book review

They Went Left|Book Review

Top Ten Tuesday-53

Title: They Went Left52701968._SX318_SY475_

Author: Monica Hesse

Genre: Historical Fiction, YA

Rating:

Synopsis: Germany, 1945. The soldiers who liberated the Gross-Rosen concentration camp said the war was over, but nothing feels over to eighteen-year-old Zofia Lederman. Her body has barely begun to heal; her mind feels broken. And her life is completely shattered: Three years ago, she and her younger brother, Abek, were the only members of their family to be sent to the right, away from the gas chambers of Auschwitz-Birkenau. Everyone else–her parents, her grandmother, radiant Aunt Maja–they went left.

Zofia’s last words to her brother were a promise: Abek to Zofia, A to Z. When I find you again, we will fill our alphabet. Now her journey to fulfill that vow takes her through Poland and Germany, and into a displaced persons camp where everyone she meets is trying to piece together a future from a painful past: Miriam, desperately searching for the twin she was separated from after they survived medical experimentation. Breine, a former heiress, who now longs only for a simple wedding with her new fiancé. And Josef, who guards his past behind a wall of secrets, and is beautiful and strange and magnetic all at once.

But the deeper Zofia digs, the more impossible her search seems. How can she find one boy in a sea of the missing? In the rubble of a broken continent, Zofia must delve into a mystery whose answers could break her–or help her rebuild her world.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy from the publishers in turn for a book review but all thoughts are my own

Spoiler Free Book

This book was just so well done, I enjoyed it much more than Hesse’s other book The Girl in the Blue Coat. I liked how this book takes place after World War II as most books set in that time period end with the war and liberation. The book starts with the main character Zofia getting released from a hospital in which she was staying in after her camp got liberated. From the moment she was released Zofia has had one mission, finding her brother.

This book was just so well done, Hesse’s writing style is beautiful. With most WWII books ending at liberation/end of the war it was interesting to see the aspect of what it is like for people after. Some characters are still dealing with a lot and still trying to recover while others are looking forward and finding happiness after such a horrible time.

Zofia is a bit of an unreliable character because her mind isn’t complete. The trauma she went through and witnessed during the war has affected her memory which isn’t surprising, the mind will block out horrible events as a way to cope. Zofia has holes in her memory from at the start of the war and also during it. So every memory she remembers the question is asked of is this a true memory or one made up?  Zofia is a strong character because after everything she has been through she is so determined to find her brother and do whatever it is she needs to, including traveling all the way to Germany where she believes her brother might be.

I think a message that this book carries is hope. Zofia never giving up hope on finding her brother even when some tell her it might not be possible. And the side characters we meet in this book, planning a trip to go and live in Israel, full of hope of living in their Promise Land. That after all they witnessed and survived that there is hope, and I do not know if this is something Hesse intended but it is something I took away from the book.

Overall I loved this book and I definitely think its one people should read. It tells the story of someone after the Holocaust and there are not many books out there that do that.

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book review

The Fountains of Silence|Book Review

Top Ten Tuesday-40

Title: The Fountains of Silence43220998._SY475_.jpg

Author: Ruta Sepetys

Pages: 512

Rating:

Synopsis: Madrid, 1957. Under the fascist dictatorship of General Francisco Franco, Spain is hiding a dark secret. Meanwhile, tourists and foreign businessmen flood into Spain under the welcoming guise of sunshine and wine. Among them is eighteen-year-old Daniel Matheson, the son of a Texas oil tycoon, who arrives in Madrid with his parents hoping to connect with the country of his mother’s birth through the lens of his camera. Photography–and fate–introduce him to Ana, whose family’s interweaving obstacles reveal the lingering grasp of the Spanish Civil War–as well as chilling definitions of fortune and fear. Daniel’s photographs leave him with uncomfortable questions amidst shadows of danger. He is backed into a corner of decisions to protect those he loves. Lives and hearts collide, revealing an incredibly dark side to the sunny Spanish city.

Spoiler Free Review

Wow, another amazing book by Ruta Sepetys! Within the first 100 pages of this book I was entrapped. This is definitely my second favorite book of Sepetys(my first being Between Shades of Gray). The whole story is just a beautiful story. In all honesty I didn’t really know there was a Spanish Civil War or what happened during Franco’s reign and this book has definitely made me curious. I will definitely be looking up and reading more about this time period.

There are quite a lot of characters in this book and there are a few different point of views that we follow. We follow the perspectives of two families and within those families there are the two main characters, Daniel and Ana. The side characters are many but each and everyone adds to the story. The side characters are Rafa, Julia, Antonio, Fuga, Puri, Nick, and Ben.

Daniel is 18 who is from Texas and has come to Madrid on a family vacation. Daniel’s father is a rich oil tycoon and his mother was born in Spain. As much as Daniel’s father would like him to follow in his footsteps, Daniel wants to be a photojournalist and his mission so to say, is to take pictures that will grant him access to journalist school. I really liked Daniel as a character as I loved seeing how much photography was such a big role in his life and how that also plays into part of the plot. Daniel doesn’t quite understand in fully the life that Ana and her family lives and the complexity of living under the Franco regime. He sees a completely different Spain than he does but as he begins to get to know more about Ana and her life, he sees that the Spain he knows is very different from the actual Spain. One thing I liked about Daniel was his like originality, more specifically through his sense of style. Almost 90% of the book it feels that Daniel is wearing jeans, boots, belt buckle, and plaid shirt and I liked how he stood out against all the embassy diplomats and other officials, I just think it added another layer to him so to say.

Ana is the other main characters. I really loved Ana and I think she might be my favorite character. Ana’s parents went against the Franco regime and because of that they paid with their life, leaving Ana’s older sister Julia and her husband Antonio to take charge. Ana is a dreamer and she often thinks of a life outside of Spain and visiting somewhere out of Spain. Ana works in the hotel in which Daniel is staying at and that is how the two meet. Ana has secrets of her own and though it doesn’t really play much into the plot, it does appear periodically throughout the book. Ana is the one who opens Daniel’s eye to the real Spain and sort of shifts his views, showing him that the Spain he knows and sees is different from the real Spain, the one that she sees.

There are quite a couple of background characters that play a role in the story. At first I wasn’t a huge fan of them and I thought it made the book a bit confusing. But as I read I got to understand why these characters were present and why we got chapters in their point of view. Each of them have their own story/views of living under the Franco regime and their own way in dealing/coping with it and the hand they were given. One clear example of this is Rafa’s friend Fuga. Though he does not have many words his anger can be felt and he uses bullfighting as a way to channel his anger and fight for the kids who have no one to fight for them. Then there is Puri, who is Ana, Julia, and Rafa’s cousin. Puri works at the orphanage and believes in being the perfect image of a perfect Spanish girl. But with more access Puri gets, the more knowledge she learns, and questions start to form. Puri doesn’t get many chapters but I found her storyline interesting. Puri starts to question those she once looked up to and the teachings she’s been taught. At the end of the book it was interesting to see how she turned out and how she changed.

One of my favorite things about Sepetys books is her writing. I find her writing so beautiful and it just adds an extra level to her books. Her writing is just so beautiful and it flows just so well. In between chapters she included little news articles/clippings from the actual time period and I thought that was really cool to see.

One thing I wasn’t a complete fan of was the ending. I can’t say too much without spoilers but I’m just not an overall fan of those kinds of endings. That being said, I think it fits the story.

I was nervous to read this book because from appearance it seems like a dense book. But this book is not a dense book because of the way Sepetys tells the story. It was so easy to get swept up into this story with these characters. This is a book I would definitely recommend to any historical fiction fan or someone who wants to get into historical fiction.

 

book review

I Was Anastasia|Book Review

Top Ten Tuesday-28.png

Title: I Was Anastasia33998348._SY475_

Author: Ariel Lawhon

Pages: 333

Rating:★.5

Synopsis: Russia, July 17, 1918
Under direct orders from Vladimir Lenin, Bolshevik secret police force Anastasia Romanov, along with the entire imperial family, into a damp basement in Siberia where they face a merciless firing squad. None survive. At least that is what the executioners have always claimed.

Germany, February 17, 1920
A young woman bearing an uncanny resemblance to Anastasia Romanov is pulled shivering and senseless from a canal in Berlin. Refusing to explain her presence in the freezing water, she is taken to the hospital where an examination reveals that her body is riddled with countless, horrific scars. When she finally does speak, this frightened, mysterious woman claims to be the Russian Grand Duchess Anastasia.

Her detractors, convinced that the young woman is only after the immense Romanov fortune, insist on calling her by a different name: Anna Anderson.
As rumors begin to circulate through European society that the youngest Romanov daughter has survived the massacre, old enemies and new threats are awakened. With a brilliantly crafted dual narrative structure, Lawhon wades into the most psychologically complex and emotionally compelling territory yet: the nature of identity itself.
The question of who Anna Anderson is and what actually happened to Anastasia Romanov creates a saga that spans fifty years and touches three continents. This thrilling story is every bit as moving and momentous as it is harrowing and twisted.

Spoiler Free Review

Overview Thoughts

I saw the name Anastasia on the cover and I just knew I had to read it. I am a sucker for anything relating to the Romanov’s and more specifically Anastasia Romanov. What intrigued me even more about this book was that it mainly focused on the person who claimed to be the young Anastasia, Anna Anderson. I didn’t know a whole lot about her besides the basic facts of how she pretended to be the young grand duchess. Through this book I got to learn more about her and her story which was really interesting.

Characters

Anna. Anna Anderson is famous for the fact that she claimed to be the Grand Duchess Anastasia. Many people at the time believed her while there were just as many skeptics. There are many layers to who Anna is and with each new information learned, those layers are sort of pulled back and sometimes explained. Anna is someone who has been through a lot and through it all she has remained strong. As readers we get to see her at her highs and her lows and each emotion and feeling just adds layers to who Anna is as a person which makes the story about her all the more interesting and captivating.

Anastasia. Anastasia Romanov was the youngest daughter to Tsar Nicholas II and Tsarina Alexandra. She was born into a life full of privilege until one day it was stripped from her. Throughout the book Anastasia remains strong and full of spirit. No matter what happens to her or her family, her spirit never extinguishes. I liked how Lawhon portrayed Anastasia and from other things I’ve read and watched she portrayed her pretty accurately.

Plot

Though the book follows two different story outlines, the plot is mainly centered around Anna Anderson and her claims to being Anastasia Romanov. It was so interesting seeing Anna through her life as she claims to be the lost duchesses. The author does such a good job of portraying the facts that I was swaying to the side that Anderson was the lost grand duchess. When looking at the historical accuracy for Anastasia, it isn’t 100% as accurate as can be. The author explains this in her authors note and her methods for it. I have to say that after reading it, I think the way she did it and why she did it worked better for the story. Had she been as accurate as she could be, I don’t think the story would of flowed as well as it did.

Writing

I think Lawhon’s writing style fitted so well with this book. Some author’s writing style just don’t work as well for certain genres and that wasn’t the case for Lawhon. When Lawhon wrote through Anna’s perspective she wrote so convincingly. Going into this book I already knew how it would end. However throughput this book and reading and learning more about Anna, I was beginning to doubt myself. I had to keep reminding myself that what I knew was true and I had to do it more often then I thought I would. My favorite part of Lawhon’s writing was at the very beginning and the end. Lawhon writes as if the real Anna Anderson is talking to the readers, even more so than the actual book itself. The way she wrote and worded it was just so well done and I absolutely loved those little letters from Anna to the readers.

One thing I didn’t like about how Lawhon wrote was how she organized Anna’s point of view.  Anna’s point of view is organized by different time periods and the events correlated with them. It was kind of confusing to keep track of everything and categorize which event was before which in the grand scheme of things.

Final Thoughts

I really enjoyed this book. I think Lawhon did a really great job bringing these two stories together and intwining them. The beginning was a little slow for me to get into but as the story went on and more information was given, the story became more interesting. At the very end when everything was starting to come together I couldn’t put the book down.

 

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Historical Fiction Books|My Top 5 Recommendations

IMG_1182.jpegHistorical fiction is one of my favorite genres. I love being transported into the past and learning insight on how people lived. It is also fun to see how each author interprets and creates the past. So I thought I would give my top recommendations for anyone who wants to either get into historical fiction or someone who is just looking for their next historical fiction book.

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Salt-to-the-Sea-by-Ruta-SepetysThis book takes place during WWII. It takes place in East Prussia as the three main characters make their trek to freedom. The three main characters are Joana, Emilia, and Florian and through this book we alternate between their point of view. Sepety is truly amazing and has such a way with words. She paints such a captivating picture through this book and it is truly an amazing book.

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

41ls91Vp2bL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Yes, another book by this author but I can’t help it, she truly writes amazing historical fiction books. This book takes place during WWII but in Russia. The story takes place from the point of view of Lina. Through this book, we travel along with Lina, her mother, and her brother as they make their way to the Siberian work camps. I feel like there aren’t many books set in Russia during WWII which is why I loved this book and found it unique. This book is also ver emotional but not really in a crying way. Just reading about Lina and what she and her family went through and realizing that actually families went through this process just makes me emotional.

All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

894862.jpgThis book also takes place during WWII but from the German side. I had to read this for school and was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. This is considered one of the greatest wartime novels of all and rightfully so. While reading this book it was a little hard for me to get through but I’m glad I pushed through it because it was worth it.

The Luxe by Anna Godberson

1254951This is a series set in the late 1899 and it follows two sisters named Holland and Elizabeth and it follows them as they try to secure their place in high society once again. I just fell in love with the atmosphere that Godberson creates and the characters are enjoyable as well. This series is filled with ups and downs as these two sisters reclaim their spot in society.

The Bad Queen: Rules and Instructions for Marie-Antoinette by Carolyn Meyer

6505696.jpgWhen I first got back into read this was one of the first historical fiction books that I read and it just made me fall in love with the genre as well as the author. This made me fall in love with Marie Antoinette and she is now one of my favorite royals to read and learn about. I honestly read this quite a few years ago so I don’t really remember my thoughts on it but I do know that I highly enjoyed it.

 

 

So there you have it! Now there are so many more historical fiction books I can recommend but these are the ones that stuck out to me the most and that I always remember. Let me know if you’ve read any of these or what your favorite time period is!

 

book review

The Gilded Cage

Title: The Gilded Cage

Author: Lucinda Gray

Page: 245

Synopsis: After growing up on a farm in Virginia, Walthingham Hall in England seems like another world to sixteen-year-old Katherine Randolph. Her new life, filled with the splendor of upper-class England in the 1820s, is shattered when her brother mysteriously drowns. Katherine is expected to observe the mourning customs and get on with her life, but she can’t accept that her brother’s death was an accident.

A bitter poacher prowls the estate, and strange visitors threaten the occupants of the house. There’s a rumor, too, that a wild animal stalks the woods of Walthingham. Can Katherine retain her sanity long enough to find out the truth? Or will her brother’s killer claim her life, too?

Rating:

Non-Spoiler Review

This book is about Katherine who used to live in a farm in Virginia with her brother. One day they get informed that they are the heirs to this fortune and house in London. So with that, they up and move to Walthingham Hall in London where there, they will stay with their cousins, Henry and Grace. Grace and Henry are there to help them intricate into London society and to help them get used to the customs that come with. Sadly, one morning, Katherine’s brother is found dead. Now everyone believes that it was an accident, except for Katherine. With the odds stacked against her, Katherine sets out to find her brothers killer, before they get to her.

This was a book that I didn’t totally love, but didn’t totally hate. There were some aspects that I really liked about this book and there were some that I didn’t like so much. Overall this story just kind of fell flat for me. The whole story revolves around Katherine trying to find out what happened to her brother and who did it. It felt like the book promised one thing but another was delivered. I was able to guess who did it a while before it was revealed. The ending was rushed. For everything that happened in the time frame it did, it was too much. And because of that it became kind of just a blur and I’m not all to certain of what exactly happened, I just remember the basics and the premise of it.

I liked Katherine. I liked how persistent she was and how she never gave up in trying to find justice, even when the odds were stacked against her. Although she isn’t the most memorable character and I’ll probably forget about her in the future, it was fun to read through her perspective.

The background characters felt meh. They didn’t feel well-developed and felt like the author didn’t spend much time in creating them. I wasn’t a fan of them either as characters and I really could care less about them. Grace I absolutely hated, along with Henry. They didn’t even care about the Katherine’s brother’s murder and just swept it under the rug as fast as they could. And it was just so frustrating to read. John is a servant at the Hall and Jane is Katherine’s friends. I liked them but they just didn’t have any dimensions to them and they fell flat for me as characters.

What I did like about this book was how well the setting of London was set up. The author did such a good job of making it seem believable. Gray does a good job at getting the outfits right and the customs held in high society right. Gray also does a good job of making the actions appropriate to that time period. For instance, those in the higher class are supposed to pay no attention to servants and if you do, it is frown upon. Grace follows this while Katherine does not and often times Grace’s disapproving look will be acknowledged in the story. Another example would be that often times in the book Katherine is ushered off to bed and that was common during the 1800s. Katherine was also not given much attention since she is a 16-year-old girl and she is just kind of brushed off.

I also liked how romance didn’t take a forefront of the book. I could tell it was brewing during the course of the book but I liked how it didn’t overshadow the mystery. I feel like so many books these days have the romance at the front and center and it was nice to not have that while reading this book.

Overall I didn’t entirely love this book. Would I recommend it to someone, probably not. But it was still a nice and quick read and some parts of this were enjoyable to read about.