Posted in Reviews

Review: Belonging: A German Reckons with History and Home by Nora Krug

Belonging: A German Reckons with History and Home by Nora Krug

Recommended: ABSOLUTELY
For perspectives not often allowed. Could probably do this with later high school students who can be more balanced and open-minded in discussions


Nora Krug was born decades after the fall of the Nazi regime, but the Second World War cast a long shadow throughout her childhood and youth in the city of Karlsruhe, Germany. For Nora, the simple fact of her German citizenship bound her to the Holocaust and its unspeakable atrocities and left her without a sense of cultural belonging. Yet Nora knew little about her own family’s involvement in the war: though all four grandparents lived through the war, they never spoke of it.

In her late thirties, after twelve years in the US, Krug realizes that living abroad has only intensified her need to ask the questions she didn’t dare to as a child and young adult. Returning to Germany, she visits archives, conducts research, and interviews family members, uncovering in the process the stories of her maternal grandfather, a driving teacher in Karlsruhe during the war, and her father’s brother Franz-Karl, who died as a teenage SS soldier in Italy. Her quest, spanning continents and generations, pieces together her family’s troubling story and reflects on what it means to be a German of her generation.


This was truly an eye opener of a book. It tracks the author’s research into her family to try to determine how involved with the Nazis they were, if at all, during the genocide and war. She deals with a lot of guilt as a German, and especially with her ignorance or how deep that guilt should run. If her grandfather was a party leader, an officer, or just one of the crowd – what would be worse? How does she make reparations for it? She struggles so much with feeling like her family and her heritage make her live her life as an apology. German pride to her seems not just distasteful, but hateful.

My perspective comes from my childhood and life in the United States, but I can say for sure here that we hear lots and lots about World War 2 growing up. Rightfully so, too, as the Haulocaust is… unfathomable, truly. So many lives lost, and so much hatred and pain and resounding consequences across the world. BUT — a lot of those lives were also German lives, lives of citizens just trying to survive. And because they are German, the sense is that they are not allowed to be pitied or empathized with. The idea is that every single German knew what was happening, what would happen — and those who didn’t try to stop it deserved every moment of pain that came their way.

That’s pretty narrow, though. This story present so much of that conflict, of wanting to feel empathy, pride, heritage, while also trying to balance the knowledge of the wrongs that were done. In her own family perhaps, but also by her hometown, by her home country.

Continue reading “Review: Belonging: A German Reckons with History and Home by Nora Krug”
Posted in Chatty

Frank Leslie’s Illustrated: You Wouldn’t Dare!

Boyfriend: hey, whatchya up to? Still blogging?

Me: Noo… See, I found this old post I wrote in college about a project where I read an old newspaper from the 1800s and I went to the link to the newspaper and it’s still up and I started reading it again and it’s really interesting so now I’ve just been reading this newspaper from 1864.


And so I bring y’all some of my favorite selections from the May 7, 1864 edition of the United States newspaper Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper. I’ve included clippings of the actual scanned newspapers, but ones that are tougher to read I’ll write out as well. 🙂

You wouldn’t dare!

Continue reading “Frank Leslie’s Illustrated: You Wouldn’t Dare!”
Posted in Fast-Forward Friday

Fast Forward Friday: On a Night of a Thousand Stars, 3/1/22

Hey y’all! In contrast to Throwback Thursday, I like to use Fridays to look forward to an upcoming release that I’m excited about! Today’s is On A Night of a Thousand Stars by Andrea Yaryura Clark!
Expected Release: March 1, 2022

Why wait on this one?

  • The setting of this one is an obvious draw for me. At least partially set in Buenos Aires, Argentina, I’m excited to travel to South America. I don’t often read books set there, so this is a nice chance to break out of that box a bit.
  • Similarly, since I don’t read about South America much, my historical knowledge of the continent is limited mostly to what I learned in high school Spanish classes. Which admittedly, is something at least, but I think there’s a lot more I can dive into with this historical novel.
  • As the main character, college-student Paloma, learns about her father’s history as well as Argentina’s history, I’ll be able to ride along with her. The character’s lens mirrors my own knowledge well, so I think it will gently carry me along. I say gently, but the topic is also pretty painful and grim, as Paloma will dive into the past dangers of the country and put herself in fresh new danger of her own.


New York, 1998. Santiago Larrea, a wealthy Argentine diplomat, is holding court alongside his wife, Lila, and their daughter, Paloma, a college student and budding jewelry designer, at their annual summer polo match and soiree. All seems perfect in the Larreas’ world—until an unexpected party guest from Santiago’s university days shakes his usually unflappable demeanor. The woman’s cryptic comments spark Paloma’s curiosity about her father’s past, of which she knows little.
When the family travels to Buenos Aires for Santiago’s UN ambassadorial appointment, Paloma is determined to learn more about his life in the years leading up to the military dictatorship of 1976. With the help of a local university student, Franco Bonetti, an activist member of H.I.J.O.S.—a group whose members are the children of the desaparecidos, or the “disappeared,” men and women who were forcibly disappeared by the state during Argentina’s “Dirty War”—Paloma unleashes a chain of events that not only leads her to question her family and her identity, but also puts her life in danger.

Posted in Reviews

ARC Review: I Must Betray You by Ruta Sepetys

I Must Betray You by Ruta Sepetys
Verdict: come on, y’all, it’s RUTA SEPETYS. You know it’s good.
Expected Release Date: February 1, 2022

Recommended: yes, it’s Ruta
For Ruta’s trademark history that’s ignored by American schools (mine at least…), for a story of true events told in one possible existing story, for revolution and oppression and determination and risk, for a bite-history of Romania’s not-so-distant past of becoming their own country again


Romania, 1989. Communist regimes are crumbling across Europe. Seventeen-year-old Cristian Florescu dreams of becoming a writer, but Romanians aren’t free to dream; they are bound by rules and force.

Amidst the tyrannical dictatorship of Nicolae Ceaușescu in a country governed by isolation and fear, Cristian is blackmailed by the secret police to become an informer. He’s left with only two choices: betray everyone and everything he loves—or use his position to creatively undermine the most notoriously evil dictator in Eastern Europe.

Cristian risks everything to unmask the truth behind the regime, give voice to fellow Romanians, and expose to the world what is happening in his country. He eagerly joins the revolution to fight for change when the time arrives. But what is the cost of freedom?


As are all of Ruta’s young adult historical novels, this is very thoroughly researched in many different ways, from conversations with people who lived during the time to artifacts from it to written works about it and so much more. It really shows in the details of the story how Ruta learned about Romanian’s lives. After finishing reading this, I really appreciated the notes at the back with details about references within the book. I was so curious about the woman who dubbed so many western films, and found a name to start my own research into her some more.

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Posted in Reviews

ARC Review: Beasts of a Little Land by Juhea Kim (12/7/21)

Beasts of a Little Land by Juhea Kim
Expected Release Date: December 7, 2021

Recommended: yesssss
For a literary story that’s still easy to read, for characters who draw you in whether you like them or not, for a dramatic and complex history of a tiny country that has seen unbelievable change very quickly


In 1917, deep in the snowy mountains of occupied Korea, an impoverished local hunter on the brink of starvation saves a young Japanese officer from an attacking tiger. In an instant, their fates are connected—and from this encounter unfolds a saga that spans half a century.

In the aftermath, a young girl named Jade is sold by her family to Miss Silver’s courtesan school, an act of desperation that will cement her place in the lowest social status. When she befriends an orphan boy named JungHo, who scrapes together a living begging on the streets of Seoul, they form a deep friendship. As they come of age, JungHo is swept up in the revolutionary fight for independence, and Jade becomes a sought-after performer with a new romantic prospect of noble birth. Soon Jade must decide whether she will risk everything for the one who would do the same for her.

From the perfumed chambers of a courtesan school in Pyongyang to the glamorous cafes of a modernizing Seoul and the boreal forests of Manchuria, where battles rage, Juhea Kim’s unforgettable characters forge their own destinies as they wager their nation’s. Immersive and elegant, Beasts of a Little Land unveils a world where friends become enemies, enemies become saviors, heroes are persecuted, and beasts take many shapes.


The triumph in this book is the characters, and it’s a masterful example of the joy one can have in seeing people grow and change in a story. There are several characters introduced, and yet it’s never hard to remember who did what or where they left off. They fall widely within the gray areas of good and evil, and yet every one is a fascinating read with whom you can typically empathize if even in the most unexpected ways.

They bring the history of Korea to life. If you’re not familiar with it already, this will provide coherent insights into the whole saga; if you’re already familiar, you will see the visions of lives inside while it all unfolded. For many many years, Korea was ruled by others, and the victory and independence they found was conversely combined with a division that persists to this day between North and South.

Continue reading “ARC Review: Beasts of a Little Land by Juhea Kim (12/7/21)”
Posted in Reviews

Review: To the Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey

To the Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey
Verdict: wow.

Recommended: yes indeed

For an exploration of Alaskan wilderness, for a story that feels real and immediate, for a journey with so many others that ties you into a larger part of history, for a fabulous example of how multimedia can create a powerful effect


The cover is as entrancing as the contents

Colonel Allen Forrester receives the commission of a lifetime when he is charged to navigate Alaska’s hitherto impassable Wolverine River, with only a small group of men. The Wolverine is the key to opening up Alaska and its huge reserves of gold to the outside world, but previous attempts have ended in tragedy.

For Forrester, the decision to accept this mission is even more difficult, as he is only recently married to Sophie, the wife he had perhaps never expected to find. Sophie is pregnant with their first child, and does not relish the prospect of a year in a military barracks while her husband embarks upon the journey of a lifetime. She has genuine cause to worry about her pregnancy, and it is with deep uncertainty about what their future holds that she and her husband part.


I bought a used copy of this book, because I like stories that have the stories of people on them as well as in them. The well-creased spine of my new-old copy made me think I had chosen well in this particular story, and I was not disappointed.

I was first surprised at how heavy the book is, physically. Despite it’s average length and being a paperback copy, it was significantly heavier than other books of similar style and size that I had. Now that I’ve finished the book, that feels strangely appropriate. I’m still in that world enough to feel that maybe the man who flies on black wings has something to do with it.

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Posted in Reviews

Review: Banned Book Club by Kim Hyun Sook

Banned Book Club by Kim Hyun Sook – 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

Recommended: YES
For a history not well known in the US, for a prime example of how graphic novels so well suit memoirs, for a funny and dramatic story

Do they ban books because they see danger in their authors, or because they are themselves in their villains?

hen Kim Hyun Sook started college in 1983 she was ready for her world to open up. After acing her exams and sort-of convincing her traditional mother that it was a good idea for a woman to go to college, she looked forward to soaking up the ideas of Western Literature far from the drudgery she was promised at her family’s restaurant. But literature class would prove to be just the start of a massive turning point, still focused on reading but with life-or-death stakes she never could have imagined.

This was during South Korea’s Fifth Republic, a military regime that entrenched its power through censorship, torture, and the murder of protestors. In this charged political climate, with Molotov cocktails flying and fellow students disappearing for hours and returning with bruises, Hyun Sook sought refuge in the comfort of books. When the handsome young editor of the school newspaper invited her to his reading group, she expected to pop into the cafeteria to talk about Moby Dick, Hamlet, and The Scarlet Letter. Instead she found herself hiding in a basement as the youngest member of an underground banned book club. And as Hyun Sook soon discovered, in a totalitarian regime, the delights of discovering great works of illicit literature are quickly overshadowed by fear and violence as the walls close in.

You can learn a lot about history by figuring out what people wanted to hide.

Graphic novels are so well suited to memoirs and nonfiction. This is a prime example. The art and coloring complements the story perfectly. With the selective colors it focuses exactly on what needs to be focused on. And again, things that are hard to say in words are sometimes better conveyed in images.

Continue reading “Review: Banned Book Club by Kim Hyun Sook”
Posted in Fast-Forward Friday

Fast Forward Friday: Eat The Buddha

In contrast to Throwback Thursday, I like to use Fridays to look forward to an upcoming release that I’m excited about! Today’s is from an author I was quite moved by before, which made my discovery of a similar book, Eat the Buddha (by Barbara Demick) quite exciting!
Expected release: July 28, 2020

Why wait on this one?

  • I’ve read a lot of books about Korea and North Korea because I absolutely love the country (countries) and their history, culture, and everything. Barbara Demerick’s North Korea Confidential was incredibly well-written and completely immersed me in the stories of the people who spoke. If this is anything like that, then it will be another wealth of knowledge and experience.
  • I love learning about other places, and particularly about historical and cultural events that I have never learned about before. There are a lot of gaps in my world knowledge to fill, and I hope that this book could do well to help another one.
  • At the same time, I want to break my own stereotypes. I work in travel, and the way we sell trips to this region is largely by romanticizing it’s quaint, traditional, spiritual lifestyle. While those aspects may exist in Tibet, I feel that there is so much more to know about life there. I want to dismantle my shaky understanding and build a stronger foundation of knowledge and empathy.

Just as she did with North Korea, award-winning journalist Barbara Demick explores one of the most hidden corners of the world. She tells the story of a Tibetan town perched eleven thousand feet above sea level that is one of the most difficult places in all of China for foreigners to visit. Ngaba was one of the first places where the Tibetans and the Chinese Communists encountered one another. In the 1930s, Mao Zedong’s Red Army fled into the Tibetan plateau to escape their adversaries in the Chinese Civil War. By the time the soldiers reached Ngaba, they were so hungry that they looted monasteries and ate religious statues made of flour and butter—to Tibetans, it was as if they were eating the Buddha. Their experiences would make Ngaba one of the engines of Tibetan resistance for decades to come, culminating in shocking acts of self-immolation.

Eat the Buddha spans decades of modern Tibetan and Chinese history, as told through the private lives of Demick’s subjects, among them a princess whose family is wiped out during the Cultural Revolution, a young Tibetan nomad who becomes radicalized in the storied monastery of Kirti, an upwardly mobile entrepreneur who falls in love with a Chinese woman, a poet and intellectual who risks everything to voice his resistance, and a Tibetan schoolgirl forced to choose at an early age between her family and the elusive lure of Chinese money. All of them face the same dilemma: Do they resist the Chinese, or do they join them? Do they adhere to Buddhist teachings of compassion and nonviolence, or do they fight?

Illuminating a culture that has long been romanticized by Westerners as deeply spiritual and peaceful, Demick reveals what it is really like to be a Tibetan in the twenty-first century, trying to preserve one’s culture, faith, and language against the depredations of a seemingly unstoppable, technologically all-seeing superpower. Her depiction is nuanced, unvarnished, and at times shocking.

Posted in Fast-Forward Friday

Fast Forward Friday: Tiananmen 1989

In contrast to Throwback Thursday, I’m using Fast Forward Fridays to look ahead to a release I’m excited about! Today’s is Tiananmen 1989: Our Shattered Hopes, told from a man who was helping to organize the Tiananmen protests on June 4th, 1989.
Expected Release: June 16, 2020

Why wait on this one?

  • This is about an event I know too little about: the Tiananmen square massacre, or June 4th Event. Considering how arguably recent this was, it’s pretty weird that I know so little about it, so I’m taking my education into my own hands.
  • This is told from the experiences of Lun Zhang, the Chinese sociology teacher who was helping to organize the protest. I hope to get an authentic insight that isn’t filtered through a Westernized lens; allow the culture to be shown genuinely the way it felt for the people living it and let those voices be heard.
  • I think I’ve made it clear by now that I love graphic novel memoirs. In general, I think the format is well-suited to difficult realities, particularly historical ones. I don’t know much about this incident, except that it was awful. I expect the image aspect of this to carry some of the storytelling burden.
  • It feels like a good time to learn about this event specifically, given the many protests happening now in my own country seeking political reform (particularly around police brutality). I’m not too familiar with the background of the event, but I believe that I’ll see connections between Tiananmen and modern-day America in the activist movements and what people are trying to change.

Follow the story of China’s infamous June Fourth Incident — otherwise known as the Tiananmen Square Massacre — from the first-hand account of a young sociology teacher who witnessed it all.

Over 30 years ago, on April 15th 1989, the occupation of Tiananmen Square began. As tens of thousands of students and concerned Chinese citizens took to the streets demanding political reforms, the fate of China’s communist system was unknown. When reports of soldiers marching into Beijing to suppress the protests reverberated across Western airwaves, the world didn’t know what to expect. Lun Zhang was just a young sociology teacher then, in charge of management and safety service for the protests. Now, in this powerful graphic novel, Zhang pairs with French journalist and Asia specialist Adrien Gombeaud, and artist Ameziane, to share his unvarnished memory of this crucial moment in world history for the first time. Providing comprehensive coverage of the 1989 protests that ended in bloodshed and drew global scrutiny, Zhang includes context for these explosive events, sympathetically depicting a world of discontented, idealistic, activist Chinese youth rarely portrayed in Western media. Many voices and viewpoints are on display, from Western journalists to Chinese administrators. Describing how the hope of a generation was shattered when authorities opened fire on protestors and bystanders, Tiananmen 1989 shows the way in which contemporary China shaped itself.

bonus! sample page from the book courtesy of Edelweiss
Posted in Reviews

The Art of Looking Up by Catherine McCormack

The Art of Looking Up by Catherine McCormack – ⭐⭐⭐⭐
First: points for the deeply clever name. Also, the deeply clever everything-else.

Recommended: yes!
For an interesting look at civilizations around the world past and present, for an interesting subset of art that can fuel your travel plans, for art and/or history buffs

From the floating women and lotus flowers of the Senso-ji Temple in Japan, to the religious iconography that adorns places of worship from Vienna to Istanbul, all the way to bold displays like the Chihuly glass flora suspended from the lobby of the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas: this book takes you on a tour of the extraordinary artworks that demand an alternative viewpoint. History of art expert Catherine McCormack guides you through the stories behind the artworks – their conception, execution, and the artists that visualized them. In many cases, these artworks also make bold but controlled political, religious or cultural statements, revealing much about the society and times in which they were created. Divided by these social themes into four sections – Religion, Culture, Power and Politics – and pictured from various viewpoints in glorious color photography, tour the astounding ceilings of many remarkable locations around the world.

The whole reason I wanted to read this is because I am constantly looking up (figuratively and literally) and I tend to notice interesting things and then think to myself, “I bet so many people never look up at see this interesting thing.” This is a whole book written by someone who likely does the same thing, but can blend that passing curiosity with detailed historical and artistic notes with a writing style that anyone can enjoy and get a laugh out of.

Continue reading “The Art of Looking Up by Catherine McCormack”