Book Review: The Violin of Auschwitz by Maria Angels Anglada

7662771Title: The Violin of Auschwitz by Maria Angels Anglada
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Publisher: Bantam Books
Page count: 109 pages
Format: Harcover
Publication Date: August 31, 2010
Rating – 4/5

An international sensation now available in English for the first time, The Violin of Auschwitz is the unforgettable story of one man’s refusal to surrender his dignity in the face of history’s greatest atrocity.

In the winter of 1991, at a concert in Krakow, an older woman with a marvelously pitched violin meets a fellow musician who is instantly captivated by her instrument. When he asks her how she obtained it, she reveals the remarkable story behind its origin… Imprisoned at Auschwitz, the notorious concentration camp, Daniel feels his humanity slipping away. Treasured memories of the young woman he loved and the prayers that once lingered on his lips become hazier with each passing day. Then a visit from a mysterious stranger changes everything, as Daniel’s former identity as a crafter of fine violins is revealed to all. The camp’s two most dangerous men use this information to make a cruel wager: If Daniel can build a successful violin within a certain number of days, the Kommandant wins a case of the finest burgundy. If not, the camp doctor, a torturer, gets hold of Daniel. And so, battling exhaustion, Daniel tries to recapture his lost art, knowing all too well the likely cost of failure.

Written with lyrical simplicity and haunting beauty—and interspersed with chilling, actual Nazi documentation—The Violin of Auschwitz is more than just a novel: It is a testament to the strength of the human spirit and the power of beauty, art, and hope to triumph over the darkest adversity.

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Good morning! The Violin of Auschwitz is a work of historical fiction in which our main character Daniel is trying to survive life in the deplorable conditions of Auschwitz. In his life before the war, he was a violin maker and had a passion and love for his work. When he gets to Auschwitz he lies and says he is a carpenter and is given odd jobs for the Commander until one of the commanders violins breaks during a party and Daniel steps up to fix it. It becomes a race for his life when he finds out that the commander and the doctor have bet a  case of wine and Daniel’s life on whether the violin will be quality and completed in a reasonable amount of time. There is also a larger story to which the history of Daniel’s violin connects and it also ends on a note of hope.

I have been wanting to read this book ever since I stumbled upon it while browsing through Listopia on Goodreads. I don’t know why I do this to myself but I love reading books that take place during this timeframe. I think they are vastly important works of literature and even though they make me incredibly sad I just think it’s really important to read books like this to remind ourselves of what humanity is capable both of, both good and the bad.

I gave this book four stars, I really was hoping that it would be a five star read and I think the blurbs on the jacket really hyped the book up for me to where it didn’t quite meet my expectations. This is a translation from Catalan so I’m thinking maybe some of the emotion was lost in translation. That’s not to say that there wasn’t emotion because there definitely was. It was heartbreaking in places and bittersweet in some. It also reminded me of the strength of the human spirit. Some of my favorite parts of this book were Daniel’s descriptions of when he is working on the violin which serves as a piece of a hope that he hangs onto.

At just 109 pages this book is a super light read. Because it is a heavier subject for me I didn’t read it in one sitting even though it is a really short book but it just took me a little longer to process my feelings, I liked it alot. If you are a historical fiction fan or want to read more literature about the Holocaust please check this book out and let me know what you think of it. I would love to read this book in it’s original language to compare the differences in the emotions it stirs and in the reading experiences.

Anyway, thank you for stopping by to read my review. I really appreciate it! I have a few more books that I am hoping to read this month so I can’t wait to share those with you as well. I have received a few eARCS and I want to do some more pleasure reading so stay tuned.

Happy Reading everyone!  (Well unless you’re reading a sad book like me)

Book Review: The Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman

 

15195Title: The Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman
Genre: Graphic Novel – Graphic Memoir
Publisher: Pantheon Books
Page count: 296
Format: Hardcover
Rating – 5/5!

Combined for the first time here are Maus I: A Survivor’s Tale and Maus II – the complete story of Vladek Spiegelman and his wife, living and surviving in Hitler’s Europe. By addressing the horror of the Holocaust through cartoons, the author captures the everyday reality of fear and is able to explore the guilt, relief and extraordinary sensation of survival – and how the children of survivors are in their own way affected by the trials of their parents. A contemporary classic of immeasurable significance.

imagesI have been wanting to read Maus for a really long time and a few of my reading challenges this year presented me with a good opportunity to finally read it. Maus is a graphic memoir – a memoir in graphic novel form. It’s the first I have read of it’s kind but others in this genre include books like Persepolis, which is another I have been wishing to read for awhile. It is about the life of Art Spiegelman’s father Vladek a little before, during and after the war. It follows him from when he was younger and met Art Speiglman’s mother, to his time trying to survive during the Holocaust and the loss of loved ones, ending at his death many, many years later.

I loved the double narrative working in this book: the story of Vladek Spiegelman and also the story of the relationship between a father and son. Ultimately, I feel like this is Art’s love letter to his father, with whom he had a strained relationship during his life, but his love for him clearly shows through in his work. Another interesting thing about Maus is the symbolism of the characters having been drawn as certain animals rather than as human.

Maus, in short, is beautiful. It was poignant and gripping in a way that is unique to the graphic novel medium and also in a way that only books about the Holocaust can be. It’s heartbreaking to read and in the back of my mind I just kept thinking about the fact that people lived through this, Art Spiegelman’s father Vladek Spiegelman lived through this. It’s absolutely breathtaking in that the events that occur in this book hit me like a punch to my stomach. It’s one of those books that when you finish (and also while you are reading it) you just have to put it down, take a step away and think about life and just absorb what you have just read.

I’ve seen some people write that there are too many books and movies about the Holocaust but no, there will never be enough. The stories need to be told again and again and the voices need to never be silenced…the world must not be allowed to forget. I’m a fan of literature of the Holocaust for this reason. It’s also amazing to see such a story told in this medium.

I’m not going to lie, this book was hard to read sometimes but one thing is for sure, this book will stay with me forever and I will recommend it to anyone and everyone. Not only does it show the ugliness of humanity, it also shows its resilience, it’s beauty, it’s strength snd it’s will for survival and hope. This is one of the best books I have ever read.

Blog Tour Book Review: The Lost Catacomb by Shifra Hochberg

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Title: The Lost Catacomb written by Shifra Hochberg
Genre: Historical Mystery
Publisher: Enigma Press (an imprint of GMTA Publishing)
Page count: 257
Format: Ebook (read on Nook App for Microsoft Surface)
Rating – 5/5!!

An intoxicating blend of Vatican thriller and heart-rending love story, THE LOST CATACOMB is a stunning debut novel set against the backdrop of the Holocaust in Italy. At its heart is Nicola Page, a beautiful young art historian who flies to Rome to assess a newly discovered catacomb of enigmatic provenance. Its magnificent frescoes hold the clues to a centuries-old murder and the existence of a fabled treasure from the ancient Temple in Jerusalem.

Assisted by a handsome Italian archaeologist, Nicola is quickly drawn into a tangled web of intrigue and peril, masterminded by a powerful priest who is determined to destroy those who would reveal the dark secrets of the past. And as Nicola uncovers layer after layer of this deadly past, she is brought face to face with shocking facts about her own family history—facts that will forever change the course of her life.

Happy Thursday and thanks for stopping by my stop on the Blog Tour for The Lost Catacomb! Special thanks to GMTA Publishing and Shifra Hochberg for allowing me to participate!

The Lost Catacomb was an absolute blast to read. It is a thrilling mystery whose narrative cycles between the present and the period of the Holocaust. The narrative is fascinating, action packed and gut wrenching. My goodness, this was a great book. It’s one of those books that’s just like candy and you just can’t get enough of it. From the get go this book had me so engrossed in it’s pages that I literally did not put it down. My whole day off of work was devoted to staying under the covers and reading this book, it was just THAT good.

There were a lot of things that I loved about this book including the historical fiction part of it. I’m always fascinated with a good historical fiction plot and I think that the World War II period is my most favorite period to read about. It just always reminds me of the dark side of human history but also reminds me of hope and compassion and the fact that we must never allow anything like that to ever happen again. This book was no different in that respect. I don’t want to give too much away about the actual plot and the plot twists but there are really amazing plot twists that concern our main character Nicola that just had me spinning. Well, the whole story had me spinning actually…and biting my nails!

Another thing that I just loved about this book was the main character herself. From the start I got the sense that she was a strong female character but she still had this sort of “lost” quality to her like although she is so successful in her career and academic accomplishments, her personal life is just…there. I LOVED seeing her “find” her identity, that was so satisfying for me. The ending was spectacular in that it was so chilling and makes you think. There is resolution…sort of and it was just the perfect way to end the book. I wish there was going to be another one but maybe there is! Great writing style, wonderfully built characters, just enough amount of romance (which wasn’t a lot but it was a good amount for this story), just the right amount of action and suspense. A superb read! I can’t tell you enough how much I really enjoyed this story and I would definitely be up for rereading it in the near future. I am expecting to read some awesome stories from this author in the future.

I would recommend this book to any historical mystery fans, especially readers that love Dan Brown books. In my opinion this book is definitely on that level! I would LOVE to see this as a movie! I think it would be both thrilling and beautiful at the same time.
If you are interested in reading this book, I have up to 20 free copies of the ebook to give away. Please let me know in the comments if you are interested!

 

AUTHOR PHOTO--SHIFRA HOCHBERG--LOST CATACOMBAbout the Author

 

Shifra Hochberg has a Ph.D. in English literature from New York University and teaches at Ariel University in Israel. She has published over 20 academic essays and is currently writing another novel

 

 

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