The Fountains of Silence, Ruta Sepetys-Author, Narrator, Maite Jauregui, Richard Ferrone, Neil Hellegers, Joshua Kane, Liza Kaplan, Oliver Wyman, Narrators. In the author’s own words, she believes the future is in the hands of the youth, not the adults. The power to change resides with the young who will face it. This book covers many decades, beginning with the rise of Francisco Franco and continuing through his reign, ending with his death and a short period thereafter in which the country is reformed from a dictatorship into a more democratic regime. Daniel Madison is in Spain with his parents. His father has dealings with the dictator, Franco. His father is involved in the oil industry and the family is quite wealthy. The father is also involved with the government of the United States and is following the accepted practices of foreign policy. They are staying at a hotel in Madrid. When the book opens, Rafael Moreno is at his job working for a butcher. He sells blood to the ladies so they can make their sausage. He and his friend love the bullfights and his friend is training for an amateur exhibition. He is hoping to be recognized so he can be officially trained. In a moment of weakness, Rafa does something that he believes is the cause of his father’s death. His parents were involved in the Spanish Revolution, but not on the side of Franco. As a result, their lives were always in danger, and they were very poor. Rafael is Ana Torres Moreno’s brother. Ana works in a hotel. It is a coveted job because it pays a decent wage and affords opportunity to advance. Ana and her siblings have many secrets. Both of their parents have been murdered and they are trying to survive. Ana’s older sister is in charge of the family’s future. Daniel is staying at the hotel where Ana works. She is assigned to assist his family. Daniel is immediately smitten by her, as she is by him. However, dare she dream of a relationship with a gentleman from such a different world than hers? As their relationship grows, the history of the Revolution, the time of Franco’s rule, the effect on the populace for and against him, the relationship of Spain with the rest of the world, and other historic perspectives are revealed and examined. There is much to enjoy in the book, but I found this particular novel less enjoyable than others by this author. It seemed less of a crossover novel, for which she is known, and more of a Cinderella-like fairytale with history thrown into the mix. While it exposed the corruption and violence of Franco’s regime and the complicity of the United States which enabled his despotic rule, including random murders, the kidnapping of newborns (informing the mother her child died, although it was well), to sell to others deemed more fit to raise a child, the random murders of people considered enemies of the state, the continued punishing and deprivation of the ancestors of the revolutionaries, and while it explained the influence of the Church and the superstitions that informed the masses who were not well educated, it seemed written for a juvenile audience, only. The history and famous names mentioned were interesting and informative, with bits of knowledge imparted that I had not known, but some of it was confused by the reading of the footnotes concerning this information, which was interjected into the narrative in the audio without warning. The author has written other books based on her own history. This one, however, is based on the Spanish Civil War and the period that followed. She researched it well. Her books generally appeal to both young and old, but this one, I think, will appeal more to the young. The narrative will enthrall romantic teens, on the more naïve side. The historic narrative should, however, appeal to both teens and adults. I did not completely enjoy or appreciate the main narrator’s interpretation of some of the characters since she presented an interpretation different than mine, however, overall, the narrators performed well, delineating each character in a unique way and the book is very much worth a read.
A Minute to Midnight, David Balducci, author; Brittany Pressley and Kyf Brewer, narrators.
Female FBI agent Atlee Pine has suffered a setback in her career because of an overreaction when she caught a pedophile with a young girl. Although she rescued the girl, she also beat the pedophile to a pulp. Her superior understood her reaction, and he did not discipline her, but instead, he gave her the opportunity to use some time off to reconcile her emotional issues concerning her twin sister’s disappearance. She set out to find out what she could about the crime that had occurred more than two decades ago, when her sister Mercy had been kidnapped. She and Mercy were six years old at the time. Atlee was left for dead with a fractured skull. Her sister was never found. Her parents were devastated, and her father was accused of the crime. Eventually, her parents left town in secret.
As years passed, Atlee was never told the truth about her background, although she did not realize it until this investigation. She knew that her father killed himself on her birthday and that her mother abandoned her when she was in college, leaving her enough money to finish her education. However, she discovered that the rest of her life was a fiction. She was never able to find her mom or discover the truth about her sister’s disappearance, either. Now she hoped to at least find out something about Mercy.
When she returns to her home town, with her assistant, Carol Blum, she discovers that her mother and father had different names and a past she had not known. While she searches for answers about her sister’s fate, additional murders take place around her. She assists in the investigation and pretty much takes it over. She wonders if there is a serial killer on the loose? Are the murders related to her return? Has everyone told her the whole story about her family, or are they holding back facts? Somehow, in bits and pieces she realizes that she knows little about herself or anything else, and she places herself in great danger.
Atlee acts as if she is superior to everyone else, and she often has a chip on her shoulder. Her responses to others are authoritarian, abrupt and sarcastic. I did not find her very likeable. Sometimes she actually seemed to be endowed with supernatural capabilities, almost like a superhero, surviving situations that should have killed her. The author seemed to want to stress the fact that women are at least as capable, if not more so, than men in similar situations.
The author would not have written such trite dialogue between men, as he did between the women in the book. It was often glib and pointless. I found the book disappointing. I thought that the narrator over emoted, and her interpretation of the characters made me dislike most of them. Although Atlee’s insights were often spot on, and she was very fit and strong, I found her to be ruled by emotions not brains. She is painted as the sharpest knife in the drawer, the brightest bulb in the box, the genius who somehow instinctively solves all problems. However, the novel feels like it is chick lit at best, filled with trite platitudes and hackneyed conversations, not up to the standards of this author.
I won’t be listening to the next book they indicated is coming in this series and was disappointed that the book left me hanging without Atlee solving the mystery of her sister or her mother’s location. While the book tackles civil rights, women’s rights, sex trafficking, drugs, porn, and other crimes high on the liberal list of causes, it seemed to do so in a trivial manner to me. It was almost as if the author did it for the sake of his liberal leanings. I would not recommend this book to others. It held my interest, but only because I thought it would get better. It really didn't improve.
Blue Moon is the 24th novel in the Jack Reacher series. Jack Reacher has an endearing, but strong-arm way about him. His wit and instincts guide him. He represents right through might, and he almost always seems superhuman as he resolves his problems. Always involved in intriguing mysteries, he sometimes uses bizarre means to save himself and others as he encounters danger. Suspend disbelief as you read this one. Reacher is a retired military cop. As a result, he is more aware of his surroundings than most people. He spots issues and solves problem purely by instinct and experience. He does not like to be tied down to any one place for too long. While traveling on a bus, looking a bit like a vagrant, with no particular destination or pressing need to be anyplace, he notices an old man asleep with a wad of cash in a bank envelope sticking out of his pants pocket. He also notices a low life eyeing the same man’s pocket with the money. When the elderly man, Aaron Shevick, gets off the bus, the lowlife follows him and Reacher assumes he will mug the old man and rob him. Jack Reacher exits the bus with them and follows. When the low life makes his move, Jack attacks him and rescues the elderly man and his money. He assists him on his walk home as he has injured his knee. From that moment on, Jack becomes involved with Aaron and Maria Shevick. He is determined to help them solve their monumental financial problems. Soon, he is impersonating Aaron and absorbing his risk of torture and/or murder from the disreputable loan sharks the Shevicks had been forced to use in order to fund their daughter’s experimental cancer treatment. Once insured, her insurance had lapsed and was canceled when the CEO of the company for which she worked, and was an officer of, failed to inform her that the policy had been canceled due to lack of funds. The company was failing. Moved by this crisis faced by the Sheviks, Jack steps in to help. The Sheviks were selling and pawning belongings and borrowing money from dangerous sources. Their daughter’s treatment was expensive and had to be paid up front or the hospital would deny the treatment, giving their daughter no hope at all of recovery. As Jack gets involved, there appears to be the beginning of a territorial war between two rival gangs, the Albanians and the Ukranians. Unwittingly, Aaron Shevik is involved. He has been dealing with Albanian loan sharks to save his daughter. Now he has to face the far more brutal Ukranians who have moved into the Albanian territory. When Jack steps in and pretends to be Aaron, he sets off a major turf war between the two rival gangs, one running a loan shark business and one running a protection racket. False assumptions run rampant, and they lead to ridiculous, faulty conclusions and barbaric threats and killings. Each gang leader misinterprets the events and the violent murders of their henchmen, until, finally, they begin to randomly slaughter each other as bedlam breaks out. Soon, the leaders begin to realize that they are being manipulated by an outside party, but it is too late to signal each other. Although they conclude that it can only be the Russians who have the skill and man power that seems to be wiping out their members, and both rivals think that Aaron Shevik (Jack Reacher), is working for the Russians who are trying to horn in on their “businesses”, it is too late for them to stop the domino effect and their demise. In this novel, Reacher is exceptionally blood thirsty and the violence often seems unnecessary. He is judge, jury and executioner without any legal backing for his behavior, yet he is displaying excessive physical force and randomly murdering those he encounters. He is motivated purely by his emotions and personal beliefs when he learns of the problems of this elderly couple. Exorbitant fees for the medical needs of their daughter forced them to engage with unsavory gangs and face tremendous danger to help her. The unfairness of it all makes him more and more determined to help them. There are many side tangents. Often there is unnecessary dialogue between characters. In addition, although the details of the plot may seem silly and defy logic, the storytelling talent of Lee Child and the exceptional performance of the narrator save the day. The book is written with an overlay of humor which numbs the effect of even the most violent scenes, making them seem palatable. The reader barely winces, but rather just has fun being distracted by this highly readable novel which maintains interest page after page. The subject matter is au courant in light of the Ukraine corruption controversy that exists in our own politics today and the Russia/Ukraine continued power struggle.
Normal People, Sally Rooney, author; Aoife McMahon, narrator I think one has to ask oneself what is normal after reading this book. How does one determine if they are ostracized because they don’t fit in, or they are ostracized because the world is filled with bullies who reject you if you don’t fit into their mold. A square peg in a round hole always has a harder time. Often greed and jealousy separate people. A particular skill, intellectual or athletic, divides us. If these don’t divide us, class will surely separate us into different neighborhoods and schools. Through no fault of their own, but rather due to their circumstances, Marianne and Connell become confidants and then lovers who struggle to survive in society. Their relationship is secret, at first. They live in two different worlds. Marianne is rich. Connell’s mother, Lorraine, is her family’s housekeeper. Marianne has a summer home in Trieste, Italy. Connell stays in hostels when he travels. The author has gotten into the heads of these two teenagers, and she follows them for four years as they mature, reverse rolls, face challenges and deal with life. Marianne is dealing with the loss of her own father, a stepfather who is jealous of her brilliance, and a brother who is abusive and always taunting her. Her home is fraught with dysfunction. Her mother dislikes her, as well, so she convinces herself that it is her fault that she is unlikable. It is not the other family members that are outcasts, it is she. She has few friends in high school because she keeps herself apart and distant. Connell is from the other side of the tracks. His mother is the housekeeper for Marianne’s family. He is a soccer star, and is, therefore, popular, but he doesn’t understand why. Both are in high school and they become fast friends when they discover that each, in their own head, has difficulty fitting in for a variety of reasons. They can’t figure out their own feelings or the feelings of others toward them. As confidants of each other, they guide each other through the next period of their lives, sharing moments, vacations and friends. Sometimes, the mix is not pleasant. Because of mixed signals, although they had once been intimate, they each take a new significant other. However, although they were the best of friends, and did share their innermost thoughts with each other, that no one else knew, they still held back some of their feelings and thoughts. Each is searching for something, possibly unattainable. When he was able to move away, Connell packed up. He became serious with a medical student, but soon realized he still didn’t fit in. After a friend’s suicide, he became despondent. He was guilt ridden because he felt he had abandoned him years before. He broke up with his girlfriend and was terribly lonely. He sank into deeper depression and moved back to his mother’s house. Meanwhile, Marianne had also moved away. Although she had become more secure and was very social, when she and her boyfriend split up, many of their friends abandoned her. She began to feel once more that there was something wrong with her, that she was unlovable. She soon began a relationship with an abusive artist and grew thinner and thinner as she despaired about her own situation and believed she deserved to be punished. She too moved back home to her family home. Soon, Marianne and Connell reconnect in some fashion, but both are still searching as they rescue each other from their depths of sadness and confusion. Again, the reader will wonder, who is normal? Were Marianne and Connell simply rejected by society because they were a little different, or did they reject society because they felt different and were ostracizd because they pushed people away. Were the people who mistreated them normal? Was their mistreatment of others normal or deserved? Marianne felt that she was unlovable because of how she had been treated at home and she made herself remain distant and cold. She had a family, but felt unloved. Connell was well loved but he was fatherless and wondered if his mother was sorry she had him, even though reiterated her love or him, often. Both Marianne and Connell questioned the idea of love in all its forms. Neither character could find a place where they were comfortable unless it was with each other. Was it a matter of maturity? Was it the environment that made them suffer the slings and arrows of society? When both got full scholarships, one felt she was finally legitimized, and the other finally felt free from money worries for at least the next four years. Although they were very close, neither truly understands how the other really feels. Neither one had the insight to interpret the other’s responses. There were so many moments of misinterpretation leading to friction and spontaneous, thoughtless reactions affecting their lives. The novel is about perception of others toward you and you toward others. People were drawn to him and away from her. Neither understood why this is so. The timeline of the novel is sometimes confusing as anecdotal incidents are described and although it is in the current day, there are moments described that seem to be of an earlier age, like hanging laundry. Both of the characters seem unable to feel secure and to feel they fit in wherever they are. However, the book is a fast read; it is interesting, but dark and often depressing. There is violence, as well as sex, but they are both handled deftly and are not included for effect, but rather because it is pertinent to the plot and/or other themes about closeness and tolerance, self image and self esteem.
The Guardians, John Grisham, author; Michael Beck, narrator
Grisham knows how to write a book that holds the reader’s attention. Although it is simplistic at times, in its style, and although there is no real action to excite the reader, many of the problems in our justice system are exposed in this novel in a way that the public can digest easily. It illustrates the danger that often fasces those who stare down the injustices of society. Often it is horrifying, like when corrupt individuals and organizations like drug cartels take justice into their own hands, and often it is uplifting when justice prevails and the innocent go free. Always, it is appealing and will hold the reader’s interest. Several cases of unfairly sentenced victims are developed and the effort to set some free is described in detail.
In particular, however, the novel focuses on Quincy Miller, a man who has been behind bars for more than two decades for a murder he did not commit. Cullen Post and his compatriots work tirelessly for Guardian Ministries to free the wrongfully convicted. They expend this effort for very little personal, material compensation, but rather they work for the satisfaction of righting injustice. Cullen Post was once a public defender. In the past, he had a nervous breakdown when assigned to defend a violent, barbaric murderer, and he abandoned his law career. His marriage dissolved after months of psychiatric treatment, and he decided to enter the seminary and became an Episcopal minister. After that effort waned, and he needed to do more, he joined forces with a woman who opened a ministry that defended those that some might call the indefensible, the convicted felons on death row. Some had no money, but all insisted they were innocent. Some of the convicts that contacted them were eventually exposed as guilty, but most were not, and the effort to save them is always laudable.
The reader learns that there are many wrongfully convicted prisoners languishing in prison. The justice system does not make it easy to reverse course once it has ruled, even when new evidence is discovered. Are there jailhouse snitches, have some wives and husbands lied to convict their spouses, do witnesses lie, do some forensic scientists adjust their testimony to suit the person who hires them, do the real murderers feel no guilt when someone dies in their stead? Yes, apparently.
There are lots of moral questions arising from this straightforward tale about injustice and those that devote themselves to work to correct the failures of our justice system. It is inspiring to learn of that effort. At the end, the author’s note explains that this novel is based on a real case, and there is a real organization, like Guardian Ministries. It is the Centurion Ministry. It is a non-profit that works to free the wrongfully convicted. He also notes that they could use donations to further their efforts more effectively. If this book interests you and inspires you to learn more, I suggest you also read the non-fiction book by the author Grisham mentions, Bryan Stevenson. It is called “Just Mercy”.
The narrator of this book was spot on. He read with perfect tone and emphasis, never getting in the way of the book's message.
The Dutch House-Anne Patchett, author; Tom Hanks, narrator
The audiobook of The Dutch House is read by Tom Hanks. He reads it in one voice so it is often hard to delineate characters, but he allows the story to be told without making himself a character in the novel, as so many narrators do when they either over emote or attempt to be more important in their interpretation than the author intended. Still, at times, it was difficult to follow the narrative because the character remained unidentified and indistinguishable until the dialogue moved on.
The novel is a detailed account of a house and its relationship to the families that dwelt within it. It is about the relationship between the residents, as well, the parents and children, the siblings and step-siblings, the mother and step-mother, the generations that followed, one after another. The book takes place over five decades, but it is hard to tell that until the end.
As the history of the house and the families plays out, the personalities of the characters comes to light. Their foibles and their strengths are revealed. The way their life choices resonate throughout the years, affecting the lives of the characters that come after, as well, is well illustrated. Sometimes the characters seem bland, but their reactions seem authentic, in many ways, as they will seem familiar to the reader who has found him or herself in similar situations. The author shows insight into the emotional responses and the depth of the descriptions makes the reader understand the reasoning behind the character’s behavior, even if they might disagree with the choices or actions taken.
Because the timeline is often sporadic, interspersed with anecdotal stories of the character’s lives, it is difficult to tell where and when an event described took place, or how many years had passed, until some additional fact was revealed. Perhaps a print copy would have been easier to follow than an audio.
The book clearly exposes the differences in the way people treat their children and the cruelty of some step-parents. It illustrates how greed and grudges control lives beyond their own and how history often repeats itself. It is about motherhood; it is about compassion and the choices in life that we make that will ultimately have an effect, not only on ourselves, but on others as well, down through the generations.
While some times, the author truly gets inside the heads of the characters, showing deep insight into their feelings and behavior, emotions and thoughts that we all sometimes experience, the pace was sometimes slower than watching water boil. Sometimes it felt as if some characters moved on while others stood still and seemed not to age. For most of the book I was confused as to when it took place and how many years had actually passed.
As history began to repeat itself and the past left its mark on the future, the reader learns that some dreams were fulfilled by succeeding generations and others, while not nightmares, were the sad results of mistaken choices. Were the sins of the father visited upon the sons?
The reader will wonder if the choice of a biological mother to abandon her children is worse than the choice of a stepmother who abandons her stepchildren, even when one seems to be motivated by a purity of soul and need to do good and the other seems to be motivated by greed and jealousy alone. What is the father’s role in all of this? Does he ignore his own responsibilities?
The house may act as the foil, but the family dynamics are what develops the story.
Truth in Our Times: Inside the Fight for Press Freedom in the Age of Alternative Facts, David E. McCraw, Author; Narrators, Stephen Graybill, David E. McCraw Some books are meant to inform and some are meant to influence the reader’s opinions on specific subjects. Some are meant to do both. This book is meant to influence the reader’s opinions, only, in my opinion. The title pretty much indicates that from the get-go. There is a basic premise presented and that is that freedom of the press is being threatened, and it is being threatened by one individual who is smeared throughout this book without the author taking any ownership of his industry’s guilt in creating the problem. He does not truly deal with the fact that the media has become an arm of the left, supporting their efforts with positive articles while writing more than 90% of the articles on President Trump, in a negative way, and often printing only criticisms or salacious news, even if false or improperly vetted. Although the book appears to be masquerading as an expose on the way journalism has been tarnished, albeit often by its own presentation of incorrect information, this book seems to be more of an honorarium for the author. It concentrates on the author’s career and cases, but mostly covers how the news has been handled in the era of Trump. When information is presented, the right side of the political spectrum is tainted and the left side is sainted by the author. He makes it pretty plain that he is anti-Trump with his choice of facts. Although he covers many issues, little attention, if any, is devoted to the accomplishments of the President. Most everything he covers is treated negatively, in the same way the paper has proceeded over the term of Trump’s Presidency. One would think that Trump had accomplished nothing during his term. That would be a false premise, but it is what the author seems to want the reader to believe. To him, Trump is merely an instigator, a loudmouth, a crude dictator, a spoiler who is destroying the country, and while Trump has accomplished more for the economy and civil rights than any President in recent history, one would not know that from reading this lawyers explanation of the years he served as lawyer to the Times and presented news about Trump. You would think that the President, from McCraw’s description, implications, suggestions and tone of voice, is a failure. He is guilty of doing what the paper has been doing to earn it the reputation of “fake news”. Yet President Trump has instituted prison reform, education reform, Veteran’s administration reform, immigration reform, has appointed judges, renegotiated trade deals, renegotiated Nato contributions, reinvigorated manufacturing in the United States, reduced income taxes for most citizens who pay taxes, made our military stronger, reinforced respect for our police officers and other public servants in spite of the obstruction from the opposition, altered laws so that college students may not be falsely accused as easily, reduced the unemployment rate especially for minorities, presided over a steadily rising stock market hitting never before target numbers, met with and welcomed many foreign leaders to the White House, and more, but this does not shout out from the pages of the New York Times or other left leaning publications. Instead, this book seems to honor the author for his accomplishments and his effort to present and protect what he sees as the truth, to the public, regardless of the harm it might cause or whether or not it has been properly researched and proven to be true. Therefore, McCraw finds it easy to denigrate the President by allowing the news to point to his inevitable constant wrongdoings. Even when it has been proven largely false, as with the Mueller Report, the news remained largely negative about him. McCraw rails against the President’s attacks on the news media but does not accept the responsibility of his own paper’s slanted coverage. He does not recognize that the newspaper has become an arm of the left and may be influencing our judgment, knowledge and elections unfairly. He presents himself as a fighter for the freedom of the press, but he approves of a press that is biased and does not deal with this President fairly. The reputation of “fake news” has been earned by the presentation of the news on the pages of the Times, which often has had to be retracted because the primary goal seemed to smear the President and capture a headline and an audience. The game of gotcha was front and center in his book, and yes, he was proud that they had played that game. Yes, the President does embellish, or perhaps, as some say, he lies. Certainly this author believes that. But then, what has the Times done by presenting false stories, rumors and anonymous revelations? Haven’t they lied, as well? Often they post a retraction, but who notices that after a screaming, sensational headline smearing the President. The damage has been done. On these pages, you won’t find an admission of the newspaper being one sided in its presentation; you won’t find an admission of guilt because the purpose of this book is not to present facts but to persuade readers not to vote for the man McCraw believes is a dishonest and flawed President. He was disappointed with the results of the election. It shouts that message loud and clear on the pages, and therein “lies the rub”, for the newsaper has taken to presenting the news in a partly dishonest way, insinuating issues that may not exist in order to present and support left leaning opinion. McCraw and the paper, at times, seem to suffer from Trump Derangement Syndrome. If Trump was covered more fairly and the papers were not only looking for crimes and missteps, they would have a far more likeable and manageable President to cover; perhaps he would be a President who didn’t need to tweet ad nauseum. The author of this book is Vice President and Assistant General Counsel at The New York Times. He has also worked for other ultra liberal outlets. This book concentrates its story on the time he worked during what he terms a turbulent time, the time of Trump. It is read partly by himself and partly by a paid narrator. The reading is sometimes snarky, sometimes very nasty and tainted with emotion meant to subtly lead the reader in one direction or another, and always it is in the direction of an anti-Trump narrative. There is little attempt to explain anything to the reader about the reason for the moniker “Fake News”, or to take responsibility for it, but rather it feels like a hatchet job to smear President Trump and change the course of history by working to have him impeached and to negate the previous election, because he and other liberals are unhappy with the results. The publishing industry is liberal, it has been for a long time, but today it is no longer a news industry, it seems to have morphed into an opinion factory searching for negative news to print about anything Trump. I did not include specifics because I did not want to encourage the negativity coming from this book. Regardless of the subject, even when Trump was praised and the reader had a ray of hope that it was an honest review, McCraw found a way to slant and twist the information to make it ultimately negative. The efforts of the left are most often painted as virtuous and laudable while those on the right are inevitably characterized as incompetent, unworthy, or unsatisfactory. I found this book to be a one-sided opinion from a left leaning author with a bully pulpit. It is obvious that it is meant to be a hatchet job against the President of the United States. Opinions run rampant on the pages with cherry picked facts and tales. Although the book is about more than Trump, the discontent with him is obvious which means that this book will be adored by liberals and rejected by conservatives.
Cilka and her sister Magda went to work for the Germans when she was 16 years old. It was not a choice, it was a command. They were both sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Magda did not survive, but Cilka was chosen to be the Commandant’s woman and was afforded better living conditions and better food. She was put in charge of the block that housed the women condemned to death. These female prisoners were frail and beaten and often went like sheep to the slaughter, the description used to describe the Jews during the Holocaust. Yet, what choice did they have. They had no way to fight back; the citizens that witnessed their degradation turned a blind eye to what was happening to them, and when they were “resettled”, they were starved and weakened by the inhumane conditions. Cilka spoke harshly to the women she was in charge of because she had to, in order to survive, but she tried to be kind to them when no one was watching. Still, she was helpless to prevent their deaths. She led them to the trucks that would take them to the place they would be murdered, in order to save herself. When the war was over, Cilka was sent to Siberia because she was charged with collaborating with the Germans, with sleeping with the enemy. In fact, she had no choice. If she had refused to sleep with the commandant, she would probably have been murdered herself. No prisoner in Auschwitz had a choice about anything. Cilka was a prisoner. In Siberia, Cilka was chosen to be trained as a nurse. This opportunity provided her with better food and living conditions, however, most of the time she preferred to be in the hut she shared with her fellow prisoners because they had become friends. She also went out with the ambulance to rescue the injured and even went into the mine, under extremely dangerous conditions in order to rescue the trapped miners when there was a collapse or explosion. Many accidents occurred in the mines which had inadequate safety procedures. She was brave and risked her life often, to save others. Still, she harbored tremendous guilt because of what she had done in the Concentration Camp. When someone accused her of having blood on her hands, she collapsed in the snow and tried to scrub it off, although of course, it was only an accusation, and in fact, her hands were clean. This is Cilka’s story. It is part fact and part fiction. It is not an easy read because even when one thinks they know all there is to know about evil in the world, there is always more to be discovered. She was just a teen when she went to the camp and only 18 when she was sent to Siberia. She was alone, had no family or friends, and was forced to grow up and confront the face of evil before she even had a chance to experience much of the brighter side of life. Yet her happy memories often did sustain her. The Russians rivaled the Germans when it came to brutality. In Siberia, they worked the prisoners to death for long hours, fed them small quantities of poor quality food and housed them in buildings that were poorly built and inadequately insulated to withstand the harsh weather. It was not much different than the merciless treatment of prisoners that existed under the Germans. Many prisoners sickened and died. If a prisoner made a mistake or disobeyed a rule or angered a superior, the punishment was often violent and barbaric. Many did not survive. Although it is based on the life of a real person, the author has taken great liberty to create a narrative to bring her to life. Still, the basic idea is front and center. Cilka was maligned and unjustly punished, but Cilka was also brave and strong and she survived. She symbolizes the unjust treatment of Jews during the Holocaust and Russia’s unjust treatment of the political prisoners afterward, in the countries that Russia controlled while Stalin was in power. Kruschev made changes when he rose to power that helped Cilka have a second chance at life.
The Night Fire, Michael Connelly, author; Titus Welliver, Christine Lakin, narrators
Renee Ballard and Harry Bosch have teamed up once again. In this series, because the main character is really Renee, a female, the narrative seems to have gotten a little trite. The dialog is sometimes too conversational about meaningless things. I don’t think people reading mysteries really care much about the detective’s dog, but I do understand, that part of the story serves to explain that Renee lives on the beach in a tent,with her dog. That too, is a bit over the top for a young, female detective’s odd lifestyle. It would probably be unbelievable if she was a male detective, unless he was undercover. This serves to show that Ballard is an independent and supposedly strong minded individual. Because Ballard is a female in a man’s world, she has been treated unfairly and has to fight her way to be accepted. As a result of past events, involving power struggles with higher ups, she works the murder shift at night.
When a homeless man is burned alive in his tent, Renee is called in to investigate. The powers that be dismiss the event as an accident, but she is unconvinced as there are other cases that seem to converge with respect to clues, motives and suspects that she is suddenly made aware of. When Harry’s mentor, a well respected police officer, passes away, his wife discovers a murder book in his desk. It is about an unsolved drug murder.
Both the homeless man and the unsolved murder case involve the same law firm. Then when Renee is called to investigate the suicide of a troubled 11 year old, this too seems related in some way to the other two cases she is considering. It seems there is a law firm that is involved with each of these cases being investigated. Then a judge is murdered and more coincidences are uncovered. Have they been looking for the wrong kind of suspect?
Because Bosch is having health problems, he relies a lot on Renee to do the grunt work. They actually work together unofficially since he is no longer art of the force. Bosch is pushing 70 and has recently been diagnosed with Chronic Myeloid Leukemia, a result of being exposed to radiation while working on a case. Although he is expected to respond well to treatment, he is recovering from knee surgery as well, so he is not in great shape. He engages his step brother Mickey Haller to help in his effort to sue to get the police department to pay for his treatments so he is not bankrupted and can leave some kind of legacy to his daughter.
Bosch is considered an anomaly and is not well liked by some on the force because he often helps in court cases for his step brother, Mickey Haller who defends those who are often wrongfully incarcerated based on inadequate evidence, or those who have been victims of miscarriages of justice. The cops and the prosecutors don’t care that he may be helping the innocent victim; they want a conviction because they have put in the time and effort to get it. Ballard is an anomaly because she is resented as a female and has to scratch her way up the ladder, often making enemies on the way.
In an attempt to cover progressive causes, there are issues about the abuse of women, problems in the LGBTQ community, drug deals gone bad and bad cops.
Personally, I prefer the Harry Bosch novels without Renee Ballard, but this one is good for entertainment as an audiobook while driving or as a vacation read.
The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna, Juliet Grames, author; Lisa Flanagan, narrator I did not finish this book. It is rare for me to give up on a book, however, when I began dreading the return to it, I decided it was time. After almost half, I gave up. Although the narrator did a fine job with each of the characters, the subject matter kept putting me to sleep. I had to listen to the same parts over and over again because they were tedious and redundant which made the almost 17 hours of audio seem unending. The book was about the life of the second Stella Fortuna, the first one having died in early childhood. The second always seemed to be able to cheat a death that would have taken others. It was about how this Stella often made crucial errors, how she was filled with remorse for her mistakes, how she vowed it would not happen again, but it did, how her life and the life of her family played out in an unfair world in which they felt powerless. Stella’s father, Antonio, was an abusive and selfish man. He believed that women were beneath him in stature and were there to serve his needs. He had traveled to America to make his fortune, leaving the family behind in Italy. He visited infrequently. After many years, he still felt loyalty to his wife, Assunta, and to his children. He wanted to bring them to America so that they could be reunited. After he managed to figure out the system and work out the appropriate paper work, they finally arrived. One of his children, Luigi, had never even met his father, having been born after his last visit home. Antonio was now far more worldly than the rest of his family and noticed the differences. The first Stella Fortuna had died because of the family’s poverty, their inability to get the appropriate care for a sick child, and the selfishness of the elite rich who would not help them, although it was within their power. The second Stella was unsure of herself, angry or unhappy most of the time. Also, because of her ignorance about many things in life, she often made poor choices. Although she seemed to always survive against all odds, she seemed to be plagued with misfortune. Her life was fraught with moments of confusion and disaster. After each disastrous occurrence, Stella always reprimanded herself, but still, she seemed to make the mistakes again, regardless. It was because of her ability to survive death so many times that she was relied upon to be the strength and guidance in the family. Her ability to survive dangerous situations which might have felled others, seemed to give Stella power and an odd kind of stature. Although she sometimes seemed to possess a great deal of arrogance, at times, she also seemed distrustful and lacked self confidence. She often doubted her own judgment and that generally resulted in failures of judgment. To Stella (or perhaps the author), men were always waiting for their prey. They were eager to take advantage of women in any way they could and to cheat all those who were weaker than they. Although she was taken advantage of by the system and by evil people, and although it was really not her fault since she was not experienced in the outside world, having come from a tiny little Italian village, Ievoli in Calabria, and really had no worldly experience, I was not able to admire Stella for the efforts she made on behalf of herself and her family. I grew impatient with the bleakness of the novel and did not want to read about another tragic situation, avoided or not. Still, all of the above should not have turned me off the book because a reader does not have to like the characters. The prose flowed well and seemed really well done in terms of the use of language, but perhaps it was the repetitious nature of the narrative that kept me thinking, oh no, not again each time I read of another possible disaster in the making. The book, in one way, was trying to present the difficulties immigrants face, especially when faced with bureaucracies that they don’t understand or are not familiar with, and it stressed the effect those traumatic experiences have on the family as it tries to melt into the fabric of the society. Beyond that, and Stella’s near death misses, I found it tedious. I didn’t see a light at the end of the tunnel coming in the future. There was a redeeming feature in the novel, however, although it was repetitious and dark, the writing was clear and concise, and the translation seemed to accurately and clearly represent the author’s intent.
Celestial Bodies, Jokha Alharthi (Author), Marilyn Booth - translator(Author), Laurence Bouvard (Narrator), In a world that is dominated by the needs of men, a world where women are totally subservient and duty bound to serve them, what will happen when modernity interferes with that way of life? This book examines the changes in an Omani family, over about a century of time, as world events, education and enlightenment put their fingerprints on the lives of three generations of men and women. Will cousin still marry cousin, will the marriages be arranged, will women be allowed out of the home, will they be allowed education, will they ever drive or choose their spouse and career? If they obtain more freedom and more rights, will the individuals be prepared to handle them? As they go from some living in tents in the desert, to others living in luxury, how do their needs and lifestyles change? From the men who expect to be catered to in every way to the women who believe it is their duty to cater to them, how will their lives change if customs and traditions are altered and one gender is no longer totally subservient to the another? Although it is confusing at times, with so many characters popping up and a timeline that is often not linear, it is written with a prose that is far and above most books today. Filthy language and overt sex scenes to titillate the reader are nowhere to be found as they are in most of the mass produced fiction of today. Rather, the story stands on its own merit. The novel follows a family from Oman. It takes the reader through the changes in culture, choices, and individual freedoms, especially regarding women’s rights in the Arab world and it travels through world events as these changes occur, illustrating its effects on the family members and servants. It examines the thoughts of several individuals, with insight, as their desires develop and/or change. With additional freedom comes responsibility. Are any of the characters ready to handle it? Do they even understand what is expected of them since women, especially, are unaware of what goes on in the world around them, are largely uneducated and are ruled by superstition. They are dominated by the rules and wishes of the men around them and have very little freedom of choice. Men are reared to have all their desires and needs attended to by women. Supposedly they only have to show their wives respect, provide for their needs and the needs of the children, in order to keep them happy. Women are raised to believe that it is their duty to serve men, disregarding their own needs and desires. They are kept largely ignorant of the ways of the world, the workings of the body, and opportunities available to others. When the flood gates open, will women disregard all rules and throw caution to the wind? Will men simply acquiesce to the needs and rights of women? Does the world really change or does morality? How does freedom change the world and the people? Three sisters with different personalities are followed through their lives, with the preceding and succeeding generation’s fingerprints upon their lives. From wife beating to respecting wives, from subservient women to educated women, from secrets to lies, from change to change, the reader witnesses the growth of a people as it morphs from one entity to another. Rather than the world revolving around the celestial bodies, it begins to revolve around the needs of individual people. As this change takes place there is a rise in decadence and disobedience, so is the change and enlightenment beneficial? The book will make one wonder if it was better before or after the people gained more knowledge, more freedom and obtained greater individual choice. One will wonder what freedom really is.; does it eventually entrap you? The world was filled with the hypocrisy of rules that kept one sex subservient to the other. There were slaves in the society who actually believed it was their duty to be slaves. When those oppressed were granted rights and greater freedoms, how did that work out for them? As the sheltered women demanded more rights, they were not always prepared to handle them. Did some succeed while others failed? Was the result of modernity beneficial to society or the individual? What was seen was not always what was real. Although someone was perceived in one way, it may not have been the true face or personality of that person. It was how they were taught to behave and present themselves to the world. The customs around marriage changed and with the changes there were positive and negative results. When a marriage was arranged, it most often lasted. When the young were free to choose their own mates, the choices often failed and rather than men asking for divorce, women soon did, as well. A car was something that occupied a place of honor and symbolized material wealth and success. It had the power of life and death in some parts of the world where it was difficult to travel. Getting to a doctor was tedious and time consuming. Only the wealthy and educated were aware of what tools were available to them. The wealthy were in charge and often were heartless. Even the furniture in the home which once stood for honor and respect in a family, soon evolved into more modern pieces with no ties to ancestry or antiquity. So, in summary, over about a century of time, as the Omani culture is brought into modernity, the changes bring some positive and some negative effects. Was life better or worse in the end? Depression and divorce were some negative byproducts. What will the reader think was positive and/or negative? It makes for good discussion. This book is narrated beautifully by the reader. All the characters are appropriately portrayed and his interpretation does not get in the way of the novel’s intent.
The Tenth Muse, Catherine Chung, author; Cassanda Campbell, narrator
This book is a fairly good representation of the books today that are being presented as literature when really they are treatises on liberal policies. Authors are chosen because of diversity and books are chosen for the progressive issues they put forth and support. American readers are slowly being brainwashed, I fear, to believe that everyone is oppressed for one reason or another.
In this book, a woman likens herself to the Tenth Muse of Greek Mythology. There were thought to be only nine, but the Tenth Muse disappeared from history because she did not want to be the inspiration for man, but rather wanted to be herself, her own inspiration, her own successful individual. She left her world to join the real world, and in every generation, there is a woman just like her, achieving and fighting for her rightful place.
In this book, Katherine, similarly named to the author although with a different first letter, is also of similar descent. Katherine is biracial. Her mother was Chinese, she believes. However, that myth is put to rest at the end of the book. Of course she is not only brilliant, she is magnificent looking and admired as she passes, although she believes she is being ogled and ridiculed, most often, for her different appearance and heritage.
This is not a man’s book. It is definitely geared to women who feel that life has cheated them in some way, that men have cheated them in some way.
The most interesting parts of the book are the pieces of history, the development of math theories (although many were way over my head like the Reimann hypothesis and the Hilbert’s eighth problem, the ferry riddle intrigued me), the Greek history of famous women like Hypatia whom I had never heard of, although her story ended badly, beaten to a pulp by an angry Christian mob. This fits in perfectly with today’s liberal effort to downplay religious fervor. The coverage of the Holocaust was used once again to show the positive side of women, the bravery of women, and other challenging moments illustrating the lack of women’s rights because of abusive males.
For the most part, however, this novel felt contrived to me. All the women who were exceptional were either “genderless” in the way they behaved and dressed or absolutely the top of the class and could pass for models. The novel did not feel as if it was representing the need for equality, but rather it was representing the need for superiority because women were, in most cases the brightest bulbs in the box presented. The men were weak and dishonest. The men used the women to get ahead at the expense of the women they pretended to inspire, love or appreciate.
Are the superlative reviews due to what seems like a progressive agenda expressed on every page? Katherine was not likable. She was arrogant and filled with an unjustified hubris. She did not seem to understand the meaning of humility and constantly expected to be praised and to be the smartest one in the class or lecture or whatever venue in which she appeared. Although she complained about lack of rights, she rose to the top without much effort. Life seemed to smile upon her. She seemed to take her own rude and cruel behavior very lightly while she slammed others for theirs. She was also portrayed as this naïve young girl, when someone who was so bright and so immersed in education could not have logically been that ignorant to the ways of the world around her. The reader is expected to sympathize with her plight because she is a woman and comes from a family of immigrants and she is of a different race.
Throughout the book, Katherine lamented her place in the world. She suffered. Men had it all. She showed no gratitude for any gifts that came her way, seemed unable to truly care about anyone above her own needs. At the very end, she seemed to begin to understand the definition of humility but for me, it came too late. She got where she did because of the good graces of many people, and fair or unfair, she showed no appreciation for her good fortune and did not seem to help others to achieve the same goal. She always blamed others for her own behavior and naivete. Yet we are supposed to believe she is very innocent as she sleeps with her advisors and professors who, of course, take advantage of her purity. In the end, she even wants to put her own needs before her best friend’s needs and loses her friendship too. She feels safer in Germany, in spite of what they did, than she did in America. This fits right in with the current progressive view that America is not on the side of good, but rather is evil.
The book covers racial discord, civil rights, anti-semitism immigration issues, homosexuality, gender issues, (even her female best friend has a name representing our modern definitions of sexual identity, she calls herself Henry which is not a feminine name).
The novel seems to pit the myth of Guan Yin vs the myth of The Tenth Muse. The Buddhist is selfless and genderless, wishes to serve others, a symbol of emptiness filled with compassion, and the unknown Greek Muse is self interested and independent, definitely female and definitely demanding her rightful place in the universe. The reader will have to decide which side of the coin they prefer or perhaps they will see that one way alone, is not the right way. There has to be some sort of compromise for fulfillment in life.
Perhaps my negative feelings about the book arose from the narrator’s reading which emphasized certain attributes of the character in ways I found disturbing. Still, rather than a literary endeavor, I thought the book descended into a romantic novel which fit into the category of Chick Lit. The story revolved around Katherine’s love life and feelings about men.
The Testaments: The Sequel to The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood, author; Derek Jacobi, Mae Whitman, Ann Dowd, Bryce Dallas Howard, Tantoo Cardinal, and Margaret Atwood, narrators
This sequel to The Handmaiden’s Tale fell short of my expectations. Of course, in the three and a half decades since the first installment was published, my perspective on literature may have changed as a result of experience, but the book seemed a bit silly in its plot and seemed more for a YA audience than the general public to which the original book appealed.
In a world in which females are second class, there are undercurrents of stress fractures. Gilead may no longer be as viable as was once believed. There are some who are secretly rebelling against the powers that be. Underground resistance organizations have begun to spring up in Gilead and in Canada, which is depicted as the safe haven for those who have escaped and found a place to hide, men and women alike. (It may remind the reader of the days of the draft dodgers who fled to Canada.)
As the story plays out, three women are witnesses telling their stories about the part they played to bring about change and reform to Gilead. One woman is the powerful Aunt Lydia who is in charge of all the Aunts. Behind the scenes, she manipulates others, rewarding or meting out punishments as she sees fit. She seems to be the only female with any ability to hold sway over the powerful Commanders, the men. She has a cadre of women called the Pearl Girls who spy on people in Canada and attempt to proselytize, and practically kidnap unhappy, weak females by promising them safety and nirvana in Gilead.
Then there are two young aunt novices, Agnes and Daisy/Jade who were the offspring of handmaidens. Since handmaidens (women forced to be surrogate mothers) are not held in high esteem, neither are their progeny, and sometimes these children, depending on the status of their adoptive parents, are not able to make exceptional marriage matches. When a match is made, there is one way out for a young girl who is unhappy with the choice. Since Aunts never marry, if they can prove that they want to join them because they find marriage untenable, they may be taken into the fold. They must, however, pass the screenings of the other Aunts. In this way, they avoid marriage to men they do not choose, to men who are chosen for them because of their power and status, because of the status the marriage will confer upon the their family, as well. These two girls will play a pivotal role in the ultimate conclusion of the novel.
The story never quite develops into one that transcends fantasy. Unlike The Handmaiden’s Tale which one could imagine as real, if not surreal, at times, this book seems like pure science fiction. At times, it even seemed a bit silly as when an injured sick young girl with one usable arm, and a girl who had no physical prowess or experience rowing, are suddenly abandoned in a small boat in the middle of the Bay of Fundy under treacherous conditions, and are forced to row to safety. Suspending disbelief did not work for this reader.
If you want a quick read and have been waiting for the sequel, have at it, but don’t expect the level of imagination and creativity that was exhibited in the first novel.
The Secret Life of Violet Grant, Beatriz Williams, author; Kathleen McInerny, narrator
Vivian Schuyler, a young Manhattan socialite, is a working girl, albeit against the wishes of her family. Although she wants to be more than a gopher at the magazine where she works, she will have to work her way up from the bottom. Women did not have much opportunity in the mid 1960’s, when the book begins. Mostly, they were employed as teachers or secretaries or assistants of some kind.
When Vivian receives a notice about a package waiting for her at the post office, she rushes over just before closing time. The line moves very slowly and as she nears the counter, the post office closes. Fortuitously, a handsome young man offers to help her, He tells the clerk that he made a mistake; she was ahead of him on line. He gives her his place, but not before Vivian makes a bit of a scene demanding service.
When she gets her package, he finds himself drawn to her and he helps her lug it home. It is heavy and bulky since it is a suitcase. She could not have done it alone. Vivian has no idea who has sent this suitcase to her, and she finds there is no key to open it. When the young man suggests she break into it, she refuses. When they examine it, they see that the name on it has been crossed out and her name has been added. She and the young man decide that it was intended for Violet Schuyler, the name that was scratched out, and not Vivian.
This young man enchants Vivian. She discovers that he is a doctor and is exhausted. He promptly falls asleep in her apartment, and she happily lets him remain there. They find they are drawn to each other, and they spend the next day together as compatibly as if they had known each other for years as they are comfortable bantering back and forth with each other. However, she will soon find out that, like the suitcase, this budding doctor has many secrets.
When Vivian tells her parents about the suitcase and asks if they know anyone named Violet Schuyler, they react with shock and dismay. Her mother forbids her to look into Violet’s life because it would embarrass them. She learns that there was once an Aunt named Violet who had moved to Europe to study science and had been banished by the family when she married her professor and remained there. She had also been accused of murdering her husband. No one had heard from her for decades, and no one knew much about her or cared to find out anything about what had happened to her. Vivian decided, unlike them, she wanted to find out about all of Violet’s secrets, regardless of her mother’s wishes.
Thus begins a novel that is very amusing and easy to read in some ways, but difficult in others because it is filled with crude language and overt descriptions of sexual encounters which often feel contrived as the story dwells on many romantic relationships centered around the explicit sex. Still, as the mystery takes the reader to Europe as it descends into World War I, it gets more interesting. The ending, if not quite believable, is an unexpected surprise as all the secrets are exposed and most of the threads are knitted together.
The story goes off on too many tangents, and often the dialogue requires the suspension of disbelief as it begins to feel like a fairytale with some silly themes as Vivian goes from a strict sense of morality when it comes to friendship to stretching the envelope when it comes to romantic relationships. Instead of being about the secret life of Violet, it seemed to be about the sexual escapades of the various characters. Vivian seemed to go from being flighty to being resolute, depending on the moment, and I never quite figured out what kind of a person she really was and never did like her very much.
The Jump Artist, Austin Ratner
This is the story of Phillip Halsmann, a Latvian Jew who, in 1929, was condemned falsely for the murder of his father while on a hiking trip in the Tyrolean Alps, in Western Austria. Convicted by a Kangaroo Court of liars and anti-Semites, not once, but twice, when they presented false evidence and hid pertinent facts, he was finally pardoned and released after two years in prison, at the behest of several influential, famous personages, Jews who had some influence and knew, like the Dreyfus Affair, the Halsmann Affair was another example of injustice spawned by ignorance and hatred of the Jews. It was a harbinger of the horrors to soon come, however, as Germany would soon attempt to conquer Europe and create an Aryan Nation under the leadership of Adolf Hitler.
Before prison, Phillip was a student studying to be an engineer. He was falling in love and his life was before him. After his staged trials and his treatment in prison, he was often angry and unable to love properly. Although he tried to return to school to study engineering, he soon left. He abandoned his girlfriend Ruth who had loved and stood by him. He began to sink into a depression. He would admire strange women and imagine them naked. Filled with guilt, he pleasured himself, repenting by visiting various images of The Pieta.
Soon, Phillip was allowing those who hated him to define him with all sorts of heinous descriptions. Eventually, in an effort to ignore his Latvian heritage and become more French, he changed his name to Phillipe Halsman. Soon, he found love again. Quickly, though, he learned that he would always be a Latvian Jew under Hitler’s regime.
When he and his family finally escaped to America, he truly began to define himself and regain his self respect. Although he became a successful photographer, rather than the lawyer or doctor his father had hoped he would become, his family was proud of what he had achieved. Soon, he also earned the respect of many famous people who sought his services like, Marilyn Monroe, Andre Gide, Albert Einstein and others. However, his early career was defined by photos of barely dressed females he found in his travels. He wanted to photograph beautiful women whom he posed in various stages of undress. He was able to capture them in their best possible vantage point. Somehow his keen eye knew how to adjust light and position to capture the person’s true self. He was helped by his mother and sister who had remained devoted and loyal to him throughout his ordeal, and they had weathered the changes he made in his life alongside him, helping him as they were able.
This book is an intuitive description of the degradation and disintegration of what once was a normal man, full of hope, devoted to his family, with a bright future ahead of him. Because of the false conviction of the terrible crime of patricide, the corrupt system almost destroyed him. If nothing else, this book should be a lesson to all those who are so quick to judge the current President of the United States without allowing him the right to defend himself bolstered by a press that constantly maligns him, often falsely.
The Jump Artist, Austin Ratner This is the story of Phillip Halsmann, a Latvian Jew who, in 1929, was condemned falsely for the murder of his father while on a hiking trip in the Tyrolean Alps, in Western Austria. Convicted by a Kangaroo Court of liars and anti-Semites, not once, but twice, when they presented false evidence and hid pertinent facts, he was finally pardoned and released after two years in prison, at the behest of several influential, famous personages, Jews who had some influence and knew, like the Dreyfus Affair, the Halsmann Affair was another example of injustice spawned by ignorance and hatred of the Jews. It was a harbinger of the horrors to soon come, however, as Germany would soon attempt to conquer Europe and create an Aryan Nation under the leadership of Adolf Hitler. Before prison, Phillip was a student studying to be an engineer. He was falling in love and his life was before him. After his staged trials and his treatment in prison, he was often angry and unable to love properly. Although he tried to return to school to study engineering, he soon left. He abandoned his girlfriend Ruth who had loved and stood by him. He began to sink into a depression. He would admire strange women and imagine them naked. Filled with guilt, he pleasured himself, repenting by visiting various images of The Pieta. Soon, Phillip was allowing those who hated him to define him with all sorts of heinous descriptions. Eventually, in an effort to ignore his Latvian heritage and become more French, he changed his name to Phillipe Halsman. Soon, he found love again. Quickly, though, he learned that he would always be a Latvian Jew under Hitler’s regime. When he and his family finally escaped to America, he truly began to define himself and regain his self respect. Although he became a successful photographer, rather than the lawyer or doctor his father had hoped he would become, his family was proud of what he had achieved. Soon, he also earned the respect of many famous people who sought his services like, Marilyn Monroe, Andre Gide, Albert Einstein and others. However, his early career was defined by photos of barely dressed females he found in his travels. He wanted to photograph beautiful women whom he posed in various stages of undress. He was able to capture them in their best possible vantage point. Somehow his keen eye knew how to adjust light and position to capture the person’s true self. He was helped by his mother and sister who had remained devoted and loyal to him throughout his ordeal, and they had weathered the changes he made in his life alongside him, helping him as they were able. This book is an intuitive description of the degradation and disintegration of what once was a normal man, full of hope, devoted to his family, with a bright future ahead of him. Because of the false conviction of the terrible crime of patricide, the corrupt system almost destroyed him. If nothing else, this book should be a lesson to all those who are so quick to judge the current President of the United States without allowing him the right to defend himself bolstered by a press that constantly maligns him, often falsely.