Archive for June, 2015

I admit it, I’m a tiny bit obsessed with world war two. I’m currently trudging my way through ‘The Coming of the Third Reich’ which is fascinating, though very very dense. It’s a hard read, but I’m hoping it’ll be a worthwhile one.

The Forgotten Soldier however is not a hard read. Not in the same way at least. It’s a very well written memoir about the experiences of a German foot-soldier during world war two. I’ve read a few memoirs from ww2, and none have illustrated the hardships of soldiers in the war quite as well as this one. He doesn’t deter from spilling everything down on the page. From his optimistic view as he entered the war, to all the visceral details of the emotional and physical realities of battle on him and his fellow soldiers.

He manages to get across all the pain and fear he felt. The agony of freezing Russian winters, the loneliness of being so far from home, the pain and noise of fighting. There are so many moments that will stay with me. Him huddling in a trench, terrified with enemy tanks around him. Him talking about the planes that would come to machine gun the civilians they were trying to get to safety. Russians sending their soldiers to march over fields set with bombs to clear the way for the tanks. When they captured some Russians and all the german soldiers decided to split their rations with them so they would have something to eat.

Or when he was forced to retreat from a horrible battle, and he and his fellow soldiers had no choice but to wait in the open for rescue while the planes flew over to fire at them. Then, when rescue finally came they forced to line up and give an inventory of their equipment, and if something was lost or damaged in battle they were reprimanded which made some of the exhausted men burst into tears.

He was treated so badly by so many, from doctors who ignored serious illness to send him back to fight, to  soldiers being killed for looting food, even though they were starving and hadn’t been given rations, and in many cases the food had been abandoned. We get a view from the inside as Germany’s resources diminish. He gets less equipment, and most shocking is the scene when they get new recruits. Half are elderly men, and the other half are children, some laughing with each other and swapping candy.

You see how his perspective changes over time. He starts off the eager young recruit fighting for the third Reich. Then after numerous hard battles and hearing some of the spreading rumors about what Hitler is doing to the Jews, he’s not fighting for the Reich anymore, nor his country. He’s fighting for his family. Then the war goes on, and all he’s fighting for is to keep him and his friends alive. Near the end they’re more than ready to stop fighting. All they’re concerned about is who they turn themselves in to.

I think it’s good for future generations to remind themselves of the impact of events like these so we don’t repeat them. This does a good job of showing a tiny proportion of that impact, and in doing so gives you another reminder of the scale of war and how many lives it ruins.

For more reviews on this book go to: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/102305.The_Forgotten_Soldier

Advertisements

This is more or less another of my productivity books. Technically it’s more about the strangeness of human behavior than productivity, but it has this giant section on what motivates us to work, that was interesting, both from a personal and an economic point of view.

So it turns out that high bonuses can actually demotivate you! We need enough money to meet our basic needs, but beyond that the most important thing affecting our motivation seems to be how much we value the work. If for example you’re working hard programming a new piece of software, and at the end of making it it’s going to get scrapped, then it doesn’t matter if you’re highly paid for it. You’re still going to be very demotivated.

The part about motivations was my favorite since I’m hugely interested in anything related to productivity, but the other sections had some cool stuff too. Like, why revenge is so important to us. Or why there’s such a big difference between the things we think will make us happy and what actually makes us happy.

There are some pretty cool tidbits to take from this book. Like how the things we think will make us really happy don’t make us as happy as we think. And the things that we think will make us really sad don’t make us as sad as we think.

I’d say if you’re a productivity junkie the motivations might be worth a glance over. It’s more of a reading for interest thing rather than anything you can use for tactics. Unless you’re a manager and have a lot of employees. Then the parts about what motivates workers could be really interesting for you and you might come away with a few things to use in your workplace.

And if you’re really interested in human behavior, motivation, and why sometimes people act plain irrational, then this book is definitely worth a look at.

For more reviews on this book go to:  https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7815744-the-upside-of-irrationality

This is a short story in the Forest of Hands and Teeth series. It takes place years before the first book with a young Tabitha who seems very much like Mary. For my review of the first book go to: https://samaustinwriter.wordpress.com/2014/03/26/book-review-we…-teeth-5-stars/

She often walks through the fences much like Mary dreamed of doing. She dreams of what might be out there, and then one day she meets him. He’s a boy from another village around her age. They arrange to meet and talk about their separate lives and dreams. They fall in love and decide to run away together.

Sounds familiar doesn’t it? It sounds very much like Mary in Forest of Hands and Teeth.

So, what turned this dreaming young girl into the woman who tries so hard to stop Mary following her dreams? Well, I can’t give it all away. You’ll have to read to find out.

Suffice to say it was very sad. These books hold as much sadness and despair as they do humans tenacity and will to survive. There’s plenty of will to survive in this book, just not the same kind of optimistic tenacity the novels hold. The conclusion made my heart twist. It’s the kind of ending where you really wish that didn’t happen, but it fits so well that you have to accept it. This is not a happy book as Tabitha did not have a happy past.

It does make an interesting point about people’s will to survive. I feel like all the characters in the novels went through their journeys to discover that surviving is important, but it’s so important because of the people you’ll spend time with in the future, and the things you’ll do, and the dreams you’ll have and chase.

Tabitha doesn’t come to the same conclusion. That’s why she seemed so bitter. She came to the conclusion that survival of the many means sacrificing everything, including dreams, people you could meet and things you could experience if you chased those dreams.

Sad, but it gives a lot of food for thought. If you liked the Forest of Hands and Teeth series, then I recommend reading this short story. It adds some interesting depth to the first novel.

For more reviews on this book go to: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/11011944-hare-moon

This is the third book in the series. For my review of the first book go to: https://samaustinwriter.wordpress.com/2014/03/26/book-review-we…-teeth-5-stars/

 

Unlike the huge gap between the first and second books, the third takes place almost immediately after the second. You can more or less understand the second book without reading the first, but if you don’t read the second before this one, you’re going to get confused.

Like the other books we get a new pov character. This one is Annah, Gabry’s sister. Now Mary from the first book was a dreamer. Gabry was a scared kid. Annah is scarred inside and out. She doesn’t believe in dreams. She doesn’t have the luxury of showing fear or any kind of weakness. She lives in a tough world, and to survive she has to be just as tough.

I do like this variety of pov characters. It’s interesting to be able to see this world through different eyes.

The plot was interesting. There’s plenty of tension going on. The writing is pretty, and the world is both beautiful and terrifying. And best of all: no love triangles! Well, there’s a bit of self-pitying and whining from Annah and Catcher, our newest pair. That got a little annoying. Other than that this book was awesome. I think it might be my favourite of the series.

The other books are pretty dark, but this one hit new levels of gloom and despair. That was Ok though, because our characters didn’t give up. They kept trying.

That’s the message I’ve taken away from these books. The world they’re set in is so absent of hope, but they don’t give up. They find their own hope. It could be a dream to see the ocean one day, or helping a loved one, or finding your friends again. Whatever drives them, once they find it, that’s enough to keep them going.

There’s a beautiful section near the end of this book. Annah is tired and injured. There are zombies shambling behind her, and if she stops they’ll get her. She’s gone through so much already, and even if she keeps ahead of them she’s no idea if she’ll be able to get out of the situation she’s in.

Her courage is not shown through an epic fight, nor a moment of brilliant inspiration. It’s putting one foot in front of the other for hours. There’s only a small chance she’ll make it, but she keeps going because of that innate desire to live. That single-minded determination to survive.

I think that section sums up what I loved most about all the books. Our greatest accomplishments often aren’t sudden moments of triumph or epic showdowns. They’re the drive to keep going, no matter how tired you are, and how much you want to stop. No matter how dark your world gets there is always something to hold onto, and some reason to take that next step.

Love triangles aside, I really enjoyed these books. And if you liked the last two books, you should check this one out.

For more reviews on this book go to: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/8535273-the-dark-and-hollow-places