Saying Goodbye to Warsaw by Michael Cargill

18464101Like any girl who is loved by her family, Abigail Nussbaum loves to chase butterflies, enjoys lying on her back looking for shapes in the clouds, and happily teaches young children to make daisy chains.

In the eyes of certain people, however, Abigail has committed a heinous crime. The year is 1940; the place is Poland; Abigail happens to be Jewish.

Along with half a million other Jews, Abigail and her family are evicted from their home and forced to live in the bombed out ruins of Warsaw, the Polish capital.

Although a handful decide to fight back, is the uprising strong enough to save Abigail’s spirit?

Saying Goodbye to Warsaw is a surprisingly light read given the subject matter. It centers around the Nussbaum family of Abbie, her brother Leo, and her mother Chana who are imprisoned in a bombed-out ghetto in Warsaw in the midst of WW2.

Much of the book describes the squalor and poverty that has been thrust upon them, their fear of the German soldiers and the uncertainty of their future – however protagonist Abbie is a carefree, daydreamer who can see beauty and excitement in almost anything, giving the story a light-hearted, innocent tone.

I liked Abbie as the protagonist for that reason but I also felt like the main crux of story was being overlooked – the truth of their plight. Eventually we’re introduced to Alenka who is part of an underground resistance group which Leo has joined.

All of a sudden the innocent, light tone is replaced with a growing sense of impending doom and that’s the part of the story that shone for me. And I loved how much Abbie’s character changes throughout this book.

As for the things I didn’t enjoy – there were only a few. I found the start of the book quite slow and the writing didn’t flow easily for me but after a couple of chapters it seemed to improve. And I wished we’d met Alenka a lot sooner.

Saying Goodbye to Warsaw is a slow-burner but I thought the journey was totally worth it.

unicorn rating 4

Disclosure?: Yep, I received a copy from the author in exchange for an HONEST review. (THANKS)
Title: Saying Goodbye to Warsaw
Author: Michael Cargill
Details: Paperback, 170 pages
Publication Date: Published September 8th 2013 by Createspace
My Rating: 4/5
If you like this try: The Book Thief.

Favourites Friday #17: The Book Of Lost Things by John Connolly

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This one of my favourite books to read in the winter. It is a dark reimagining and fusion of various fairy tales and the whole thing is just a bit sinister yet magical! Plus how epic is that cover!?

There’s Wolf-men, trolls, slutty Red-riding Hood and evil Snow White, a girl in a jar, a great villian in The Crooked Man and a whole lot more.

Goodreads Synopsis:
High in his attic bedroom, twelve-year-old David mourns the death of his mother, with only the books on his shelf for company. But those books have begun to whisper to him in the darkness. Angry and alone, he takes refuge in his imagination and soon finds that reality and fantasy have begun to meld. While his family falls apart around him, David is violently propelled into a world that is a strange reflection of his own — populated by heroes and monsters and ruled by a faded king who keeps his secrets in a mysterious book, The Book of Lost Things.
Taking readers on a vivid journey through the loss of innocence into adulthood and beyond, New York Times bestselling author John Connolly tells a dark and compelling tale that reminds us of the enduring power of stories in our lives.

What People Are Saying About The Book of Lost Things:

This was one of the best books i’ve read in a long while. every single page was amazing…the characters rich and full of life.

Beth Anne (Goodreads)

“The Book Of Lost Things” can at times be extremely violent as Connolly seems to enjoy twisting and taking apart various fairy tales.

Brandon (Goodreads)

John Connolly, a Dubliner, is best known – celebrated, indeed – in America, where he sets his supernatural crime fiction. Evidently The Book of Lost Things represents a major departure for him, and Heaven forbid we should discourage ambition. His publisher claims it’s “a novel to transcend genre”: positive spin for what a less partial commentator might call uncertainty of address. Who is this book for? Generic boy hero, schematic adventure plot, heavy-handed explicatory narrative tone: all would try the patience of any reader no longer juvenile. Yet the material is as grim as Connolly’s customary horrific fare. The torture chambers, martial dismemberments and surgical miscegenations, the continual nervous drift towards themes of sexual corruption: all firmly indicate adults only.

Colin Greenland (The Guardian)

Favourites Friday #12: Banned Books Edition – Slaughterhouse-Five

Red Epic Reads Badge

Banned Books Week was launched throughout America in 1982 in response to a sudden surge in the number of challenges to books in schools, bookstores and libraries. More than 11,300 books have been challenged since 1982. According to the American Library Association, there were 464 challenges reported to the Office of Intellectual Freedom in 2012, and many more go unreported.

The 10 most challenged titles of 2012 were:

1. Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey (Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited for age group)

2. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie (Reasons: Offensive language, racism, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group)

3. Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher (Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, sexually explicit, suicide, unsuited for age group)

4. Fifty Shades of Grey, by E. L. James. (Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit)

5. And Tango Makes Three, by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson. (Reasons: Homosexuality, unsuited for age group)

6. The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini. (Reasons: Homosexuality, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit)

7. Looking for Alaska, by John Green. (Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group)

8. Scary Stories (series), by Alvin Schwartz (Reasons: Unsuited for age group, violence)

9. The Glass Castle, by Jeanette Walls (Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit)

10. Beloved, by Toni Morrison (Reasons: Sexually explicit, religious viewpoint, violence)

In the UK public libraries are free from censorship, but there is always talk surrounding school reading criteria and censoring/banning books from school libraries so I still find the idea of Banned Books week important.

There is a really interesting list of famous/popular books (From the Canterbury Tales to Carrie) that have been banned around the world and why here.

Two of my favourite books of all time are on that list, Slaughterhouse-Five and The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

Today my spotlight is on Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five.

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Kurt Vonnegut’s absurdist classic Slaughterhouse-Five introduces us to Billy Pilgrim, a man who becomes unstuck in time after he is abducted by aliens from the planet Tralfamadore. In a plot-scrambling display of virtuosity, we follow Pilgrim simultaneously through all phases of his life, concentrating on his (and Vonnegut’s) shattering experience as an American prisoner of war who witnesses the firebombing of Dresden.

I love EVERYTHING about this book. It is an anti-war commentary masking as a pretty insane Science Fiction story and it’s probably the most powerful piece of fiction I have ever read. READ IT. NOW!

Sources: Epic Reads, Banned Books.org.uk and as ever, Goodreads.

If it’s not broke, don’t fix it: The Secret Keeper – Kate Morton

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During a party at the family farm in the English countryside, sixteen-year-old Laurel Nicolson has escaped to her childhood tree house and is dreaming of the future. She spies a stranger coming up the road and sees her mother speak to him. Before the afternoon is over, Laurel will witness a shocking crime that challenges everything she knows about her family and especially her mother, Dorothy.

Now, fifty years later, Laurel is a successful and well-regarded actress, living in London. She returns to the family farm for Dorothy’s ninetieth birthday and finds herself overwhelmed by questions she has not thought about for decades. From pre-WWII England through the Blitz, to the fifties and beyond, discover the secret history of three strangers from vastly different worlds—Dorothy, Vivien, and Jimmy—who meet by chance in wartime London and whose lives are forever entwined.

The Secret Keeper explores longings and dreams, the lengths people go to fulfill them, and the consequences they can have. It is a story of lovers, friends, dreamers, and schemers told—in Morton’s signature style—against a backdrop of events that changed the world. Image and synopsis from Goodreads (Click the Image to go there).

The Secret Keeper is another winner from Kate Morton. She has found a definitive style that suits her perfectly and creates beautiful, engrossing drama and decade-spanning mysteries. So, if it’s not broke don’t fix it right?

Usually I’m not a huge fan of shifting timelines but Morton does it so well. We start in the 1960’s when our protagonist Laurel is a teenager and witnesses her beloved mother stabbing a random man. We’re then propelled foward to the present where poor mum is approaching her 90th birthday and on her deathbed. With Laurel back to take care of her she aims to find out for once and for all what exactly happened that day. The mystery emerges bit by bit in true Morton style – by following Dolly (Laurel’s mum), through War-time London and beyond.

This is a hard book to review without just relaying the story. So much goes on but so little of it seems important without seeing the bigger picture, so it’s hard to pick out certain elements. One of my favourite things though was the description of London during the raids. The characters weren’t fazed by it because they’d become so accustomed to it. It’s funny how you can just get used to something so awful. They almost seemed immune to death and destruction which definitely helped put Dolly’s story in perspective. I also really enjoyed the family dynamics, especially Gerry, he was a lovely, complicated and quirky character.

I can’t say I was gripped the whole way through, but I certainly was for the most part. On numerous occasions I thought I knew exactly where the story was going and what the secret would be and whilst part of it was easy to guess, the final blow definitely wasn’t which made for an excellent read.

If you’ve never read any Kate Morton, I definitely recommend her work. I haven’t read every single one of her books on account that they sound so similar to each other, but the ones I have read have been really pleasant surprises.

Details:Paperback, 602 pgs. Published May 9th 2013 by Pan Books.
My Rating: 4 out of 5 Unicorns
Is it a keeper? As much as I enjoyed it, I know I’ll never read it again so no. I have added it to my Book Swap List. (UK only, soz!)
If you liked this try: The House At Riverton