In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin by Erik Larson
I really had to force myself to finish this. It was marginally interesting but not memorable at all. Larson follows William Dodd and his family as he becomes the American ambassador to Germany in 1933 when Hitler comes into power. He slowly and painfully reveals how the world underestimated Hitler's reach and volatile power. Dodd is a basic guy who doesn't like showy things. His daughter, Martha, sleeps around with everyone in Berlin, enjoying the social scene and flirting with obliviousness. The books takes so much time detailing Martha's sex/dating life (not in graphic detail at all so don't get excited) that she takes a primary role in the book. She eventually gets a "meeting" with Hitler as a possible hook-up but she's not into him. Later, Martha gets involved with a Russian spy, and she's probably the most interesting character overall which is an indicator of how boring this whole book is. Tell me more about Martha's correspondence with poet, Carl Sandburg, and her endless attempts to engage the literary crowd while she woos the Nazis. I finished this only because of an annoying promise I made to myself not to quit books.
The Institute by Stephen King
The Stranger Things vibe is all over this book initially but then it diverts and goes down its own majestic Stephen King path. I'm a HUGE King fan and while this did not disappoint, it's definitely not my favorite of his work. Luke Ellis is a super genius twelve-year-old who has big plans to attend college when his whole world is altered the night a group of people break into his house, murder his parents, and ferry him off to the Institute. He wakes up in a bedroom almost identical to his own at home and discovers other kids at the Institute who are being held and forced to endure experiments and shots to expand their telekinetic and telepathic powers. All of this experimental torture takes place in Front Half but eventually kids are moved to Back Half where the real horrors exist, and they're never seen again. The staff at the Institute are heartless and cruel. King builds two simultaneous story lines between the Institute and Tim Jamieson, a disgraced former cop, now working the nightknocker shift in Dupray, South Carolina. I've always loved King's supernatural books more than his true horror (weird, I know) but the only thing I didn't love about this one is that it seems watered down. It's not as nasty as some of his books get, and I quite frankly miss the carnage. This makes me seem like a complete psycho since we're talking about kids, torture experiments, and kidnapping but in comparison to his other greats like The Stand and Under the Dome, this one was just sort of thinned out more than what I prefer in my King reads.
The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Yet another book that shows why librarians are the coolest and toughest scrappers hitting the grind for literacy. This evocative historical fiction set in the 1930s paints a vivid picture of Appalachian Kentucky and the hill country's colorful, impoverished people. Cussy, also known as Bluet for her blue-tinged skin, is feared, loved, and hated by everyone. She is the last living female with her blue-skin condition, and is treated as a pariah by people who don't understand it's just a genetic condition caused by an enzyme deficiency. Cussy is tough but extremely kind and giving. She takes a job as a Pack-Horse Librarian after a brutal forced marriage that almost led to her death. She rides a cantankerous mule through the twisted and and dangerous Appalachian hills to reach her patrons, bringing them reading material and the loving, kindnesses of a true, gentlewoman. I used to volunteer housing service work in Appalachian Kentucky as a teen, and the imagery depicted in this book really brought me back in time. I loved reading about that swirling fog, switchback roads, and fiercely loyal neighbors. Cussy is determined to reach her patrons, and they return her dedication with kindness that turns out to be her saving grace in the end when she needs it most. This book is rife with sorrow but also spilling over the top with heart-warming goodness.
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Travel All the Pages is inspired by my two loves - travel and reading, a combo I can't resist. Enjoy these little pairings.