A Life Divided by Mike Strul

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Mike Strul’s “A Life Divided” is a suspenseful thriller set in the years of Nazi Germany – one of the darkest areas of European history. The story follows two protagonists: Max Samuels, Jewish entrepreneur from 2002, and Hans Myerhoffer, SS Officer in the 1940s. Both are puppets of destiny.

Max is everything a modern businessman should be. He’s successful, charismatic, shrewd, and comes equipped with a cynical sense of humour. Though he is far from perfect, (he leads a life riddled with adultery) Max is compassionate and resourceful. His life changes forever when he embarks on a spiritual journey to discover his true identity, a journey that leads him to people and places beyond his wildest dreams.

Hans Myerhoffer is the fire to Max’s ice. He is a kind young man moulded beyond recognition by Nazi ideals, and was brought up under the shadow of his father, a heroic recipient of the Iron Cross. Hans is forever “proud to be a German”, and with his glib tongue and quick wits, he always knows the right thing to say. Even if he’s speaking to Adolf Hitler himself. Like Max, Hans has a love life full of intrigue, and his storyline is defined by his inner turmoil. When Hans is sent to work in Auschwitz, he must choose between serving the country he loves – and acting like a human.

This book was very enjoyable; a whirlwind tale of love and treachery that stretched between two eras. With its compelling prose and twisting plot, there was never a dull moment. “A Life Divided” was also rife with history and factual references, organised into concise, informative snippets. These parcels of knowledge interspaced between bouts of description fit fluidly with the rest of the story. The historical nature of “A Life Divided” truly served to illuminate the horrors of Auschwitz and helped reveal the unspeakable atrocities committed in the Second World War. Though slightly hindered by a weak ending, this was still a stunningly powerful read.

The intricate nature of Hans’ personality really drove the book forward. His inner dilemma was compelling, and his twisted view of the world was fascinating to behold. This character was a Nazi Officer, yet he had a big heart and a bigger moral compass. The mechanics of this made “A Life Divided” a captivating book, one that forced the reader to read on without pause or rest bit.

I found that the most intriguing part of “A Life Divided” was the sinister undercurrent that lurked beneath the plotline: the inquiry into spirits and the theory of past lives. This really made me think about reincarnation and I don’t believe that any reader could escape the clutches of this story without pondering on the subject of spirits. This book serves to highlight the possible existence of spirits in our world, and as the story is focused on the subject of a life within a life, it provides readers with a lot of food for thought.

I would recommend this book for those who have a thirst for history. Be it the beginnings of a thirst or a full blown, dehydrated desire, this book will quench any need for knowledge. It is brimming with fact, but it is also brimming with three dimensional characters that constantly clamour for attention. This book sparks emotions, and as it is set against such a terrible backdrop, it summons a certain raw sadness within the reader. The Second World War was a horrific stain on our planet, and “A Life Divided” manages to capture this sentiment with effortless ease. It also forces the reader to delve into the recesses of their spiritual beliefs, and question who they are. As well as who they were.

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Eve and Adam by Michael Grant and Katherine Applegate

I read this book because I am a fan of Michael Grant. His ground breaking, shell shocking, mind shattering style of writing is an absolute joy to read and I loved his teen fiction series “The FAYZ”. When I plucked “Eve and Adam” off the shelves of Waterstones, I picked it up not because it had a cool title or a pretty cover, but because it had two words printed on the front: Michael Grant. When a book comes adorned with those two, special words, you know that it’s going to be one hell of a read. Hopefully, it’ll be a rollercoaster of thrills and outlandish adventure. Maybe it’ll be a haunting, blood spattered romp through a dystopian land. If you’re really lucky, it will be all of the above.

I had high hopes for Eve and Adam. Really, I did. It had all the makings of an excellent novel: a masterful author, an intriguing storyline and a perfectly marvellous opening sentence. I am thinking of an apple when the streetcar hits and my leg severs and my ribs crumble and my arm is no longer an arm but something unrecognizable, wet and red. Great, right? It compels you to read on, find out more, unravel the story until all the cliffhangers are solved and the book is no more.

So after that whopper of an opening, I settled back to enjoy the read. It had to get better from there, right? Wrong. As it turned out, this book was a massive disappointment. For every one thing that succeeded, two things failed horribly. Allow me to elaborate. The prose was amusing and fast paced – classic Michael Grant. But this enjoyable narrative was overshadowed by the fact that the characters were uninteresting and, frankly, dull as dishwater. This is probably because the whole book felt like it was rushed and hurried. There was nowhere near enough character background, nowhere near enough detail. And the ending! It was so fleeting I almost missed the climax completely. The subplots were left unresolved, the protagonists were unceremoniously dumped in a nonsensical conclusion and the happy ending seemed rather forced.

Overall, I can say with a reasonable amount of confidence that I enjoyed this book. Yes, it was a bit weird in some places and a bit iffy in others, but it was certainly readable. However, that does not make it a good book. The characters were two dimensional, the ending was sloppy and the main focus of the story, the religious philosophy/ conundrum of Eve and Adam, had been entirely forgotten.
Michael Grant, not your best work I’m afraid.
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The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold Review

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This book has a confident and engaging opening. I know becuase we read the first chapter in school. The master plan behind this was to show us Set One English students what a good opening was like, so that we could write our own in the upcoming creative writing assessment.
“Do you want to read it indivdually, or as a class?” My English teacher had asked us, once all the photocopied sheets were stapled and distributed down the rows. This wasn’t the first opening we had read in lessons, so we chose what we usually did.
“As a class.”
“Ok…”
It was only when we started reading it aloud did we realise that we had made a mistake. The opening chapter was a swear word riddled rape scene followed by murder. Scatter in a few racist comments, sprinkle in the first person perspective of the victim, and you have the most awkward English lesson in the history of awkward. Every time someone walked past the open classroom door, the person reading would falter, and when the Head of Year stuck his head in to grab a textbook, the story dribbled to a total stop and a new person had to take over the reading. It was horrendous.

But the opening itself was brilliant.

As was the rest of the book, to be honest. When I got home from school that night I bought the book on my kindle and gulped it down in three mega sittings. There is something about this book that clamours for attention, demands to be read, thought about and pondered. I’m still pondering it now.

The book is about 14 year old Susie Salmon, who was murdered in the opening chapter. She watches down from heaven as her family struggle to cope with her death. It sounds horrific, but in reality, this book was a delight to read. The prose was crisp and beautiful. I could imagine sentences flowing straight from the author’s pen and into my head. This book managed to wrap the most vile, shocking events in innocence, creating a bittersweet parcel that was like honey on the tounge. The Lovely Bones. It’s right there, in the title. The staggering ability to combine death with life, children with murder and ghosts with love. Alice Sebold captured the esscence of humanity and the flavours of grief in her novel and this is what makes The Lovely Bones so compelling, so unable to put down.

The thing about this book is that it’s addictive. I didn’t enjoy reading it; I had to read it. It’s like nothing I’ve ever read before. It’s about family values and childhood memories. Friendly neighbours and kindly detectives. But it also has a spooky undercurrent that drives the reader to read on, read and not look back.

In The Lovely Bones, the smallest sentence has huge impacts. A single remark could utterly change the course of the story and send characters careening into happiness or misery. The Lovely Bones is real, even when ghosts look down from heaven and the supernatural runs wild. It’s about humans and emotions. The good times. And the bad times. It’s the story of life, and what comes after it.

I’m happy to have read The Lovely Bones. It is a book that lingers, that trails a finger over my thoughts, like some mumbling perfume forever in the background. I think that this book, this book I started in my English lesson and devoured in a half term holiday, will always be a part of me. At any rate, it’s not a book you will forget in a hurry.