Top Ten Historical Fiction Books

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Top Ten Tuesday, as  always, is hosted at my other blog — The Broke & the Bookish

This week’s topic: Top Ten Books in X Genre — I picked historical fiction!

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Vixen by Jillian Larkin: 1920′s! Flappers! This is such a fun YA historical fiction series that I love!

Something Strange & Deadly by Susan Dennard: This one is fun because it’s historical fiction AND paranormal. And I loved it because it was set in my city!

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak: This is one of my all time favorite books ever. And my reread was pretty excellent. And I actually enjoyed the movie — not perfect — but good!

Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys: NOLA! 1950′s. In a not-so-good part of time. I LOVED this book and the story and seriously Ruta is just an amazing writer.

Between Shades of Grey by Ruta Sepetys: Pretty much anything, at this point, whatever Ruta writes I will read. This book KILLED ME. So hard to read but so much beauty hidden in the pages that tell the stories of the atrocities that happened under Stalin’s regime. It may be fiction but the history is brutally real.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Maryann Shaffer and Annie Burrows: I feel like this one is kind of underrated these days — it was super popular but now I never hear anyone talk about it. It’s an adult fiction pick and I fell in love! There’s a really cool epistolary element to it and I just feel like more people should read it!

The Bird Sisters by Rebecca Rasmussen: This book was beautiful — it switches back and forth from present day and the 1940′s. Definitely a gem!

The Secret Life of Bees Sue Monk Kidd: OH THIS BOOK. I’m due for a reread! It’s been quite a while.

Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum: This book was excellent and I loooove the the mother/daughter story.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein: OBVIOUSLY IF YOU KNOW ME. One of the best books I’ve ever read. KISS ME HARDY. SOBBB.

 

 

So tell me…have you read any of these? Recommend me some historical fiction novels that YOU’VE loved or you think I would like!

Before I Blogged I Read: The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien

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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The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien

(Amazon | Goodreads )
Rating: I gave it 5 stars on Goodreads
Date I Read it: October 2008

1. I was MEANT to read this book. So gather around, friends, for a little story. I was assigned to read this book in high school, looked at the cover, said GAG and managed to write an A+ report without reading it. So years pass between 2003 and I never think of that book again until my last semester in college in 2008 when I’m assigned this novel to do a HUUUUGE paper on. I had to laugh. Like, world, you must REALLY want me to read this book. So I did. And I EFFING LOVED IT. I am so glad this book wormed its way into my life because it was one of the best books I’ve ever read on so many levels. And I’m not going to lie, I wrote one of the best papers of my academic LIFE because of this book. I had so many thoughts and feelings. I had never been so excited about discussing the themes of book before. EVER.

2. This book was not at ALL what I judged it to be. I thought this was going to be JUST as war story or something. NOPE. I can’t even pin down what this book is. True, it involves war stories but it is SO MUCH MORE. It’s amazing, honestly. Thought-provoking, wonderfully written and has left this lasting impression on me the way it captures just the humanness of war and the intricacies of what it is to be human.  It was the type of book that I dog-eared the crap out of because there were just so many awesomely profound things. I hugged it, I laughed, I shouted at it and I cried. I actually want to do a re-read of it.

3. If you love truly amazing writing, you have to read this one. Seriously. The way this story was told. MAN. Makes me feel like the way I write is the equivalent of a 3 year old. It’s not just the particular way he strings together a sentence that is remarkable but it’s the way he makes you FEEL like you are there in the trenches or the emotion that exudes from the pages that grips you entirely and makes you want to weep for these men. It’s also the WAY he tells the story. The story truths and the happening truths and the always wondering what is real and not real. How it all is interconnected. It’s genius.

4. It is fiction but is also very based on the author’s own experience. Sometimes I forgot this book was fiction to be honest. I felt like I was reading someone’s very vivid and compelling accounts of the war and it really ties into his theme of truths and how sometimes story-truth is truer than happening truth. Through these interrelated stories from different angles of the war, we get glimpses of the happening truth and we feel that so devastatingly so, like sitting down with an old vet, but we get the story truth that helps us feel emotionally connected to it and to ache and feel raw alongside them.

Favorite Quotes:

A true war story is never moral. It does not instruct, nor encourage virtue, nor suggest models of proper human behavior, nor restrain men from doing the things men have always done. If a story seems moral, do not believe it. If at the end of a war story you feel uplifted, or if you feel that some small bit of rectitude has been salvaged from the larger waste, then you have been made the victim of a very old and terrible lie. There is no rectitude whatsoever. There is no virtue. As a first rule of thumb, therefore, you can tell a true war story by its absolute and uncompromising allegiance to obscenity and evil.”

 

“Stories are for joining the past to the future. Stories are for those late hours in the night when you can’t remember how you got from where you were to where you are. Stories are for eternity, when memory is erased, when there is nothing to remember except the story.”

 

 “I want you to feel what I felt. I want you to know why story-truth is truer sometimes than happening-truth.”

 

“He wished he could’ve explained some of this. How he had been braver than he ever thought possible, but how he had not been so brave as he wanted to be. The distinction was important.”

 

 

Have any of you read this one? Did you like it/not like it? Tell me what you thought! Was this required reading for anyone else??

Before I Blogged I Read: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

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.

the Book thief by markus zusak review

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

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

1. The Book Thief is one of my all time favorite books ever. I just reread it in October with book club and it still held up for me. While there wasn’t the rawest emotion of a new read, I still felt like I was punched in the gut. This book just has everything — the writing is phenomenal, it’s unique, the characters were so important to me and it wrecked me. 5 years later and I can’t say I’ve ever read anything like this book.

2. While this book is set during a war it’s not at all a war book. I do tend to enjoy historical fiction set during WWII but this book was way more than that and it makes me sad that people might dismiss it because of that. I love that the perspective was different than so many books I’ve read before — it focused on a normal German family during this time. So often I read books where it’s the Jewish perspective and I always wonder what it was like for just your every day people who didn’t necessarily buy in to everything Hitler was about.

3. Death was a most memorable narrator. I think this is why I can’t get this book out of my head after 5 years. Personifying Death and using him as a narrator for the book? Totally risky business but it paid off for me! SO MUCH. Very unique and very effective for me.

4. It is definitely a more slow moving book but very powerful and amazing. I like slow, more quiet books personally but I’ll be real: It moves slow. It does. And it might take some people a little bit to get into it but it’s WORTH IT. The payoff is big. It’s very character driven and these characters are AMAZING. Some of my favorite characters ever and that is what makes me so nervous about seeing it translated on the big screen. WHAT IF THEY DON’T GET THESE CHARACTERS RIGHT??

Favorite Quotes:

““I am haunted by humans.”.” 

“I wanted to tell the book thief many things, about beauty and brutality. But what could I tell her about those things that she didn’t already know? I wanted to explain that I am constantly overestimating and underestimating the human race-that rarely do I ever simply estimate it. I wanted to ask her how the same thing could be so ugly and so glorious, and its words and stories so damning and brilliant.” 

” Rudy Steiner was scared of the book thief’s kiss. He must have longed for it so much. He must have loved her so incredibly hard. So hard that he would never ask for her lips again and would go to his grave without them.”

 

 

Have any of you read this one? Did you like it/not like it? Tell me what you thought! Are you going to see it in theaters?? Book club is going this weekend! EEEE!

Something Strange & Deadly by Susan Dennard | Book Review

Something Strange & Deadly by Susan Dennard | Book ReviewSomething Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard
Series: Something Strange & Deadly #1
Publisher/Year: HarperTeen- July 2012
Genres: Paranormal YA, Steampunk
Format: Hardcover
Source: For Review
Other Books From Author: None it was her debut. Book 2 is A Darkness Strange & Lovely and is out now!
AmazonGoodreadsTwitter

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

 

 

 

It’s 1876 in Philadephia and the increase in the number of Dead rising from their graves is unsettling. Eleanor has seen them firsthand while she was waiting for her brother Elijah at the train station. Elijah doesn’t show up and she receives an alarming telegraph from him that was delivered by one of the zombies in the station. She’s worried for her brother — for obvious reasons — but also because she and her mom are struggling to maintain their wealth after their father died. As she tries to find out what happened to her brother she is thrust into the world of the Spirit Hunters who are trying to save the city from the Dead and figure out who is controlling them.

OH MY GOODNESS! I had an ARC of Something Strange & Deadly and then was sent a finished copy and it just sat on my shelf. I wasn’t really sure it was my thing. Then it became our book club book and THANK GOD because I loved this book and I’m regretting just letting it sit on the shelf for so long. It was such an absorbing and addictive read that I blew through and immediately started the next book. The thing you have to understand….I NEVER go right to the next book immediately. EVER. I read things in between. So THAT should tell you something about how obsessed I am right now over this series.

From the opening scene I was HOOKED. Walking Dead? Historic Philadelphia (my city!)? Petticoats, corsets and parasols? YES PLEASE. The mystery woven in from the start with the disappearance of Elijah didn’t let up and even more mysterious elements with the increase in walking Dead were added. It was just such a compelling read for me because it contained so many elements I loved — mystery, historical fiction, smooth writing, very slow burn romance and a compelling paranormal element that doesn’t feel overdone. I quickly became obsessed as it was just so compulsively readable!

The world-building was pretty sparse but I actually enjoyed that. You immediately know that there are Dead rising in this 1876. We don’t really know WHY they are but it’s just something that as a reader you accept as part of the world. They rise sometimes. But then the real tension comes because it’s becoming WAY more frequent and there have been some gruesome deaths. We learn WHY the increase is happening and what not but we don’t ever learn how they rise in the first place. It didn’t bother me not to know because I quickly got into the world and just accepted that was a part of it. I LOVED how Susan Dennard wrote the setting for Something Strange & Deadly. Maybe it was just that I knew most of the places in Philadelphia she was talking about but I loved being immersed in this time period.

One thing I will tell you is that the zombie/Dead are not the main focus of this novel so if you are looking for a really gory zombie novel this isn’t really that. They don’t make make up as much “screen time” as, say maybe, my favorite show The Walking Dead. I personally don’t READ a ton of zombie novels, despite my intense love for The Walking Dead, so the balance was just fine for me because the story was amazing and the Dead were very much being controlled by something — they weren’t just aimlessly hungry and wandering types of zombies. There was a purpose and someone making it happen. It’s a very fresh approach to the idea of zombies or walking dead. I will say I figured out WHO was controlling the Dead but there were still some other things I didn’t connect the dots which blew my mind.

I LOVED THIS SO MUCH. Obsessed, I tell you. I couldn’t put it down because of the absorbing mystery elements, the fresh take on the idea of zombies, the Victorian Philadelphia setting, the compulsive readability, the characters and the very slow burn romance that just dangles there and filled my heart with tension. I’m not a huge paranormal reader but I WANT TO SHOUT MY LOVE FROM THE ROOFTOPS. There honestly wasn’t anything I didn’t like about this book. It was that type of read where I was so immersed in the whole of it that I couldn’t be bothered to think about anything other than what was happening in the book. I love that kind of read where I’m so absorbed in the story that I can’t even think of all the reviewer things that normal come in my head.

Something Strange & Deadly review

 

Let’s Talk: Have you read this one? Heard of it? If you’ve read it what do you think?? How did you like this approach to zombies? Do you totally ship Eleanor & Daniel? (Anyone else here kind of feel bad for Clarence?). Also, did you guess who the necromancer was?? I had a hunch!

Stella Bain by Anita Shreve | Book Review

Stella Bain by Anita Shreve | Book ReviewStella Bain by Anita Shreve
Publisher/Year: Little Brown- November 12, 2013
Genres: Adult Historical Fiction
Format: ARC
Source: For Review
Other Books From Author: Rescue, A Wedding In December, The Pilot's Wife, Body Surfing, and many others!
AmazonGoodreads

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

 

 

 

Stella Bain, an American woman, wakes up in France in the middle of World War I and has no idea who she is. She clings to the name Stella Bain and, after she recovers from her injuries, she decides to become a nurse’s aide until she figure out who she is or what to do next. She feels very strongly about going to London to the Admiralty but doesn’t know why so she travels there on a hunch not knowing what awaits her there. Before she makes it there, she is found outside by Dr. Bridge and his wife and they allow her to stay in their home so she can get better and soon Dr. Bridge takes her on as a patient to help her try to figure out who she is.

MEH. I was so excited for this one because the premise sounded awesome and I love adult historical fiction. I hate to say it but it was completely a disappointment for me which is a shame because the first half of the book was SO GOOD — very compelling and kept me turning the pages. But then the second part happened and I felt like the story just got lost somewhere and I didn’t care anymore. I probably should have put it down but I didn’t and now I regret that because the ending REALLY didn’t nothing for me. SO MUCH APATHY FROM ME.

So let’s talk about the only part of this book that really standout for me — the first part. I was hooked immediately. The main character wakes up not knowing her name, where she is or any other details about herself. She finds herself in France during World War I and starts working as a nurse’s aide and just starts rebuilding a life under the name Stella Bain. Something triggers her and she feels like she needs to go to the Admirality in London — on a hunch. That’s when she meets Dr. Bridge and his wife by chance and they start to work on her memory. It was compelling and I felt so sorry for her and wanted to know her story. Early on we learn who she is, but then we learn her back story and how she became to be in France which was ALL very interesting. I was really loving the book at this point. It flowed very well and I was intrigued by the main character.

But then the rest of the story happened. It seemed so scattered and pointless for me. After she found out who she was, I just stopped caring. I didn’t mean to. I was looking forward to her “redemption” so to speak but it just wasn’t there for me and I struggled to keep going. There were SO many different things going on and the storylines weren’t as strong as they SHOULD have been for me. I wanted to care about what was going on in the custody battle but I didn’t because it didn’t feel entirely urgent to me — just a thing she was doing. I should have wanted this romance but it was NOT AT ALL captivating to me despite having caught the tension early on. I think I get what Shreve was trying to do with the rest of the story but it didn’t come together well in my opinion. My friend Hannah and I read it around the same time and we both agreed that we thought the story was going to focus more on the shell shock she had experienced but it didn’t really and just seemed to lose any sort of focus.

I finished this book not feeling anything at all — and that’s the worst kind of feeling for me. I’d rather passionately hate a book than feeling nothing at all.

Ultimately the worst kind of disappointment — a very strong absorbing first half as we watch Stella try to figure out who she is, her identity is revealed and her compelling back story was shared that went downhill. Then this book kind of went off into la-la land and my mind went off with it. I was bored, the storylines were clunky and not compelling and I felt nothing at all anymore.

Stella Bain by Anita Shreve

 

Let’s Talk: Have you read this one? Heard of it? Have you read any other Anita Shreve books? This was my first one, unfortunately, and I’m scared to try others but totally would with a good rec. Any other good books you know that are set during WWI?

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.

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

Amazon| Goodreads | Twitter |

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

out-of-the-easy

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!

Amazon| Goodreads | Twitter |

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.

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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: The Bird Sisters by Rebecca Rasmussen

The Bird Sisters: A NovelBook/Author: The Bird Sisters by Rebecca Rasmussen
Publisher/Year: Crown Publishing April 2011
I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Spinster sisters, Milly and Twiss,  are known as “the bird sisters” and their home serves as a place where people bring injured birds to be nursed back to health. The “bird sisters” weren’t always destined towards a path of seclusion and spinsterhood…until one summer that alters the direction of their lives.

The story gracefully moves between the present and haunting memories from their childhood. The bulk of the memories take place in the span of the summer of 1947 when Milly and Twiss are teenagers and becomes the turning point to paving the path that leads to where they are now as spinsters. Immediately I was invested in the lives of Milly and Twiss and had such a desire to know how they ended up so alone when it seemed like they had a lot going for them. I think that was the most heart-wrenching part– knowing how they ended up and needing to find out why. The details of the events that summer were revealed ever so carefully and evenhandedly that it kept you reeling until you are given the answers to what had happened. And let me tell you– it was shocking, heartbreaking and beautiful — simultaneously. I had goosebumps as we finally learned what happened in the most pivotal moment that summer.

Milly and Twiss are two of the most quirky and unforgettable characters that I’ve encountered in a while. They were developed so finely and with great precision and I just fell completely in love with them. I found a lot of the other characters to be interesting as well. Cousin Bett was that character that you just wanted to slap silly yet I kept wondering what her story was. The characters personalities were so perfectly melded together with the plot that I just kept thinking of how perfect of a book this was. Milly and Tilly are definitely the shining stars but what I loved is that they aren’t always brave, or always right or strong…they were so real and were perfect in their own ways.

For the most part I can honestly say this book was flawless for me, but I must confess, there were a few parts where it took me a little bit to figure out if we were back in the past or in the present although I was able to deduce after a page or so. The parts in the present, in the heads of the older Milly and Twiss, were a little slower moving for me but it definitely balanced out the story well.

My Final Thought:
I would recommend this to anybody looking for the perfect combination of unforgettable characters, a carefully crafted and revealed plot with a layer of surprises and undeniably beautiful prose that you find yourself savoring with each page. Seriously, this book charmed the socks off of me, broke my heart and mentally shelving this book under “books that remind me why I love the written word.” It wasn’t overwrought in emotion or drama nor was it the type of book that was trying too hard to BE something profound. It felt real and was definitely a breath of fresh air for me.

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