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November 1, 2012
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Tess & Karina's Book Picks

"Seraphina" was a book I had been looking forward to for months, one I might have done anything to get. I bought it the moment it came out. If "Seraphina" turned out to be even a hair below my expectations, the result would not be pretty. Thankfully, Rachel Hartman did not fail me. "Seraphina" follows a talented musician named Seraphina Dombegh, a girl with a secret. In a world where dragons take human shape and live with humans in an uneasy truce, Seraphina has a foot in both worlds and no one can know.The world-building in this book is fantastic. The dragons are unique and amazing; the city feels alive and the history is believable. However, what really struck me about this book was Phina herself. I loved her; I really did. She is smart, brave and talented, but also terribly lonely and distrustful (for good reason). She is believable and lovable, and I would have followed her to the ends of the earth.Wonderful side characters abound and no one is in the slightest way one-dimensional, friend or foe.There is an adorable and clean romance between Seraphina and Lucian Kiggs, captain of the guard. This is refreshing in that the romance is not the only point of the book, but merely a wonderful side story, since many young adult books fall into the sappy romance trap, forgoing all aspects of plot.Ultimately, "Seraphina" is a book that celebrates love: love for family, craft, friends and country - the kind of love that is pure and overpowering. "Seraphina" earns five stars from me. Combine clever world building, wit and humor, powerful characters and concepts and some good old-fashioned intrigue, and you have one awesome book on your hands. - Tessa Wetherbee

If you are faint of heart or would rather turn a blind eye to the ugly side of history, then this book might not be for you. But if you, like me, feel the best way to touch the past is through chronicles of real experiences, then "The Seamstress" is a perfect choice - perfect, not because of the topic, but because it is only through facing the deepest and darkest corners of man's nature that we can become enlightened.Having myself written a World War II memoir on behalf of my father, I was eager to read this one, despite the anticipated sadness. Countless Holocaust books have been written; but then again, countless Holocaust tragedies were experienced.Seren Tuvel Bernstein's memoir, recorded by Louise Loots Thorton and Marlene Bernstein Samuels, is striking, like Elie Wiesel's classic, "Night," in that the survivor speaks in a clear voice, untainted by anger, bitterness or enmity. Digging deep into her painful memories, Bernstein recounts the joys of her pre-war life, contrasting them with the downward spiral into war and the horrors of her time in Ravensbrck, one of Hitler's most notorious labor/death camps. Ravensbrck was unique in that it housed only women - tens of thousands of women, many of whom endured unspeakable experiments, terrifying and inhumane conditions.Bernstein chronicles the experience of surviving not one, but two camps, the second of which was the infamous Dachau. She survived that camp's liberation weighing only 44 pounds; it is hard to imagine life sustained at such a level, but human resiliency is astounding, and she was lucky enough to be physically and emotionally hardier than many.Some stories should be shared far and wide to remind us of the scope of human suffering, as well as the capacity for compassion and love. "The Seamstress" is such a book - a gift to us all - and it is with respect for those who suffered that I share it.- Karina Wetherbee


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The Summit Daily Updated Nov 1, 2012 07:17PM Published Nov 1, 2012 07:15PM Copyright 2012 The Summit Daily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.