September 2013 archive

Review: Just One Year

From Goodreads: The heartrending conclusion—from Willem’s POV—to the romantic duet of novels that began with Allyson’s story in Just One Day

After spending an amazing day and night together in Paris, Just One Year is Willem’s story, picking up where Just One Day ended. His story of their year of quiet longing and near misses is a perfect counterpoint to Allyson’s own as Willem undergoes a transformative journey, questioning his path, finding love, and ultimately, redefining himself.

Jennie’s Thoughts: If you haven’t read Just One Day step away from your computer/phone/whatever and READ it. I’ll wait…

Now, Gayle Forman rocked my world with her previous novels (ADAM, oh ADAM!) but JOD and JOY ended my world. The way she writes about traveling and seeing the world and discovering yourself. Oh. My. Beautiful. Words.

And the way she writes Willem’s POV, much like Adam in her previous novels, is just absolutely blow-you-out-of-the-water. I’m serious.

I know this isn’t so much of a review as it is just pure flailing over the amazingness of Gayle Forman (and I’ve met her in person – she’s just as awesome in real life!) but seriously, everyone needs to read everything she writes. Okay? Okay.

PS. HUGE thanks (like, I need to throw her a parade) to Ginger at GReads! for letting me borrow her ARC of this. If you aren’t a regular GReads! subscriber…check her out. She’s awesome.

Review: Rose Under Fire

Goodreads summary: While flying an Allied fighter plane from Paris to England, American ATA pilot and amateur poet, Rose Justice, is captured by the Nazis and sent to Ravensbrück, the notorious women’s concentration camp. Trapped in horrific circumstances, Rose finds hope in the impossible through the loyalty, bravery and friendship of her fellow prisoners. But will that be enough to endure the fate that’s in store for her?

Elizabeth Wein, author of the critically-acclaimed and best-selling Code Name Verity, delivers another stunning WWII thriller. The unforgettable story of Rose Justice is forged from heart-wrenching courage, resolve, and the slim, bright chance of survival.

Jenny’s thoughts: The first thing I did when I finished this book was return to the first page and look. I took in the names of the 74 women who were stripped of their humanity – to the point that they were known to themselves and the world as Rabbits.

Then I took a deep breath.

I have been fascinated with World War II historic fiction since I read Number the Stars by Lois Lowry as part of an eighth grade reading assignment. I didn’t realize until I read Elizabeth Wein’s afterword for Rose Under Fire that my fascination wasn’t that of a shameful gawker. Rather, I’m hungry to be an audience to the survivors’ goal to Tell The World.

There are so many stories about what happened to the victims of Nazi terror, and each one is totally different. It breaks my heart to read stories about little girls, grown men, pilots, teachers – people from every walk of life, of varying faiths, nationalities, races. The people are different. The stories are different. The heartache is the same.

Rose Under Fire shares a handful of characters and numerous locations with Code Name Verity, but the stories are entirely different, and they’re both must-reads.

Rose Justice is an above-average American girl. She’s living the American dream in a strange way, serving as a female civilian pilot in World War II. She’s a woman and she’s flying, but she’s achieving a dream at a great cost.

Wein embraces the difficulty in telling the story of a concentration camp prisoner with fiction. Rose endures horrors, but the time we spend in her head as she bears witness – with both her present eyes and her account-hearing ears – to even worse horrors make this historic fiction possible to be founded in truths.

I loved the three parts – before, during, after – Wein gives us. So many novels that focus on complex, long, emotional stories rarely give extensive “after” stories. The big conflict ends, and you sometimes get a page or two in an epilogue to tie loose ends. Rose Under Fire continues past the big conflict, as every survivor story does. Seeing how the survivors survive after is part of what I love most about Rose Under Fire. It’s rare to see the big conflict share the spotlight with the after story, but how else can a book set out to Tell The World without showing how survivors Tell The World?

Other books I recommend about World War II:

Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Night by Elie Wiesel
The Devil’s Arithmetic by Jane Yolen

What are your favorite – fiction or nonfiction – accounts of World War II? Clearly, I am hungry for more.

Review: The Reservoir by John Milliken Thompson

Goodreads: On an early spring morning in Richmond, Virginia, in the year 1885, a young pregnant woman is found floating in the city reservoir. It appears that she has committed suicide, but there are curious clues at the scene that suggest foul play. The case attracts local attention, and an eccentric group of men collaborate to solve the crime. Detective Jack Wren lurks in the shadows, weaseling his way into the investigation and intimidating witnesses. Policeman Daniel Cincinnatus Richardson, on the brink of retirement, catches the case and relentlessly pursues it to its sorrowful conclusion. As the identity of the girl, Lillie, is revealed, her dark family history comes to light, and the investigation focuses on her tumultuous affair with Tommie Cluverius.
Tommie, an ambitious young lawyer, is the pride and joy of his family and the polar opposite of his brother Willie, a quiet, humble farmer. Though both men loved Lillie, it’s Tommie’s reckless affair that thrusts his family into the spotlight. With Lillie dead, Willie must decide how far to trust Tommie, and whether he ever understood him at all. Told through accumulating revelations, Tommie’s story finally ends in a riveting courtroom
climax.
Based on a true story, The Reservoir centers on a guilty and passionate love triangle composed of two very different brothers and one young, naive girl hiding an unspeakable secret. A novel of lust, betrayal, justice, and revenge, The Reservoir ultimately probes the question of whether we can really know the hearts and minds of others, even of those closest to us.

 

Andrea’s thoughts: This is actually a book that was mentioned on Jacki’s old blog. I pinned it to check into it later. That was a year ago. Because when you’re pregnant and having babies and working your arse off, you look into a book a year later, right? Gah. I can’t believe it’s been that long.

Anyway.

I only gave this book 2 stars on Goodreads. If you hover over the stars, you see that 2 = “it was ok”. And that’s what I felt like- it was just… okay. It’s set in post-Civil War Virginia, it’s loosely based on a true murder trial, and I will admit that I had no idea how it would end.

Probably my favorite part of the book was reading the trial “transcript”. The author did a good job describing the trial. I could practically hear the Virginia drawls of the lawyers arguing their cases and the mob mentality was almost palpable. Other than that, I couldn’t really get into it. I have about 4 other books waiting to be read, and I found myself trying to rush on through this one to get to something with more excitement.

Basically it was interesting enough to finish, but not good enough I’m going to cram it down your throats.

Do you ever rush through a book? Or do you give up on one that doesn’t “grab” you from the start?

Genre Binges?

Do you binge on a genre while reading? I used to say no, that I just read whatever, whenever, but I’ve been noticing that now I’m reading A LOT of the same genre for a few months and then move on. I don’t know why I do it though. Is it because I start following specific authors and genre-related twitter accounts that keep me up-to-date on a specific genre? Or is it just my attention span at the time? Or some other subconscious message?

Years ago I was deep into Dean Koontz and the thriller world. A few years ago I was obsessed with paranormal anything. Last year I read a TON of historical fiction novels. Then I got heavy into YA, but I’m beginning to phase out of this. Lately it’s been romance novels and non-fiction. (Which, is a slightly hysterical combination if you ask me!)

Am I weird? Or do you tend to read a specific genre or two for awhile before shifting gears?

I’m home from dotMOM!

I just got home from three days away from the boys. THREE DAYS. I’ll give you a minute to let it sink in. I ate 9 meals where I could just sit down and start eating. I slept all night. I just had my own stuff in my bag. If you are jealous, I totally get it. It was phenomenal.

(An aside: I would normally not feel the slightest bit of guilt about this, but I did this time. Because listen to this: Shaun took Jude to the doctor on Friday and found out that he had an upper respiratory infection, double ear infections, strep throat, and his penis was infected. I swear we are not negligent. So I did feel bad, but he healed up quickly and Shaun is a champ.)

(Another aside: BFF and I met at the babysitter’s before kindergarden. Then we went to school together for 13 years. Then we lived together in college. She is my lifelong BFF and we now live 3 hours apart and have all these frigging kids 😉 It was delightful to get to spend time with her. Guys, we talked non-stop. It was so fun. If you haven’t done this with your bestie lately, DO IT. Seriously.)

Anyway, I was gone because BFF and I are obsessed with an author named Jen Hatmaker– she is just our people. If she lived here, oh man would we get up to no good together. We have read her books, we read her blog, we get so tickled at her we do the wheezy laugh. So when we heard that she would be a mere 8 hour drive (!!) away in Chattanooga at dotMOM, we signed up in about one second.

So, the conference was awesome. Almost all of the speakers were authors so I was of course thrilled with that. I had read books by Jen Hatmaker and was excited to see her and by David Thomas and was most excited about his breakout session. We heard a speaker called Sophie Hudson and immediately deemed her one of our people too. I could have bought about 70 books. I only bought one though. BFF bought two. I bought LESS books than someone. This is, of course, why she is BFF.

On Friday evening, all of the authors and speakers were around to meet and chat with and get books signed and the book nerd in me was just in overdrive.  We got to chat with Jen Hatmaker and tell her that we want her to be our friend. We got no pictures because we were too spastic and huggy and “We love you. Be our friend!”y.

IMG_9849 Here we are with Sophie Hudson. We absolutely fell in love with her and both bought her book, which I’m reading right now, couldn’t wait. I’ll let you know how it is.

 

 

We went to a session to hear David Thomas to talk about his book Wild Things: The Art of Nurturing Boys which I read and LOVED. Loved is not even the word. I got no pictures because I may have been drooling over him and taking in his every single word. Being a boy mom is no joke and it’s great to hear someone talk about how their tiny boy brains work. His book is fantastic. Maybe I’ll write a full review on it later, but if I don’t get a chance, just read it anyway. This is my official endorsement.

And then. After everything, we went and talked to Jen Hatmaker again. Because, oh man. We love her. And this time, we were thinking clearly enough to get a picture:

IMG_0662

I mean, we even look like we are supposed to be a BFF trio, right? Right.

So all good things: BFF, author stalking, book purchases, hearing speakers, great food, beautiful city, so fun.

Have you been somewhere awesome with your BFF lately? Have you met any amazing authors?

Review: The Hereafter Trilogy by Tara Hudson

From Goodreads (for Hereafter): Drifting in the dark waters of a mysterious river, the only thing Amelia knows for sure is that she’s dead. With no recollection of her past life—or her actual death—she’s trapped alone in a nightmarish existence. All of this changes when she tries to rescue a boy, Joshua, from drowning in her river. As a ghost, she can do nothing but will him to live. Yet in an unforgettable moment of connection, she helps him survive.

Amelia and Joshua grow ever closer as they begin to uncover the strange circumstances of her death and the secrets of the dark river that held her captive for so long. But even while they struggle to keep their bond hidden from the living world, a frightening spirit named Eli is doing everything in his power to destroy their newfound happiness and drag Amelia back into the ghost world . . . forever.

Thrilling and evocative, with moments of pure pleasure, Hereafter is a sensation you won’t want to miss.

Jennie’s Thoughts: I used to love a good ghost story, and then I grew up and lived on my own and became a terrible scaredy-cat. I’m trying to reacquaint myself with scary stories to inoculate that fear, so I was a mixture of scared and excited to read this series. Plus, after meeting Tara Hudson at the 2013 RT Convention, I couldn’t imagine not enjoying a book written by such a nice and friendly person. I wasn’t let down!

Amelia was lonely, and I immediately wanted her to find some happiness. Poor girl! And then, along came Joshua! Woot! And then the ghost mystery really begins. It’s spooky, but not outright scary, but still gave me cold chills!

My most favorite thing about this series is the setting-mainly Oklahoma, and then New Orleans Arise. I’m a Midwest girl born, raised, and growing old here, so any novel with a Midwestern setting makes me all warm and fuzzy. My Great-Grandparent’s had a place in Oklahoma on a lake, and a few cousins live in Texas, so we’ve driven and visited OK a fair amount through my childhood. Tara Hudson writes Oklahoma so well, I felt like I was there. And, New Orleans…oh. my. creepiness. Perfect setting for a ghost story.

The trilogy wraps up nicely in the third book, but it is full of twists and turns, keeping you guessing until the last page.

I highly recommend this series! Have any of you read it? What did you think?
PS. All three books are available NOW, so NO waiting years for the next to be released!

Review: Code Name Verity

Goodreads summary: Oct. 11th, 1943-A British spy plane crashes in Nazi-occupied France. Its pilot and passenger are best friends. One of the girls has a chance at survival. The other has lost the game before it’s barely begun.

When “Verity” is arrested by the Gestapo, she’s sure she doesn’t stand a chance. As a secret agent captured in enemy territory, she’s living a spy’s worst nightmare. Her Nazi interrogators give her a simple choice: reveal her mission or face a grisly execution.

As she intricately weaves her confession, Verity uncovers her past, how she became friends with the pilot Maddie, and why she left Maddie in the wrecked fuselage of their plane. On each new scrap of paper, Verity battles for her life, confronting her views on courage, failure and her desperate hope to make it home. But will trading her secrets be enough to save her from the enemy?

A Michael L. Printz Award Honor book that was called “a fiendishly-plotted mind game of a novel” in The New York TimesCode Name Verity is a visceral read of danger, resolve, and survival that shows just how far true friends will go to save each other.

Jenny’s thoughts: WHAT A PAYOFF. Code Name Verity is a must-read, and for me, it’s a must-REread.

It took me much longer to read than most books of similar length. On one hand, Life got crazy and in the way of reading, but on the other, this book is heavy on details foreign to me (and I suspect anyone who isn’t a World War II aviation expert). A supporting role in reading slowly also goes to the unique third-party narration.

Basically, I felt I was slogging through this supposedly great novel, then BOOM. It all paid off, and I devoured the last third of the book like the pages were going to melt.

I’m fascinated by World War II fiction in a way that sometimes disturbs me. Historic fiction is my favorite genre, and this era is by far my most read.

Code Name Verity gives us two heroines who not only brave and strong by what they endure but because they are representatives of the British Royal Air Force. And thanks to Elizabeth Wein’s brilliant storytelling, we do truly appreciate our heroines’ efforts until all the pieces suddenly reveal themselves in new form.

Make sure you come back next week for my review of Rose Under Fire, Wein’s companion novel to Code Name Verity that was just published this week.

1 2 3 4