Breathe To Read

Breathe To Read

Sunday, May 20, 2018

2018 Challenge - Book #67 - A Mother's Reckoning - Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy

Today's review is for

A Mother's Reckoning - Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy
Author: Sue Klebold
Pages: 338



19 years ago Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed 12 students and a teacher and injured 24 others before they shot themselves.  This story is from the point of view of his mother - Sue Klebold.  In 2016, she wrote this story about the grief and heartache she has dealt with in the wake of what her son, Dylan, did.  She claims she didn't know what he was up to.  That he was a loved child and she a hands on parent. 

Since that fateful day, Sue has become an avocate for brain health, suicide, and children in distress.  She hopes that her book, and her story will help other parents recognize when their children are in trouble to hopefully prevent one more child from doing what Dylan did.

I have mixed feelings about this book.  First - I commend her for writing it.  Last year I read a hefty book about Columbine, and leanred many things I never knew about the 1999 tragedy.  We all thought the same thing - these kids were bullied loaners who decided to get revenge.  It turns out, that wasn't true.  It was more likely mental illness that was the center of this tragedy and without help, the tragedy occured.

Second - I don't think that Sue is being completely honest with herself.  She makes a lot of excuses for Dylan in this book.  In the beginning she talks about nothing but Dylan's blame and that nothing will make him blamelss in all of this.  But as the book goes along, she starts to make excuses for his behaviors and why he did what he did.  Dylan's Junior year was reaked with clues that he was in trouble.  But Sue and her husband excused many of the behaviors as "boys will be boys" and that "he wouldn't have gotten help even if we asked him to". 

I am trying not to judge too harshly because I am not in her shoes.  I was not in Dylan's house every day.  I cannot say how I would have reacted myself if Dylan was my child.  We all say we would have done things differently, but would we?  We always want to portray our children at their best because we love them.  But making excuses for their bad behavior is part of the problem.  You cannot brush off a kid who gets arrested, and defaces school property, and is showing signs of depression.  These are all things Dylan did during his junior year.  He grades dropped.  He stopped participating in activities.  The clues were blaring.  Yet nothing was done.

In fairness, 1999 was a different time than today, in the awareness of mental illness.  In Columbine, a lot of people missed the clues.  Not only his parents, but his friends, his school, his co-workers.  He fooled them all.

I cannot recommend or not recommend this book.  Did I gain more insight into the Columbine tragedy by reading it?  No.  But you may be interested to hear what Dylan Klebold's mother has to say.

Stars: 3


Wednesday, May 16, 2018

2018 Challenge - Book #66 - Achtung Baby

Today's review is for

Achtung Baby
Author: Sara Zaske
Pages: 244



Sara tells her own story with this book about how she and her husband and young daughter move to Berlin Germany from Oregon.  Sara finds herself in a country where parents give their children a great deal of freedom - much different than she was used to in America.  Achtung (means caution in German) is how Americans react to many things their children do.  Sara sets out to discover what it is like to raise children in a culture that lets kids think and act for themselves from a very young age.  She speaks about differences in schooling, play, and freedom compared to children in America.  She finds that German parents are raising their kids to have self-reliance.  Something she feels is lacking with American parents.

I loved this book.  I was introduced to it by a friend over here where I am living in Switzerland.  My family is living in Basel which is right on the German border.  Here the Swiss speak German (although it is their own dialect) and take on many of the traits of Germans when it comes to parenting.  I was fascinated with this book because I see the exact same behaviors here in kids and adults that Sara saw in Berlin.

I have to admit I was a bit of a helicopter parent before moving to Switzerland last year.  I have a daughter that is legally blind, a teenager who I wouldn't even think of letting go to the movies alone, and an 11 year old son who I still picked out clothes for on a daily basis.  I quickly saw here that I could let go.  I was introduced to a culture where 5 year old kids walk, ride bikes, or take trams/buses to school by themselves.  I see kids playing at all hours of the day in playgrounds throughout the city and also riding their bikes after school without supervision.  My eldest daughter has been shopping in the city with friends, alone.  My legally blind daughter rides the tram to and from school each day without me as her escort.

And you know what I found?  They didn't die.  I let go, and they thrived.  I see them making more and more decisions for themselves, and not relying on me to save them when they get into a sticky situation.  (like getting lost or missing a tram).  My 11 year old son takes the tram to and from school alone each day and walks about 10 blocks from the tram to his school.  Without guidance.

Kids play outside here more.  They aren't tied to their phones or their electronics.  I don't see kids immediatetly pulling them out when they are together, or even alone on public transportation.  I see them talking and laughing with each other.  They are outside every day, no matter the temperature or the weather.  And their parents are not with them.

We could learn a lot from other cultures about making kids into strong adults.  One day - soon - I want my kids to live without me.  I want them to be able to make decisions and not crumble and ask for help.  I want them to be wordly and not sheltered.  And I am thankful for the opportunity I was given to break free of helicopter parenting and letting go.

Check out this book.  Especially my American friends.

Stars:  4 1/2

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

2018 Challenge - Book #65 - Salt to the Sea

Today's review is for

Salt to the Sea
Author: Ruta Sepetys
Pages: 221 pages



This book takes place in East Prussia at the end of World War II.  Refugees are trying to get back to their home countries and the families they left behind.  Among them are Joana, Florian, Emilia.  Their paths cross and as they travel together with a few others, the discover they are all harboring secrets from the last four years of the war.  They and their traveling party end up on a boat called the Wilhelm Gustloff that is sailing to Keil.  A boat - built to hold 1500 people sets off with more than 10,000 passengers.  Among those passengers are soldiers and families and children.

Tragedy strikes and everyone on board has to fight for survival.  People show their true colors in the face of danger, and true heros emerge.

This was a great book.  Really great.  I seem to be stuck on WWII novels this year - keep going back to them - and this one ranks near the top.   (I think I am stuck because we are now living in Switzerland and German history is all around us).  Each chapter is told by a different main character - seeing the scene through their eyes.  Each one has secrets they are not sure they should share.  All feel that some part of what happened to their families is their fault.  And none of them think they will ever find their way back home.

All the characters are well developed and for the most part - likable. (apart from the character Albert, but he isn't supposed to be likable) The Wilhelm Gustloff was an actual boat that carried 10,000 refugees at the end of the war.  But you will have to read the book to find out the fate of this boat and the people on it.

Check this book out.  It is a quick read and you will not be disappointed.

Stars: 4 1/2

Sunday, May 13, 2018

2018 Challenge - Book #64 - Wool

Okay - I have been slacking off in the reading department this month.  The weather has turned beautiful, and we have gone on a vacation, and I am falling behind.  I also started a book and wasted 4 days on it before chucking it to the side, so that didn't help.

Today's review is for:
Wool
Author: Hugh Howey
Pages: 523



This book is set in the post-apocolyptic future where people have been driven into silos due to the air on earth becoming toxic.  The silo has 130 levels and holds thousands of people.  They have been underground for over 100 years, so the people in the silo have no idea that any other way of life.  The Silo is run by a mayor and when someone "gets a little mad" they are sent outside to a "cleaning".  These cleanings are to make the outside window of the silo clear for people to see out into the world, and at the same time - the person who is sent out, dies from the exposure to the earth.  No one has ever survived a cleaning punishment.

One day, a girl named Juliette is sent out to do a cleaning - sent out for crimes she didn't commit - and she is the first person who doesn't clean the lense.  Instead - she walks over the hill and can no longer be seen.  Her disappearance starts an uprising among the people in the silo that the people at the top are finding hard to control.  Unanswered questions about their existence start to come to the surface and secrets will be revealed.

This was a pretty good book.  Warning - it is a TRILOGY - so be prepared for a cliff hanger ending.  Most of the characters are likable.  There are parts that were a bit technical and drawn out, but overall, the story was unique.  I enjoy dystopian/post-apocolyptic future books, and this one was very different from others I have written.  I was trying to picture how the silo would work.  There was no elevator for the 130 floors - the people walked.  The people in the "down deep" didn't go to the top floors more than 1-2 times a year, and sometimes not even that often.

Check it out.  I am anxious to read the next two books to see where the story is going.

Stars:  4 1/2

Friday, May 4, 2018

2018 Challenge - Book #63 - The Orphan's Tale

Today's review is for

The Orphan Tale
Author: Pam Jenoff
Pages: 369



This is the story of two women.  Astrid - a nearly 40 year old woman who returns to life in the circus after her marriage falls apart.  She is a Jewish woman during WWII, and the circus hides her from the Nazis.  Noa - is a young teenager girl wbo finds herself pregnant and cast out from her family.  Her baby is taken from her after his birth and she never sees him again.  One day, while working in a train station, she hears a baby cry from a train car, and finds a car full of babies - some alive, some dead.  She makes the decision to rescue just one, and runs.

She falters while running away and is discovered by the circus leader where Astrid is an acrobat.  Noa is taken in and trained to be a member of the circus, and in return she and the baby are protected.  An on and off again friendship develops between Astrid and Noa while the circus travels during the war.

Tragedy strikes and the women must make a choice.  Do they flee, or save each other?

This book was not that great.  I read it after I saw a few friends had enjoyed it, but I found the written awful.  I rolled my eyes several times.  The relationship between Astrid and Noa was juvenile at best.  The story did not flow well, and I didn't find a connection with any of the characters.  It was wordy and repetitive, and down right poor.

I don't recommend it.  There are so many good historical fiction books out there about WWII, and this isn't one of them.

Stars: 2

Sunday, April 29, 2018

2018 Challnege - Book #62 - The Secret Keeper

Today's review is for

The Secret Keeper
Author: Kate Morton
Pages: 597



This is the story of Laurel.  When Laurel was 16 years old, she witnessed a crime in her driveway.  That crime, which Laurel helps cover up, changes the course of their family.  Now, 50 years later, as her mother lays dying, Laurel wants to get to the bottom of what happened that day in her driveway.  And why.  She starts to hunt for answers knowing her time is short.  The truth of her mother's past starts to come together, and Laurel can finally put the past to rest.

This was a really good book.  It jumps back and forth between the present with Laurel as an adult, and her mother - Dorothy - as a young woman.  While Laurel searches for the truth about her mother, the readers are given a look at Dorothy's youth and young adulthood and how that crime came to be.

Definitely worth your time.  It is long, but you will be so engrossed in the story that the book will fly by

Stars:  4 1/2

Thursday, April 26, 2018

2018 Challenge - Book #61 - The Boy In The Striped Pajamas

Today's review is for:

The Boy In The Striped Pajamas
Author: John Boyne
Pages: 228



This is the story of a little 9 year old boy named Bruno.  Bruno and his family have just moved to
"Out With" - away from their comfortable home in Berlin.  Bruno is unhappy about the move, but because his father is not a "Commandment" in the Germany army, the family had no choice.  Their new house is smaller than what Bruno and his sister, Gretel, are used to, and there are not many other houses around them. 

When Bruno looks out his window, he sees a large fenced in area full of people all wearing Striped Pajamas.  He doesn't know what they are all doing there.  One day he goes for a walk along the border of the fence, and finds a little boy named Shmuel. The two of them start talking and Bruno starts to visit him every day.  Bruno, who doesn't fully understand what the fence is for, and why the little boy cannot come and play, starts to become curious about life inside the camp.  According to Shmuel, there are 100s of little boys in the camp, and Bruno - who has been wishing for playmates - asks Shmuel if he can come inside the fence and play.

This was a great, fast read.  It was well written.  Told from the point of view of a 9 year old boy that does not understand what is happening around him was a unique story telling style.  He thought when his parents were says Auschwitz it was "Out with".  He thought the Fuhrer was "The Fury".  He could not put together what was happening around him - only that he was forced to move and now has a friend behind a fence that he cannot reach.

The ending is catastrophic and I did not see it coming.  I encourage you to read this book, and take on yet another view of the Holocaust.

Stars: 4 1/2