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Review: The Earthquake in Chile

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earthquake

Book Review: Please note, I read this novella in German, looking up translations as needed… it was not easy! My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Heinrich von Kleist, born in Frankfurt in 1777, led a troubled life, which ultimately resulted in his suicide in 1811. As a follower of several Kantian philosophies, Kleist found himself drawing deeper and deeper into depression as he aged. However, this personal crisis is what enabled Heinrich von Kleist to become such a profound creative writer. At the turn of the nineteenth century, Heinrich von Kleist published one of his masterpieces: The Earthquake in Chile. The Earthquake in Chile pushes readers to question what role God, or any higher being, will play in their lives. Kleist sets his readers up to wonder whether the earthquake was a natural, geographic event, or whether it was an act of God against all sinners. In the end, Kleist shows his readers that they are solely responsible for deciding the place of religion in their lives. The characters in this novella all contribute to this central idea and help give the readers an understanding of religion’s role in society.

NOTE: SPOILERS below…

Kleist’s novella The Earthquake in Chile effectively demonstrates the absurd qualities of man’s life, the effect of such a religion on man, and the importance of the individual man in society. Kleist used several factual earthquakes to base his work on; he took the ramifications of the disastrous earthquake that had destroyed Santiago on 13 May 1647, using it as a starting place for his short story. The short story uses the idea of an earthquake, as a sign from God, to change the destiny of the lovers Jeronimo and Josefa. The story of Jeronimo and Josefa is a tragic one because the lovers ultimately die despite being given a second chance. Originally, Jeronimo and Josefa had sinned by creating a baby when they were unmarried in the church’s eyes. As a result, they were both condemned to die by the Archbishop’s command. However, moments before they were about to be hanged (Josefa was sentenced to be hanged, and Jeronimo was trying to commit suicide in the jail cell), the earth shook, and buildings crumbled. The earthquake had saved the two lovers, and they were secretly reunited. However, after finding their way back to each other, they entered a church service to thank God for saving their lives. The Prior’s sermon directly cites the lovers as the reason that the earthquake occurred. Soon, the rest of the congregation discovered the lovers’ presence in the church. Master Pedrillo, one of the high churchmen, was outraged at their attendance in such a holy place of God’s. Jeronimo and Josefa were the ones who had caused the earthquake according to several members of the community. The lovers were then murdered in cold blood inside of the church’s walls, as was an innocent baby that belonged to a friend of theirs, Don Fernando.

One of the unanswered questions that Kleist leaves his readers with at the end of this work is whether or not there is a higher being, namely God, that watches over all of mankind. Many readers argue that there can be no God who watches over his people. If there is, how could he permit Jeronimo and Josefa to find their way back to one another only to me murdered, no less in a church, by a man from another city. God may not be in control of the lives of all the citizens of Chile, but if he isn’t, then who is? If he is, then why did he permit the earthquake to happen? Kleist lets the readers explore these questions merely by setting up a situation in which there is no definite answer. Readers must take whatever they believe, and use Kleist’s situational examples to decide how to understand the problems of the lovers.

Possibly, the higher being that sent the earthquake to the town was trying to punish the sinners, but one will never know. In the Prior’s sermon, he does tell the people of his church that the earthquake caused so much damage because of the two sinner’s misdeeds. After the Prior speaks his words, the two lovers are drawn to the center of the church, and they are then killed. Afterwards, a supposedly reverent church follower begins to chastise the two for their evil deeds, and asks for even more vengeance to be incurred. In the end, he attempts to slay their newborn baby, but unbeknownst to him, he slays the baby of a friend of theirs. What kind of God would permit this to happen? Some may see this as a punishment. Possibly Don Fernando received this blow to his family because they helped support the two sinners previously. Again, Kleist leaves this decision in the hands of the readers. It is up to them to decide whether or not there is a higher begin out there who is controlling society’s actions.

By slaying the newborn baby of the wrong man, Kleist could be showing his readers that God punishes all for their sins at different points in their life. He may not single out just the sinners, but he may feel that all deserve to suffer for the sins of another. Kleist’s personal problems helped contribute to the way in which he ended the story. He felt that no matter what one attempted to do, they were in this world on their own. He gave Jeronimo the right to commit suicide by hanging himself in the jail cell, and he gave Master Pedrillo the right to create chaos in the church, a place that is supposed to be a sanctuary for holiness. Kleist wants his readers to know that even if God is in control, it is not total control. He lends some of his power to the church, which yields it in a way that they feel necessary. Thus, Master Pedrillo, and the Prior take out their anger at the earthquake on the sinners Jeronimo and Josefa.

One last question that Heinrich von Kleist evokes from readers, which he also leaves unanswered, is whether or not the readers can feel sympathy for the sinners, and the townspeople. Another question that stems from such an idea is whether or not all of mankind is similar when it comes to punishment, or should they receive different punishments depending on their crimes. If all of the citizens had become a single family, then why were Josefa and Jeronimo killed? They had all helped each other out, and did their best to survive with what they had, but the two lovers/sinners were still killed.

Kleist brings this point up to have the readers wonder whether or not one man is any more special than another man is. Are we all equals in society? Do we each receive our own punishment for what we have done? Do the elite receive a less harsh punishment? Apparently, Kleist wishes to show readers that any one may die in an earthquake. The Abbess, the Archbishop, the nuns, etc. all die when the earthquake hits. None of them had committed any mortal sins most likely, yet Jeronimo and Josefa did. Who died? The religious people died as a result of the earthquake, but then again, it is these church folk that Kleist labels as corrupt. Is their any justice in this situation? Again, Kleist gives this decision to the reader to make. Can there really be any justice when the lovers are killed in the end after being given a second chance? Justice can been seen in several ways. The lovers received their just due for committing the sin of fornication: They were slain by Master Pedrillo. What about the innocent baby though? Did he deserve to die? No. He did not, but he died nonetheless.

In the case of sympathy, do readers feel sympathy for Jeronimo and Josefa. Of course they do. Kliest writes the story for them, and about them. They were tragically senteneced to die, or to jail for the rest of their mortal lives. However, many readers make an attempt to argue that Kleist wants no one man or woman to be more sympathetic than another. If this is so, why did Kleist focus on the situation that the two lovers were in? He could have told the tale from Master Pedrillo’s opinion, or the Abbess’ or the Archbishop’s. He did not though. Kleist was trying to show that in this deviant world, man has little choice as to their future. God, or any other higher being, gives his people a path. And they are supposed to follow this path to the best of their ability. However, if the earthquake was a sign from God, God is the one who changed their path. The sympathy must lie with the sinner/lovers because that makes most sense. They have been the ones who are physically harmed and in pain. They are the most real of all the characters. We readers, in our own ways, commit the same sins of Jeronimo and Josefa. They are reality, the others are not. And with reality is where our sympathy will always lie.

Kleist is highly imaginative and brilliant in his attempts to present a problem that has no real solution. And if there is a solution, it will certainly not unite the vast majority of readers. In this excellent story about two lovers who die not by God’s hands, but by those of an angry, religious man, Kleist is able to present a task to the readers like no other author: Is there justice? Are all men equal? Is there one God? How much control does he have over mankind? The answers to these and many more questions are, as one hates to learn, in the hands of the individual. Kleist provides no answers. He just presents a situation in which all should decide for themselves.

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I’ve visited all over the world. And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators.

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Review: Faust

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Faust: First Part
Faust: First Part by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read Johann Goethe‘s Faust in English and partially in German during a college course many years ago. It had a huge impact on me as a person and me as a writer. Due to it being somewhat “out there,” I held back a full 5 rating; however, I cannot stress how much this book makes you think. Beware, it’s a little heavy on the literary side, but it’s still worth a read, even if you just read the first portion. That said, 4 out of 5 stars…

Detailed Review  (about 1/3 of a paper I wrote about it a few years ago)
When I first picked up Goethe’s famous masterpiece Faust, I was hesitant about reading it. I read Goethe’s work while lying on my bed a few hours before I went to sleep. My room was quiet because everyone else was already asleep. I was able to read and consciously take in the contents of the work. I generally don’t like to be told what literature to read; however, after reading through the Prologue in Heaven, I was intrigued by the plot of Faust. As I began reading the first part, I was a bit disturbed by the fact that it was not in prose, but that it was in poetical verse. I have never been a great fan of poetry as a genre of literature. Thus I had mixed feelings when it came to reading Goethe’s famous literary work Faust from the beginning.

I wanted to learn something from the story, as I do from all literature. Authors don’t just write for ‘no’ reason; they wish to accomplish something. I then strove to understand the reasons for the literary work’s existence. When I skimmed Faust for the first time, I tried to read it for pleasure, but it was a little too hard. I needed to stop and understand what as going on in each scene. However, I soon realized that I was able to place myself inside the text in several different ways. It was at this point that Faust actually appealed to me; I saw myself in the novel as the character of Faust, fighting against the devilish Mephistopheles. I have always struggled with wanting everything from material things to the admiration of others. As a man of flesh and blood, I naturally want great intelligence, power and love. I have always wanted to be number one – a perfectionist – just like Faust.

So, while I was reading Faust, I was truly reading a biography of my own life, albeit on a much larger scale. I too have lost some faith in my religion, and I wonder if I will be saved; however, unlike Faust, at the time I read it, I had yet to want someone as much as he wanted Margaret (Gretchen). Maybe if I were under the devil’s spells like Faust was, I would have fallen just as hard for the woman. I do have the addictive personality that would lead me in the same direction as Faust. With all of this in mind, I read through the novel as though I were Faust. I took on his persona, argued with Mephistopheles, and wished that I had never been born in the end of the work. It is not easy to live a life completely free from the clutches of evil. When you are hopeless and in despair, you need help. Often, humans are not strong enough to recognize from whom they are getting help. Faust enabled me to foresee what would happen to me if I were subject to the devil’s influence.

Faust is a man worthy of my admiration. All throughout the book, both Faust and the actions he sought fascinated me. Like I said before, I felt as though I was reading or watching a movie of my own life. It was as though a dream had come true where I was able to align myself with the devil. The fears that I have in reality weren’t present enough in my dreams to stop myself from associating with some Mephistophelean devil. I was able to see what would happen if I took on the persona of evil incarnate turned into man. Faust enabled me to have an out of body experience where I could see what would happen to me if I became what I have always been curious about becoming: A devil-influenced man.

Throughout the work of Faust by Goethe, I was able to live experiences vicariously. Faust enabled me to try things that I only dreamed about trying. I really felt as though I were reading a novel about myself. I think that this is why the Faustian theme has persisted throughout time; men (and women) everywhere have struggled within themselves fighting between good and evil to achieve their goals and desires. I am no different.

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I’ve visited all over the world. And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators.

View all my reviews

365 Challenge: Day 35 – Genealogist

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Genealogist: One who is actively engaged in the study or investigation of ancestry and family histories

We’ve made it through another week and on this fifth Sunday, it’s time to wrap up the first month’s focus on my genealogical heritage. See below for a picture of my Ancestry DNA results.

genealogy

In the last four weeks, I selected the 4 countries where I believe my ancestors hailed from, as well as picked the top stereotypical traits people assumed about the people from those places. A quick summary:

  1. Irish: 20%
  2. English: 33%
  3. German: 33% (Includes the Scandinavian as some of relatives were on the border)
  4. Scottish: 13%
  5. Other: 1% (West Asian – I think everyone gets that!)

While the DNA results and the documentation have a 10% disconnect, it’s a very clear picture of who my people were and where I came from.

Why do I study my genealogy? Take a look at this post on my professional website. It will give you some insight into my historical nature and great big quest for the past.

I often wonder why I’m so persistent on it… do I doubt who I am? Do I need more details about where I came from? Is it trying to understand how it all began?

Ultimately, this interest goes back to more than just people… it’s how did the USA begin. What happened to the dinosaurs? What were the original continents like? How did Earth form? What other galaxies are there? It’s more than being curious. It’s more than dedication or obsession. When I’m researching a family member on my laptop, tons of windows open to compare and contrast records, and I stumble upon a find… my eyes light up, I can’t sit still and my fingers can’t keep up with my mind. The discovery is brilliant and I’m ecstatic.

I’m a linear person. I like to start at the beginning. I have to read the first book in a series. I prefer straight lines. I like to create project plans with a starting point and an ending point. I love watching time pass on a clock, counting down to the re-start of the 60 segment process.

I believe it’s the same orderly structure that drives me to research my roots. I like seeing things improve, gain strength, drive forward. Adding more knowledge with each successive chain or generation. I’m sociological, I suppose.

Seeing a family tree, learning how people survived, how they met… what types of jobs and families they had. What made them move? These are all details I enjoy searching for across the internet.

Can you imagine watching from the sidelines as your ancestors moved through their lives? What if we had a time machine and could go back not to change the past, but to watch it unfold on warp speed? Quick enough not to see the tedious things, but slow enough to watch how each generation changed. To see your 4 times grandparents meet on a boat and decide to marry within days. To know your 6 times great-grandmother suffered so many miscarriages due to the poor conditions of medicine and health, but then she finally gave birth to your 5 times great-grandfather. To know how wars impacted your family. To recognize who touched royalty at some point.

It’s not unlike my interest in mystery fiction. Investigation. Detection. Research. As I draft each of these posts, hitting number 35 today, several themes are starting to appear. I’ve always known about them on a smaller scale, but the picture is becoming more clear.

So now I throw it out there… where do I go next?

About Me & the “365 Daily Challenge”

I’m Jay. I am 40 and live in NYC. By profession, I work in technology. By passion, I work in writing. I’ve always been a reader. And now I’m a daily blogger. I decided to start my own version of the “365 Daily Challenge” where since March 13, 2017, I’ve posted a characteristic either I currently embody or one I’d like to embody in the future. 365 days of reflection to discover who I am and what I want out of life.

The goal: Knowledge. Acceptance. Understanding. Optimization. Happiness. Help. For myself. For others. And if all else fails, humor. When I’m finished in one year, I hope to have more answers about the future and what I will do with the remainder of my life. All aspects to be considered. It’s not just about a career, hobbies, residence, activities, efforts, et al. It’s meant to be a comprehensive study and reflection from an ordinary man. Not a doctor. Not a therapist. Not a friend. Not an encyclopedia full of prior research. Just pure thought, a blogged journal with true honesty.

Join the fun and read a new post each day, or check out my book reviews, TV/Film reviews or favorite vacation spots. And feel free to like, rate, comment or take the poll for each post.

365 Challenge: Day 28 – Scottish

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Scottish: containing roots from Scotland

There are lots of famous Scottish people I admire: Gerard Butler, Ewan McGregor (one of my favorite and most versatile actors), Annie Lennox, Sean Connery, Robert Burns… there are tons more, but I only picked the few I easily recalled and that I actually know things about or have seen things they are in. For example, Tony Blair is apparently Scottish, but I only know of him as a former PM for the UK. I couldn’t tell you very much about him, so I didn’t list him. But I guess I just did. Oh well.

As we finish the fourth week of the 365 Daily Challenge, it’s time to cover the last major ethnic and genealogical heritage within my DNA. Irish, German and English were the first few, and now we’re gonna chat about my Scottish roots. Based on my research through Ancestry.com, I’m around 12.5% Scottish, mostly stemming from my mother’s side of the family. There are 4 families from Scotland, out of 32 branches, focusing on the ones who immigrated from Scotland to the U.S. And those names are: (1) Robertson, (2) Wallace, (3) Hector, and (4) McGregor or McSwegan. I am not certain which is the correct last name because there are two marriage certificates when James Robertson married Margaret around the turn of the 19th into the 20th century. Both are New York marriages, both have all the same details for addresses and parental information, except on one certificate it shows her name as McGregor and on another, it shows her name as McSwegan. I can only assume it is the same woman, filled it out twice for some reason, and she was married once before my 2x great-grandfather, but I would likely need to go to Scotland to get more details. Some day!

So let’s talk about Scottish roots and stories. I love the accent. I love Outlander (who doesn’t)! I love Mary Queen of Scots. And I’ve started reading a new cozy mystery series with lots of potential. For those not familiar with my book reviews, check out the links to see another side of me. And when I Love Lucy went to Scotland in her dream, I loved it! There is so much rich culture and history in the country, beautiful landscapes and fantastic substance, I wish I had more Scottish blood in me.

But when I looked up the top ten traits of the Scottish, this time using a cross between Quora, Huffington Post and Answers.com, I had to wonder how much of these things are true: at least when it comes to me. Here we go, lasses and lads:

1 – Pale / Freckled / Ginger

  • We covered this one under Irish and English, so I’m not gonna repeat myself. I am. I was tempted to post a picture of an attractive red-head… but too many to chose from, so you get a bottle of soda!

  • Score: 1 out of 1.

2 – Violent

  • We covered this one under Irish, so again, I’ll skip it. I’m not.

  • Score: 1 out of 2.

3 – Sports-Lovers

  • We covered this one in the last few. I’m not a big sports guy. Who runs around on a field and chases balls purely to say I caught it in the end?

  • Score: 1 out of 3.

4 – Drinkers

  • We covered this one under German, Irish and English. The whole world seems to be. And while I drink a bunch, I wouldn’t fit this definition.

  • Score: 1 out of 4.

5 – Kilts & Bag-Pipes

  • I think kilts are gorgeous. I think they should be worn in the right setting. If you’ve got strong calf muscles, definitely flaunt them. If not, skip it. I’ve never worn one, but I’d like to and I’d ROCK it. But since I haven’t, I can’t claim it.
  • I find the sound hypnotic. In the funeral scene in my book, “Watching a Glass Shatter,” there’s a passage about bag pipe music that moves a character to tears. Writing it also moved me to tears. It’s a bit lyrical. You should read it here; it’s in the beginning of chapter 1, but read the whole thing. (Oh, how bad was that plug!). But I’ve never played one, nor been in the physical presence of one. So that’s a no for me sadly.

  • Score: 1 out of 5.

6 – Cheap

  • The word used was miserly, but I don’t agree. When I think of miserly, I think of Shylock from Shakespeare’s “Merchant of Venice.” No… perhaps a little cheap is what they mean. And there’s a small part of me that is a bit cheap. I do spend money, and sometimes way more than I should, but my initial reaction to something is usually “and how much will that cost me?” I should give myself a few points to account for that…

  • Score: 1.25 out of 6.

7 – Haggis-Lovers & Poor Diets

  • I have never eaten haggis. Most people aren’t even sure what it is. I looked it up to be certain, as I knew it was the stomach of some animal. It’s sheep. And while we’ve covered my obsession with cookies, you also know my diet is generally healthy. So epic fail here.

  • Score: 1.25 out of 7.

8 – Can’t understand them

  • The accent is alluring. Charming. Exotic. Sensual. Rich. Many of us get chills when we here it. I’d probably do anything under the right circumstances, if someone spoke to me with an authentic Scottish accent. And yes, it can be a little hard to understand the person. Although not quite the same, people sometimes have a hard time understanding me… claiming I mumble and speak too softly. I suppose they are correct… it’s not that I slur, but since I’m quiet and shy, I tend to not speak too loudly unless in a work situation. So… I’ll give myself a few percentage points for this, but not a lot.

  • Score: 1.5 out of 10.

9 – Loch Ness Monster

  • While I love the concept of the Loch Ness Monster, and it’s used so often in books and film, I’m pretty sure it doesn’t exist. Though it would be cool if it did! And I am not a monster, so I get nane. (none, in Scottish)

  • Score: 1.5 out of 10.

10 – Homophobic

  • Hmm… I don’t think I agree with this being a trait of the Scottish. But it showed up in 2 of the 3 places I looked for the “top 10” traits, so I had to include it. I’m just gonna go with… if you’re reading this post, you know me, or you live in the modern world, then no… this is ridiculous. I don’t think Scots are, and I am certainly NOT! Quell hypocrite!

  • Score: 1.5 out of 10.

How ironic… 1.5 out of 10 is 15%, which is roughly how much Scottish I have in me. I wonder… did I just work that math out purposely, or are these true and accurate tests for my DNA structure and personality characteristics. The world will never know…

365 Challenge: Day 14 – German

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German: containing roots from Germany

It’s the 7th day of this week’s challenges, which means it’s time to choose a physical characteristic; and in keeping with the theme of discussing my nativity, ethnicity and heritage, you should know that I’m about 33% German, although my Ancestry DNA test seems to think I’m more around 10%. I think it’s just lying to me. Science can’t always be right, can it?

Based on the last names and documents I’ve located going back to about 1800 on most branches of my family tree, close to 50% of people seem to have emigrated from Germany or a pre-Germany state that was part of the German empire. I think of a few of them were probably from Eastern Europe or Scandinavia, so I sort of merge those with the 10% I saw from Ancestry DNA. That said, something is still not adding up based on known facts, DNA and available documentation. Therefore, I’ve settled on about 33%. Someone is lying about their home country, or someone may have had an affair and passed the child off as her German husband’s kid… I’m not sure, but I love a good scandal!

And I have one in my German side. A great-grandfather’s last name was as German as they come: Mück, possible Müeck originally. But when he emigrated to the US in the 1870s, it was translated on some documents as Miick. He married and had 3 daughters, but later suspected his wife was actually moonlighting as a prostitute. He claimed the younger 2 girls weren’t his and divorced the first wife. He managed famous boxers in NYC around this time, and suddenly one day, he disappears and changes his last name to Reynolds. He then marries another woman, an Irish one this time, and has 6 more children. But he’s no longer involved in boxing and has become a big-time beer brewer. I wish I knew the real story behind all of this, but there’s some scandal doing on there. Unfortunately, there are strong physical traces between him and subsequent male members of that branch, including me, so I know the German roots are real on that side!

As a fun sidebar, just like last time with the 4 Irish stereotypical traits, I found 9 German ones from a new site called “FluentU.” Let’s see how I compare:

  1. Direct
    1. Yes, for the most part. I often say what’s on my mind, but I always use a filter.
    2. Score: 1 out of 1
  2. Love rules, organization and structure
    1. I invented rules and now I can’t live without them. I’m crazy when it comes these things.
    2. Score: 1 out of 1
  3. Punctual
    1. Yes, and punctual to me actually means a few minutes early.
    2. Score: 1 out of 1
  4. Love soccer (football)
    1. Not a sports guy.
    2. Score: 0 out of 1
  5. Well-insured
    1. This one was odd… so I am going to say probably not, I tend to only buy what I need.
    2. Score: 0 out of 1
  6. Distant
    1. Unfortunately, yes… most people would say I can be a little cold and distant about things. I know how to remove my emotions when I need to.
    2. Score: 1 out of 1
  7. Love beer
    1. Eh… if it said wine, I’d agree. But I only drink beer from time to time and not very excited about it.
    2. Score: 0 out of 1
  8. Always making bread
    1. I love bread. I eat it all the time. But I rarely make it. Let’s split it evenly.
    2. Score: .5 out of 1
  9. Love sausage
    1. Not so much. I’m more a red-meat guy. Skirt Steak, Filet Mignon, Tartare, Beef Wellington…
    2. Score: 0 out of 1

And keeping with the statistics game from last time, my score would be: 4.5 out of 9, which is 50%. See… all the records I’ve found are correct. Take that, Science and DNA!

Review: Death on the Family Tree

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Death on the Family Tree
Death on the Family Tree by Patricia Sprinkle

2 of 5 stars to Patricia Sprinkle‘s Death on the Family Tree, the first in the “Family Tree” mystery series. A warning before you read my review… it may contain a small amount of anger, and the book might be anti-gay. I’m still trying to decide…


Story

Katherine receives some old boxes of her pseudo-aunt’s after the woman dies. Katherine’s husband works out of town and their grown children have moved away, so she’s quite bored and decided to dive into the mystery of what’s in the boxes: an old piece of jewelry and a German diary. As she researches the family tree, she learns about a long-lost branch with a cousin who was murdered. By the end, several secrets surface while she gets to know another family in town known for being basically white supremacists. It all collides and she stumbles upon a wealth of history that changes all their futures.


Strengths

1. It’s simple drama. Lots of clues. Nothing adds up. No true murder mystery as there’s no real dead body until 2/3 of the way thru. The mystery is about the items found in the old boxes and who was the missing relative. I liked this approach.


Suggestions

1. Besides fixing what felt like some strong anti-gay themes…

2. It’s disjointed. Great mystery but poorly executed. Not even her own family. Too many weird characters that she should mistrust. Certain people disappear and we never know why there were included to begin with. I had such high hopes for a genealogical mystery.


Final Thoughts

I’m not generally one to jump to conclusions, but 3 characters either make disparaging remarks about gay men, or fail to even try to defend them when someone says something that could be taken in an off-color manner. It was written in 2006, not long enough for this to be something of the norm. It takes place in the South, so I’ll cut it some slack, but… the author could have been a little more considerate if she was not trying to promote a message about the “depravity of homosexuals.” I can tolerate characters being that way, but when there’s not a single sense of balance in the book, and it’s a cozy mystery meant to be fun and light-hearted, I think I arrive at the conclusion I won’t choose to read anymore by a careless author. Now, if I mistook anything, I apologize for being judgmental, but for anyone else who has read it, I’d love to know your opinion on whether this author failed to provide fair justice in her writing of opinions on gay people.

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Review: The Book Thief

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The Book Thief
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

5 stars to Markus Zusak‘s The Book Thief.

Liesel is the heroine — of so many things. Such a young girl, so intelligent in ways many of us aren’t even as adults. It’s one of the few books that actually provoked a tear or two from me.

At first, I was not interested in this book. My book club selected it. I only knew what the book jacket said (before I used Goodreads) and as soon as it said it took place in Germany in World War II, I had that nasty pit in my stomach that I would be suffering through reading about the tragedy of the Holocaust. While it had no direct connection to my family (we’re not Jewish and all of my Germans had long been in the US since the mid 19th century), I just can’t read or watch anything about this particular nastiness. I think it’s heartbreaking to think about what people suffered at the hands of…. nevermind. You get the point.

So here I am having to read this book, putting it off until the day before Book Club meets… I finally relinquish my attitude and dive in… then I never stopped. I read it that entire evening skipping dinner, ignoring my ringing phone and letting the poor dogs suffer with no attention. It was that amazing.

I want a copy of that book within a book. I want to hold on to it forever for Liesel. I want to know more about her and the future and her family and everything.

Read it. Enjoy it. Pretend it’s you. Pretend you’re there watching. Just live and breathe with it while you read it.

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