Monday, September 30, 2019

Cilka's Journey - Heather Morris

Cilka's JourneyCilka's Journey by Heather Morris
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Cilka's Journey can be read as a sequel to The Tattooist of Auschwitz or as a stand-alone. I haven't read The Tattooist yet, although it's been on my TBR list for quite some time. So, thanks to NetGalley and the publisher, I read this book as a stand-alone. There are some mentions of characters from The Tattooist, and my understanding is that the author received a lot of her information on Cilka from Lale and Gita in that book. However, I didn't feel lost or like I was missing information in any way from not having read that book.

While The Tattooist is a true story of Lale, Cilka's Journey is considered more a fictionalized history based on a real person. Cilka really did exist but had passed away by the time Heather Morris began on her story. So some of the people in this book are real life while others are compilations or even entirely fictional. The same is true for the events. From what I've read, Morris did a lot of research, though. So while the story is fictionalized, there is a lot of fact and history to learn from.

Okay, now that the background is out of the way, I am SO GLAD this book was written. Most people are familiar with the German concentration and death camps from Holocaust and WWII history. However, the role the Soviets and Russia played afterwards with their own camps (and even repurposing some of the German camps) is not as well known. So this book is important for that alone.

This books consists of Cilka's life in a Siberian prison camp, where she was sentenced to labor after the Russians "liberated" her from Auschwitz-Birkenau intermingled with flash backs to her time in the concentration camp for her Jewish heritage. What it takes for her to just survive in both environments that were created to destroy her. The camaraderie to be found with fellow prisoners and the humanity of those trying to do what they can to help others around them. Hope found in the darkest places.

It took me a bit to get into Cilka's story, but I think that had more to do with things going on in life than a flaw in the book itself. Once I was halfway in, though, I flew through the rest. The topics addressed are heavy, harsh, awful...and real. Triggers abound, but I don't believe that should dissuade someone from reading this. Did I mention it's important that we as humanity know that these things occurred and to guard against them moving forward?

So, my review is simply this: Read it. Reflect on the truths this story contains.

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Wednesday, September 18, 2019

The River - Peter Heller

The RiverThe River by Peter Heller
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Jack and Will are best friends who met in college and bonded over their mutual love of literature, especially the older naturalist. They embark on an adventure canoe trip in the Canadian wilderness where things eventually deviate from the plan.

I've waffled between 3 and 4 stars on this book. I really loved some parts whereas other parts seemed to drag or get bogged down in description. And since I read the book summary/blurb, I kept waiting for one of the pivotal scenes that ended up taking its time coming. And the fact that when Jack and Will were in their thoughts, I often had a hard time telling them apart.

Once the pivotal scene occurred, the story telling really picked up the pace from it's previous meander down the river and through times past. Then I had a hard time putting it down.

I don't get the "Thriller" label it has received so many places. Adventure, yes, but I didn't find it to be a thriller.

I can see why there's been so much buzz about the book this summer. And I liked it, but it didn't wow me.

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Five Feet Apart - Rachel Lippincott

Five Feet ApartFive Feet Apart by Rachael Lippincott
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Stella is the model CF (cystic fibrosis) patient while Will is the rebel who just wants to *live* in the days he has left. This is the story of what happens when the two meet.

I'll preface this by saying were I not reading this for book club, I would have rolled my eyes and given up a couple of chapters in. Instead, I just rolled my eyes throughout.

I'm not sure if some of my issues stem from the story meant to be a movie and the book being based on a screenplay making it weird (or the screen play and book were written at the same time - I've seen both options when I was doing some quick research on the tie-in).

My first eye roll came from Stella's senior class taking a two week trip to Cabo. What kind of school takes that kind of senior trip?!? And had Stella been healthy enough to go, how would her parents afford said trip on top of a decade of hospital stays and major medical issues?

Where were timeline discrepancies, language, and talk of sex.

The prose was fairly dreadful. Mainly due to word choices like characters with CF "sprinting" and running up stairs regularly. Really? With 35% lung capacity?

But the characters are really what earned it my one start rating. They were just flat. Basic. One-dimensional. Even their "character growth" (if you can call it that) was predictable and plastic feeling.

The whole book was just too melodramatic and over-the-top angsty for me. And I've known some melodramatic, angsty teens in my time.

And what kind of ending was that?!?

Ending on a positive, I am glad for a book shedding light on CF and its treatments. I thought those pieces (hacking mucous, weight loss, etc) were important and some of the only realistic pieces of the book, despite how the characters acted otherwise.

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