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Book Review: By Chance Alone by Max Eisen

Book Review: By Chance Alone by Max Eisen

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Hello All,

If you have been following my blog you know that I have mentioned this book in my top 5 memoir books! I just recently started to enjoy reading WW2 books so I thought why not give this one a try. Man am I glad that I did! It was so emotional and eye opening! This personal perception of concentration camps was shocking and I found as I read more I was more and more shocked. I was utterly appalled at the sheer disrespect for human life. I know we have all studied the Holocaust in school and maybe some school went into more depth than mine. I guess I never really thought too much about the people affected just that it was a tragic point in human history. Well this book clearly changed my view and I am very glad that Max was brave enough to share his story with the world!!!

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By Chance Alone started off with the prologue of Max in present day going to Poland with his Toronto students to participate in the March of the Living. He goes back to Auschwitz and the barracks where he was held as well as Auschwitz II where the crematoriums were . What would that even feel like? He knows this is where he lost his family to a horrible death. What a brave man.

Now the story starts and we see Max’s childhood in Czech. He lived in a Catholic dominate village but most of the shops were run by the Jewish families. His grandfather taught him a great deal but of course like any little boy he had a rebellious streak. We see just how tight nit his family was with his extended family as well. The summer of 38 was when the Nazis invasion started. Britain and France at this point signed rights away to Hitler to avoid a war. March 1939 the Nazis troops invaded Czech and Max and his family find themselves thrust into a fascists system.

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1941 hit and Jewish males 18-45 were taken to labour camps. Max’s family is finally torn apart by the war. In the 5th year of the war 1944 we see that the Hungarian Jewish people did not know about the death camps. His grandfather said no to the ferester because it was passover – how their lives might have been different if he had just yes. Max was finally taken to the concentration camps. After being taken from his mother and sister he along with his father and uncle got tattooed and put on their uniforms. These made them feel like nothing as all of them were the same – all in order to control a vast number of people.

Throughout the weeks there Max’s father learned of the fate of his wife, 3 young children and his parents. Max was sent to Auschwitz 1 the bigger of the camps. There he saw the falling ashes coming out of the crematoriums. He realized it was human ashes from the extermination. The manual labour he faced here was astonishing. At this time he was the only living member left of his family as his father and uncle were sent to the chambers.

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During one of his laborious days he suffered a devastating blow to his head that in reality saved him. Up until now his father would send him scraps of food so Max was completely by himself. Dr. Orzesko saved his life by giving him a job in the surgery ward, not having to go back to the labour fields. Max saw all sorts of crazy heroic things here. One day a Polish woman was brought in and an abortion was preformed but Dr. O said she needed an appendectomy. Some humanity left in the world.

The next horrific journey for Max was the death march. Max describes 10 days of humiliating, degrading and cruelty of the Nazis. They had no food, minimal clothing and many died. Once again out of the camps Max was saved by the small kindness of others, Misha giving him a job.

At this time, after everything was over Max was still left in limbo in Marienbad . This allowed the survivors a safe place to heal both physically and emotionally – as much as they can.

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Now in Prague Max and his new friends tried to find forged passports to make to move to Canada. They got caught and sent Max to jail. At this point it’s hard to believe that this could really happen to someone who survived the Holocaust. How insane is life. After all this only to end up in jail most people would give up, not Max.

He got out and on his way to the American camp he had to pass through the area he had 5 years ago as a Jewish prisoner. He made it to Canada and got married, had a successful job. The resilience and determination to live that Max showed us through is memoir is a true triumph for humanity. Even through all the adversity Max was able to have a happy life.

At the end of the book he recalls the Nuremberg Trials and specifically a Nazis soldier he personally remembered. They amount of brain washing these soldiers had is sickening. Even after being caught and knowing how the world reacted to their actions this soldier did not accept his part in the killing of many. He simply said he was following orders.

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So for those of you who like reading about the strength of the human spirit Max’s story is for you. The amount of bravery not only to endure what he went through but to be able to remember it and tell the whole world is mind blowing. I hope that by sharing this review it will inspire more people to want to pick up Max’s story and continue the sharing.

I did leave out quite a lot of details. Max just went through so much I tried to pick out as many main details that people could link to history as possible. There are so many extra in his book I did not want to ruin it for future readers. If anyone else has read this book I would love to hear how it affected you! Please leave a comment below!! Thank you Max for being brave and sharing your story!!

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Happy Reading!!!!!

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Book Review: The Silence By Tim Lebbon

Book Review: The Silence By Tim Lebbon

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This is a creature feature apocalyptic book which is right up my alley! I first saw this on netflix as a movie – based on a book as always! I wanted to read the book before seeing the movie. Spoiler alert the book is better than the movie as most books to movies adaptations are. Interesting fact about Tim Lebbon he wrote a novel that connects the movie Alien to Aliens starring Riddley! Can’t wait to read that one! Other popular books by this author include : The Edge and Coldbrook! I went into this book with no expectations just what I saw on the netflix preview. I was quite surprised by the story even with the common theme of prehistoric creatures taking over the world. Lebbon puts a great twist on a timeless theme.

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So this story starts off with a news broadcast of a discovery in an uncharted cave system. The main family watching this discovery includes Ally who we find out is deaf. Throughout the story we learn that she was not born deaf but was in a car accident with her grandparents who died. She had to learn a totally new way of life. Ally showed resilience that will play a key factor in the family surviving throughout the story. The other members include a brother Jade, father Huw and mother Kelly, and Lynne Kelly’s mother. As they watch the horror of the new discovery unfold on the TV they see creatures from the dark rip apart everything on the screen. They soon realise it is not a stunt or prank but a real life episode.

Thinking they are safe as this cave system is all the way in Moldova they don’t take it so seriously in the beginning. However as time goes on they see that these reptilian creatures called Vesps hunt by sound and are spreading quickly over the continent. Lebbon really plays into the social media aspect here. It is interesting to think of how connected we are today and how if this really happened the speed in which we would all receive live data. We would be way more prepared to anticipate the ‘end of the world’ than say 20 years ago.

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They also learn a lot of life saving information from others posting on social media, not so much the news. People post on Facebook and Twitter that Vesps hunt by sound, they lay eggs in the dead and this is how they spread which are both vital points for the family surviving the Vesp Plague. They decide along with Huw’s friend Glenn to move across the country side to where there is no noise, away from the cities. Live feeds show mass hysteria in the cities, fighting, looting, and people killing each other over supplies. This is a typical apocalyptic scene which I totally believe would happen in real life. It would start off as an every man for themselves attitude. What so you all think? Would humanity help out each other or have the cut throat survival attitude?

We see humanity break down as a man attempts to steal the family’s car and points a gun at Ally. This in turn forces Huw to steal a car in order to get to their destination. The suspense is building at this point as they are nowhere close to their destination and Ally is keeping track of where the Vesps are on social media. The time crunch is on!

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As the pressure to get to safety sets in because Vesps are now in London a horrible turn of events happens. Glen rolls his SUV pinning him in. Moral dilemmas set as Huw and his family decide not to leave him even though the Vesps are almost upon them. They barricade Glen in the best they can and take shelter in their SUV. Ally gives her family a prep talk 101 on how to be silent, her forte now. Her experiences help them understand what to anticipate and how they are going to feel now being able to verbally communicate. As the Vesps descend upon them their dog Otis, who is Ally’s helper, starts to bark. Vesps swarm their SUV and try to break in. Glen can hear the commotion and in a shear act of selflessness he starts shooting his gun to attract the Vesps to him. This is the ultimate sacrifice that restores the readers faith in humanity for a while. Otis however keeps barking and Huw has to make the hard decision to kill their beloved family pet to save themselves. Turn on the tears! At this point they need to draw the Vesps away. Huw blows up Glen’s SUV and the family hightails it for the forest.

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The family comes across a farmhouse. The occupant tried to ward off the ‘intruders’ and ends up attracting Vesps and dying. Everyone finds shelter and safety in the house since the first broadcast of the cave discovery. Huw and Ally try and go to town to find supplies. Two major things happen while they are on their trip. 1. They find out the eggs do not hatch until they are stimulated by noise 2. They find out when it rains the rain disoriented the Vesps giving them a chance to get away. They are slowly finding the Vesp’s weaknesses which gives the reader hope they may defeat their enemy!

On the way back to the farm Huw and Ally meet a different kind of enemy: The Reverend. It is one of the themes in the post apocalyptic stories, the crazy religious cult who justifies what happened as a matter of judgement day. Huw and Ally see first hand the lengths the Reverend will go to survive, he cut his own tongue out!!!! The Reverend now wants Ally so she can teach them sign language, which is the best way to communicate in the silence!!! Huw of course says no and they go on their merry way.

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As night falls the Reverend attacks and throws ringing cell phones into the farmhouse. I thought this was a brilliant crisis causing event! How well thought out of Lebbon. Mayhem ensues as Vesps get in and each family member tries to fight them off. During the chaos the cult followers steal Ally away. Lynn, the reader having learned she has end stage cancer, also self sacrifices and tackles the attackers, screams and sends them all to their death to save Ally. The story ends with the family being on the road again to find their quiet place- haha . Winter is coming and hope is restored that the cold weather will kill off the Vesps.

The Silent was in some ways your typical creature feature but with a modern twist of silence and social media. I really enjoyed this book. Now the movie – meh. It was good, some deviations from the book. Not my most favourite book to movie adaptation but not the worst either. Have any of you read it? What are your thoughts? If you would like me to do a top 5 fav apocalyptic books please let me know!! Please feel free to leave any comments below !

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Happy Reading!!!!!!!

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Book Review: Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owen

Book Review: Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owen

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This little diddy of a book was such a great pick. We just finished this for our book club and I cannot wait to hear what all my book peeps have to say about it. Reese Witherspoon’s book club has really great picks. The author studies animals in Africa and wrote a bunch of memoirs. This is her first try at fiction and wow did she deliver. It seems I have reviewed a lot of first books for authors lately. Where is Crawdads Sing is a great coming of age wrapped up in a murder mystery with a dollop of nature! P.S. Reese is making this book into a movie !!!!

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This story takes place in the 1950s to 1970s. It starts off outlining a murder of a local boy Chase Andrews who is found in the swamp in 1969. He is the town’s golden boy. Star football jock, parents own the local automotive shop and of course he married the local pretty girl.

1953 the main character Kay is the youngest of 5 children who all live in poverty in the marshlands near Barkley Cove. Their mother leaves which puts them in the care of their drunken father. All of her siblings eventually leave so it is just her and her Pa.

Being left alone with her abusive and absent father Kay has to learn to survive on her own. What does a young girl do when she is left to her own devices? Kay learns to care for herself, stretch a penny and cook grits.

She was so alone that when she stepped on a rusted nail she had to treat it by herself. She used everything from the marsh, which became like a mother to her and the gulls became her friends.

Jump to the crime scene in 69- no fingerprints or footprints were found. Looked like the scene was wiped free or someone familiar to the marsh committed it. There was no blood on the bars and the floor door was left open.

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After Pa lest Kay as well and the money ran out Kay has to learn to make money for herself. She dug up muscles and sold them to Jumpin a local merchant. What seer will power and survival skills Kay exhibits to figure this out herself.

As time goes on she sees no one but someone keeps leaving precious feathers out for her to find. It turns out that it was a local boy Tate, who was Kay’s older brothers friend. He teaches her how to read and becomes her one true friend besides the gull and march creatures.

I love when the title is explained. Somewhere near the middle of the book Where the crawdads sing is explained – its far in the bush where critters are wild, still behaving like critters- hide there. I’m taking it as Kay living in the marsh being the truest form of a human and where humans still behave like humans. Where as in town everyone is concerned with status and money Where the Crawdad’s sing is about getting to your roots and living your most true self- feel free to disagree with me, it’s just my opinion

Kay and Tate’s relationship blooms and soon they share one of the most romantic first kisses I have ever read. In the marsh with flowers and leaves flying around in the air. 1960 Tate has to go off to university leaving Kay alone again, just like everyone else in her life. It is just as heartbreaking for the reader. All I wanted for Kay was to have someone to love her after being alone for so long but alas out heart breaks again.

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1965 enter Chase. This is when Chase firsts notices Kay now 19. He finds her wild and unconventional being intriguing and wants to be the first to ‘peg her’. It was Chase her took Kay to the fire tower where he would later be found dead. Kay gave him a shell necklace there that was not on his body when he died. He talks about marriage with Kay and strings her along for his own selfish reasons.

Tate comes back into Kay’s life to warn her about Chase’s intentions. He sees Kay’s march collection and believes she could get a book deal with all her knowledge. Tate reveals that he was selfish and scary and a coward to leave Kay. Kay not knowing how to forgive as everyone in her life has let her down and abandoned her dismisses him. But she soon finds out through the local newspaper that Chase is indeed engaged to another girl.

Tate comes back once again into Kay’s life to see her published book on local seashells. They have always shared a love for the marsh, A book about marsh books is to follow for $5000, she got to furnish her shack.

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Now this is where the book picks up and changes its feel. I’m not going to lie, I did find the beginning of the book a bit slow but still good. The second half of the book is fast paced and exciting.

The second half of the book is Kay being on trial for Chase Andrews murder. The local sheriff tried to get a motive – Chase not choosing Kay. He has her getting on and off the bus to meet her publisher but it also gives her a time frame to meet and push Chase. There are red fibers found on Chase, could be from Kay’s red hat.

1970 as the trial starts to comes to light that Chase tired to rape Kay and it was seen by local fisherman. Being an outcast it was easy for the town people to pin all the behaviour on Kay and not their golden boy Chase.

Tate continues to visit Kay while in jail. Waiting for the verdict in jail is a different kind of loneliness for Kay. She can see and smell her beloved marsh through the bars in her cell.

The verdict comes back not guilty to everyone’s surprise. Tate and Kay live out their lives in their beloved marsh together, finally. Jodie her brothers keeps in contact and visits often. Finally Kay has a loving family she longed for for so long.

Kay died in her 60’s fittingly drifting off in her boat along the waterways of her march. Take then finds the shell necklace that Kay once gave Chase and a poem outlining that she really did kill Chase.

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All in all, I really enjoyed this book. It was such a heroing tale of loneliness, survival and the importance of family ties. Not going to lie, I enjoyed the ending and finding out that Kay really killed Chase. I am not in any way condoning getting revenge but in a novel it was a nice twist. How did you like the book? How did you like the book? Please feel free to leave comments below .

Happy Reading!!!

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Book Review: The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

Book Review: The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

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So there was a lot of hype around this book in 2017. I was a bit late to read this as it is now 2019 lol. Better late than never I guess. I found this book a bit slow at times but all in all I really liked the story. This book is a trilogy called the Winternight trilogy. It incorporates mythical folk tales into reality. The tale follows Vasya a wild child who’s stepmother and local priest want to rid their town of her ‘devilish’ ways all the while the winter King a frost demon has his eyes on her. It has a lot of terms I did not understand. Arden was smart and added a glossary of terms to help the reader discover the magical Russian folklore background.

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The story opens with Vasya’s nanny Dunya telling the tale of the winter king who brings death. The tale is told to children to scare them into behaving….. Or is it. Maria, Vasy’s mother was the daughter of the Grand Prince of Moscow. Pyotr Vasya’s father is a lord on the outskirts of the forest a long way from Moscow. Maria died in childbirth leaving Vasya motherless and free to roam wherever as she grows up.

Vasya spends all of her time in the forest talking to the folklore forest nymphs and fairies. These creatures are said to protect the houses of the people who worships them and leave food out for them. The Domovoi is the oven creature who helps protect the house. She comes across a weird tree one day and meets the elicude Frost King who saves her life.

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Her father who is worried that she is growing up wild decides it is time to remarry. He travels to Moscow to find a wife who ends up being the Grand Prince’s daughter. Anna also see these mythical creatures just like Vasya can. They set out on the long track home. Sasha, Vasya’s brother meets a priest in the city and asks to stay but Pyotr says no.

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Once back in their village Anna does not fit into the hard labours life. The only time she feels safe from seeing the ‘demons’ is in the church. The sightings have gotten worse since coming to the forest so Anna becomes estranged from the villagers and her new family. She seeks solace with the new priest Konstantin that has come to look over the village. The priest sees Vasya as unclean or evil as she spends so much time in the woods. He thinks he hears ‘God’ talking to him one night. This voice tells him that the villagers have lost their way and he needs to instill fear and doubt. The voice says their worship of the chyerti is wrong and to discipline this villagers in the way of God. Spoiler alert here the voice is really the brother of the Frost King. He is an evil one eyed bear that wants to take over the earth in darkness.

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Here the book picks up and the story unravels faster. I found the first part of the book a bit slower but necessary to set up the last part. Pyotr tried to wed Vasya to Kyril – a very brute and ‘manly’ villager. He is cruel to his horses. Vasya knows this because she can read the horses as she was taught by one of the cheryti. He finds Vasya’s behaviours hard to deal with and calls off the wedding. As the reader I would have hated to see Arden marry Vasya off and chain her up in a house.

So the 3rd part of the book is the battle between Vasya and the Bear devil. We see that the people of the village grow to hate and blame Vasya for all the people dying. Really it is their lack of believe and offerings to the Cheryti that allow the Devil to come into their homes. Finally the frost king saves Vasya from the Bear and brings her to his frost home. An aside- why are there a lot of frost kings and beings in fantasy novels. We see the frost ‘white walkers’ in the Game of Thrones books.

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In the end Vasya fights the bear Devil, known as Medved. We other cheryti originally follow Medved but Vasya was able to persuade them to follow her as she has been nice to them. Konstantin brings Anna to the forest as bait because Medved needs a ‘seer’ to be killed to free him. In the end Vasya’s father dies offering his life to save his daughter. At the end she leaves the village, be able to drive Konstantin off first. The villagers still think she is a witch and Vasya does not want to make trouble for her brother who is now taking over the village. The last scene was very interesting as she goes back to the frost Kings home and he lets her in.

All in all I really enjoyed this book. I have never read anything like it so it was nice to read out of my comfort zone. What did you think of this book? Like or dislike? Feel free to leave a comment below> I would love to hear your thoughts.

Happy Reading Everyone!!