Review: Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys

Out of the EasyBook Title/Author: Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys
Publisher/Year
: Philomel Books – February 2013
Genre: YA Historical Fiction
Series: NO!
Other Books From Author: Between Shades of Gray

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I received this from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way swayed my opinion. Pinky swear!

 

 

 

It’s New Orleans in the 1950’s and Josie desperately wants to get out of the Big Easy and away from the lingering black cloud of her mother’s reputation of being a prostitute at the local brothel that is run by the infamous Willie Woodley and has basically been a second home to Josie. As she works hard at the bookstore and cleaning up the brothel after nights of debauchery, she dreams and devises her plans to get out until a wealthy man, who makes an impression on Josie, is found murdered and foul play is suspected. Unable to let it go, Josie tries to figure out what happened to this man and  finds herself caught in the underbelly of the Big Easy and at risk of losing her dreams of going to college and hurting the ones she loves.

Ok. You know how much I rave about Between Shades of Grey by Ruta Sepetys but after reading Out of the Easy I can officially declare that she is one of my favorite historical fiction authors ever! I will read anything she writes. Out of the Easy, like Between Shades of Grey, had that easy and smooth transportable quality to it. I’ve never been to NOLA but Ruta so easily makes me feel like I’m ambling around the French Quarter in the 1950’s. I just love the way she is able pull back the curtain to allow me to peer into this life I’ve never experienced — whether I’m in Siberia starved to death or trying to grow up in the French Quarter with your mother’s reputation like a lingering cloud above your head.

The best thing about Out of the Easy,  obviously besides Ruta’s storytelling abilities, is the characters.  Gosh I just loved so many of them! I feel like  I haven’t read a book in a while where I felt like the majority of characters, upon closing the book, were just clamoring to get out and linger in my heart a while longer. She writes those kind of hearts-are-beating, blood-flowing-through-the-veins characters that are just so alive. And the baddies? Well they are of the blood boiling variety. You hate them with a fierce passion (her mom and Cincinnati mostly) and, I don’t know about you, but I got this intense desire to pistol whip them.  WHERE DID  THAT COME FROM? Those mobsters wore off on me apparently. I just loved Josie and her determination to get out of the French Quarter and not become like her  mother. She was noble and genuine, a little rough around the edges in all the right places, and so many things broke my heart in this story because of my complete love for her. I love Willie and her “nieces”, Cokie (oh that man!), Patrick and Charlie and sweet Jesse. Oh I just love all these characters so hard. They created this beautiful little family and I felt like I was apart of it when my heart would ache with the heartbreaking parts and soar during the heartwarming parts. My heart was basically on fire.

My only complaint was that at times the plot dawdled for me. This is definitely more of a character driven novel and I loved that but at certain points I just wasn’t really sure where the book was going and there were just a lot of threads of story there and some just seemed to sort of come undone for me — like a stray, wispy piece of hair coming out of my ponytail.  I will say that if you are looking for the emotional  gut punch of Between Shades of Grey, Out of Easy isn’t that. In Between Shades of Grey, I felt everything with intensity and felt like I learned about a heartbreaking history I never knew and I felt changed. It’s more subtle with Out of the Easy — I can’t say I really saw a piece of history that took me by surprise — but the characters and their stories just creep up on you until you find yourself choking back a surge of emotion at times.

Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys was a fantastic story that I’ve anticipated for a while — little bit of mystery, little bit of romance, mother-daughter issues and the struggle of a girl to reach for her dreams even if they might seem impossible. Don’t come looking for the sort of gut punching emotion you may have experienced in BSAG but be prepared to fall in love with some amazing characters and be immersed into their lives slowly but surely and emotions will make their way into your throat before you even realize your choking them back. It’s hard to talk about the plot because sometimes I felt like I was doing that stutter-step “which way are you walking” dance you do when people are walking towards you because I just felt the plot was meandering a bit but Ruta pulled it together nicely at the end to make me not care about that. And really, the characters drove this story for me.  It’s a great story and I’m so glad to have experienced it.

 

For Fans  Of: YA historical fiction for sure, character driven novels where you have to remind yourself that the characters are not real, a darn good story that isn’t always LOUD and action-y

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Let’s Talk: Have you read this one?? Heard of it? If you’ve read it what did you think? How much did you LOVE THE CHARACTERS?? Who was your favorite? Did anyone else feel like the plot was going in a few different directions? Curious to if you prefer BSAG or Out of the Easy? They were just two totally different experiences for me as I said above!

The Madman’s Daughter by Megan Shepherd

Madmans jkt Des1.inddBook Title/Author: The Madman’s Daughter by Megan Shepherd
Publisher/Year
: Balzer + Bray January 29, 2013
Genre: Historical Fiction — with some science fiction-y kind of things (think science experiments)
Series: Yes (totally did know that when I started reading it!)
Other Books From Author: None — her debut!

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I received this from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way swayed my opinion. Pinky swear!

At 16 Juliet is an orphan — she works as a maid and every day tries to move past the horrific scandal that drove her father away and left she and her mother penniless and outcasts. She’d heard rumors about her father’s experiments but she wanted to believe her father wasn’t capable of such evil. She has an encounter with a childhood friend who she finds out knows her father’s whereabouts and she begs him to take her to the island where he is apparently working and living so she can get the answers to her questions and learn for herself what he really did that made him flee. When she reaches the remote island, with her childhood friend Montgomery and Edward,a man she found almost drowning to death in the ocean, she is reunited with her father and learns what he’s been doing all this time on a very secluded island. She encounters the work her father has done on this dangerous island in creepy and chilling ways  and learns that  maybe her past is more connected to these secrets than she even knows.

 

 

Do you enjoy creepy, Gothic stories that are completely atmospheric? Do you like some mystery mixed with an intriguing dash of science fiction? Looking for something DIFFERENT? These were all the things that I found myself raving about when it came to this book!

I am a sucker for Gothic novels and historical fiction that just get the setting right and that feel of place and time pervaded the novel whether we were in London or on the island. I could feel the chill as Juliet walked through the streets of London and I could feel the muggy, wild air of the tropical island so full of danger.  As Juliet travels from London to be reunited with her father, there was just this continually heightened sense of mystery — why did her father have to run from? What had he been doing? What was UP with some of the things on the island? I felt such danger and KNEW that something was off and that the experiments he was doing on the island were definitely creepy and messed up and then bodies started piling up. I had this smothering feeling and just wanted Juliet to GET OFF THE ISLAND with Montgomery and Edward. It was beyond creepy and Megan Shepherd did an amazing job bringing this island and its mysteries to life. I shudder picturing the island and what her monster of a father has been doing there — the creepy experiment-made people, the shocking secrets he’s kept and brought with him to the island. I’m telling you, this story has things that will give you the creepy crawlies under your skin. For the most part, I flew through it, though there were some slower parts!

I’ll be honest though, despite how GREAT I thought this book was, there is one thing of note that I wished had been different to make this a PERFECT novel for me.  It’s probably just a personal preference but there was some romance going on, and that’s fine, but I was MUCH more interested in the creepy things that were happening and the mysteries of the island. Sure, I found myself fawning over Montgomery and quite intrigued by Edward but I kept thinking MORE CREEP, LESS LOVE! And this has nothing to do with Megan  Shepherd’s ability to create compelling love interests or weave it intricately into the story.  I mean you KNOW I love my kissing and romance but I just wanted more of the creepy things because Megan Shepherd was spinning this compelling mystery with the island and her father and I just couldn’t get enough! And at some times it seemed Juliet was more concerned with the boys rather than THE CRAZY EFFING THINGS HAPPENING AROUND HERE.

There were some remarkable twists and I just never knew quite what to expect in this breathtaking story. I felt like I had a hunch about things but I never was quite sure. AND THE ENDING. The sort of mouth-gaping-open-OMG-Ican’t-believe-that-just-happened sort of ending. OH MAN. I am desperate for book 2!

The Madman’s Daughter was perfectly dark and creepy — the sort of Gothic, atmospheric story I love. From the very beginning, I was drawn into Juliet’s story of being abandoned by her scientist father who had disappeared after being accused of doing horrible experiments. As the story progressed I was fascinated with Juliet’s time on the island and sufficiently creeped out by what was going on there with her crazy father and sweaty-palmed thanks to all the twists and turns and shocking revelations. What a compelling story! My only minor hangup was that the romance was such a big part of the story but I just wanted more of the other elements that made this story so good despite the ease there was to fall in love with both Montgomery and Edward.

A bit of a warning though: I know some people are sensitive about any sort of animal cruelty and experimentation so you should know that there is some of that in here considering the father is a mad scientist basically.

For Fans  Of: dark and creepy stories, historical fiction with a little science fiction elements (think: science experiements), Gothic novels, a good mystery

Madman's Daughter by Megan Shepherd

 

Let’s Talk: Have you read this one?? Heard of it? If you’ve read it, what were some of your thoughts? Like/Dislike? Was Juliet’s dad not the creepiest person you’ve read about in a while?? Which boy did you love more — Montgomery or Edward?

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

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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.

code-name-verity-review

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!!

 

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