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review 2017-08-13 09:00
East West Street: On the Origins of "Genocide" and "Crimes Against Humanity" - Philippe Sands

Of all the books I've read thus far this year, "EAST WEST STREET: On the Origins of 'Genocide' and 'Crimes Against Humanity' " is perhaps the most powerfully affecting and well-written. At times, as I read deeply into this book, it felt as if I was reading a family history, mystery novel, and story of the development of 2 key legal concepts from 2 remarkable men from Poland (Hersh Lauterpacht and Rafael Lemkin) which revolutionized the study and practice of international law - with respect to human rights - in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War.

 

This book gets its impetus from a visit the author (a British law professor and international lawyer) made in 2010 to Lviv, a city in the Ukraine that over the past century changed hands and names several times. Prior to November 1918, Lviv was known as Lemberg within the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which had a rich, diverse Jewish culture and distinguished university and law school in Lemberg University (now Lviv University). Then with the dissolution of the Dual Monarchy, Lemberg became Lwów within a newly independent, re-established Poland. But with the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939, Lwów fell under Soviet control as a result of the Soviet-German non-aggression pact, which carved up Poland between Berlin and Moscow. This control proved to be shortlived, for once Germany invaded Soviet Russia in June 1941, Lwów became German and its Jewish population between 1941 and 1944 (when the Soviets retook the city, renaming it Lviv) was ghettoized and largely wiped out in the Holocaust.

 

What makes Lviv significant in this book is the connection the author's family and both Hersh Lauterpacht and Rafael Lemkin have to it. Sands' maternal grandfather Leon Buchholz and the families of both Lauterpacht and Lemkin lived in or near Lviv. Through sheer determination and lots of what can be likened to detective work, Sands shares with the reader the histories of his family through Leon's long, challenging and varied life (which took him from Poland to Vienna to Paris in January 1939) and that of Lauterpacht and Lemkin. Lauterpacht made a life for himself in Britain, where he achieved renown as a law professor and legal mind whose development of the concept of 'crimes against humanity' became widely adopted within international law during the Nuremberg war crimes trials of 1945-46. Lemkin, who was slightly younger than Lauterpacht, was a polyglot who spent most of his working years in Poland as a successful lawyer til he was forced to leave the country shortly after the beginning of the German occupation. In contrast to Lauterpacht who asserted that "the individual human being ... is the ultimate unit of all law", Lemkin developed during the Second World War the concept of "genocide", a deliberative action by a state to exterminate a people (along religious, racial, national, or ethnic lines). Indeed, Lemkin coined the word and tried throughout the war crimes trials in Nuremberg to have "genocide" formally adopted and accepted as a part of international law.

 

"Lauterpacht never embraced the idea of genocide. To the end of his life, he was dismissive, both of the subject and, perhaps more politely, of the man who concocted it, even if he recognized the aspirational quality. Lemkin feared that the separate projects of protecting individual human rights, on the one hand, and protecting groups and preventing genocide, on the other, were in contradiction."

 

Sands also sheds light on Hans Frank, Hitler's former personal lawyer who later was named Governor-General of Occupied Poland, where he figured prominently in the disenfrachisement and murder of Jews. In this capacity, Frank made a stop in Lemberg in August 1942, where he made a speech promoting his anti-Jewish policies. Frank later was tried for war crimes along with a number of top surviving members of the Third Reich (e.g., Hermann Göring, Joachim von Ribbentrop, Rudolf Hess, Wilhelm Keitel, Ernst Kaltenbrunner of the SS, and Alfred Jodl who had been Chief of the Operations Staff of the Armed Forces) at Nuremberg, where Lauterpacht and Lemkin watched him testify.

 

This was a book I enjoyed reading from start to finish. It embodied all the attributes of a novel and mystery thriller. And yet the fact that "East West Street" is a true story made my reading experience even more rewarding.

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review 2017-08-09 02:30
The Moonlit Garden (Audiobook)
The Moonlit Garden - Alison Layland,Corina Bomann

This was a pleasant surprise! Especially for an Amazon First selection since usually those books are not that great. This is translated into English, but I didn't notice any awkward phrasing to the translation was well done. 

 

I wasn't sure what I was getting into with this one, except that at some point there'd a moonlit garden :D so I was just going along for the ride and it was a good one. Lily owns an antique shop in Berlin and one day an old man comes in, hands her an old violin, tells her it's hers and leaves. The rest of the book goes back and forth between Lily trying to solve the mystery of the violin and Rose, the violin's original owner, a master violinist in the earliest part of the 1900s.

 

There's enough left out in the historical parts to keep the mystery moving in the current timeline. It's just nice to have a mystery that doesn't revolve around murder for a change, and trying to figure out how all the pieces fit together. And while parts of this take place in England and Germany, a good chunk of it takes place in Sumatra, Indonesia, which was also a nice change of pace as I don't often come across books set in Asia.

 

The narrator has kind of a soft voice but it didn't bother me too much. I do wish she had more range in her voices, especially for the men since despite some slight differences to their accents, it was difficult to tell them apart because they all sounded so similar. She does a somewhat better job differentiating the female voices. 

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review 2017-07-14 03:51
A Room With a View (Audiobook) - DNF @ 38%
A Room with a View - E.M. Forster

This is partly my fault, and partly the book's fault.

 

My fault - For some reason I thought this was like Rear Window, and that the movie was an adaptation of this book??? The movie has a guy with view outside his room, okay! I've never seen it, I just know about it through pop culture and the last time I heard anything about it was years ago, so I forgot the title. So I saw this book, and went hey! I should read that and then I can watch the movie, or rewatch that episode of Castle at least. Hahahaha! Nope. There is a murder, but that's about the only thing these two have in common. So incorrect expectations are totes my fault.

 

Book's fault - Bored now. Women were repressed in ye olden times. Did you know that? This is complete news to me. *sigh* Just a bunch of talking heads, characters are self-important and annoying (well, I guess Lucy's alright) and NOTHING HAPPENS. Walk around the countryside and talk. Next day: walk around the countryside and talk. Next day: Drive around the countryside and talk. Talk talk talk talkety talk talk. This is a British romance so boring even Hugh Grant wasn't in the movie adaptation. It's that bad!

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review 2017-06-06 03:06
Draakenwood (Whyborne & Griffin #9)
Draakenwood (Whyborne & Griffin Book 9) - Jordan L. Hawk

I probably should've at least skimmed the previous book before reading this one, because I didn't remember it nearly as well as I thought I did. Thankfully, the author provides enough background info/reminders that I wasn't completely lost, as the plot is very much reliant on the events in Fallow. 

 

This was a fun ride. I continue to be amazed that Ms. Hawk can keep these characters and this world fresh - and still be picking up steam for more down the road! Griffin and Ival's relationship is as strong as ever, there's a new police chief in town determined to "shake things up" and cause problems for our protags, and we've got the Endicotts back in town causing their own special brand of disturbance. 

 

What I loved most about this, besides all the typical stuff, is how much Whyborne's relationship with his father has changed - and how his father himself has changed as a result of that. I never thought I'd actually like Niles, but he's come a long way from his first appearance in this series. Percival has also grown so much from the first book, and while he sometimes regrets the loss of his quiet simple life, he knows these changes are inevitable and can't be denied or ignored. I won't say any more on that though.

 

To end:

Librarians are the coolest.

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review 2017-05-25 02:52
VOYAGE OF INNOCENCE = A WHIRLWIND JOURNEY THRU THE 1930s
Voyage of Innocence - Elizabeth Edmondson

This generational novel is centered on 3 women --- 2 of them cousins from well-to-do English families with long pedigrees and the third, an Irish American Catholic hailing from Chicago, where her father, a physician with interests in party politics, has been elected to the U.S. Senate --- who meet as first-year students at Oxford in 1932.

As the Thirties unfold, the reader is witness to the effects of the contending political movements of the era (communism vs. fascism) on both cousins and its effects, both direct and indirect, upon their families & friends, and their social milieu. As for their American friend who has ingratiated herself among her Oxford contemporaries with her verve, sense and beauty, she "watches and keeps her own counsel, earning the respect and affection of all their circle."

Elizabeth Edmondson has written a novel that grows on the reader the more he/she reads it. Characters - major and minor alike - are well-fleshed out and quickly take on lives of their own that are easy to relate to. That's why over the past couple of days, I raced through this novel. I almost felt as if I were being pulled through the 1930s, experiencing a world perched on a precipice that would soon crumble and fall into the depths of the Second World War. Simply put, "VOYAGE OF INNOCENCE" is one of the best novels I've read so far this year.

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