Review: The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History ~ Robert M. Edsel, Bret Witter (Contributor)

The Monuments MenAt the same time Adolf Hitler was attempting to take over the western world, his armies were methodically seeking and hoarding the finest art treasures in Europe. The Fuehrer had begun cataloguing the art he planned to collect as well as the art he would destroy: “degenerate” works he despised.
In a race against time, behind enemy lines, often unarmed, a special force of American and British museum directors, curators, art historians, and others, called the Monuments Men, risked their lives scouring Europe to prevent the destruction of thousands of years of culture.  Focusing on the eleven-month period between D-Day and V-E Day, this fascinating account follows six Monuments Men and their impossible mission to save the world’s great art from the Nazis.

3 Thumbs-UpUnusually for me and this genre of book, we had a love hate relationship.  I have previously read other works on this topic and found them to be engrossing and insisting I keep reading them until the end to discover the next piece in the puzzle; this particular one did not have that hook that pulled me all the way in, and is one of the reasons for the three thumbs review.

The story told within the pages of this book is that of a little known group who can be credited with our being able to view works by some of the greatest Artists in the world that, without their existence may have been lost for all time.  Their story is an interesting and important one as it follows them from the inception of the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives to the end of the war.  It documents in great detail the hardships they encountered, and the stonewalling or disinterest shown in their mission by others they met whilst often working on the edge of the battle lines; they actually lost two of their unit through combat related deaths.  Despite this, they regrouped and continued on with the mission at hand, hunting out information and pouring over myriads of records, which in the case of the Paris cultural treasures had been scrupulously kept by a Frenchwoman Rose Valland.  But again, despite this being a fascinating story it was also a frustrating story.

Despite being forewarned in the Author’s Note that some liberties were taken in the creation of the dialogue to help with the continuity of the book, it came across at times that he had taken too many liberties which tended to give this historical account the feel that it was being pulled, kicking and screaming, into the realms of historical fiction; not a place I wanted to be taken when reading this, as there a several great fiction works on this topic out there I have already read.  This created dialogue also took up far too much of the book, and I feel a greater impact would have been achieved if they had been pared down somewhat by a skilled editor, putting the focus firmly back on the purpose and discoveries of the MFAA.  The saving grace in this book, for me, were all the hidden nuggets of information that were buried deeply underneath the unnecessary ‘chatter’.  When taken from a purely historical point of view, this book is well researched and very educational and, combined with pictures taken from the actual time and events mentioned, it could have been something truly exceptional.

Anyone interested in this era in history may enjoy this book; if they can get past the obvious attempts in include a fictional aspect to events.

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Review: The House in Banes Meadow (Volume 2) – Jessie Cox

Banes MeadowIn Cherokee and Creek legend, long ago a Shaman sought immortality. After much Medicine and Ceremony, the Creator granted her wish. But as nothing, except Creator is without flaw, the Shaman could only be killed by a knife or an arrow piercing her open eye and she was cursed to drink human blood for eternity. Legend tells that she was killed by a cunning Creek warrior. But if that is true then how has she returned to plague the area around the town of Bristow, Oklahoma and the Creek Reservation? More importantly who can kill her? Deputy Ray Corngrower and John Littlefeather and a host of others join forces to combat this ancient evil.

3 Thumbs-UpThis is the second book in the Ray Corngrower series and, after reading this I am divided as to whether or not I want to go back and read the first.  This is not because it was a bad book, I actually enjoyed this immensely; it’s because there were a few things in it that I felt let it down and I don’t want to visit the debut book in case there is more of this in its pages.  This may not make sense now, but hopefully by the end of the review it will become clear.

The main protagonist in this book is a Native American and I was really looking forward to reading his back story and getting a deep insight into his motivation and personality; unfortunately this was not to be.  Like most of the characters in this novel, he was sorely under-developed and, what could have been a truly amazing character felt, at times, like he was fading in and out of the book to the point where he was barely there in some places.  I so wanted to be able to like this character and possibly empathize with him, but the lack of ‘fleshing out’ just made this an impossible task.  I truly feel that if more time had been invested into his back story, he would have become an amazing and utterly fascinating main character.  This is where part of me is tempted to read more of this series, as I am intrigued to find out whether the characters are developed more as it progresses; it is also the reason I don’t want to back track and read the first book as if this is the depth of character development in the second book, I worry if there will be any at all in the first.

The book has incredible potential to be so much more, as it is unique in the way it successfully brings together modern-day life and Native American culture.  It is also unique in the fact that it brings together subjects that would make this book appeal to a wide range of readers.  There is mystery, suspense that had me on the edge of my chair in some places, history and myth, so it touches all bases there.  Although the writing is a little sloppy in some places, it is not enough to be distracting but, this is one of those books that could really have used a good editor with a firm hand to clean it up a little.  I may read others further along in the series as they become available, as I’m interested to see if the writing style and characters develop as the Author hits their stride.

I would recommend this book to anyone readers that are interested in Native American culture or have a Native American as a main character, also those who enjoy mystery and suspense novels may find this an enjoyable little read.

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Demographics ~ Cecelia Weir

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Demographics does not define your destiny
Education does not express the extent of your wisdom.
Love does not always justify true feelings
And life does not allow you to live as your own.

The soul lives within the flesh
The imagination travels where it may.
The spirit gives a glimpse of suppressed indications
That only our God has the final say.

What you own does not define your intelligence
A house does not make it a home.
Your precepts does not describe your culture
And when you leave you’ll be described by a stone.

Cecelia Weir