What I’ve Been Reading Lately: All The Remaining Books I Read In 2017 Edition

book recommendations and books to read



[Keep Reading]

What I’ve Been Reading Lately

I have a feeling this summer is going to be a lot of me doing shorter book talks especially since, as I talked about here, I’m going to maybe post a little less during the summer.


Outrun the Moon stacey lee

Outrun The Moon by Stacey Lee

I received this for review consideration but this in no way affected my opinions.


About In A Sentence or Two: Mercy, a young determined young Chinese girl, refuses to let the fact that she’s Chinese and a girl get in the way of her dreams. She cunningly bribes her way into an exclusive all-girls school and endures the push back from those who don’t want her there and keeping her story under wraps….until it all changes in an instant when a historic earthquake hits the city.

Thoughts: I loooove historical fiction and, while I loved Under a Painted Sky, this one blew me out of the water and stirred me up emotionally — and by that I mean there were lots of tissues next to me upon finishing. I loved the setting of San Fransisco at the turn of the century during this historic earthquake. I LOVED Mercy and how determined, strong and resilient she was and loved watching her go after what she wants — regardless of the roadblocks set up because she’s Chinese AND a woman. Her resilience in the face of tragedy was inspiring. I thought Stacey Lee tackled racism/prejudice in such a nuanced way in this book and I loved seeing it contrasted in the before and in the after — especially to see these glimmer of hopes that barriers could come down when everyone is mourning this tragedy together as a city. I thought the way she wove it through the novel was so perfect. The secondary characters were incredible, truly. If you like historical fiction, this is a must read for 2016.




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Book Talk: A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis




Want an “at a glance” look at what I thought? Check out my Review On A Post-It or my “Final Thought”



With a pregnant belly and family secrets buried in the depths of her mind, Grace Mae finds herself in an insane asylum in the late 1800’s. She keeps silent but her sharp mind is always alert. When she has a violent outburst she finds herself locked away in the darkest depths of the asylum next to a man who becomes her ally, as he can tell she’s a great mind, and helps her escape with a doctor who is dabbling in criminal psychology. They flee to an asylum in Ohio where they embark on their work and Grace finds friendship and strength in this new home of hers.

a2PERFECT FIRST HALLOWEEN-ESQE READ! Also, yesssss to loving another Mindy McGinnis book!!

a4I loved Mindy McGinnis’s Not A Drop To Drink so I was SO here for this book about something so completely different than that one…and I have to say I’m just so ready to read ANYTHING Mindy writes after experiencing both of these stories.

I thoroughly enjoyed it and could not put it down. It was a PERFECT October/Halloween read for those who don’t want scary but like a little mystery and an atmospheric setting that is equal parts dark/brutal (the mystery, Grace’s family secret, the conditions at the insane asylum) as it is heart-warming (Grace’s friends).

Specifically what I enjoyed:

  • Blend of historical fiction and mystery: I love historical fiction so I was definitely excited for this setting in the late 1800’s in Boston and small town Ohio. I hadn’t really read the blurb because I knew Mindy McGinnis + insane asylums + historical fiction was all I needed to know so I was pleasantly surprised by the thread of mystery in this one. Thornhollow reminds me of a quirky Sherlock-esque kind of character and I was so interested in their search for the killer and their delving into how the murderous mind works. I don’t want to say much but OH MAN for how the mystery ended up…not only who did it but how it all works out. GAH.
  • Insane asylum setting: Wow did Mindy McGinnis do a phenomenal job with the setting. I could picture these asylums — the cold, dark cells and the sounds of the patients. It was chilling. I just am so thankful to not have been alive in a time where it was so easy to throw women in these places for any reason that a man could say and it is their word vs the woman’s. We see two different asylums, the one from before she escapes and the one she and Thornhollow head to,  and they were pretty different from each other and I’m so glad that the bulk was spent in the more ethical asylum because the Boston asylum and their practices were just awful and I couldn’t handle Grace being there any longer.

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It’s History, Baby!

I just recently read 2 historical YAs in a row so I figured I’d talk about them together! Now, before I blogged, I read A LOT of historical fiction. It was mostly adult historical fiction then. Since getting really into YA I haven’t read that much historical fiction. It’s there but until the last year or two I feel like there weren’t THAT many new releases in that genre in YA so I’m excited that there seem to be more on my radar recently! If you like historical fiction, check out some of my favorites! I wrote that a year ago so in that time I’d add A Mad Wicked Folly to that list as well as Brazen!


So what two time periods in history did I time travel to recently??


Munich, Germany in the 1930’s as Hitler is rising to power & on the Oregon Trail in 1849!

So let’s talk Oregon Trail first because UM THAT WAS MY JAM BACK IN THE 90’s. That game, man. I always died from dysentery and what a bitch it was to shoot like 2000 pounds of bison and only be able to carry a 1000 back to the wagon. AND WHEN IT SPOILED?!? UHHHH. And anyone else name the people in your wagon after people you didn’t like so you were like WELP SORRY YOU DIED FROM CHOLERA AIN’T THAT A BITCH.

Under A Painted Sky by Stacey lee reviewUnder A Painted Sky
Published: March 17, 2015

So I really liked Under the Painted Sky! Firstly, it was a great book about friendship between two girls who are on the run together and who are definitely outsiders in Missouri in 1849 — one is a Chinese immigrant and the other is a black slave. I love how their friendship starts as companions out of necessity to flee towards California but it grows along the way and they really feel like sisters. Also, I loved the friendship that forms with the group of boys they meet on the trail. Secondly, GENDER BENDING. So, it’s already going to be hard for them trekking on the Oregon trail as Chinese and African American BUT they are women and they are on the run. SO THEY PRETEND TO BE DUDES AND HAVE TO KEEP THAT UP AROUND THE GROUP OF GUYS THEY JOURNEY WITH (who she even maybe sorta feels romantical feelings about). I loved it.I mean, the logistics of having to pee but also not blow your cover??

I think the only thing that fell sort of short for me (it was a matter of expectations I think) is that I just imagined the sort of harsh conditions of the Oregon Trail that I always learned about (I literally almost also typed in “experienced as I played Oregon Trail hahha maybe that was just my bad gaming). I mean, they had some bumps in the road along the way for sure but it never FELT super dangerous or exhausting or hard to me in the way I thought it was aside from one part closer to the end. I’ve read books where I FELT the elevated danger but for some reason I didn’t have that tense feeling while reading. Still REALLY good and wonderful. Loved the setting and the plot — definitely haven’t seen it done before in YA! And I definitely fell in love with the characters. AND THAT COVER IS EVEN MORE GORGEOUS IN PERSON.



Next up was:

Prisoner of Night & FogPrisoner of Night & Fog by Anne Blankman
Published: April 2014

I have read A LOT of books set in Nazi Germany and the war and dealing with the Holocaust. Where this one was different is that 1) it was set AS Hitler was gaining more popularity and power, not when he was in power and 2) it’s POV is from a young girl whose family (and her own beliefs) are Nazi through and through aka Adolf Hitler is a family friend (until she starts questioning things). Normally the books I pick up are from the POV of the people being persecuted or people who are helping them (aka The Book Thief the family is German but they don’t believe the Nazi agenda).

I love watching the main character question everything she’s ever been told/believed as she’s faced with some truth that changes her whole life and she gets close with Daniel who is Jewish…who she’s been told to hate and fear. It was SO interesting to see Hitler as a person — he’s called Uncle Dolf and she’s super fond of him. There was still no good feelings towards him from me but it was an interesting thought how he might have looked to family and friends. This book got REALLY intense and I could NOT put it down. As she started looking into things that went against EVERYTHING she and her family stood for, the stakes got higher. Loved her and thought she was so brave — for how she handled it but also I think it takes a courageous person to stand up to everything you believed even when it means you’ll probably lose everything you had before. Can’t wait to read the conclusion (it’s a duology I’ve been told).



*Standard disclaimer: I did get both of these for review but PINKIE SWEAR/GIRL SCOUT HONOR…these opinions are mine whether they sent it or I hauled my butt to the library/doled out cash money to get it.*

So let’s talk…have you read either of these? What historical settings are your favorite to read? Have any recs for me??

Book Talk: Brazen by Katherine Longshore


Want an “at a glance” look at what I thought? Check out my Review On A Post-It or my “Final Thought”

Brazen is set in England during Henry VIII’s reign during the time when Anne Boleyn was Queen. It follows Lady Mary Howard, wife of King Henry VIII’s illegitimate son Henry Fitzroy, through her marriage to Fitzroy and her time at court as she navigates friendships, romances, the scandals of the court and more.

a2Must get my hands on Gilt and Tarnish. ALSO, historical fiction how I have missed THEE.


1. It’s a perfect blend of history and fun: SERIOUSLY it reminded me of one of my current obsessions — The CW’s Reign. There’s the historical facts there but some great fictional speculation and storytelling that just brings it to life. I loved seeing the lives of characters like Anne Boleyn and more obscure characters, like the main character Mary Howard, just feel like people rather than these names on paper. It was definitely more of a “fun” historical fiction kind of novel rather than something more serious set in that time period or something that makes you feel like OH HISTORY CLASS. It has that vibe of all my favorite CW shows (a la Gossip Girl) in the way the drama and the romance and the scandal is so addictive but the research and the history is THERE. I knew the story of Anne Boleyn and what happened to her as a wife of Henry but Katherine Longshore made me see it in a new way and really FEEL it.

2. Being in King Henry VIII’s court is SO ADDICTIVE: Henry VIII’s history is one I remember decently from history classes and I know there is tons of drama and, well, Katherine Longshore definitely makes use of the history there to weave her story of Mary Howard, who is married to Henry’s bastard son Henry Fitzroy, and show all the happenings in the court during the time in which she is there. I mean, Henry VIII’s court is just so scandalous and crazy that it just has a lot of story to be told. PAGE TURNING I TELL YOU.

3. It was so engaging it had me wanting to find out more: I found myself looking up things to see if it really happened or if this person existed or what happened to so and so. I just wanted to learn MORE about this slice of history. I love a historical fiction book that makes me want to LEARN just because it was so engaging.

4. I loved the romance: Mary Howard and Henry Fitzroy’s marriage was arranged and with that comes much more about responsibility and duty than romance but Mary wants to LOVE him — even though sometimes he’s distant, that court life takes him away a lot and that Henry VIII won’t let them consummate her marriage which makes her feel like a pawn. I loved the slow-burn longing and questioning to figure out if there is something there over the years. The awkwardness at times. The way they explore their relationship. It captivated me the whole time!


factors+ fun, addictive, perfect blend of fact and fictional liberties, loved the time period
little slow/dragging at times

Re-readability: Probably not but I would definitely pick up the other two books in the “series” which are also set in King Henry VIII’s court in Tudor England.
Would I buy a copy for my collection? I already own it! It’s so pretty!

a5fans of the CW show Reign or even The Tudors though I’d say it’s more like Reign to me, readers who maybe aren’t SUPER into historical fiction because it’s a little bit more accessible than other historical fiction I’ve read (not super daunting), historical fiction readers who like books set in Tudor England,

a8Brazen was an addictive romp through King Henry VIII’s court that re-acquainted me with historical figures I’m familiar with and introduced me to new ones I’d never heard about. As someone who loves history, I found it to be the perfect balance of fun while using the historical facts to weave together a story that makes it all just come alive. Can’t wait to read Gilt and Tarnish to get my scandalous and drama-filled historical fix — especially while my current tv obsession, Reign, is on break!


review-on-post-itBrazen Katherine Longshore review - for fans of Reign


a8j* Have you read this one? What did you think? Similar or different from me? I would LOVE to hear regardless!
* If you haven’t read it, is it something on your radar or that you think you will read?
* What are some other books you’ve read and recommend set during this time period?

The Perpetual Page-Turner


Review: Between Shades Of Gray by Ruta Sepetys (Audiobook Version)

Yesterday we discussed books that get us out of reading slumps and I mentioned that my last read of 2011 just got me out of the most epically huge reading slump that I’ve had in a long time. This book right here is the one that got my mojo back… 🙂

Title/Author: Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
Publisher/Year: Philomel; March 2011
Genre: Young Adult Historical Fiction
How I Got It: Borrowed it via my library’s Overdrive program for audiobooks

I was asking for suggestions from Twitter about good audiobooks to listen to since over the holidays I would be traveling in the car for a total of 8 hours by myself to get to my dad’s house. Miss Remmer’s suggested Between Shades of Gray and I decided that would be the one since it’s one I had really wanted to read since it came out and I saw great reviews for it. As I mentioned in my top ten books of 2011 post, this ended up being one of my favorite reads this year and it was really a great pick for my travels — albeit a little sad and I ended up crying at some parts in the car.

Between Shades of Gray takes place in Lithuania in 1939 and chronicles the moment that 16 year old Lina’s life changes when Stalin’s Russia invades their country and forces her family, among many others, into labor camps. Lina and her family fight to keep hope and survive throughout their deportation and life in the labor camps in the most deplorable of conditions where they are treated as though they are animals — all the while hoping to reunite with their father again and live to see their home again.

Between Shades of Gray is a book that cannot be ignored. This novel was heartwrenching and I mean that in the most literal way I possibly can. It hurts my heart in that this REALLY happened to people and Sepetys was able to capture the stories of many who had to live through this and really embody their fight through the story of Lina and her family. I felt the same way reading this that I did reading Night by Elie Wiesel or The Diary of Anne Frank. Though this book is fictional, I felt the same sort of anguish knowing that human beings had to suffer in this way. It was eye opening to me. I consider myself a lover of history and I can honestly say I really didn’t know this had happened. I think most learn of Hitler and the concentration camps but the brutality of the Soviets and the labor camps in Siberia seem to never come up as much. Or maybe I wasn’t paying enough attention in history class?

Not only was the history heartwrenching to me but the way Ruta Sepetys wrote this story really impacted me. I cared deeply and connected to these characters. I wanted them to survive. I felt their fear, their anger and their will to live. The scenes were vivid, the people were alive and I would find myself physically tensing up and feeling very emotional during certain scenes. These is one of the most emotional reads I have ever encountered and it was done so perfectly. It wasn’t contrived. The real stories of real people spoke through this novel and you could feel the weight of it all.

It might seem like from my review that this novel is just super depressing. That’s the thing — it’s not. There is so much hope, love and resilience within these pages and for every moment I felt sickened by humanity, I also felt invigorated by our will to fight, to live, to maintain our dignity and to love. There was hope and it was really beautiful. I love the idea of the title of this novel and the notion of “between shades of gray”…that’s how this novel was. For all the darkness, there was little slivers of beauty and hope. This was one powerful story and I know it is one that will stick with me for a very long time. There are so many memorable characters and relationships in this book. I love the relationship between Lina and Andrus, Lina’s mother and her children and Lina’s mother and pretty much everyone…especially the one officer. That touching scene between Lina and the officer towards the end (when she is trying to steal firewood) just was so beautiful and complicated and broke me down.

Parts of this are really hard to read/listen to but I personally didn’t find it to be excessively violent or descriptive. I mean, it’s really hard to read about these atrocities and brutality but I don’t think it’s told in a way that makes it too hard to handle. It will be emotional and really hard to think about people enduring but I think there is balance in the way it is told. But I’m not someone who easily shies away from difficult subject matter.

The only thing I wish would have been better about this book was about how it ended. When the epilogue happened (as I was listening to it) I couldn’t believe it was over! I don’t know if I would have been as surprised had I been reading it  but even so…I wanted to know HOW everything was resolved though the epilogue did a nice job of giving us the details we wanted to know (like about Andrus!). Maybe it’s I cared too much that I wanted to see the whole story through. I’m not sure.

As An Audiobook:

I thought this was really well done on audiobook and the story worked really well in this format. It captured my attention in the fullest while navigating the highways and I never had to go back to clear up any confusions. The narrator did the voices pretty well and it was easy to distinguish between the many casts of characters. Her pace was perfect for me. The only thing I found to be a bit difficult sometimes was that the story would switch to memories of the past and it would, in some cases, take a minute or two to figure out that it was a past memory. This mostly happened in the beginning as in the end it was easier to distinguish between the scenes as they were drastically different.

The Bottom Line: Between Shades of Gray makes my top ten books of 2011 for a reason and is high up there in a best books EVER list. It is powerful in both the historical foundation for the story and in the storyline itself. I loved the characters and cried my little heart out all along the way — tears of anger, of sadness and of joy in some places. It’s one of those books that I just sat there soaking it all in after finishing it. This will stick with me for a long time. It’s raw, poignantly told and will capture your attention and leave you wanting to learn more about this slice of history. This is a book I think teens and adults will both find special. I am so thankful I read this because this story is one that needs to be heard. Highly recommended on audiobook.

You’ll like it if….

  • You like historical fiction — especially that during World War II or any thing relating to concentration camps or labor camps
  • powerful stories that will stick with you for a long time. I assure you that I will be thinking on this book for a long time to come.
  • stories that deal with some heavy emotions but also show human triumph, beauty and hope.

** Review On A Post-It  to come…I’m at work 😛 ) **

Review: Ingenue by Jillian Larkin

Book: Ingenue by Jillian Larkin (Book #2 in the Flappers series)
Publisher/Year: Random House August 2011
Genre: Young Adult Historical Fiction

*Reading this review without reading Vixen may be a bad idea. Read my review of Vixen to see if this series might be for you!*

Ingenue is the second installment in the Flappers series by Jillian Larkin. Ingenue drops us off a few months out from where Vixen ended with a MAJOR bang. Told again from alternating perspectives, with the addition of Jerome’s sister Vera, we see what life is like for the characters in New York City where the drama seems to follow them as all the unresolved pieces from Vixen haunt them. We’ve got relationship issues, revenge, glamour, scandal and more…with a lot of flappers, gangsters and guns thrown in the mix.

I’m going to get the negative out of the way first and be honest and say that Ingenue wasn’t the experience that Vixen was for me. I just found Vixen to be so much better as a whole — the intrigue, the characters and the romance. I think the main reason for my slight disappointment with Ingenue has to do with the characters and a lot of contrived coincidences and chance happenings. I just found it to be annoying that SOMEHOW they all end up in New York, they all have run-ins (or ALMOST) run-ins with each other or know somebody who saw so and so. I just remember reading it and being bothered by that. Some of the things just seemed a little bit forced. I think forced is maybe to harsh for how I really feel about it but I can’t really explain it any other way.

My second issue is with the characters themselves. I loved (and hated!) some of these characters very passionately in Vixen and felt I got a really good sense of who these characters were and why they acted the way they did but I felt like they really fell by the wayside in Ingenue. Lorraine was her usual bitchface self but her evilness was WAY more than it ever was. I know she was mad about what happened at home but JEEZ…I can’t tell if she is just SO stupid to realize what being in cohorts with gangsters is going to bring her and others involved or if she just is bipolar and when she feels hatred that she acts rashly and then has compassion when she realizes she is a big moron. I think my biggest qualm came with Clara. Clara just wasn’t the Clara that we had come to know and who had grown so much in Vixen. I can’t believe that in her return to New York she’d become as annoying as Lorraine and become such a biznatch. I got confused about this whole “My dream is to be a writer” thing that made her so cutthroat and not at all the caring Clara that she was..especially towards Gloria. I just personally found it hard to believe that she changed that much and that quickly over something so trivial that had we had never really known to be her passion (or maybe I just don’t remember her as that…). I still cared for Gloria but even she was being a bit selfish and annoying..although in her case I could see that a huge change in lifestyle could that for her. Sure, I do still feel like this characters are very vivid and real but I didn’t feel like they were being true to how we knew they were.

What didn’t disappoint was the action. This time there was even more flapper glitz, more gangsters and more heart pounding scenes that keep you clutching the book fiercely. I was just absolutely racing through this book and I thought it was paced really well. It wasn’t too much action and high drama but we also got a good sense on how the murder at the end of Vixen affected each one of them, what challenges they faced in their transitions from Chicago and New York and the fear that pulsed through them as they are entangled in web of danger and connections to the gangsters and mobsters. The ending left me beyond craving the next book in the series because the desire to know what happened is FIERCE. It leaves you in a place that sets up something undoubtedly mindblowing in the next book.

What also is really wonderfully done, as is the case in of Vixen as well, is the way Larkin is able to transport you back to an era that I love and allow you to see the glamour of it all but also some of the grittiness that happened in some of these cities and in the speakeasies. We get to see the underbelly of society in the secretive and mysterious speakeasies and the gangsters, flappers and entertainers that inhabit that scene, the violent and cutthroat nature of these gangsters and the secret life of some of the high society. I can so clearly feel the desires to “make it” and the feeling that there are endless possibilities in a city like New York in this time. I thought Larkin really portrayed just how different their lives were now. The rich, high society lives that Lorraine and Gloria had been used is such a contrast to where they are now. This isn’t just little girl fun that they are getting themselves into while they dressed up like flappers in Vixen. They are now each living it to some degree or another. The fear of getting caught by your mother to sneak out to a speakeasy is contrasted with the fear of every day wondering what a knock at the door means.

The Final Thought: This series has an undeniable allure for readers like me – I love the flappers, I love the 20’s, the action, the intriguing characters and the chance to get a little taste of history. While Ingenue wasn’t as stellar as Vixen was for me, I still enjoyed this next installment as it still delivers with heart pounding action and writing that is able to make you feel every dark speakeasy and every soulful song belted out from someone who has learned about pain. I will most certainly be wanting to get my grubby hands on the next installment of this series because I can’t get enough of it. Highly recommended for lovers of YA Historical Fiction especially set in the 1920’s. Also, high fives to mentions of iconic people of the 20’s — singers and writers alike!

Review On A Post-It
I own Bright Young Things as well but what are some other historical fiction novels set in the 1920’s (adult or YA)! Also, what is your favorite era to read about? Any good recs? Anyone as obsessed with the 1920’s as I am?!

Review: Purple Daze by Sherry Shahan

Title/Author: Purple Daze by Sherry Shahan
Publisher/Date: Perseus Books  – March 22nd 2011
How I Got This Book: Accepted pitch from author

Set in one of the most politically charged eras in America, Purple Daze lets us see 1965 through the eyes of six young adults as they wade through the typical high school experience while in the midst of some serious social and political revolutions. Told in verse, these six teens share a glimpse of the issues of the time–riots, anti-Vietnam war sentiments, sex, drugs, feminism–and really help to paint a picture of the undertones that propelled the counterculture movement.

One thing you should know about me: At heart, I’m a Bob Dylan singing, peace sign throwing, groovy little hippie. So this book, along with its gorgeous cover, had me ready to start donning some flowers in my hair and burning all my bras….ok, I kid on that last one. But seriously..I find myself so drawn to the 60’s for some reason so this book was definitely something I wanted to check out because I haven’t really ever seen any YA books set in the 60’s.

The only novel in verse I’ve read is Crank by Ellen Hopkins. For whatever reason, that one was a lot easier for me to keep up with because it was a fluid storyline. I thought the free verse style was PERFECT for this book  because I think it really reflected the freedom of the era but at some points I just felt my mind wandering. That could have just been my own issue as a reader but reading a novel in verse really is quite a different experience. That being said, the author did a phenomenal job incorporating all of these different perspectives in the form of letters, journal entries, and thoughts with tidbits of history. I was so interested in learning a little bit more of some major events that happened in 1965 through speeches and news clippings, etc.

I found it interesting to see how these teens were interacting with some of the social and political issues of the time and seeing a snapshot of how the counterculture reform really started stirring in this time period. These teens were questioning the traditions of their parents and their political decisions especially when it came to the Vietnam war and the Civil Rights movement. You could really get the sense of just how real the consequences of some of their parents decisions were to these teens especially when there friends and boyfriends were going off to war.  There were some really really powerful lines in this book and I thought the author really captured what I would think it would be like to be a teen during this time period.

I think the one aspect of the book that was hard for me was that I didn’t feel connected to any of the characters aside from Cheryl and Phil. I felt like I got a sense of who they were and really cared to know what happened to them. I wanted to care about the others but I just didn’t. I was more interested in learning about the time period through most of the novel. I felt like it was really hard to feel something for the rest of the characters because there were so many different perspectives and the writing isn’t as dense because it IS in verse so it was difficult. I wanted to keep the story going and find out more about them..but I understand that the author was just providing a snapshot of that year and how it shaped the teens.

My Final Thought: While I thought that the writing and concept was really great and that the balance of story and history was done well, I really had a hard time feeling something for the characters and at times found myself wanting something more that I can’t quite figure out. If you really love history and are looking for something that delves into the Sixties in an accessible way for young adults–this is for you. It’s wholly unique and well-written but may be hard for readers who are looking for a whole lot of movement. I personally enjoyed being in the characters heads and jumping around 1965 in that way… so much that I think I would have enjoyed an even longer novel.

A few of my favorite songs to get you in the 60’s spirit:

Light My Fire — The Doors
Like A Rolling Stone — Bob Dylan
Paint It Black — The Rolling Stones
Turn! Turn! Turn! — The Byrds
White Rabbit — Jefferson Airplane
And obviously..Purple Haze — Jimi Hendrix Experience

And you can’t go wrong with some Beatles or Joan Baez.

Have you read any other good books set in the 60’s? (YA or adult)

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.

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