The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

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In April 1942, Lale Sokolov, a Slovakian Jew, is forcibly transported to the concentration camps at Auschwitz-Birkenau. When his captors discover that he speaks several languages, he is put to work as a Tätowierer (the German word for tattooist), tasked with permanently marking his fellow prisoners.

My take: 4 looks

The first review of 2019! My reading slump was long and hard this year, exacerbated by a huge change in my personal life, so I am awarding 4 looks to the book that I hope has brought me out of it.

Written on a very easy reading level, this book was a quick read. While I have read many books with the Holocaust as the theme or setting, this one was unique in that it never occurred to me that a prisoner was the one tattooing the incoming masses. The fact that these tattooists were inflicting the same dehumanizing act that had been done to them had an emotional effect on these men that I had never considered.

Enter Lale, a real person and survivor of the notorious prison camp. The story is his, how he survived, helped others survive, and fell in love.  Without going into too much of the horrific detail of life as a prisoner, Morris nicely navigates the humanity that stayed with the prisoners in her story. I was invested in these people and their individual coping mechanisms.

But even more, this book made me do the best thing historical fiction can do: caused me to want to know more, do more research, and read more about some of the people, places, and ways of the story. I had the experience of visiting Dachau many years ago, and this made me remember a few of the things that had gone to the background of memory. And now I know more. More about the color coding patches, the fact that the camp I visited had the most intricate system of such coding, and finding out more about the prisoners and captors named in the story. And I thank Morris for the Epilogue that closed the thread on many of the people.

This book will stay with me for a while, and it is recommended.

The House with a Clock in Its Walls by John Bellairs

The House with a Clock in Its Walls (Lewis Barnavelt, #1)Summary:

Orphaned Lewis Barnavelt comes to live with his Uncle Jonathan and quickly learns that both his uncle and his next-door neighbor are witches on a quest to discover the terrifying clock ticking within the walls of Jonathan’s house. Can the three of them save the world from certain destruction?
My take: 3 looks
With a motion picture coming out soon (and starring Jack Black, to boot!), I wanted to pick up this juvenile mystery before seeing it on the big screen. 
Keeping in mind that this is a children’s book, I am giving it three looks. For a 10-12 year old, this would be quite a scary story! The story mixes fun with Uncle Jonathan, seriousness with Miss Zimmerman (when she is not exchanging hilariously funny names with Jonathan), angst with Lewis trying to fit in at a new school, and scary with wizards, witches, and a long-dead sorceress. 
Very quick and easy to read, the book did what I wanted it to do: give me a foundation for comparison when I see the movie. However, there were some questions that I continued to have at the end, like exactly WHAT is happening to Jonathan and Miss Zimmerman when the clocks are striking, what is the significance of the color purple for Miss Zimmerman, and exactly what is the nature of the relationship between the wizard and witch who are now raising Lewis. 
There are 12 titles in the Lewis Barnavelt series, so at least some of these questions may very well be answered in future spooky tales. 
Recommended, especially before the movie!

BBW – Disturbing Trends

Trends & Facts

  • The ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom tracked 354 challenges to library, school and university materials and services (including books, DVDs, magazines, programs, databases, games, exhibits, displays) in 2017:
    • In those 354 challenges, 416 books were targeted.
    • In total, 491 library materials were challenged.
  • Books on the Top 10 list have a child, teen or young adult audience.
  • OIF is seeing an increase in “blanket bans”: removing collections of books that share commonalities. For example, removing all LGBT books, books by a certain author, or all R-rated DVDs.
  • OIF is noticing more censorship incidents where administrators remove books without following policy because they are trying to (unsuccessfully) avoid controversy.
  • Ten years after its publication, Thirteen Reasons Why resurged to the top of the list, largely because of the popularity (and criticism) of the Netflix series.


Top 10 Most Challenged Books of 2017

As the attacks on the right to read escalate, a celebration of reading is needed now more than ever. Banned Books Week Coalition is here to support the community of readers, including students, educators, libraries, and booksellers, in the United States and abroad. Please join us during Banned Books Week, September 23 – 29, 2018!

What are YOU reading this week?

Somtimes I Lie by Alice Feeney


Sometimes I Lie


Amber wakes up in a hospital. She can’t move. She can’t speak. She can’t open her eyes. She can hear everyone around her, but they have no idea. Amber doesn’t remember what happened, but she has a suspicion her husband had something to do with it. Alternating between her paralyzed present, the week before her accident, and a series of childhood diaries from twenty years ago, this brilliant psychological thriller asks: Is something really a lie if you believe it’s the truth?

My take: 3 looks

Love the way Feeney lays out this story. Told in three time periods, Before (in the form of a child’s diary), Then (days before the accident), and Now (present day), the cadence of the timelines is pure perfection. I was shocked to find that this is the first book by the author. The story is crisply told and doesn’t pander to what Feeney knows is a smart reader base. There is a lot going on in these pages, and just like life, when the tale starts to unravel, it is fast and furious.

There is a feeling … an inkling … of a coming twist toward the middle of the book, but the size and scope of the turn of events will leave you breathless, wondering, “What did I just read?” I found myself questioning almost everything I believed about the characters and story to that point, feeling almost disoriented as I turned the pages faster and faster.

While there is a very Gillian-Flynn feel to the book, I found this one to be more realistic than “Sharp Objects” and more provocative than “Gone Girl”. However, if you like that genre, don’t let this one pass you by. You’ll want to read it before the television version is released, which I understand sold for six figures.

This one is recommended, and I have already put Feeney’s next book, “I Know Who You Are”, published in 2019, on my TBR.

Short Story Saturday: What it Means When a Man Falls From the Sky by Lesley NNeka Arimah

Man falls from skyWhen I read the first story of this collection, “The Future Looks Good”, I stopped, and reread it. I didn’t believe that I had correctly read the first time, or was sure that I had not properly understood. Yes, I had understood correctly. WOW.

“Light” is a lovely and touching story about how a father feels as his daughter grows, and one day, leaves the nest. “Who Will Meet You at Home” is just the opposite: a searing look at the lengths to which a woman will go in order to become a mother…to the point of death.

With stories as diverse as what I hope is Arimah’s readers, this is a volume worth your time. I suggest you read one story, then put the book down. Run an errand, complete a task, take a moment. Then read the next. You will want to give your mind time to process these stories, allowing them to fall into the proper folds, crevices, and bridges of your memory.