Posts Tagged With: non fiction

Book Review: Outwitting the Gestapo by Lucie Aubrac – 3 of 5

Outwitting the Gestapo by Lucie Aubrac

outwitting

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Lucie Aubrac was one kick-a, bad-a lady.

Germans on my doorstep? Whatever, I’ll just lie to their face.

Nazis capture my (Jewish) husband? NBD, I’ll just march up to Klaus Barbie and give him a piece of my mind.

Pregnant? Psh, I’ll go on raids and rescue missions until I start having labor pains.

Seriously, there’s a book (and I guess, a movie) about Lucie Aubrac (aka: Catherine, Lucie Bernard, Lucie Samuels, etc) for good reason. She did some incredible things as part of the Resistance in France in WWII. Add on top of it that this diary-style book captures the nine months of her pregnancy – when her husband is captured and she helps mastermind his rescue – and you have one hell of a story.

So why only three stars? Unfortunately, this book is a prime example of how poor writing can turn something as exciting as Lucie Aubrac’s life into a history book. I don’t know if Lucie’s writing style was a bit silted or (what I think is more likely) the translation was poor. Excitement comes across as corny and all of the events are discordant and often confusing. Everything felt like it was in fast forward. Before the emotions of fear or anxiety or hope could squeeze in the action had already changed. I ended up skimmed much of the end of the book.

I’m pretty die-hard when it comes to WWII memoirs – if you’re that way too, you may find this enjoyable. If not, I wouldn’t recommend picking it up. I think ti’s important to know who Lucie Aubrac is – do a little research – but, unfortunately, her memoir falls flat.

Categories: Weekly Review | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ashley’s Top 5 Favorite Travel Memoirs (So Far)

Work has been SO busy lately. Whenever that happens I just want to get away and enjoy something new and wonderful.  Unfortunately, what with buying a house and all, money is a little tight so gallivanting off to a foreign country just isn’t in the cards.  At least not without some serious deal hunting.

Instead, I’ve decided to live vicariously and seek out a memoir or two.  For those of you who might be in the same boat at me, let me draw you attention to my five all-time favorite travel memoirs (so far).  In case you’re wondering, Eat, Pray, Love is not on the list.

1) In Arabian Nights: A Caravan of Moroccan Dreams by Tahir Shah

inarabiannights

If you’ve read a few other posts of my blog, you’ll probably have already heard me gush about Tahir Shah and Arabian Nights. I can’t help it, this man just speaks to me.  Shah is such an incredible writer and when you add that in with his reflection on his move to Morocco… well, it’s magic to me.  This book might not quite fit the category of “travel memoir” like some of the others, but the core is the same.  It’s a book about discovering a new land – and therefore discovering yourself.  Everybody and their brother needs to read this book (IMHO)!

2) Wall to Wall: From Beijing to Berlin by Rail by Mary Morris

  walltowall

For me this book is the definition of the perfect woman travel memoir. This book was phenomenal – not only is Mary Morris probably the most self-honest person on the planet (I don’t think I could write my actions with truth like she, does even if I wanted to) but she’s a fantastic writer. Her personal struggles combined with the fascinating travel events make this a truly enthralling read. It’s set in such a dramatic time in history – Morris was in China, Russia, and Germany in 1986. Seeing some of those historic events happening through her eyes is unbelievably interesting. Great read!

3) Somebody’s Heart is Burning: A Woman Wanderer In Africa by Tanya Shaffer

HeartBurning

Shaffer’s memoir seemed very familiar. Woman travel memoirs tend to have a similar theme – the driving force in these stories is often a man back home. Why does she travel – is it because she’s running away or does she just love and enjoy what she’s doing? It’s hard, of course, to know. Part of a person, as a traveler, loves it. But the other part is exhausted. When you’re away from the place you grew up, even if you’ve been there for quite some time, you never can quite let down all of your guard.

There are two things very unique and refreshing about this book – the pictures and people. Shaffer had snapshots scattered throughout and it was fascinating for me to go back and forth between her descriptions and compare them to the face in the photograph. And she described people a lot. In fact, every chapter was focused on someone else – someone she met along the journey. She didn’t so much analyze them as she did talk about her experience with them and by the end of the chapter you realized how Shaffer felt changed by them. It was a very refreshing way to read a memoir.

4) Incognito Street: How Travel Made Me a Writer by Barbara Sjoholm

Incognito

You can probably tell from the title that I’m a bit biased by the plot of this story.  It’s about travel, and writing, and it’s set in Spain.  Clearly, I’m going to love this.  Sjoholm doesn’t disappoint.  She does a great job about remembering herself in this time the way she took chances, the people she met.  She really learned who she was in the process of this journey and it wasn’t until later when she was reflecting and writing this story that she was able to understand the way her life was affected by this trip. It’s such a beautiful thing to be let in on – and my main reason why memoirs are some of my favorite reads.

5) Little Princes: One Man’s Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal by Conor Grennan

littleprinces

Like Arabian Nights, this book has more to it than just the travel bit. but it still will pull at your travel bone if you take it in.  Grennan did what I would love to do – do something crazy because you feel like it’s the right thing to do and let it change your life. He has had such an incredible journey and has been able to take his travel to a new height.  His book highlights that journey in of himself but he doesn’t forget to talk about the travel and country and people he met either.  Did I mention, to, that this book is funny?  Not something I expected from something about orphaned children!  I read his via audio book and Grennan narrates it himself – so good!

So, what’s next?

The best part about travel is that there’s always more to see – and the great thing about memoirs is that there’s always another one to read.  I’ve narrowed down my choices to these three – any suggestions to which one I (hopefully) enjoy first?

Don lost NoHurry

Categories: Lists, Pick Ups, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

6 Books to Remind Us of Bigger Problems Than Bad Calls in Football

Last night, my Facebook news feed exploded. It was one in the morning and almost everyone I knew was up in arms – the most horrible thing had happened. They were tearing their hair out, cursing their lives, rolling in agony. The Wisconsin Badgers lost to Arizona State University on a terrible call – or lack of call as it may be.

Now, I am guilty of this behavior as well. I even woke up still angry about it. (Really, it was crap – the refs just walked off the field! I mean – well, never mind. You can read about/see the madness here. )

That being said, I felt a bit sheepish this morning.  How is it that football is the only thing about which we can jointly get overwhelmed?  Shouldn’t we be much more upset about the lack of world peace and starving children?  I’m no bleeding heart, but sometimes there are just bigger things in life.  To make up for my own shortcomings, I decided I would make a short list of books that have helped to give me a bit of perspective.

1) The Road of Lost Innocence: True Story of a Cambodian Heroine by Somaly Mam
www.somaly.org

   somalymam

Sometimes it’s not about the quality of the writing, or the style. Sometimes it’s just the purpose of the story, the reason for writing it. That alone makes this book worth reading. Mam’s ability to tell her story and the stories of others with a real, intricate, and critical eye just makes it that much better.  I don’t think I need to give you any more information about that – I think this book should be read in an effort to make people, especially those in the west, understand that human trafficking and forced prostitution is a huge and horrendous problem and there are people out there still living with it, and people like Mam, who are actively fighting against it.

2) Little Princes: One Man’s Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal by Conor Grennan
http://www.nextgenerationnepal.org/


littleprinces

This book is unbelievable – it is SO good. If you can listen to the audio book version; do it. Conor Grennan narrates it himself. He’s fantastic at it and unbearably funny – something I did not expect to find in a book with such a serious and heartbreaking subject. It adds a great element to reading non-fiction like this and I really appreciate it. He had such an incredible experience and story. There are so many parts that will make your heart stop. Wonderfully done.

3) Wine to Water by Doc Hendley
http://winetowater.org/


winetowater

I saw Doc Hendley speak at a conference, prompting me to buy his book. Why did I buy it, you ask? Well, I’m a sucker for any memoir, particularly one where the individual goes off and does something pretty awesome. So I know I would like this book before I even read a single word. Doc Hendley is obviously an amazing person. I had the opportunity to speak with him briefly and sneak a picture with him. He’s a guy who decided to get passionate about helping the world. I’m both envious and guilty/thankful that I haven’t done the same.  It’s definitely hard work to go out there and do good.

To the point of the book itself, I do have to say he’s obviously not a writer. The book isn’t painful, and it’s really quite quick for how reasonable thick it is, but I didn’t find it completely drew me in like other books I have read that take place in the area. To me, the book seemed repetitive – certain stories and situations came up numerous times without a clear distinction of their difference. Plus – since I saw him speak – I had heard some of the stories before (obviously that won’t be most people’s problem but it still challenged my reading).

That aside it is worth reading the book just to understand how lame most of us are in comparison. It’s also worth reading the book to persuade you to donate; or volunteer somewhere yourself.

4) A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah


alongwaygone

Ishmael Beah told his story straight up – this is what happened and this is what he felt. This is one of those stories where I had to keep reminding myself, “This is a memoir, this is not fiction.” I honestly can’t say much about this other than that you should read it. It is one of those books that really means something. Great memoir.

5) Survival in Auschwitz by Primo Levi


survival

“If I was God, I would spit at Kuhn’s prayer.”

I found this to be one of the most powerful lines out of a book that, if you let yourself really see, always kept you gasping for air. This is a book that never should have been written, because it is a tragedy that never should have happen. But because it did, we must all read and never, ever understand.

5) We Wish To Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families: Stories From Rwanda by Philip Gourevitch

rwanda

“Odette nodded at my notebook, where I was writing as she spoke. ‘Do the people in America really want to read this? People tell me to write these things down, but it’s written inside of me. I almost hope for the day when I can forget.'”

Mind numbing, mind boggling, and mind blowing. Gourevitch manages to write this book with clarity and depth and in a way that tells me all the brutal facts but without completely overwhelming me as a reader. I really appreciate that I felt he was able to really convey to me the horrors and emotions but didn’t do it in such a way that I had to put the book down for a while. Because this is kind of lengthy, I really value that aspect.  Well done and I think a great reminder that while this was published in 1999 there are still horrible things happening in that region.

Categories: Lists, Pick Ups, Weekly Review | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Blog at WordPress.com.