Before I Blogged I Read: Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum

There’s a lot of books I read before I started this blog in June of 2010 and I figured it might be fun to spotlight those! They won’t be an actual review because OMG YOU GUYS THAT WAS SO LONG AGO but I’ll just note a few things about it, if I enjoyed it and what my Goodreads rating was. So thus “Before I Blogged I Read…” was born. Because you know…I’m so original with my names for things. Check out PAST “Before I Blogged I Read” posts.

 

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Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum

(Amazon | Goodreads )
Rating: I gave it 5 stars on Goodreads
Date I Read it: August 2009

1. It’s historical fiction set during the Holocaust that tells the story of a German mother who does WHATEVER she has to do to protect her daughter and herself during the war and the daughter’s search to find out, in the present time, about her mom’s past when she finds a picture of her mother, herself as a baby and a Nazi soldier. Love the point of view of both mother and daughter and the fact that they ARE Germans because so often we never see that side.

2. One of the most powerful and best historical fiction books I’ve read. It shocked me, made my heart just shatter into a million pieces and ultimately made me cry. Definitely an emotionally hard, harrowing read but worth it. Absolutely haunting.

3. I loved the mother/daughter element to it as it is this story of the terrible things a mother will endure because of the selfless love and need to protect. Loved that the story was told from these dual point of views.

4. If you liked The Book Thief or historical fiction set during WWII I recommend this though I think this one was quite a bit harder to read concerning things of the Holocaust than The Book Thief. Definitely more intense and dark I think.

Favorite Quotes:

“Life is so often unfair and painful and love is hard to find and you have to take it whenever and wherever you can get it, no matter how brief it is or how it ends.”

“How could she tell him that we come to love those who save us?”

“”It’s like being in a sort of club, isn’t it? A bereavement club. You don’t choose to join it; it’s thrust upon you. And the members whose lives have been changed have more knowledge than those who aren’t in it, but the price of belonging is so terribly high.”

“She should have known this would happen even with him; she should have know better than to tell him the truth. She can never tell him what she started to say: that we come to love those who save us. For although Anna does believe this is true, the word that stuck in her throat was not save but shame.”

 

Have any of you read this one? Did you like it/not like it? Can you recommend any other historical fiction books that take place during this time period? I seem to always gravitate to it.

Book Review: Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

12851538Book Title/Author: Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
Publisher/Year
: Disney-Hyperion  2012
Genre: Historical Fiction
Series: No
Other Books From Author: The Lion Hunter’s series

Amazon| Goodreads | Twitter |

I borrowed this from my local library!

 

 

I don’t want to give too much of the story away but basically Code Name Verity is set in the midst of WWII and the narrator has been held prisoner by the Gestapo and forced, by interrogation and force, to write down everything she knows about the war efforts even though she knows they are going to kill her when she’s done what they’ve asked. She weaves in what she knows about the war effort in with how she even ended up involved in the war and her current condition and happenings while being held captive. I swear it’s so much more than what I’ve described but you need to just not know ANYTHING so you can get swept up into it all!

This is one of those books that I almost wish wasn’t labeled YA because I know that deters some people from reading books and this book is one I know that could be enjoyed by SO many different kinds of readers. I have friends who only read adult fiction and I am going to be shoving this in their hands because this is one magnificent and heartachingly wonderful story that is well written and will for sure have a spot on my top ten of 2013 list. Without a doubt.

I’ll be honest with you. If it wasn’t for trusted friends recommending this with high praise, I would have probably put it down for a bit. I mean, I love historical fiction set during WWII so I was just itching to read it! The beginning was a bit hard to get into for me — the way it’s told is a bit jarring at first and there were so many descriptions of aviation and locations and things I just felt were just making it hard for me to get into it or see where the book was going. Felt like I was really excited to get into this wonderful story I’d heard about but it was like trying to run in a swimming pool for me, with the things I named above, the resistance to me immersing myself into the story. So if you’ve tried to read this one and really couldn’t get into it. PATIENCE. It’s worth it! And I started to really find myself unable to turn the pages faster the further I got into it. It’s a slow build but the payoff is hefty.

I don’t want to give ANYTHING away plot-wise because this is the type of story that’s brilliance is in the careful reveals and the sharp unraveling of the story that demands you keep reading just one more chapter. Told in two parts by two different narrators, Code Name Verity is a poignant and impressive novel about friendship, survival and courage with the sobering backdrop of the war. Infinitely more than “just a war story”, Code Name Verity is one of those books that will be seared into my brain and heart with how tremendously moving it was and the way Elizabeth Wein delivers blindsiding twists and breathtaking revelations I could never anticipated nor have expected their impact to move me so profoundly. I’m a sucker for books with unique and all around masterful storytelling and this is one of those books that just soars in that department — from start to finish.

Also, KISS ME HARDY!! Three words that will always make me burst into tears now.

If there were ever a book that I’d make a sweeping recommendation for, no matter if you read YA or if you aren’t into historical fiction, this is it. Despite the slow start due to an abundance of aviation type descriptions and the settling into the way the story is told, this book was knock-you-off-your feet incredible! The unraveling of this story and the deliverance of moving twists and revelations, accompanied by the most moving story of friendship I’ve encountered in a while, ensured this book has wound up on my very small ALL TIME FAVORITES list. I’m most stingy with this kind of recommendation and Code Name Verity certainly is deserving.

 

For Fans  Of: moving stories of friendship, historical fiction, beautiful stories that make you ache and give you so many feelings, WWII stories
You May Also Like: The Book Thief by Markus Zusack, Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepytus, Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum  — all three of these books are not only among my favorite historical fiction books but just, in general, all time favorites.

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Let’s Talk: Have you read this one?? Heard of it? Did you love it like I did or feel differently? Was it hard for you to get into it in the beginning or was it just me? (My book club was split!). Did you also bawl just thinking about KISS ME HARDY?? Please tell me all the things you thought about this one!!

 

Review: Vixen by Jillian Larkin

Let’s just start out with– hello, my name is Jamie and I am obsessed with the 1920’s and flappers and I will read anything related to said obsessions. Seriously. I once was a flapper for Halloween. I just love the flapper fashion, the literature that arose from the 1920’s, the jazz, the transition into the modern culture, the progress in woman’s suffrage movement, the mobsters, the speakeasys..it is all just so exciting to me! I just love reading and watching movies set during this time. Anyways, once I saw this book I just KNEW I had to pick it up.

Vixen tells the story of three girls who are in their late teens during the Roaring Twenties in the exciting city of Chicago. Each chapter alternates between Gloria, Clara and Lorraine. Gloria, engaged to a powerful man and comes from a family that is very much against the underground world of the speakeasys and flappers, is enthralled with the life she can’t have and begins to explore the seemingly glamorous lives of the flappers but discovers that it isn’t always what it seems. Clara, Gloria’s cousin who is from the country and who has come to live with Clara’s family, seems like a clueless girl from the country but she has secret past that she is trying to hide that is in danger of being brought into the open. Lorraine, Clara’s best friend, is sick of being second to Clara–in beauty, attention and with the boys– and she is ready to have all eyes on her– no matter what the cost is and nobody will get in her way.

Vixen has it all — romance, glitz and glamour, catty girls, mobsters, secrets, and suspense,  — and is set in one of those most interesting and alluring time periods in America. There is an attempt to delve into more substantial issues like friendship, loyalty, the suppression of women, racial and societal expectations but it’s overall just a fun-ish kind of read.  This reminded me of Gossip Girl set in the 1920’s with the high society, secrets, backstabbing and shocking public revelations. And I totally was picturing the episode of Gossip Girl where Chuck opened the speakeasy and they were all in flapper-like costumes. Larkin nailed it.  At some points I felt like if I closed my eyes, I’d be transported into some dark speakeasy, filled with smoke and booze, dancing with glamorous flappers and gangsters with pin-striped suits. I could hear that jazz music playing and feel the excitement of being rebellious and sexy in my fringed dress, headband and bobbed hair cut.

There were some interesting characters in this book. Clara was my favorite — she was smart, despite some obvious bad choices in her past, and I thought she was interesting and was the shining star for me. I did appreciate some of the dimensions we started to see in Gloria and I started to really appreciate her.  At some times I felt like Gloria and Lorraine were a bit cliched and predictable but the storyline and the setting made up for what they were sometimes lacking for me. The storyline was well crafted and I kept wanting to find out what happened. This a pretty plot-driven novel.

My one gripe with this book is that I felt like the author went a little bit overboard with the lingo of the time period and she didn’t need to because she really had me convinced of the time period with how she built their world. All these phrases and slang were dropped into the story and it felt like a like a kid who learned a set of vocabulary words and tried to keep impressing people with packing them into sentences. It just didn’t flow all the time and seemed awkward. The overuse of all the lingo was distracting and it was really unfortunate because she already set such an authentic scene for the reader.

I will note that this might be inappropriate for some younger readers — lots of booze, smoking and it’s pretty sexy. I thought it was tasteful but definitely a little more mature than some YA lit geared for younger readers. 

My Final Thought: Vixen is a sexy and intriguing debut that captures the excitement of an era and an underground lifestyle that is full of glamour, grit and danger. It is edgy and provocative without being trashy. It is a promising primer, for older teens (and YA lovers of all ages), into a period of time that should be explored more in YA historical fiction. Is it very thought-provoking? Nah, not really, but it was such a quick and fun read.  I cannot WAIT for the second book to come out as the ending was quite exciting and ends with quite the bang..literally.  In the meantime, I’ll be trying Bright Young Things which is also set in the 20’s and seems to be about flappers.

This short trailer is amazing and I think you’ll be intrigued if I haven’t convinced you:

Disclosure: I won this from the publisher.

Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson

ChainsTitle/Author: Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson
Publisher/Year: Atheneum Books for Young Readers (Simon & Schuster Imprint) 2008
How I Got This Book: I bought it before I went to the LHA signing.
Why I Read This Book: My love for history, particularly the Revolutionary period, coupled with the fact that I really enjoyed Speak and reading LHA’s blog, I just had to read this one. I also, as a child, had a period where I read anything and everything I could get my hands on regarding slavery.
Rating: A well-deserved 4.5 stars!

I typically provide my own synopsis but every time I tried to write a compelling synopsis it fell short of the one written on Goodreads.

As the Revolutionary War begins, thirteen-year-old Isabel wages her own fight…for freedom. Promised freedom upon the death of their owner, she and her sister, Ruth, in a cruel twist of fate become the property of a malicious New York City couple, the Locktons, who have no sympathy for the American Revolution and even less for Ruth and Isabel. When Isabel meets Curzon, a slave with ties to the Patriots, he encourages her to spy on her owners, who know details of British plans for invasion. She is reluctant at first, but when the unthinkable happens to Ruth, Isabel realizes her loyalty is available to the bidder who can provide her with freedom. 

I need to divulge the fact that I don’t typically read Middle Grade fiction but I could not pass this one up. My fascination with history, coupled with the fact that my stepdad is a huge Revolutionary War buff (he even does the Washington’s Crossing reenactment every Christmas morning) and my childhood obsession to read everything ever written about slavery, made this novel a must read for me!

This book did not disappoint me in any way. I felt the shackles come out and bind me to this novel immediately; I knew I couldn’t put this down. What a thoroughly captivating novel with memorable characters and moments. Laurie Halse Anderson proves herself to be a masterful storyteller as she deftly weaves together an evocative fight for freedom through the eyes of Isabel, a Loyalist’s slave, and the history of a nation’s fight for freedom. The novel doesn’t openly “tsk tsk” the nation’s gross injustices on the slavery front but rather shows, through Isabel, the implications of such a practice and the glaring hypocrisy of a nation who wants to be free yet are not willing to release their slaves but want nothing more than for them to fight for their cause.

At certain points I forgot I was reading a novel meant for a younger audience. The perfectly paced adventure will hook younger readers (as I saw at the LHA event)  as well as adults but the impeccable writing and the complexities that lie within the heart of the story, as well as this period in history, will keep adults reading.  It was fun to read this book and then converse with my Revolutionary War genius stepfather  about the events that were happening in the novel only to learn even more about the particular event–e.g. the fire in New York City–not a spoiler as it is in the history books!

I really appreciated Anderson’s dedication to keeping the novel pretty much in line with the historical facts. I loved that she focused on the struggle between the Loyalists and the Rebels in New York City as it is an area that often gets overlooked and it really is quite compelling–as I learned further from my step dad. I found the inclusion of pieces from real documents and letters from this time period at the beginning of the chapter to be fascinating and was glad that she added them.

Isabel is a character that you will find yourself remembering for a long time to come. She’s strong, resilient and entirely loyal to the ones that she loves and cares for. Reading this book felt reminiscent of the feelings that I felt while reading Little House on the Prairie or Little Women as a child. I felt myself wholly transported to another time and side by side with Isabel in her fight. There were moments where I felt like Isabel wasn’t quite true to the times, either because of speech or questionable actions, but for the most part I felt like she was convincingly written.

The only thing I found to be irksome was the incredibly short chapters. I’d get really into the story and then I was jolted into a new chapter. However, I thought about the fact that this was written for a younger audience with a shorter attention span than mine and found that it was probably perfect for them and I just needed to deal with that minor inconvenience.

My final thought: Amazing! I don’t care if you don’t read MG or YA books, if you like a good historical novel–pick this up! It isn’t a wonder that the kids at the signing I went to were hanging on to every word that Laurie uttered and were completely enamored with this novel. It is compelling and the ending will leave you rushing out to by Forge! I think this would be an awesome novel to complement a social studies lesson on this time period.

Found this AWESOME video a kid made about the novel for what I’m guessing is a school project (listen to the words!):

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