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review 2018-04-19 03:21
Wingmen (Audiobook)
Wingmen - Ensan Case

First thing's first: this is NOT a romance, so anyone reading this as a romance is going to be very disappointed. This is a war story with some romantic elements, but those elements make up a very small percentage of page time. Really, it's more  a story of a squadron of pilots, focusing on three of the men, two of whom just happen to be gay and start a relationship with each other, but for the most part that relationship is between the lines. 

 

HOWEVER, all that said, I still really enjoyed the story. I could tell that a lot of research went into this. The lingo, the fight scenes, the war diary, the protocols - I can't attest to how accurate anything is but it sure sounds legit. (Though the military lingo was a little too much at times. I even had to go back and relisten to the first few chapters because I was losing the thread of the story. Once I got used to it though, the story flowed well.) I thought many times while watching that this would make a great war movie, perhaps directed by Ron Howard, and I would've liked for the story to keep going after

Fred gets hurt and discharged

(spoiler show)

since I wasn't invested in the relationship as much as I was the squadron as a whole. So the ending felt a little anti-climatic. The epilogue covered about twenty-five years after the war's end, highlighting the major events in Fred and Jack's lives together. But even though this isn't a romance,

I was still disappointed this wasn't an HEA for them, since it ends with Jack's death by heart attack.

(spoiler show)

 

Keeping in mind this was originally written in 1979, it's no surprise then that this is not the gay-ok revisionist history that you get in too many m/m romances today. I get why people want their protags to be happy, but I always feel like it disrespects the men (and women) who had to live through those times. I really did like that aspect of it, and just the fact that this was published when it was is an example of all those little steps over the decades that brought us to where we are today. 

 

The narrator does a good job, though I wished he'd made the voices a little more distinctive. My issues with the audiobook isn't because of him though. The editing was less than stellar. I lost track of how many times sentences were repeated, but it was easily over a dozen. This should've been caught before it was released and since I've had experience with this from Audible before, I doubt it's going to be fixed any time soon.

 

I do recommend this one if you're a WWII buff and enjoy action/adventure stories, but readers wanting Romance (™) should look elsewhere.

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review 2018-04-15 20:34
A Lucky Child (A Memoir of Surviving Auschwitz as a Young Boy)
A Lucky Child: A Memoir of Surviving Auschwitz as a Young Boy - Thomas Buergenthal,Elie Wiesel

For being about the horrors of Nazi occupation of Europe and the Holocaust, this wasn't a difficult  read. The author, Thomas Buergenthal, writes about his childhood in an approachable manner. It probably helps that he's writing it several decades after the fact - the pain and anger he would have felt during and immediately after the events have had time to heal. It's light on details of the day-to-day activities of those years, as he and his family were first on the run from Germans, then living in the Jewish ghetto in Poland, then the various concentration camps he was imprisoned in. As a result, it glosses over a lot of the horrors, focusing instead on events that stick out to him most - but those events are rather harrowing in themselves. He doesn't linger on them though. Some might find this lack of detail frustrating, others may be relieved. I've read other accounts of the Holocaust, most memorably Elie Wiesel's Night, so I was able to fill in what wasn't there. 

 

This felt like a very honest and intimate account of his days surviving WWII and the Holocaust. His writing here is flowing and stark, and he doesn't get bogged down with unnecessary repetition like last few autobiographies I've read. He was indeed a "lucky" child to survive Dr. Mengele and Auschwitz. Speaking of Night, they were both clearly in Auschwitz at the same time, as they both describe the Death March with the same sort of dreadful resignation. He was lucky many other times in order to survive, and that continues even after his liberation as he details how he was eventually reunited with his mother.

 

One cannot stress enough how important this time period was to the shaping of the world as it is today and why it's necessary that it continue to be taught in our schools. Buergenthal's work in international humanitarian law is inspirational and reminds us that, no matter how bleak things can still appear, there is hope for improvement and that things already have improved in many places. We can make the world a better place, but we can only do that by remembering the atrocities that came before and striving not to repeat them.

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review 2018-03-19 05:31
Absolutely tore through this.
Ester and Ruzya: How My Grandmothers Survived Hitler's War and Stalin's Peace - Masha Gessen

It's pretty rare for me to chew through non-fiction this fast, but I couldn't put this one down.

 

The storyline follows the lives of the author's grandmothers, both Jewish one from Moscow, one from Poland, from their birth through to the present day, with a focus on how they survived WWII and Stalinist Russia. The book illuminates their careers, their loves, their children. It shows better than anything else I've read what living in Russia int eh '40s and '50s felt like, and at its heart it's about choices.

 

At the very centre of the book, in terms of page count, are a set of potentially conflicting accounts of the actions of Gessen's great grandfather, who was an elder in a Nazi-run ghetto in Poland. The information is unclear, possibly contradictory. Was he a hero or a collaborator? What choices did he make? What choices did he have? How did he die? Each option is explored, conclusions are implied.

 

The ghetto story a microscale of the rest of the book, in which his daughter and the woman who will eventually be her best friend, the mother of the girl his grandson will marry, make those choices their whole lives. What is folding to the state, compromising your ethics, protecting your family, staying alive? Do you turn away a job for the secret police if that job will keep your baby from starving? If you do, what then? If you don't, what then?

 

I'm making this sound unrelentingly grim, and certainly bad things happen in it and the central characters suffer, but both of these women lived and even thrived in a hostile state, built careers and families, and have children and grandchildren who did the same. Maybe at it's heart it's also about growing potatoes on Mars: survival against all odds.

 

The writing itself is gorgeous and compelling. I hadn't run into Gessen before, aside from an essay that pointed me to this book, but I will be reading them again.

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review 2018-03-08 04:06
Poorly written, interesting content.
Beyond Band of Brothers:The War Memoirs of Major Dick Winters - Cole C. Kingseed,Dick Winters,Tom Weiner

I probably should have just read Band of Brothers, but this was the one that was on sale, so this was the one I read. Winters is a very poor writer on a technical level, often repeating himself, not very good at describing things, often failing to land a joke. It's basically ten hours of story time from that uncle that drones on. He had a helper writer, and one has to feel that person should have helped more.

 

However, the content was quite interesting, if you're into infantry tactics in WWII (which I am for fanfic purposes), and I liked the bits of relationship and personality that gleamed through. I haven't seen the mini series, and generally don't know a lot about the topic, so I enjoyed the story on that level.

 

I'd rec the book for people who are really interested in reading all the military histories, are into Easy Company stuff, or like me are doing fic research. Will admit to skipping the last section which was his Opinions on Leadership.

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review 2018-02-24 05:31
Huh. I feel like Chabon is backsliding.
Moonglow: A Novel - Michael Chabon

At least in regards to women. I felt like Yiddish Policemen's Union was a massive step up from Chevalier and Clay in that regard, but this was... a step sideways at best.

 

I don't know, maybe I just wasn't feeling this book. It's a pretty self-indulgent project in that it's a fictionalised family biography of his grandfather and himself wrapped together and told out of order, and it never quite gelled for me. I enjoyed a lot of the segments, especially the WWII stuff. I liked the relationship between Chabon and his mom. I liked the humour much of the time.

 

I just never quit developed a strong attachment to the characters, and the different timelines never really told a story in a way that justified the skipping chronology. We get bits of his grandfather in WWII, bits of his childhood, bits of a year in prison, bits of his courtship and tumultuous marriage, bits of a later courtship with another woman, bits of him dying. Almost all of it starring as him being gallant and heroic. The through line is possibly his relationship to rockets and a one-sided rivalry with Werner Von Braun, or it could be his relationship with his manic pixie dream wife. I couldn't really tell, and by the end I didn't care.

 

I'm probably being overly harsh with that description, but it seemed like the purpose of the women in this story was to be difficult, frustrating, slightly mad, and very sexy. We rarely if ever saw the story from their perspective, but we get a series of prostitutes, French girls with mysterious pasts, sexy widows in retirement homes. There's a lot about the grandmother's mental illness, especially in how it effects the men around her (and to some extent her daughter), and very little about what's actually going on in her head or what she wanted. A lot of the interactions involved implied sexual violence.

 

Towards the end, we get a narrative-shattering backstory revelation that more or less sinks without a ripple, and I always came back to the feeling that--rocket obsession aside--I'd much rather be reading the novel that Cabon decided not to write about his grandmother. Too bad he didn't go with that.

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