-eating champion, the reason an Australian doctor swallowed a batch of dangerous bacteria, and why Nigerian e-mail scammers make a point of saying they’re from Nigeria.

Some of the steps toward thinking like a Freak:

First, put away your moral compass—because it’s hard to see a problem clearly if you’ve already decided what to do about it.
Learn to say “I don’t know”—for until you can admit what you don’t yet know, it’s virtually impossible to learn what you need to.
Think like a child—because you’ll come up with better ideas and ask better questions.
Take a master class in incentives—because for better or worse, incentives rule our world.
Learn to persuade people who don’t want to be persuaded—because being right is rarely enough to carry the day.
Learn to appreciate the upside of quitting—because you can’t solve tomorrow’s problem if you aren’t willing to abandon today’s dud.
Levitt and Dubner plainly see the world like no one else. Now you can too. Never before have such iconoclastic thinkers been so revealing—and so much fun to read.

I listened to the audio version of this.

If you have already read the original Freakanomics book, or listen to the podcast, this book isn’t a whole lot new information. This isn’t to say that it wasn’t interesting-just that it wasn’t any big revelations included in this book. I’m kind of disappointed by it, I enjoyed the original book but I guess it makes sense.

I did enjoy it, and I was excited to see that my old advisor in college was an information source for one of the sections. I hadn’t been aware that he was considered an expert in his field but now I definitely want to dig a little more into his studies.

I gave this three stars and found myself subscribing to the Freakanomics podcast as I did find it interesting enough that I do want to learn more.