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A Train In Winter by Caroline Moorhead

A Train in Winter

This work of non-fiction follows the stories of several women who served in the French Resistance during World War II, were arrested by the Nazis, and ultimately ended up in Auschwitz.

From the outset I was fascinated with the tales of the formation, recruitment and activities of the French Resistance.  That fact that so many young women risked so much at such a young age really struck me.  Many of these underground fighters were circulating pamphlets encouraging the French to unite and resist German occupation.  On occasion, a German soldier would be targeted for assassination.  The Germans used informers and reconnaissance to break the rings of the Resistance and would routinely round up people for questioning.  If a German soldier was murdered, Nazi officials killed groups of 100 or 150 of these Frenchman who happened to be under arrest – regardless of their innocence.  So, the stakes were high for these women – some as young as 16.  But they had so much courage and conviction.

Eventually, they were caught, arrested and sent to a work camp.  I’ve read a lot about Nazi work (and death) camps over the years, but it’s been awhile.  This book was a reminder of how ordinary people can turn into monsters.  Many, many prison guards were guilty of crimes.  It’s not just the hard work and starvation, but examples of torture and death for “sport” abound in this book.  It’s a miracle any of these women survived, and many in actuality, did not.

There were times when the book was slow, and there were so many women discussed in this book that it was hard to keep them straight.  I think I would have preferred narrative non-fiction to help draw the reader in and get a better feel for who each of these women were.  Nevertheless, I’m glad I read this book.  It’s important to remember these atrocities so that they aren’t repeated.

3 stars (out of 5)
Published in 2011
374 pages

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A Feast For Crows by George R.R. Martin

A Feast For Crows

Note to self:  Don’t wait a year to read the next book.  It’ll take you 300 pages just to remember who all the characters are.

As you can tell from the above-referenced note, I read the third book in the series last year.  Like all the books in the Game of Thrones series, this one is over 1000 pages, and it’s filled with many, many characters.  I’ve got the Starks and Lannisters down.  But there are so many other “kings” and royal families that it took quite awhile for me to settle in to “enjoyable” reading.

Martin admits that this book is actually really, really long.  So long, in fact, that he made it into two books.  The time frame is identical in both novels, but A Feast for Crows features the stories of only some of the characters.  A Dance with Dragons will fill in the stories for the rest.  (Which is good, because it was driving me crazy not to have a Tyrion Lannister thread in this one!)

My favorite story threads were Arya Stark, Brienne – the Maid of Tarth, and Samwell Tarly.  I’m still getting familiar with the Greyjoys, the Tyrells and the Martells.  And there there are the “others” from across the sea, but which weren’t included in this volume.  I suppose it’s good that Martin mixes the more familiar families with the ones he wants to introduce, so that we don’t completely give up in frustration!

I will say that once I made to page 300, I was settled in for a good read.  My pace picked up and I was managing 100 pages a day, eagerly ready to devour the next chapter.  I’ve decided the next book cannot wait.  I’m going to start it right away, and when I’ve finished, I’ll watch last year’s HBO series (and maybe this year’s as well!), and then I’ll have to bite my nails in anticipation for the next book to come out.

4 stars (out of 5)
Published in 2005
1060 pages

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Between A Heart And A Rock Place by Pat Benatar

Between A Heart And A Rock Place

Between A Heart And A Rock Place: A Memoir; co-written by Patsi Bale Cox

I finished this book very impressed with Pat Benatar as a person. She gives equal credit to her Husband/Co-songwriter/Producer/Guitarist Neil ‘Spyder‘ Giraldo. You don’t reach the levels Benatar reached without a lot of work. “Crimes of Passion” sold five million albums and won a Grammy. She and Neil had to fight a lot stereotypes, sexist behavior, and even flack from her record company and management. But Benatar is a fighter, and smart too; she rarely backed down when it mattered. The book is a fun read, and after reading it, the Pat Benatar Band, is one of the few bands I would actually like to be part of: more of a family and less of a war.

B
259 pages

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Jukebox Hero by Lou Gramm

Juke Box Hero

Juke Box Hero: My Five Decades in Rock ‘n’ Roll; co-written by Scott Pitoniak

In my opinion Lou Gramm has one of the finest voice in Rock. I’ve been a Foreigner fan since their first album and even bought Lou’s solo albums. So I was interested in this memoir and enjoyed the behind the scenes look at his life. Hard to believe he wasn’t interested in singing when he grew up. He was a drummer. It was only later he became a singer. When Mick Jones (Formerly of Spooky Tooth, not The Clash) asked him to join his new group Foreigner, it was as a singer. Gramm had also written some songs in his previous band, so he and Jones wrote most of the songs for Foreigner together. The theme of the book is Egos, Alcohol, and Drugs destroy another band. But this story has a happy ending as Gramm finds Jesus and the Hazelded Treatment Center.

I was surprised to learn Thomas Dolby played keyboard on much of “4“. I was also surprised that Jones and Gramm fought over the direction of the band. Gramm thought they were playing too many ballads. This seems unusual for a singer, as the ballads really show off his voice. Weird too as “Inside Information” and “Midnight Blue” (Gramm’s solo album released in the same year: 1987) sound pretty much the same. A brain tumor nearly ended Gramm’s life in 1997. Gramm’s recovery story is remarkable. I enjoyed reading this book, it had a light tone, and Gramm covered all parts of his life. I left with a list of albums to track down, which is always a bonus for me.

B+
249 pages

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Comic Book Nation by Bradford Wright

Comic Book Nation

Comic Book Nation: The Transformation Of Youth Culture In America

There was a period of time before I was 13, when I read my fair share of comic books. I was thinking about this the other day and plan to write in some detail about the role of comics and cartoons had in my life. I picked up this book to get some history on the topic. Wright has covered the history of the comic book in America during the Twentieth Century. It’s a short book so he only covers the popular titles and houses (mostly DC and Marvel). He shows the role comics played in our culture and how that role has expanded.

B-
285 pages

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How Music Works by David Byrne

How Music Works

How Music Works

I’m checking them out, I’m checking them out
I got it figured out, I got it figured out
Good points some bad points
But it all works out, I’m a little freaked out.
“Cities” by Talking Heads

B-
350 pages

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