Posts Tagged ‘Berlin’

Garden of Beasts by Jeffery Deaver

October 31, 2014

Garden of BeastsMob button man Paul Schumann is sure he’s doomed when he’s caught by the feds, but he’s given a choice – the electric chair, or one last job. The catch – his target is Col. Reinhardt Ernst, a bigwig in Hitler’s organization, which means going undercover in Nazi Germany to achieve his goal. Paul has been wanting to get out of the mob anyway, and the feds promise he’ll be free of charges and given a cash bonus when he’s finished. Dreaming of a normal life with the girl of his dreams, he heads for Germany.

This is a fascinating time in history, when a culture of fear led neighbors to betray each other and paranoia reigned. It was a time when citizens were trapped between duty to country and their own consciences, and Deaver portrays them with sympathy and humanity. Watching Paul navigate this complicated time and place, you really feel like you’re in 1936 Germany with him. He’s undercover as a journalist covering the Berlin Olympics, but spies are everywhere. After uncovering one spy while still en route, he dispatches a second almost immediately after arrival and finds himself pursued by the police. This is cat and mouse at its best, with Paul playing both roles in his quest for Col. Ernst. Deaver is a master of the plot twist, and he doesn’t disappoint here. The beauty of his stories is, even knowing there will be a twist, it’s nearly impossible to guess. I challenge you to try!

Find and reserve this book in our catalog.

Meet popular fiction writer Jeffery Deaver at Cameron Village Regional Library on Sunday, November 9th at 2:30 pm. He will discuss his novels, characters, writing style, and more. Q & A to follow discussion. Registration requested.

Best New Books of 2013: Janet L’s Picks

December 9, 2013

I like books that feature characters, whether fictional or real-life, to whom I can relate.  This year I was drawn into the world of a motherless girl in the NC mountains, an alien sent to Earth from another planet, a fellow librarian, service personnel redeployed home, and the commander of the British sector of post WWII Berlin.

Thank You for Your Service by David Finkel
In The Good Soldiers, David Finkel wrote about the lives of the soldiers of the US-216 Infantry Battalion during their deployment in Iraq.  Thank You for Your Service is the eye opening account of what life is like for these same soldiers as they return home.   This is a searing, heartbreaking and sometimes infuriating book, written with compassion and a great eye for the telling detail.

Flora by Gail Godwin
Ten year old Helen Anstruther lives in a dilapidated old house at the top of a rutted driveway in Mountain City, North Carolina. It’s 1945 and her father needs someone to stay with his motherless daughter while he goes to Oak Ridge, Tennessee to contribute to a mysterious project related to World War II.  Twenty two year old cousin Flora is recruited.  The developing relationship between Helen and Flora is the heart of the story and has unexpected and devastating consequences.  Read my full-length post here.

The Humans by Matt Haig
The family of mathematician Andrew Martin is surprised but pleased by the sudden, favorable change in his behavior.  Little do they suspect it’s because he’s been replaced by an alien sent to prevent him from discovering a mathematical truth that could give humans unprecedented power. Instead the alien finds himself warming to and falling in love with the very beings he’s been sent to destroy.  This novel deftly combines math, poetry, and family dysfunction into an often hilarious and touching exploration of what it means to be human.

The Aftermath by Rhidian Brook
Colonel Lewis Morgan is in charge of the British operations in the divided city of Berlin, immediately following the end of World War II.  His wife resents the assignment; they lost a child in the bombing of England by German planes.  Morgan struggles to treat the defeated Germans in a manner he considers decent while fulfilling his mission of rebuilding the war torn city and identifying former Nazis.

The World’s Strongest Librarian by Josh Hanagarne
Josh Hanagarne has a well developed sense of humor, forged in the crucible of a loving family fond of practical jokes — and he needs it. Diagnosed with Tourette syndrome at a young age, he faces extra challenges in life. His condition affects his school life, his love life, and his stint as a missionary for his church.  He must persevere to find love, finish his education, and establish a career.  Along the way he develops coping mechanisms, including controlling his tics through physical exercise.  This is a very funny, beautifully written book with a lot to say about perseverance, family, marriage, faith and yes, weight training. Read my full-length post here.

Dark Star by Alan Furst

March 29, 2012

Europe, 1937. André Szara is a Jewish, Polish-born foreign correspondent for the Soviet newspaper Pravda (“Truth”), and considering his job it is not surprising that NKVD approaches him (NKVD being the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs, the public and secret police that was the root of the Committee for State Security, or KGB). Just like journalists, security organizations are in the business of data and information, and surely Szara is willing to share the facts he is digging up, is he not?

Over time, the assignments get more involved and eventually the journalist finds himself drawn into deep espionage as he is obtaining information on German steel wire production, which can easily be linked to the German military build-up.

The plot evolves but it does not necessarily unfold. Much like a soldier in a big maneuver Szara lacks an overview of the big scheme of things, and the structure of the tale reflects this: order is added to order and task is added to task as Szara travels from one city to another, not always understanding the reasons for the trips, and unaware of what the powers that be – in this case especially Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin – are involved in.

The perspective is strictly street view: European city streets in darkness and rain, men and women living in decrepit hotels, having their meals in cheap restaurants and cafés, Paris gloomily anticipating another great war, and Berlin oppressive and unsettling under the iron fist of a totalitarian regime.

Alan Furst’s novels are heavy on ambiance and less concerned with action, graphic violence, and fast-paced adventures. His books could perhaps be described as existential spy novels. They are filled with contemplative reflection and deal with people who are trying to do the right thing in a world going horribly wrong. They are characters in novels, but – as Furst points out – “people like them existed; people like them were courageous people with ordinary lives and, when the moment came, they acted with bravery and determination.”

Follow them in Dark Star.

In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson

July 21, 2011

For many years I lived in the town of Clayton, and on the corner of Robertson St. and US 70 there is a historical marker for William  E. Dodd  that I have stared at many a time waiting for the light to turn green. It says; “Ambassador to Germany, 1933-37; professor and writer of U.S. history. He was born 2 mi. N.E.”. I always thought it was neat that a local farm boy ended up as an Ambassador to Germany, and always wondered what his story was; well now I know.

In the year 1933, Mr. William F. Dodd, a Professor from Chicago, along with his family (wife, daughter and son) were sent to Berlin by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, to become the American Ambassador. Mr. Dodd was the first Ambassador to Germany from the U.S. and settled in Berlin during the year that was to become a turning point in history. Mr. Dodd, a fairly docile gentleman, was perfectly willing to accept the German politicians and their ways, which proved later on, that he was a bit overly naïve. Mrs. Dodd and Bill, Jr. were content with their lot in life and daughter, Martha, was extremely social and loved to party. Some of the handsome young men of the Third Reich were more than happy to show her the town. Martha was so impressed with these men that she had many affairs, one of them with the head of the Gestapo, Rudolf Diels.

But, as the days progress, it is evident that the new regime in Germany is starting a little “ethnic cleansing,” as they say now, and the Jewish race and many others are being persecuted. These attacks against citizens of Germany are certainly not kept quiet and Mr. Dodd is getting very nervous and sending letters back to the State Department telling the President what is going on. Sadly, the State Department is very unconcerned about the letters and thinks that Mr. Dodd is crying wolf. Mr. Dodd watches the new laws passed by German Chancellor, Adolf Hitler, and also the newspapers are censored as to what they can write. He even has a meeting with Hitler, where Hitler swore that he was not interested in starting a war. Unfortunately, Mr. Dodd believed Hitler and said so to the U.S. State Department.

Erik Larson has once again created a narrative non-fiction masterpiece. In the Garden of Beasts is another of his skilled well-documented historical chronicles that will join fiction lovers with history buffs, with neither realizing the merge. Mr. Larson, in my opinion, is a master at making this work.

Find and reserve this book in our catalog.


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