Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Prisoner B-3087

I'm not sure I have the words to give this book the justice it deserves.  This book was not only moving but inspiring, teaching us as living, breathing humans that no matter what conditions are pressed upon us, we should never give up.  The trials we face in our everyday lives are nothing in comparison to the devastating history of those who had to endure the Holocaust.  

Based on a true story, a Jewish boy of only ten years, Yanek Gruener and his family find themselves under the mercy of the Nazis who have taken over Poland.  They do all they can to stay together and free from the deathly grasp of Nazi hands.  Unfortunately, the arms of the enemy were too strong to avoid.  

One by one the family was taken to various camps.  Yanek was alone to fend for himself until he too was taken.  Plaszow Concentration Camp was his first destination before nine other camps.  No matter which camp he was taken to, they seemed no worse or better than the one before.  They all had three main things in common: work, starvation, death.  It was an amazing feat to have survived all that he faced.  He rode the cattle cars, walked in death marches, witnessed countless murders, tasted ashes in the air, was beaten, and starved.  Despite it all, his one goal was to survive.  If he could keep his head down, remain anonymous (aside from his tattoo B-3087), and work hard, he prayed he would make it out alive.  

It is hard to imagine a time when this was a reality for so many.  However gruesome and terrifying, it is a story that must be told if we are to avoid anything of this nature in the future.  Alan Gratz took the details of Jack Gruener's, or "Yanek Gruener" life and added such detail to create a story suitable for students.  While this book has many details that make the stomach churn, it is written in such a way to avoid scaring or scarring of its readers.  In fact, it is the desire to live Yanek holds on to that leaves the reader hopeful rather than in despair.   

This book was written fully suitable for students or adults who wish to learn the truths behind the gates of concentration camps.  I have been to Dachau--one of the concentration camps Yanek spent time as a prisoner--and though I left with a feeling of sadness, I still had not fully understood the atrocities that had taken place.  Perhaps it is because as a child we are only exposed to Diary of Anne Frank, which isn't a horrible book, but it leaves much to the imagination.  Her words end when she is captured.  Prisoner B-3087 will have the answers...It is the full scope of the unfathomable.  

I received this book courtesy of Netgalley and Scholastic Press.  In no way has my review of this book been influenced by either of these companies. 

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Moon Over Edisto

Beth Webb Hart's Moon Over Edisto is a book that grabs you by the heart and doesn't let go.  

Julia Bennett's childhood was spent in the South Carolina low country where she enjoyed the leisure of fishing, crabbing, and painting along the shores of Edisto Island.  Her family and childhood were picture perfect until they weren't.  

During their years in college, Julia and Marney were the best of friends.  Because Marney didn't have a family of her own, Julia and her family welcomed Marney with open arms.  Unfortunately, it was Mr. Charles Bennett's arms that Marney ran into.     

Twenty years later the Bennett family is still in ruins.  Mary Ellen, Julia's mother, never quite recovered from the shock of the divorce.  Meg, Julia's sister, holds such a grudge that she even keeps her own husband and children at distance, being sure to keep control as much as she can.  As for Julia, she left it all behind, vowing never to return to Edisto again.  She fled to New York, became an academic and artist, and recently got engaged to a rising art dealer.    

With the new life she was leading and the distractions, Julia thought she had everything under control.  She had fought with her emotions enough--therapy and pills to assist--but they couldn't stay hidden for long especially when Marney showed up on her doorstep pleading for help.  

Marney, a recent widow, has lung cancer and asks Julia to return to Edisto in order to care for her half-sisters and half-brother whom she has never met.  Coming face-to-face with the woman who stole her life right out from under her forced the hidden past to rise like a lump in her throat.    Julia couldn't let her mother do it, and asking Meg was fruitless, so she begrudgingly agrees to help for one week.  

In such a short week, Julia falls in love with more than just the offspring of her father and Marney, but also a doctor who as a teen had stolen a kiss from her.  Some questions still remain: Can Mary Ellen get over her divorce?  Can Meg let go of her grudges?  Which man will Julia choose?  Will Julia ever forgive Marney?   

Being a girl from the south who spent many summers at Edisto Island (not to forget to mention my husband is from Charleston), I really enjoyed this book.  Beth Webb Hart did such an amazing job describing the area that I completely lost myself, imagining all the times I've spent fishing and crabbing out there during the summer with friends.  Such great memories washed over me!  

Aside from my own experiences in the area in which the story is set, the book as a whole is really good.  Laughter and tears will be shed with this book.  

My only complaint is the author's use of the same name for two different characters.  That is one of the main rules in writing.  To avoid confusion, refrain from using the same name for different characters.  There was one sentence when I wasn't sure who the author was referring to until I moved on to the next few lines.  My suggestion is that if she wanted to keep the same name, she should have referred to the younger as "Preston Jr."

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”  


Sunday, March 3, 2013

Mixed Mushrooms and Chicken

This dish is so good but comes with a cost...butter and cream.  Aren't all the best dishes made with butter and cream?  Ooooh It is so worth it, though!


  • 3 Perdue Roasted Garlic and Wine Skinless Boneless Chicken Breasts  ***See Note
  • 1 small red onion, chopped
  • 1 stick of butter, divided
  • 1 1/2 lb of mixed mushrooms, sliced (shitake, button, field, oyster, Swiss brown)
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 10 fl oz cream
  • salt and pepper to season
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese (the kind in the shaker is fine)
  • pasta (I used plain, but I think spinach or tomato flavored would be good too)
  1. Put 3 Tbsp of the butter into a pan and cook the (pre-flavored) Roasted Garlic chicken breasts and onions until thoroughly cooked.  Be careful not to dump the juice from the chicken package into the pot...only the chicken breast otherwise the flavor will be overwhelming in this dish.
  2. Begin cooking the noodles as directed.  
  3. Add the remaining stick of butter and mushrooms.
  4. Cook on medium-high heat until mushrooms become tender.
  5. Add wine and boil at medium-high heat for 2 minutes.
  6. Stir in cream and boil at medium-high heat for 3 minutes.
  7. Sprinkle and stir in the parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper.
  8. Cook on medium-high heat for an additional 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  9. Serve over drained pasta.
  10. Enjoy!
***NOTE:  If you do not have access to these pre-flavored chicken breasts by Perdue, you will need to alter the recipe by adding 2 cloves of garlic, finely minced.