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review 2017-07-23 18:05
The Kitchen God's Wife - DNF @ 41%
The Kitchen God's Wife - Amy Tan

The writing is still well-crafted and masterful, but I just couldn't get into the plot at this time. It feels like a forgotten story from the Joy Luck Club, only without the same level of interaction with the younger generation that provided a counterpoint to the direness of the mothers' tales. I feel terrible for not being able to finish this because I do usually enjoy Tan's characters.

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review 2017-05-06 12:01
Das Scheitern Mitteleuropas 1918-1939 - Das Scheitern Mitteleuropas 1918-1939 -

Das Scheitern Mitteleuropas 1918-1939 / Walter Rauscher

 

„Das Scheitern Mitteleuropas 1918-1939“ von Walter Rauscher - ein Sachbuch, das informativer und lehrreicher nicht sein könnte, ohne auch nur eine Seite lang langweilig zu werden. Man möchte meinen, dass man als Westeuropäer mit den Geschehnissen und Entwicklungen der Vorzeit zum 2. Weltkrieg vertraut ist. Dass man sich auskennt mit den Verläufen der politischen Zeit und allgemeinen europäischen Situation. Doch weit gefehlt. Walter Rauscher gelingt es mit seinem aktuellen Buch, den Leser mit neuen und teils gar überraschenden und erschreckenden Informationen zu versorgen. Was die große inhaltliche Qualität des Buches ausmacht, ist meiner Meinung nach die völlig unerwartete Perspektive des Autors. Als Österreicher versteht er es, die Zeit in neues Licht zu tauchen und entwirrt Verstrickungen und offensichtlich politische Fehlentscheidungen auf gänzlich neutrale Weise. Es wird deutlich, dass die verschobene Perspektive nötig ist, um eine typisch deutsche Sichtweise der Dinge aufzubrechen. Die Darstellung aller Verstrickungen wirkt dabei geradezu spannend – wüsste man nicht um die reellen Hintergründe und Folgen dieser Zeit. Geschichte in ganz besonderer Form.
Der Schreibstil ist durchgängig verständlich (ausgenommen vielleicht einige, wenige österreichische Formulierungen oder Begriffe, deren Bedeutung sich aber immer im weiteren Zusammenhang erschließen lassen). Der Aufbau ist chronologisch und widmet sich in diesem Kontext der Reihe nach bestimmten Gebieten, Ländern oder Ländergruppen und ihren politischen Entwicklungen. Themenbereiche sind dabei territoriale und nationale Differenzen unter den Sieger- und Verlierer-Staaten. Die Neuaufteilungen der Gebiete nach dem ersten Weltkrieg, zunehmender nationaler Egoismus und ungünstige bis stark schädigende Dreiecksbeziehungen und Konflikte unter den einzelnen Staaten. Dramatisch die wirtschaftliche Entwicklung, massiv die Zunahme von Arbeitslosigkeit, Nationalismus und Fremdenfeindlichkeit. Sind dies keine unbekannten Komponenten, so werden es vermutlich doch die Details sein, die Walter Rauscher hier unglaublich präzise und konkret beschreibt sein. Der Autor beschränkt sich grundsätzlich auf die wichtigen Inhalte, so dass das Buch durchweg interessant und definitiv nie langatmig wirkt. Mich konnte Walter Rauscher mit seinem neuen Buch absolut überzeugen. Die Details zum Scheitern Mitteleuropas und der Weg in den 2. (verheerenden) Weltkrieg waren in diesem Buch unglaublich beeindruckend, schockierend und sehr informativ! Insbesondere, da die Thematik und damaligen Geschehnisse sich derzeit in Teilen zu wiederholen scheinen. Insofern ist dieses Buch vielleicht thematisch aktueller denn je und sicherlich ein „must-have“… Absolut lesenswert und zu empfehlen. 5 Sterne.

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review 2017-02-17 21:22
Review of Hitler: Ascent by Volker Ullrich
Hitler: Ascent, 1889-1939 - Volker Ullrich

This is a difficult book to rate. It is obviously an incredibly detailed look at the life of Hitler and his rise to power up to the German takeover of Czechoslovakia. The problem for me was the details. They were overwhelming. There were hundreds, if not thousands of names in this that I did not recognize and had a hard time following. At some points it felt as if this book was dealing with issues one day or one week at a time. It also focused almost exclusively on Hitler. Many history books would take a few pages as an aside to introduce important side figures. That was not the case here.

 

With all of that said, the story is fascinating. The knowledge of the author is simply incredible. I learned a great deal and feel like I have a deep understanding of the Hitler of the 1920s and 1930s. In terms of the history presented, this rating should be 5 stars. I gave it 4 stars because I just had a hard time slugging through many parts of it.

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review 2017-01-18 04:06
To Kill a Mockingbird
To Kill a Mockingbird (Perennial classics) - Harper Lee

Life in the 30s in the South. The "good ole days". Yeah, riiiight.

 

Actually, narrating this from Scout's POV allows for a lot of innocence of childhood to shine through, and it's optimistic even Scout is making scathing observations and comments on the hypocrisies and bigotry of the times.

 

I originally read this in high school, like I'm sure a lot of people did, and while it made an impact then, I had largely forgotten a lot about the story aside from Boo Radley and the trial. So I was surprised by how little those actually came into the story, which mostly chronicles Scout and Jem's childhood and summers for the two years leading up to that fateful day in 1935 when Tom Robinson was put on trial. There was never a doubt what the outcome would be, but seeing Jem's hope and absolute certainty, Dill's anger at the injustice of the cross-examination and Scout's struggles to understand what all these big events around her meant in the larger picture gave it a focal point to highlight how not innocent these so-called "simpler and easier" times actually were.

 

I was much more uncomfortable with the casual racism on display by our protags than I was by the outright bigotry of the Ewells and others in town. I had forgotten how prevalent it was in the book.

 

The world needs more Atticus Finches, and more respect for our mockingbirds, in whatever form they come.

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text 2017-01-10 11:07
Paeans to my Favorite Books -- IV: Harold Nicolson's Diaries and Letters
Diaries and Letters, Vol. 2: The War Years, 1939-1945 - Nigel Nicolson,Harold Nicolson

One of the more frivolous parts of my library is my collection of British political diaries and letters. When I term it "frivolous," I don't mean in terms of its subject matter (though I'm sure that some will regard it as such for that reason) but in its readability. I began collecting such works when I had aspirations towards academic writing (aspirations that I would still like to fulfill someday), as the personal writings of such figures always are a useful resource. Yet such works don't always make for pleasure reading, even when I have an interest in the subject.

 

One of the great exception to this is the diaries of Harold Nicolson. Nicolson was a former diplomat and author who in 1930 began keeping a diary of his literary and political activities. Aspiring to a political career, he ran for Parliament and was lucky enough to get in by the skin of his teeth in the general election of 1935. Unbeknownst to him or anyone else, this would give him a front-row seat to some of the momentous events in modern history, namely the events leading up to the Second World War and Britain's struggle for survival during it.

 

In the 1960s Nicolson's son Nigel edited the diaries for publication, leavening them with a selection of his correspondence from the period. I picked up a copy of the diaries years ago, yet it wasn't until relatively recently that I sat down to read them. What I found was a marvelous personal account of the 1930s and 1940s from a perceptive and well-connected observer of events. The second volume, which covers the war years, is by far the most interesting, as not only did Nicolson witness firsthand Winston Churchill's waging of the war from the dispatch box, but his recollection of events offers a contemporary window into the war as it was lived. Reactions to major events are interwoven with references to personal struggles and anecdotes of the political and literary figures with whom Nicolson spent his time. Yet the greatest value of the diaries is their readability; Nicolson had a sense for the perceptive anecdote, and his personal observations of the people he witnessed gives them a life that is lacking from most biographical accounts. Not only did I find reading them enormously enjoyable, but i find myself returning to them as a great account of how one person experienced some of the most trying times in human history. It is truly an amazing document of a man and his times.

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