I finally finished this, and I am very glad I did. While some parts did not appeal to me, the memoirs of Justine and Richard's grandmother, Gabriele w...moreI finally finished this, and I am very glad I did. While some parts did not appeal to me, the memoirs of Justine and Richard's grandmother, Gabriele were very moving and at times heartbreaking.
I can't quite give this four stars because it was too slow moving initially, but it's definitely worth 3.5 stars, just for the WW2 narrative.
Reading Catherynne M. Valente is a unique experience. Her writing is full of magic and imagination. It doesn't always make 'sense', but it feels right...moreReading Catherynne M. Valente is a unique experience. Her writing is full of magic and imagination. It doesn't always make 'sense', but it feels right. The child in me who never grew up, who loves fairy tales, lands of magic, mythical creatures, and folklore, ate up this story like the most scrumptious dessert. I listened to this on audio, and at first, I wasn't sure how well it would work. There are a lot of concepts, and they don't tie together in a straightforward fashion at first glance. If other readers are like me, I'd encourage you not to give up on it if it doesn't catch you right away on first listen. Initially, I felt that Ms. Valente didn't quite feel comfortable reading her story. However, that changed, and she seemed to get into the flow of it, using different voices, timbres, and cadences for the various characters. I could feel how much she loved this story she had written, and the characters within.
This novel is one that both kids and grown-ups with a love of fantasy and make-believe tales would love. It's a story of a young girl who is very, very brave, strong-minded, determined, but with a very big heart for a kid (who are considered to be mostly heartless, according to the narrator). She goes to Fairyland on a romp, to escape the reality of a mother who works all the time and a father who was shipped off to war. Feeling alone and too different from the other kids she went to school with, she longs for adventure and a place where normal isn't the ideal. That's when she gets swept off to Fairyland and becomes a champion for this place of magic. And we are along for the journey.
At times, I got a bit confused with the narrative, because it's not exactly a linear story. Fairyland isn't a place that always makes sense, and that could make for strange listening when I was focused on driving or getting where I was going. If the reader embraces that this isn't that kind of novel, it makes for a very satisfying reading experience. Just immersing oneself in this marvelous world where anything is possible is gratifying.
This book is suitable for a young audience, but there are elements that feel pretty sophisticated, if one is older and catches the subtext. Some younger readers might not get all those references, but that's okay. I think it's fine for them to grasp an understanding of the story at their own level. There is some violence and dark subject matter, but the message of self-sacrifice, determination, friendship, and love are very good elements for kids to experience.
At one point, I thought I'd have to take off half a star because of getting lost and things slowing down a bit, but the overall beauty and power of this story requires a five star rating for me. I definitely recommend this book to readers who enjoy mythopoeic/folklore-rich fantasy novels, young and older.(less)
Ms. Solomons took me back to the time around the beginning of WWII through the eyes of a girl who is a stranger in a strange land, and in such a way t...moreMs. Solomons took me back to the time around the beginning of WWII through the eyes of a girl who is a stranger in a strange land, and in such a way that my heart was completely affected by this story. Descriptive, nostalgic, and highly evocative.
I was glad that I went into this book unaware of many of the plot elements. It made for a more exciting read. Despite this, I was still surprised as t...moreI was glad that I went into this book unaware of many of the plot elements. It made for a more exciting read. Despite this, I was still surprised as things turn out to be not as they seemed. I liked F. Paul Wilson's writing voice. It's erudite and sophisticated. He did his research about WW2 and what was going on in Europe at this time. The aspects of the Nazis' treatment of the Jews and the Gypsies made my heart hurt. I can't and never will understand such barbarity, cruelty, and inhumanity. Mr. Wilson doesn't just throw this in for a background historical context. This becomes a very important aspect of this story as it deals very much with the nature of evil, how humanity's actions perpetrate evil and its sickness in the world.
The characters were engaging, making this supernatural story feel very grounded in some respects. I felt deeply for Magda. She was a strong woman hemmed in by circumstances, a sickly father who took her granted in a way that was almost criminal. All her dreams denied because of her need to take care of him, and because she was Jewish. Glenn is an interesting character as well. He's quite enigmatic, something more than human, although he wears the cloak of humanity well for the most part. He has lost touch with some of the human emotions, as he says, but in contrast to the SS soldiers, there is no question that he is a humane person. As for the Germans... I felt sorry for Woermann, and I didn't think he was a bad man. Imagine me feeling sympathy for a German soldier in WW2. The key point that I am glad that Wilson makes clear is that not all the Germans supported or believed in what Hitler was doing. Of course, many did act to thwart Hitler, and lost their lives in the process. Something that one might not choose to acknowledge on the surface, as it's easy to label all Germans as the hated Nazis. It is the truth, none the less. History now makes it clear that there was a strong German Resistance, as well there should have been. One hopes that good men and women will not stand by and watch evil happen, and Woermann felt like he had done too much of that and it destroyed his belief in himself, and the country that he had spent most of his life serving. In contrast, there was the SS commander, Kaempffer, who was a horribly evil, vile human being. It is harder to feel sympathy for him and his ilk, in light of his vicious and unwarranted hatred and persecution of people because they happened to be of a different ethnicity than him. Part of me relished seeing the SS soldiers get their just deserts, but Wilson makes it clear that this only perpetuates the dangerous taint of evil in this story.
There were some touches I liked very much in this story: *A very obvious nod to the Lovecraftian mythos. They find copies of some of the forbidden books of Chthulu, such as De Vermis Mysteriis, Book of Eibon, Nameless Cults, Cultes des Goules and even The Necronomicon. Lovecraft fans will likely appreciate this as I did. *I liked the romance very much. It was good to see that Magda does get a chance to have a 'life' and to be appreciated in a way that she didn't in a man's world, with a father who doesn't respect her as much as he should, and as a member of a group of people who were horribly persecuted against. And Glenn has been alone so long. Now he isn't. *Some parts of this novel were truly creepy! I love a good scare, so I was a happy camper. It was less scary towards the end, but still thrilling and disturbing in a different way. *The history and setting made this WW2 history buff happy, although sad at the same time. The Shoah is a disturbing subject, even in fiction. The supernatural horror of this story pales in comparison to what kinds of horrors really happened, and the fact that behind them was human evil and institutionalized racism. *I like the cosmic scope of this battle between good and evil. I won't go into that, because that would spoil this book, and this is a book that the less you know, the better it reads. Suffice it to say, if you like arcane supernatural fiction as I do, you might enjoy these aspects of this book.
I found myself reading this very quickly on my Kindle. I was immersed in this story, transported to 1940s Romania, and submerged in the gothic feel of this novel. Although I had no expectations, it turned to be a lot more than I even imagined. I enjoyed it a lot.
This was truly an incredible book, in my opinion. Ms. Ryan captured the fear and the isolation that a person who is in a harrowing situation and who i...moreThis was truly an incredible book, in my opinion. Ms. Ryan captured the fear and the isolation that a person who is in a harrowing situation and who is trying to do the right thing feels. I cannot even imagine what it must have been like for Jack and Katarina, trapped in an environment where evil is fostered and rewarded, and the slightest mistake could end up with one's horrible demise or failure in a mission to save lives.
What I truly appreciated was how the author wrote a fictional story that spoke to my spirit, my heart, and my intellect. It seems like a coincidence, but it's not. I read this book right when I needed. I am in need of being reminded that I am not in control, and better yet, that's not a bad thing. It's hard to accept that, but there is such a freedom when one does. For a control freak like myself (and Jack and Katarina), acknowledging that you can't control everything is one of the hardest things you must do, but you have to do it all the time. This past week at work was not good, and I tried to do my best in that situation, but I couldn't control all the situations I faced. I had to accept that, and seek God's will in that situation and trust that He would take care of me. So, I could feel what the characters in this book struggled with. But the good news is, that God is in control, and His will is done. It doesn't mean things will always go our way. But the truth is, when God leads you into situations, He will not abandon you or forsake you. I loved how Renee Ryan illustrated this so eloquently. How she had Jack and Katarina recalling scriptures from their childhood (since both had lost faith due to the horrible things that happened to them prior to this book) that reminded them of God's protection. As a Christian, the Holy Spirit will do that, and give the believer peace even in the worst of circumstances. As I read, I could deeply identify with that feelings that these characters I came to love experienced. How things looked so bad, but God's spirit promised His protection and His guiding hand for His children, even those who forgot that He will fulfill His promises. Yes, I read this book right when I needed to, and it helped renew my faith that God would take care of me.
Another thing I loved about this book were how charismatic and powerful the characters of Jack and Katarina were. Their magnetism reached off the page at me. Jack is a true alpha male in the best sense. He is unafraid to put himself on the line for others, always seeks to protect others, and uses his considerable assets of intelligence, training, and adaptability to maneuver in some truly dangerous circumstances. He is also tortured because he has left behind his godly ways after he ended up being forced into the life of a spy, and what his calling has forced him to see and to do. He believes he is doomed for his actions, although he does them for the right reasons. Katarina is an actress whose role lasts twenty-four hours a day. She is playing the role of an empty-headed Russian princess who earns a living on the stage, but has a penchant for getting involved with dangerous men. Deep down, she is a woman who is working for the British as a spy with the goal of protecting her mother, whose heritage could send her to the death camps. I loved the ice cool natures of these characters, and how they handled challenges that came their way. And I loved their vulnerabilities. Both had believed that God abandoned them and that they were on their own, but they learn that God never abandons His children. Sometimes we don't look hard enough to see His guiding hand, even though it's there in the dark. I loved how they found each other in the seemingly forsaken, evil environs of Nazi Germany, surrounded by men who seemed bent on world domination and annihilation of peoples who they felt beneath them, including the Jews, devout Christians (those who didn't follow the new religion of Germany based on nationalism and Nordic/Teutonic paganism), and people who spoke against their regime. Their relationship had real chemistry. I could see that they found something worthwhile in each other on every level. They saw something powerful in each other, that spoke to them. And God worked through both of them to bring them together and back to a knowledge of His love and protection.
This book has some very powerful scenes that made me cry. The scenes in which both characters seem at the end of their strengths, but manage to pull through because of their will, their newly rediscovered faith in God, and His steady hand of protection. I am not one for praying in a group (it makes me feel awkward), but I loved the scene where Jack and Katarina pray together. It made me cry because it was something they both needed and it gave them strength to face the dark circumstances that they needed to confront.
Ms. Ryan did a great job with this period. Although I am an not expert on this period, I have read up on it, and I could see that she did her research, and used that knowledge to write a powerful fiction story set during this horrible time in history.
I am so blessed to find another Christian romance that spoke to me. I had long feared that I wouldn't find any that ministered to me in a deep, powerful manner, and also provided an intense, edgy story that wouldn't leave me wanting more. Dangerous Allies definitely did this for me. Dangerous Allies shows a part of history that breaks my heart and makes me soul-sick. The good thing about this book was that it reminded me that although Nazi Germany seemed like a godless, evil place, and it seemed as though the Lord's presence wasn't there to protect the innocent from the terrors of the Nazis, that wasn't true. There were people of faith there working to end the reign of terror and horror that the Nazis had over Europe during this period. I couldn't ask for more in a book.
I am so glad I found this on audiobook at the library. It turned out to be a very good medium for this story. I have to say that for a slow starter, I...moreI am so glad I found this on audiobook at the library. It turned out to be a very good medium for this story. I have to say that for a slow starter, I really got drawn into this book, and when it ended, I had separation anxiety!
Two things kept me from giving this a five star rating:
1. The slow, meandering start. I was initially thinking, uh-oh, this might turn out to be a real snoozer. Boy was I wrong! 2. The ending was a cliffie that really got my blood pressure up! I didn't like the way this novel concluded at all. I hate feeling like I'm being manipulated to read the next book in a series, and it felt that way. I'd rather read a book series that has books that begin and conclude in a natural way. Some resolution, but threads that encourage me to pick up the next book. That was so not the case here. I would have kept reading anyway, but now I feel like my arm is being twisted to read the next book.
Things I loved about this book:
1. The scholarly tone wouldn't work for everyone, but since I am a bookworm nerd who likes to research topics that are of interest, I could really get into the angelologists and their penchant for delving deeply into subjects in their field. And their subject knowledge.. .Wow! Most of the main characters were in one way or another scholars or people who really knew their stuff. They spent their lives reading and immersing themselves in the past. That spoke to me. 2. I loved the epistolary format, a significant portion of the book written as parts of journal entries and book excerpts. It was executed very well. One would think that this would make the book dry, but it didn’t. 3. The narrator was fantastic. She did a gorgeous French accent (and believe me, most of the book is in various French viewpoints), and she made each of the characters sound very different. With the male viewpoints, her voice was lower and conveyed a male speaking. She really brought them to life, and brought a vivid image of the story to life, and I could get an idea of what each character was like based on the way she spoke their parts. 4. Ms. Trussoni gets the duality of angels. They are so beautiful they are irresistible, but there are so powerful and dangerous that one never truly forgets (or shouldn’t to their regret) their celestial nature, so far above humans. And then, there are the nephilim. Oh my goodness. They were so evil! I had hopes that creatures of a once divine origin, so beautiful to look at, would have some goodness inside. Not at all! I was continually surprised at how sinister and even corrupt they were. They thought absolutely nothing about humans, or God, or their celestial origins. They were all about obtaining and keeping power on earth. 5. Angelology itself as the focus of this book. Who knew? Wow! It’s more than just being an angel scholar. It’s your life, and there is no sacrifice too great, as I learned as I read. It’s all for a purpose, to prepare for the battle against very powerful foes, the nephilim. The people in this avocation that we become acquaintances with in this book suffer so greatly, and as I listened, it was clear why. Their foes were such that it took all their energies to fight them, and losing one’s life could be a given at any time. 6. Ms. Trussoni did such a good job of tying all the various narrators together. The story spans over a thousand years (well actually goes back to biblical times), but it all plays a part, and each narrator took my attention and held it hostage as I listened. 7. Percival Grigori was a fascinating villain. There were times I felt really sorry for him, and other times I hated him. His highly complicated relationship with Gabriella Levy-French Valco made for some good reading! The societies that the nephilim had built and how they became the ones controlling all the power and money in the modern world felt so plausible, part of me wonders if this is truly possible. It kind of makes sense! Final Thoughts: Although the ending was a buzz kill, I was very impressed overall with this book. The angel parts were surreally intoxicating. I found I cared about the characters, and I was so engaged with their struggles. This book found my angel love and pulled me tight to the narrative. The unreal beauty of the angels, the black hearts of the nephilim, the intense struggle of the frail humans against unimaginably strong (but strangely frail in some ways) celestial creatures. But then, those angelologists have some serious tricks up their sleeve. If you are a reader who loves angels, you should add this to the reading list.
This was probably a 3.5 star read for me. It was good, but it could have been better. I think the writing lacked a certain polish, although I did like...moreThis was probably a 3.5 star read for me. It was good, but it could have been better. I think the writing lacked a certain polish, although I did like some of the imagery. And it definitely was scary!
Story: The vampires in this book were both disgusting and fearsome. I admit that thinking about the vampires and their nasty stinger and how they would excrete their waste products gave me the shivers (both in repulsion and fear). I liked the scientific angle employed in this story, taking an ancient evil, and giving it a scientific explanation. The potential for exponential and catastrophic spread of the vampire plague in this novel gives me the shudders. Books like this make me glad for the light of the sun, which is what a good vampire novel should do. This book touches both on my primal fear of ancient evil and infection, so it really did push my buttons.
Characters: There were some characters that were so beautifully written that they spoke to me. Others were too cardboard for me. Abraham Satrakian, the elderly Jewish Shoah survivor was a wonderful character. He was like Van Helsing, with even more credibility, having earned his slayer status deep in the trenches. Hearing about his horrendous time in the Treblinka concentration camp added a deeper sense of horror and anguish to this story. He's one tough old guy, and he's definitely my favorite character in this novel. Ephraim is a pretty good character. At times, his narrative seemed a little half-baked. Over the course of the book, he gained a little more life and authority in my mind. I think his co-worker Nora was woefully under-used. I wondered what the purpose of her character was, other than being a soundboard for him. I felt very badly for Ansel and his situation, with his wife Anne-Marie. I didn't really care for the lawyer woman Luss, although I want to see what happens with her perceptive, Haitian nanny and the kids she saved from their mother. I like Fett, the ratcatcher a lot. He's a smart guy, street smart, intelligent, and resourceful. He knows how to handle himself. He is a huge asset to the small vampire slaying group that Abraham forms with Ephraim. The Master Vampire, well, I'm kind of undecided about. He wasn't in this book enough for him to resonate with me. I think Abraham is a much more powerful, and iconic character. The Master is more like Patient Zero to me, just a disease vector, one who comes around and sneers into the camera. He didn't really establish a lot of credibility with me as the Great Villain or the Big Bad. We'll see if that changes with the other books in the series...
Overall Thoughts: This was a suspenseful, scary book to hear on audio. I was definitely sucked in. My aunt (who was riding with me on Friday) also got sucked in. Unfortunately, I think the characterization could have been more even-handed. There were a bit too many storylines, and I felt like some were dropped prematurely. I know this is a three-part book, so I guess I will have to keep reading to see where things go. As far as being scary and gross and keeping a reader invested, this is a Class A read. I think that work on the characters and the plot would have made it a stronger read over all. Ron Perlman was a really good narrator. He has a great voice, and he did a good job with the accents. I would definitely listen to other audiobooks read by him. If you find this available on audiobooks, and you are a vampire fan, I say check it out.
What if one of the Allies' greatest spies during WWII was a werewolf?
The Wolf's Hour is the story of Michael Gallatin, born Mikhail Gallatinov. His j...moreWhat if one of the Allies' greatest spies during WWII was a werewolf?
The Wolf's Hour is the story of Michael Gallatin, born Mikhail Gallatinov. His journey is sprawling and meaty, full of intense moments, both emotional and physical. Although I am not sure this technically counts as an epic, it feels very epic to me. Because there is so much to see about how Michael goes from being a privileged eight-year-old during the bloody Russian Revolution to a thirty-four year old British Secret Service spy. You might say, "That's a big jump." But when you read this book, you find out how he evolved from that boy to the man he becomes.
Things to Take Into Consideration:
*This is a bloody, gory book. There is a lot of violence. The action scenes are almost always gruesomely described. If you're really squeamish, be warned. I am not big on gore (at all), and I often winced as I read. However, it doesn't come off as gratuitous. Why? Because this is about predators, human and animals. Michael has to learn to live in the brutal world of the wolf and the more brutal (for it is often not of necessity), unnecessary viciousness of humanity. I feel that McCammon draws a contrast between wolves and humans. Wolves kill for survival. They can attack fiercely and brutally, but their motives are for living another day. Whereas the vile actions of the Nazis and some of the Russians during their Revolution depicted in this novel speak of human evil and the dark heart of human nature. To kill, maim, and to harm for paltry reasons (if there are any good ones), that's not the animal world. That's purely human. Not all humans are evil, and McCammon shows that. But those that are commit so many heinous acts that it weighs on the soul, even when reading a fiction novel set during WWII. Even Michael, a man who lived as a wolf and has a dual beast nature, is not so cruel and blood-thirsty as the Nazis, with their racial and ethnic hatred, their greed, and thirst for domination. I liked how he is asked the question about where werewolves fit in God's eye, by his tutor, Wiktor, and eventually asks himself later on in his life--to find his answer. Suddenly he realizes his place in this world of ugliness, God's wolf avenger. I have to make it clear that I despise the Nazis so much, I liked the idea of having someone like Michael around to take care of them. He realized he couldn't save everyone, but he always tried to do what was right.
*There is a fair amount of sex in this book. Michael's life plays out over nearly thirty years, and in that time, he loves and 'loves' numerous women. I'm not real big on seeing a character 'hook up' with several people over the course of a book, but I suppose that this is another layer to his character that plays out. And in all those encounters, you get the sense that Michael does respect and love women. So it wasn't exploitative, in my opinion.
*As I mentioned earlier, this book focuses heavily on the War World II time period. McCammon does not shy around the atrocities committed by the Nazis, and if that is disturbing to a reader, you might want to avoid this book. If a reader has an interest in WWII, I do recommend this book. It focuses mainly on the Nazis as the evil entity behind this war. Interestingly, it does not focus as much on the political state or evolution of Soviet Russia, or the atrocities that were committed under Stalin. While he doesn't paint the Soviet Army as the only or primary good-guys, neither does he delve deeply into that part of the WWII puzzle (and the reasons why the Soviets were able to crush the Axis on the Eastern Front). This is interesting, since Michael is Russian born, although he becomes a British citizen. But at over 601 pages, this book is plenty long enough, and I can respect that McCammon chose to focus on one aspect of the war.
*This book is about loss, struggle, the fortitude it takes to keep going and living when everything you love and that is familiar and comfortable to you is taken away. It's very angsty and sad, in other words. Just when you have hope that things might turn out out okay, the rug gets swept out from under you. McCammon does a great job of building and sustaining that tension. In real life, there isn't a such thing as "and they lived Happily Ever After." Instead, we have seasons of joy and plenty, and then there are seasons when sorrow seems to prevail above other emotions. But we have to keep moving through those seasons and take the lessons we can from both periods in our lives. Michael shows tremendous fortitude in his life, considering all that he went through. Giving up just isn't part of his makeup. Instead, he takes those hard-won, painful lessons and uses those to grow stronger. How can you not love that about him?
*The mix of espionage with supernatural was very well done. You might be fooled into thinking that things will be much easier for Michael because he is a werewolf. Oh, no! He bleeds just like humans, he can be gravely injured, he suffers from illness and starvation. Being a wolf gives him strength and endurance more than humans, but he is not infallible. Instead, his dual nature is just one other tool in his spy armament. And even that can be a liability in some circumstance. Although I think I do like the wolf who regenerates quickly, even with life-threatening injury, and heals more rapidly than humans better, the portrayal of lycanthropy in this book is better-suited to the tone and overall story. McCammon very carefully avoids using deus ex machina, but instead relies on Michael's physical conditioning, his mental acuity, and his extreme drive and determination, along with help from the Resistance groups of various parts of occupied Europe, and his spy cohorts. The espionage unfolds very well. That razor edge of spywork, and the extreme cost that comes with it. Knowing your life could be forfeit from any mistakes or just because of the danger of the work, and also that you cannot save everyone. You have to make sacrifices so that the greater good could be done. Man, I felt that moral angst deep down as I read this book. I held my breath as Michael and his compadres dealt with the Nazis and did their dangerous work, hoping they wouldn't be caught, and if so, they would find their way to safety. With this book, there certainly are no guarantees. You don't know who will make it, including the lead character. As I said, very well done!
The Wolf's Hour is compelling, involving reading. My emotions were deeply engaged, all of them. The story of Michael Gallatin, a man with many identities, drew me in. He is a great hero, and this is a great story about his life. When I finished it, I was kind of sad, because I felt as though he was part of my life for that time I spent reading this book. I highly recommend this novel!
This book was a very important volume in the series in relation to the Snow/Bigby storyline. I gave it five stars because the storytelling is really a...moreThis book was a very important volume in the series in relation to the Snow/Bigby storyline. I gave it five stars because the storytelling is really awesome. I was really surprised at the direction Willingham took with their offspring. It totally makes sense. There is some angst associated with the situation because things aren't pointing towards a happy ever after so far for a couple who is starting to become one of my mega ships, especially in comic books. I just love the heck out of both Snow and Bigby, both separately and as a couple. We got to see Bigby's adventures during WWII and his relationship with a soldier he met during that time. I am a huge fan of the supernatural WWII spin and War Stories goes in that direction. I have to say that Bigby reminds me a lot of Wolverine at times. I don't know if that is intentional or not or just a coincidence. All I know is the more I see of Bigby, the more I appreciate his character.
Outside of their storyline, there were other interesting dynamics in this novel. We see Cinderella's secret life and how important a role she plays to Fabletown. There's definitely more than meets the eye with her.
I wish I had felt like writing my review sooner, because I know I didn't do this book justice. However, I can definitely say that don't let my short review convince any readers that I don't have good reasons for loving this book. To me, Willingham has continued his streak of excellent storytelling with this book.
He brings on more of the pain as we see hard choices made in this story and personal sacrifices that have to hurt like heck. Although I had some bittersweet moments, this book experience is of the kind that brings to mind an excellent dessert that lingers on your taste buds long after you finish eating it.(less)