Audiobook Review: The Hiding Place


Title: The Hiding Place
Author: Corrie ten Boom, John Sherill, Elizabeth Sherill Dunne
Publisher: Bantam Books
Release Date: October 1974
Length: 242 pages
Series?: no
Genre: Nonfiction, Autobiography, Christian

At one time Corrie ten Boom would have laughed at the idea that there would ever be a story to tell. For the first fifty years of her life nothing at all out of the ordinary had ever happened to her. She was an old-maid watchmaker living contentedly with her spinster sister and their elderly father in the tiny Dutch house over their shop. Their uneventful days, as regulated as their own watches, revolved around their abiding love for one another. However, with the Nazi invasion and occupation of Holland, a story did ensue.

Corrie ten Boom and her family became leaders in the Dutch Underground, hiding Jewish people in their home in a specially built room and aiding their escape from the Nazis. For their help, all but Corrie found death in a concentration camp. The Hiding Place is their story.

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon


my review

The Narration

**Unabridged Audiobook

Narrated By: Bernadette Dunn
Release Date: July 2009
Length: 9 hrs and 22 mins

The narration was beautiful. It was easy to follow and Dunn has a pleasing voice with a slightly husky tone.

Corrie ten Boom lives in Holland with her elderly father and spinster sister. Corrie herself is approaching 50, and all three of the ten Booms are watchmakers, working in the family store. They are kind and compassionate people with their lives steeped in their strong faith, which are the foundations of their life.

When the war breaks out, they soon find their Jewish friends in desperate need. The ten Booms do all in their power to assist them. They have a secret room in their house constructed to conceal a hiding space. They get connected with others out in the countryside to funnel Jews through and away from their oppression and imminent arrest. Soon the ten Boom’s storefront becomes Grand Central Station of the Underground in Holland. Not only do the ten Booms board and care for their friends, and soon complete strangers, they also find them safe passage, send messages on their behalf, obtain new identity papers for them, and set them up with ration books for when they are on their own in the future. Through their hard work and efforts smuggling Jews out of the country and Nazi occupation, the ten Booms save over 800 Jewish men, women, and children.

They stick their necks out, make their home a safe haven, and risk everything. Eventually, they are betrayed, and the ten Booms wind up in prison for a few months. She is separated from her father and her sister Betsy. Later she is transferred to the Vught Concentration Camp, and finally, lands in Ravensbruck Concentration Camp. She also falls quite ill during her imprisonment.

This is a recounting of Corrie’s of her days during the war. It is written decades afterward with the assistance of John and Elizabeth Sherrill. Corrie’s entrenchment in faith in the Lord is what she testifies her strength, deliverance, and life upon. It is a moving and heartfelt story. Despite the highly religious tones, it wasn’t preachy. However, I did listen to Corrie’s accounts with a grain of salt. While this is her first-hand accounting, it is 20 some-odd years later and written with the aid of two individuals not present at the time. Further, the logic of the book is that all of Corrie’s courage and bravery and strength are only gifts from God, which are later taken back and she is left without any strength of character. In times of great fear is when we falter and find it an insurmountable mountain to scrounge up strength, courage, or bravery. I don’t believe Corrie ever had hers “gifted” by God, but simply gave in to the natural depths of humanity.

A read everyone should share in, Corrie’s story of faith, forgiveness, humility, and loyalty are hallmarks the world is needing today.


Born: April 15, 1892 in Amsterdam
Died: April 15, 1983

Corrie ten Boom and her family were Christians who were active in social work in their home town of Haarlem, the Netherlands. During the Nazi occupation, they chose to act out their faith through peaceful resistance to the Nazis by active participation in the Dutch underground. They were hiding, feeding and transporting Jews and underground members hunted by the Gestapo out of the country. It is estimated they were able to save the lives of 800 Jews, in addition to protecting underground workers.

On Feb. 28, 1944, they were betrayed and Corrie and several relatives were arrested. The four Jews and two underground workers in the house at the time of the arrest were not located by the Nazis and were extricated by the underground 47 hours after they fled to the tiny hiding place (located in Corrie’s room).

The ten Boom family members were separated and transferred to concentration camps. Corrie was allowed to stay with her precious sister, Betsy. Corrie’s father (Casper), her sister (Betsy) and one grandchild (Kik) perished. Corrie was released in December of 1944.

These acts of heroism and sacrifice became the foundation for Corrie ten Boom’s global writing and speaking career which began after she was released.

Ten Boom has received numerous awards for her writing and speaking. Notably, she was honored by the State of Israel for her work in aid of the Jewish people by being invited to plant a tree in the famous Avenue of the Righteous Gentiles, at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum, near Jerusalem. She was also knighted by the Queen of the Netherlands in recognition of her work during the war, and a museum in the Dutch city of Haarlem is dedicated to her and her family.

Find the author: GoodreadsWebsite 

Author Interview: John Owens

Confessions of a Bad Teacher: The Shocking Truth from the Front Lines of American Public Education by John Owens (Sourcebooks, 2013)

I’m not lazy. I’m not crazy. I’m great with kids and I love literature. 

970166_462246583856450_431601839_nJohn Owens is an editor, journalist, and photographer. Formerly, he was the Senior Vice President and Editorial Director at Hachette Filipacchi Media, where he oversaw brands including Road & TrackPopular Photography, and Travel Holiday. He has made more than 100 national media appearances, including Good Morning AmericaCBS This Morning, CNN, FOX News, and NPR’s All Things Considered.

For additional information about this book, see this earlier post.

To read my review of John’s insightful book, go here.

Read the article that started it all. 

John left his publishing job at Hachette to become a classroom teacher – in the Bronx. He had heart, and he wanted to help. He learned much about his students, especially the educational needs they were lacking.

But he was going to find that his help wasn’t really required at Latinate Institute (pseudonym), a small public school focused on setting an example for reform. The administration needed teachers simply to push and enforce their “Big Ideas,” as Owens calls it. And when things don’t go according to the Big Plan…the teachers are to blame, and the students are just statistical performance numbers.

Owens gives various documentation to support his claims, including this excerpt from a 2002 report about school reform:

The primary responsibility of schools undertaking comprehensive school reform is creating programs that result in improved student achievement…..grounded in scientifically based research. 

At the end of the day, Owens is espousing what most who have been truly involved in their children’s educational life know: “scientifically based research” is driving all kinds of data about state education systems, school districts, campuses, subgroups and individual students – and that data that schools get back every summer is used to reward and punish teachers. Ironically, this new scientifically based method of education isn’t working – it’s been implemented for years, and yet we as a country are still far behind other countries in terms of education.  Owens points out that studies of charter schools, given more leeway in determining curriculum and length of school days – as well as not being subjected to some of the same regulations as public schools – fare no better in terms of performance than public schools.

It all comes down to really one thing: politicians and moneybags think they know what’s what’s best, yet they really know nothing about education. At all. Teachers, and sometimes even administrators, take the fall. I agree with Owens when he says that our educational system needs “a massive system overhaul”….but that would be too much work, and not a quick fix. All of the reform publicizes to be student-oriented, “students first,” but looking at the entire picture says otherwise: administration first.

You can find John on Facebook. 

Why did you decide to leave your Manhattan publishing job to teach in a public school in the South Bronx? What prompted your need to make a difference?

I love writing, reporting, photographing, communicating—and that has opened a number of doors for me—taken me around the world. However, publishing recently changed dramatically, and a corporate merger took the fun and creativity out of my job. I thought it would be rewarding to help young people build their communication skills. And I heard so much about the desperate need for teachers, and that schools were interested in career changers who weren’t master teachers, but had enthusiasm for their subject matter, real world experience to share, and were eager to work hard to help out.

Why did you write “the article that started it all,” as it’s been dubbed, for What did you think you would accomplish with the article?

I left teaching shell-shocked that NYC and our nation allow such horrible schools to exist. I reeled from how we are willfully neglecting and shortchanging students. When I shared my experiences with friends and colleagues, few believed me. Three pages of rules for how to create a bulletin board?! Tyrannical principals who had no regard for students or teachers?! Since I couldn’t help kids in the classroom, I felt an obligation to bring to light what goes on behind closed school doors.

How did writing the article transform into your book that’s now coming out on August 6th?

Just as I was shocked at the horrible teaching and learning experiences in our schools, I was also amazed by the viral response I got to the article. Teachers from throughout the country told me that they experienced these same conditions and insanity. And so I felt an obligation to try to help the American public understand the truth about teaching. The problem is NOT bad teachers. The problem is billionaires who are trying to treat students like widgets, and impose ridiculous management techniques in schools—so they can make a profit. Too many people who pretend they are education experts put students LAST. I saw firsthand how unfairly teachers are treated, and felt I had to make the public aware that the bad teacher witch hunt is bogus and must stop.

If things had been different – if the school administration was supportive and helpful– would you have stayed?

Absolutely. My plan was to teach until I decided to retire. I felt that I could have fun helping students with a wide variety of creative projects that would help them build real world skills and promising futures.

Do you feel that you failed your students?

I feel that our elected officials are failing an entire generation of students—intentionally. I was surprised that I couldn’t survive in today’s public school – but I hope I am helping to make a difference with my book and advocacy.

 Did you finish your three-year master’s degree at ESC?

That was not possible. I completed the first year. The second and third years were “mentored” teaching. It was required that I have a job as a teacher, with help from my college mentors. If you weren’t teaching you couldn’t continue. Having seen what I did, I realized that it was hopeless for me to try to continue. Once you’ve received a U – Unsatisfactory rating—in NYC schools, you can’t teach there anymore. I went back to publishing because I have a family and a mortgage.

 Can you share a little of your current work with us?

I am now the editor in chief of a chain of 17 community newspapers – Anton Community Newspapers – on Long Island, NY. In this position, I write articles and columns to help improve communities including, of course, public education.

What does your future look like, in terms of educational advocacy?

I am committed to helping get the truth out about what is happening in our schools. I will write/speak/champion wherever and whenever I can. Education leaders from throughout the nation were very kind in endorsing my book. And I am working with activist groups locally, regionally and nationally.

I will be a first-year teacher in Central Texas. I have already experienced the grade fluffing and supporting “social and emotional” needs of students and talk, talk, talk about classroom management in my field blocks and student teaching, as well as an special education system that has no structure or definition, causing IEPs from elementary school to die there, with documented needs and other necessary information not following students beyond 5th grade. What recommendations do you have for me as I embark on this first year?

First, congratulations on your commitment to becoming a teacher. That is wonderful! You deserve a great deal of respect.

Then, hold on to your hat—expect to be challenged in ways you never dreamed of.  I’m sure you realize that teaching is very hard, and that the first few years are difficult for all teachers, regardless of where you teach. Find a teacher to mentor you—and remember, at all times, that teachers make a huge difference in the world. Teaching is rewarding like no other profession.

Over 85% of Texas school districts use an educational curriculum support system, CSCOPE. Most teachers solely rely on CSCOPE for it’s curriculum instead of using it as supplemental curriculum, especially in rural areas, which have expressed that the current dilemma of removing CSCOPE would cause financial strain. What is your take on pre-developed curriculum programs such as this? Do you think it is contributing to the “bad teacher” rap? Is it making it easier for the slackers to make it through teacher prep programs? 

First, I want to make it clear that I did not encounter bad teachers or slackers in my grad program and my teaching. I think that people who go into teaching understand that they are embarking on a very challenging career. I think that the bad teacher rap is totally unfair—it is a way for politicians and deep-pocket businesspeople to break the all-important teacher unions and dismantle the public education system.

Of course there are some bad teachers—just as there are bad doctors, lawyers, etc. But few other groups have been targeted like teachers have.

I am not an expert on educational policy and I’m not familiar with CSCOPE. I think that teachers need and deserve the ability to decide what they need to do in the classroom, with the understanding that there are skills and reasonable standards that must be met.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Thank you for reading! Please spread the word to end the “Bad Teacher Witch Hunt” and to help focus the public on the true obstacles to providing education for our students. Get involved in helping support teachers and students in public schools. Read Diane Ravitch’s blog and become a member of her organization, The Network for Public Education. Join forces with Parents Across America. And speak up so that we can save our precious American public education system before the so-called “reformers” cause irreparable harm.

Coming Soon: Confessions of a Bad Teacher

17016779Confessions of a Bad Teacher: The Shocking Truth from the Front Lines of American Public Education by John Owens (Sourcebooks, 2013)

John Owens is an editor, journalist, and photographer. Formerly, he was the Senior Vice President and Editorial Director at Hachette Filipacchi Media, where he oversaw brands including Road & TrackPopular Photography, and Travel Holiday. He has made more than 100 national media appearances, including Good Morning AmericaCBS This Morning, CNN, FOX News, and NPR’s All Things Considered.

New Book Claims the Problem with American Public Education Is Not “Bad Teachers”

Author Exposes the War on Education: School Reform Earns an F for Cheating Children, Demonizing Teachers, and Mistaking Data for Learning

“John Owens’s book is an eye-opener about what happens in real classrooms today. It shatters many of the myths about ‘school reform.’” Diane Ravitch, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education and bestselling author of The Death and Life of the Great American School System

Author John Owens left his lucrative publishing job in Manhattan to teach English at a public high school in New York City’s South Bronx, the nation’s poorest congressional district. He thought he could do some good. Faced with a flood of struggling students, Owens devised ingenious ways to engage every last one. But as his students began to thrive under his tutelage, Owens found himself increasingly mired in a broken educational system, driven by broken statistics, finances, and administrations undermining their own support system—the teachers.

“Everyone claimed that the kids were the top priority,” says Owens, “but the students were just cast members of a bizarre, heartbreaking drama that only looked like education.”

The situation has gotten to the point where the phrase “Bad Teacher” is almost interchangeable with “Teacher.” And Owens found himself labeled just that when the methods he saw inspiring his students didn’t meet the reform mandates. With firsthand accounts from teachers across the country and tips for improving public schools, Confessions of a Bad Teacher is an eye-opening call-to-action to embrace our best educators and create real reform for our children’s futures.

“Billionaires blame teachers for America’s educational problems and throw money at ‘fixing’ our public schools without understanding the dynamics of teaching,” says Owens. “Public education is a precious part of our democracy. Our families, our future, and our country are paying an unbelievable price as ‘reformers’ dismantle an education system that once was—and still should be—the envy of the world.”

As Owens points out in Confessions of a Bad Teacher, the real issues in American public education include:

  • Poverty, the leading cause of problems in schools, not the teachers trying to overcome issues beyond their control.
  • Test scores and other data used to evaluate student and teacher performance. Not only does a constant barrage of tests impede learning, but such a single-minded reliance also invites cheating.
  • Discipline, which is not taken seriously, and a system that forces teachers—and teachers alone—to handle even the most serious problems and most disruptive students.
  • Teacher evaluations, which vary widely from district to district, and focus on punishing educators rather than helping them improve.

Here is what one fellow NetGalley reviewer had to say about Confessions of a Bad Teacher:

This is my school, this is my experience, this is my career. And it’s all laid out far more succinctly and calmly that I could ever have done. This book is going into the school library if I have to pay for it with my own money. The teachers (and parents, if any of them pick it up) have got to see that what we are going through isn’t just us, it isn’t just an isolated situation. God bless John Owens, where ever he is.” –  Allison Dollar – School Librarian, Gallup, NM

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Book Review: The Snitch, Houdini and Me

cover art

The Snitch, Houdini and Me: Humorous Tales of Death-Defying Childhood Misadventure (2010) by Johnny Virgil (JV Enterprises, 2010)

Genre: memoir, humor

I received a free digital copy of this book from the author through BookBloggers in return for an honest review. If you would like to know more about Johnny Virgil, check out his blog, 15  Minute Lunch.

Amazon describes Virgil’s memoir…

“Go Out and Play and Don’t Come Home until it’s Dark.”

Growing up in the 70’s wasn’t easy. No internet or smartphones, video games or HDTV — nothing but time to kill and the endless potential of a summer day. Only parental threats and a newly-developed sense of right and wrong could steer Johnny Virgil and his two younger brothers away from trouble…or directly into it.
Join Johnny on this hilarious and irreverent romp through his childhood as he recounts the stories that made him what he is today – an unimportant cog in a vast, corporate financial services machine. But he wasn’t always this way, and this book is proof.
Booby traps, severed deer legs, runaway bulldozers, young love and fresh cow pies — all this and more, brought to life by Johnny’s sometimes twisted, sometimes touching but always hilarious tales of suburban childhood. If you have kids of your own, these are the stories you don’t want them to read.  If you like to laugh even when it’s wrong and long to return to a more innocent yet treacherous time, this book will leave you wishing Johnny’s childhood had never ended.

When I signed up to review this book, I knew it was right up my ally. I grew up with three younger brothers, two older male cousins, two additional male kids of close family friends and tons of boys at my annual summer camp, which was a big prankfest. Talk about shenanigans! I was prepared for this book…or so I thought. I was amused at the stories Virgil shared, and felt that I was an observer of those events. I highly recommend this book!

If you are a mother, especially of boys or a daughter who was a tomboy, read this book. If you’re a boy (over the age of 21 so as not to get any “bright” ideas), read this book.

If you spent your childhood days growing up pre-2000, read this book. It will bring memories flooding back…and maybe provide some pointers or ideas you never dreamed of fulfilling to scare the beejezus out of that big kid bully.

If you ever feared being “in deep shit,” read this book. Warning: the farther in you read, the more adult the language becomes. There is a PG version available for Kindle readers.

This book is hilarious throughout, with never-ending shenanigans and covert missions, usually involving one of Johnny’s two younger brothers, The Snitch or Houdini, their neighbor Markie or best friend The Slug. Virgil shares some stories that could have been disastrously dangerous for his little band of boys. He is very keen to point out he doesn’t know how he survived childhood without killing himself, or someone else, at every opportunity. And he’s right: after reading some of the boys’ grand schemes, you will be surprised to know they usually escaped supreme and disastrous trouble usually unscathed, with only a few cuts.

Johnny and his gang didn’t have the best of everything from back in the day. They didn’t get what they wanted. They essentially had hand-me-down bikes that came home as a box of bike parts. Yeah. The kid down the street had a mouth-watering go-kart…so Johnny and the boys created their own version, and they were happy with it. Imagination and invention were the game plan.

Throughout this collection of stories, readers can watch Johnny grow up from the leader of two little brothers through that awkward teenage stage, learning about girls and dating, cars, and eventually a few excursions with the bottle. Included in the beginning chapters are drawings Johnny did as a child in grade school, and one or two photos.

Virgil shares a time when being a kid was OK, but when you cross the line there are consequences from your parents. Neighborhood kids with tag-along siblings, generally left to their own devices during summertime. Friendly-fire neighborhood gangs battling over turf, sometimes just on principle. The fear of getting in trouble. It’s something that’s rarely seen today, back when a pinky swear meant something.

Book Review: Cinderella & The Carpetbagger

GraceRobbinsBookCoverCinderella & The Carpetbagger: My Life as the Wife of the “World’s Bestselling Author,” Harold Robbins by Grace Robbins (Bettie Youngs Book Publishers, 2013)

Genre: memoir

Amazon describes Robbins’ memoir…

Harold Robbins s steamy books were once more widely read than the Bible. His novels sold more than 750 million copies and created the sex-power-glamour genre of popular literature that would go on to influence authors from Jackie Collins and Jacqueline Susann to TV shows like Dallas and Dynasty. What readers don t know is that Robbins whom the media had dubbed the prince of sex and scandal actually researched the free-wheeling escapades depicted in his books himself, along with his drop-dead, gorgeous wife, Grace. Now, in this revealing tell-all, for the first time ever, Grace Robbins rips the covers off their REAL lives. The 1960s and 70s were decades like no others radical, experimental, libertine. Grace Robbins chronicles the rollicking good times, peppering her memoir with anecdotes of her encounters with luminaries from the world of entertainment and the arts not to mention most of Hollywood. The couple was at the center of a globetrotting jet set, with mansions in Beverly Hills, villas and yachts on the French Riviera and Acapulco. Their life rivaled and often surpassed that of the characters in his books. Champagne flowed, cocaine was abundant, and sex in the pre-AIDS era was embraced with abandon. Along the way, the couple agreed to a modern marriage, that Harold insisted upon. With charm, introspection, and humor, Grace lays open her fascinating, provocative roller-coaster ride of a life her own true Cinderella tale. 

I had no idea about the contents of this book when I downloaded it. It wasn’t until I began prepping this blog post that I discovered just what this book was about. Grace is indeed in a pivotal place to reveal a tell-all: Grace Robbins is the wife of the legendary Harold Robbins, whom the press dubbed as “The World’s Best-Selling Author.” Considered one of the first five Beverly Hills Housewives; Grace Robbins is now working on movie based on her book, Cinderella and the Carpetbagger. Even though I barely scraped the surface in getting an idea about this book, I was looking forward to reading it.

And was disappointed.

I read through half of chapter 16 and just could not continue reading this book, and here’s why: I don’t believe Grace Robbins. There are several incidents in this book that as a girlfriend/fiance/wife/mother she just ignores of her husband. For example, several people (including his mother and sister) tell Grace not to believe a word he says; he takes his wife, screenplay writer, and ex-mistress (and mother of his first child) to a happening bistro and tells the maitre de that he has his ex-mistress, wife and future mistress with him to have lunch. And she doesn’t say a word, even at home in private. As I said, there are several incidents in which Grace should have asked questions as a wife, but she didn’t and I don’t buy this as a reader. I feel there was A LOT glossed over or sugar coated.

In addition, Grace Robbins only had a “life” because of her husband. Before, she was married to a jealous, pathetic, voracious alcoholic with a dead-end job and no friends. She had no motivation, no drive, no dreams she wanted to fulfill. And after walking into Harold’s life, that doesn’t change! The only decisions she makes in their entire relationship are to get married on a whim when they go to Vegas with friends, and the suggestion they buy a yacht to “do something different.”

I enjoyed reading about the connections between people of old Hollywood and Beverly Hills, but I cringed every other page because it is obvious Grace Robbins is not the writer in the family. Grace, leave that to Harold. There were incorrect uses of commas (or lack of needed commas) EVERYWHERE!! It was deplorable. With has much money as she brags about having in this book, it seems she couldn’t spare it to hire an editor.