Saturday, December 6, 2014

Anna and the French Kiss (Anna and the French Kiss, #1)Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was such a fun book. I utterly enjoyed it, is a YA fluffy romance that I wouldn't want *my* YA to read (language & morals) Great character development, realistic dialogue.

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Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

"Between Gray and Black" might be a better title for this novel which explores an unfathomably dark period of history seldom talked about, let alone taught in public school history classes, i.e. Stalin & the Soviet Regime's murder of 43,000,000 citizens and foreigners.*(see below)
This is the story of a 15 year old girl and her family's arrest and their dehumanizing deportation, along with thousands of their countrymen, in train boxcars to slave camps throughout Russia, China, and finally to Siberia, from which she does not emerge until 10+ years later. Despite the brutality of their experiences this story is about Lithuanians, people with a beautiful capacity to love. It teaches kindness despite an atmosphere of cruelty. The author does a good job of persuading the reader that LOVE is the most powerful weapon. Read this book and ask yourself, "Would I survive?"

*R. J. Rummel, Professor Emeritus at the University of Hawaii, estimates the true number of deaths attributable to Joseph Stalin. He is the author of Death by Government>/u<, and his website provides the evidence in detail for what he writes. For more information on the death toll from communism, see The Red Plague.

According to Rummel the usual figure of 20 million dead is almost certainly too low and might require an increase of 50 percent or so, as the debit balance of the Stalin regime for twenty-three years! He says,
". . . 20 million does not include camp deaths after 1950, and before 1936; executions 1939-53; the vast deportation of the people of captive nations into the camps, and their deaths 1939-1953; the massive deportation within the Soviet Union of minorities 1941-1944; and their deaths; and those the Soviet Red Army and secret police executed throughout Eastern Europe after their conquest during 1944-1945 is omitted. Moreover, omitted is the deadly Ukrainian famine Stalin purposely imposed on the region and that killed 5 million in 1932-1934.

I did a comprehensive overview of available estimates . . . and wrote a book, Lethal Politics, on Soviet democide to provide understanding and context for my figures. I calculate that the Communist regime, 1917-1987, murdered about 62,000,000 people, around 55,000,000 of them citizens (see Table 1.1 for a periodization of the deaths).

As for Stalin, when the holes in Conquest’s estimates are filled in, I calculate that Stalin murdered about 43,000,000 citizens and foreigners, over twice Conquest’s total. Therefore, the usual estimate of 20 million killed in Soviet democide is far off for the Soviet Union per se, and even less than half of the total Stalin alone murdered."

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Folly Beach (Lowcountry Tales, #8)Folly Beach by Dorothea Benton Frank
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The cheesy dialogue combined with the "woman-loses-everything, moves back home to a simple-life-on-the-beach" story is totally rescued by an alternate storyline which makes this book worth reading. Said story is about real life playwrights Dorothy and DuBose Heyward, who together wrote the play "Porgy," & years later collaborated with George Gershwin on the large musical production of "Porgy and Bess." Gershwin, who usually gets all the kudos for the musical was merely the composer. DuBose, a poet, wrote the lyrics, while Dorothy was the unacknowledged real author and playwright. I enjoyed the easy-going South Carolina setting, was annoyed by the corny romance-novel theme, and fascinated by the history.

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InfidelInfidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

One of the best books I have read this year. Non-fiction, but I was hooked from the beginning as if it were a best-selling novel. Moves rapidly. I couldn't put down this audio version, read by the author, whose eye-opening account of growing up Islam has put her on their most-wanted-dead list and necessitates her now living under 24 hour armed guard, moving constantly to keep from being found by her pursuers. She tells of her childhood & growing up years in Somalia, Saudi Arabia, and Kenya, about her father, who was/is a man of significant importance in both his country and his faith, and about her own struggles with, & devotion to Islam. After an arranged marriage to a devout Canadian Muslim, with whom she had only mail correspondence & never met until days prior to her marriage, she flees to Germany & then the Netherlands where she obtains a degree in political science & becomes a member of Parliament. Her story has been told on major news networks and talk shows. I highly recommend the audio will be awed as you listen to her tell her story in her own words and beautiful voice.

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