Anyway, now I've finished bitching, I'm going to talk about how great this story is. It's a short, powerful, emotive read about the twelve hours before a Danish boy is due to be executed. He sits in his jail cell with a fly as his only companion, reminiscing about his life with his father (poor and often homeless), but The Last Execution is not just a book about the boy in question.
As we soon find out, there are many people involved in Niel's execution - from the carpenter who will make his coffin, to the baker who will serve bread to those coming to watch, to the poet who will record the events. It's a chilling tale about the whole town, and the vast array of emotions experienced - everything from sadness and pity to excitement and enthusiasm.
The boy's guilt of the crime is never really in question, but it is given context, which makes it hard not to side with Niels regardless. The book acts as a criticism of society and its failures to the lower, poorer classes, and also shows the way people are quick to rally around and enjoy another's misfortune. As Kirkus said: "the carefully paced reveals of the specific circumstances leading up to the fatal incident ultimately suggest Niels’ greatest crime might simply have been poverty."
By opening each chapter in the dark simplicity of Niel's cell and reminding the reader how long is remaining until the execution, the atmosphere is one of impending doom and the suspense is perfect. I really enjoyed the format of the storytelling, the gradual reveals, and the wide scope of such a small novel, incorporating the perspectives of many characters.
It was dark, she was alone, but her blood was beating; she was alive. She would study it, this place, this asylum. She would hide inside herself. She
It was dark, she was alone, but her blood was beating; she was alive. She would study it, this place, this asylum. She would hide inside herself. She would seem to be good. And then she would escape.
This was awesome. I have no idea how I found this book or ended up reading it - I haven't read the author's work before and I have literally heard nothing about this book or read any reviews, professional or otherwise. I guess it was something about the setting that did it. An asylum on the edge of the Yorkshire moors in 1911 was just too good to pass up.
I suppose I should warn you non-romantics that there is a love story going on, but I never for one second felt like it took over the novel. For me, this was a dark, scary tale of events horrifyingly close to historical truth. Torn between horror and fascination as I learned how easy it was to be sent to an asylum (and the chilling laws proposed regarding "lunatics"), I could not turn the pages fast enough.
John lifted his shovel to the hard winter earth. And he thought of where he was. And how long he had been there. And what was simple broke apart and became a shattered, sharded thing.
The story follows three third-person perspectives, each as interesting as the last. John is an Irishman with a past cloaked in mystery; only time will tell why he was locked up in the asylum. Ella was dragged away from the workhouse after displaying "hysteria" and stands as an example of how easy it was to be labelled insane in 1911, especially as a working class woman. And then there's Charles - a doctor and eugenics enthusiast, and the most surprising character in this book.
The author writes some gorgeous descriptions of the setting - from the isolated, eerie Yorkshire moors to the streets of London, to the asylum itself. And at the centre of this dark, miserable asylum, there is an old ballroom where the inmates are awarded for good behaviour once every week, and allowed to come together and dance.
A strange sound started up, a low drumming. At first, she couldn’t light on what it was, until it grew faster, and louder, and she understood: it was the men, beating with their boots on the floor. Something stirred in the pit of her stomach. It was wild in here. Dangerous. Anything might occur.
There is so much to praise about this book. The truth about the eugenics movement is unsettling, even more so because it really wasn't that long ago in human history.
In fact, it was only really the Nazi crimes that served as a wake-up call and halted the eugenics movements in the United States and Europe. Prior to this, many prominent politicians (including such as Winston Churchill) called for compulsory labour camps for the "mentally defective" and/or forced sterilization. It was a widely-accepted notion that a better race of humans could be bred by following Darwinian theory. God, people are stupid.
All of this makes Charles an incredibly important and interesting character who grows in complexity, offering a very different kind of experience to that had by John and Ella in this book.
There are also some fantastic secondary characters, particularly Clem. She offers some much-needed female friendship to Ella and the two cling to each other inside the asylum, being a way to keep the other sane.
Just a really great and interesting book, featuring love, friendship, history, sanity, insanity and the many insane notions of the supposedly sane majority. I enjoyed it a lot.
She stared at the book in her hands. ‘When I go to university,’ she said, ‘if I write an essay about it, then I’ll talk about the ending. How I want it to be different. But how it’s still the right ending after all.’
“The ease. Us, the children… I never realized how easily people could be trained to accept slavery.”
Butler is an author that constantly pops up on "
“The ease. Us, the children… I never realized how easily people could be trained to accept slavery.”
Butler is an author that constantly pops up on "Best sci-fi" and "Must-Read African American authors" lists and I can finally see why. This book may be my first by her, but it won't be my last. Kindred is a fascinating, horrific journey through a dark time in American history, combining eye-opening historical research with time travel.
I suppose some modern readers will want to compare this story to Outlander and there are some similarities - a woman trying to survive in the past, lots of blood-soaked history and horror, the harsh realities of being who you are in that time - but not only did this book come first, but it is far more distressing, more tied in with historical truth, and way more about surviving than it is about lusty scenes with a kilted hot dude.
It's a really important "what if" book about race. What if a modern black woman suddenly found herself transported 150+ years into the past, right into the centre of the antebellum South? The book doesn't shy away from portraying the realities of that (nothing is sugar-coated, be prepared for some upsetting scenes).
But it's also more than a gruesome look at historical racism and violence. There are many complex and interesting characters - both slaves and slave owners. Butler has written a book that goes deeper than surface level, exploring how people come to accept slavery as the norm and to justify poor treatment of slaves. Dana is horrified how easy it is. And so was I.
Kindred is so good because, not only is it well-written and emotionally effective, but it also manages to be several different important things: complex historical-fiction, intriguing science-fiction, and a memoir of slavery. For a novel so obviously fictional, it feels very real and true. Maybe because, sadly, most of it is.
I know this is one book that will stay with me for a long time.
Nothing much to say about this one; it just isn't holding my attention. The protagonist is already slipping from my mind and I seem unable to get caugNothing much to say about this one; it just isn't holding my attention. The protagonist is already slipping from my mind and I seem unable to get caught up in the Victorian dances and dresses. Maybe because I recently read the more compelling The Dark Days Club and These Shallow Graves. Or maybe I just need to try again at a different time....more
Critics are saying this is a realistic addition to the Bronte tale because of Case's style - slow, detailed, old-fashioned - and IJust... quite dull.
Critics are saying this is a realistic addition to the Bronte tale because of Case's style - slow, detailed, old-fashioned - and I quite agree. And yet, I don't think it actually adds much at all. The author has broadened the story to contain even more details, especially about Hindley and Nelly, but it feels unneeded and unexciting. It doesn't go to all the new places I'd hoped for....more
There would be no dressing up as a maid. No cyanide slipped into his crystal glass of mineral water. The Fuhrer’s death was to be a loud, screaming t
There would be no dressing up as a maid. No cyanide slipped into his crystal glass of mineral water. The Fuhrer’s death was to be a loud, screaming thing. A broadcast of blood over the Reichssender.
This book is an action-packed adventure, but it cannot be denied that a lot of its strength comes from one of the most fascinating premises I've ever read. Two, really. Though this may have been done by other authors, it was the first time I'd read anything like it. Wolf By Wolf imagines a reality based on two horrific "what ifs". And it is damn compelling.
Almost everyone knows about the atrocities committed by the Nazis during World War II, and most people will know of some book or movie that explores the possibility of a world where Hitler won the war. What fewer people know is that medical experiments were conducted on concentration camp prisoners - painful, genetic alterations, attempts to cure homosexuality, injections of dyes to create blue eyes, etc.
Graudin takes the "what if" of Hitler winning the war and pairs it with the "what if" of an experiment that resulted in something else. What if the Nazi's attempt to play with genetics created a new type of creature - a "human" with the ability to shift their physical appearance, to take on the face of someone else? Meet Yael.
This book offers an introspective exploration of identity and the ultimate result of the Nazi crimes - a loss of identity, a loss of a sense of self. Yael can be anyone, have any face, and by doing so, she never really has an identity of her own. This inner struggle is paired with a fast-paced, heart-pounding plot.
Yael is part of a resistance with the ultimate goal - to kill Hitler. However, the Fuhrer rarely appears in public these days, so Yael must go to extremes to get close to him: join and win the Axis Tour (disguised as Adele Wolfe) and then put a bullet through Hitler's heart at the Victor's Ball in Tokyo.
But Yael makes the mistake of thinking her biggest challenge is becoming an expert biker. She gets way more than she bargained for when faced with the intricate web of jealousies, love and backstabbing from the other riders. The author reminds us that humans are complex and layered, and Yael is unable to view the other riders as empty followers of Nazi ideology because, of course, underneath everyone is so much more.
I will issue one warning - not criticism, exactly, because I quite enjoyed it - Graudin's prose gets a little purple at times. I found it more polished and less jarring than in her previous book (The Walled City) but I know flowery metaphors are a deal-breaker for some readers. Otherwise, I thought it was excellent.
Even knowing that the ending couldn't possibly be as neat as planned, I did not see it coming. It opens up possibilities for an exciting sequel, while still drawing a line under this chapter of the story. I cannot wait to read more about this world and its characters - their trials, troubles, struggles and hope.
He hadn’t stood a chance really, but that was the power of hope, the utter cruelty of it.
The pure song of a nightingale, a rossinhol, rang across the water, ending in a trill. It was an hour for sprites and fairies. What magic might lurk
The pure song of a nightingale, a rossinhol, rang across the water, ending in a trill. It was an hour for sprites and fairies. What magic might lurk among the riverbank grasses? Anything was possible just before dawn.
Either it's been a really long time since I was this completely immersed in a story, or The Passion of Dolssa just managed to make me forget all others. Because I found this book engaging, infuriating, frightening and magical. It took over my life for a little while.
It's the kind of book I had to make time for - I would hold it in one hand as I made tea or brushed my teeth because I simply couldn't put it down; I needed to know what happened next.
The writing is exquisite, painting the thirteenth-century French and Spanish countryside with brilliant description. And, into this time of mystical beliefs and holy witch hunts, come richly-drawn characters.
Dolssa and Botille are the main characters and they burst off the page, but Berry makes every single character that walks through this novel interesting. Nobody is a wasted, throwaway addition; everyone is treated as a complex human being, creating a story full of life and emotion, sadness and humour, love and hate.
Oh, and despite how the title sounds, this is not a romance at all. On the contrary, it is a gritty, medieval tale about a young woman accused of heresy and all the people who get pulled into her story when she escapes from her own execution. Her journey is a truly heart-pounding one and I felt constantly on the edge of my seat.
It's a book that is somehow gentle and character-driven, at the same time as being compelling, awful and fast-paced. Perhaps it is because you care so much about all the characters that their fates never stop being important. You're constantly afraid of what dangers lurk around every corner.
Not only are the characters memorable in themselves, but their relationships with one another are built up gradually, allowing the reader to become deeply invested in the relationship between mothers and daughters, sisters, and friends. What was strikingly noticeable while reading this book, was the extent to which we were made to care about every character, no matter how central they were to the story. There was not a single character's death (even that random person who is barely mentioned) that didn't affect me emotionally, and that's a really rare thing.
Julie Berry knew exactly how to make me care about her characters, and exactly how to draw me in and keep me hooked.
Some books are beautifully-written, finely-crafted and deserving of literary awards. Some books are fast-paced and exciting, making the pages fly by. The Passion of Dolssa, though, is both.
I try, I really do, but Sepetys's war stories do nothing for me. Yes, I know I'm in the minority. I was one of few who didn't love her debut - BetweenI try, I really do, but Sepetys's war stories do nothing for me. Yes, I know I'm in the minority. I was one of few who didn't love her debut - Between Shades of Gray - and much preferred her second book - Out of the Easy. Now she returns to World War II and, once again, I don't get it.
As with her first novel, I feel a little uncomfortable being negative about these kinds of books. This was a horrific time when some terrible atrocities were committed and I applaud the author for always focusing on the unknown, but no less true, parts of history.
Many of us know the tales of German and Polish Jews during the Nazi reign, far less know what Lithuanian refugees faced. Even fewer will know of the tragedy this book is about. I like that. Historical fiction that teaches me something is always appreciated. However, a few history lessons is truly all I took from this book.
The story is told in very short chapters of 2-3 pages (sometimes just a few sentences) and the perspective jumps between four different people - Joana, Florian, Emilia and Alfred. Personally, this didn't work for me. We spent so little time with each character before moving on that I constantly felt distanced from them, never making an emotional connection. In the beginning, the rapid movement between perspectives even made it difficult to follow the story.
Sepetys, for me, writes some of the most detached accounts of WW2 atrocities. It honestly shouldn't be that hard to evoke sympathy or some feeling for these poor people, but I genuinely felt nothing. You know those expendable people that get gunned down in movies while the hero runs from the bad guys? The ones who the camera brushes over and we never think about again? That is how I felt when learning of all the casualties and brutality in this book.
The book is told in one long, tedious journey and features many flashbacks that failed to pique my interest. The present is literally about them trekking across the icy landscape and having to show their papers to one soldier after another, before finally getting to the boat they want to board. I'm sorry, but it was so boring.
Maybe I could put it down to recently reading a fast-paced, exciting (and horrifying) book set during the Second World War - Front Lines - but, to be honest, I just think the author's war stories are not for me. I'm an emotional reader, and this kind of narrative leaves me cold.
Jane Steele is being called a retelling of Jane Eyre, but it isn't. The narrator presents the story asThe first 1/3-1/2 of this book was really great.
Jane Steele is being called a retelling of Jane Eyre, but it isn't. The narrator presents the story as an autobiography and claims to have read Bronte's most famous novel and "the work inspires me to imitative acts". And Jane Steele's life does indeed resemble that of Jane Eyre.
But with a huge twist - a lot more blood, murder and vengeance.
Regardless of whether you like Jane Eyre or not (and I do), it's hard to not be pulled in by Jane Steele's narrative voice. Her mother dies, leaving her orphaned and at the mercy of her constantly-disapproving aunt, who later sends her to a strict, miserable boarding school. But that's not before she commits her first murder.
Steele is fuelled by fire and vengeance. She is not afraid to get her hands dirty. And even though she seems increasingly nuts and lacking in human empathy, the author somehow manages to convince the reader that her crimes were warranted. From attempted rapists to sanctimonious religious hypocrites, Steele is a serial killer with strong - and often understandable - motivations.
Her time at boarding school is my favourite part of the story because that place is horrid. Nothing drags you into a story like a nice serving of despair and unfairness to really piss you off. And the boarding school is full of it. As well as the angst, there's also some great (but complex and not always loyal) female friendships. The section ends with blood and drama, and it was sad to see the novel never quite reach that level again.
Truth be told, once Jane Steele becomes a governess for Mr Thornfield, the story kind of loses its momentum. Every bit of excitement and bloodthirsty drama is gradually drained away as the romance is introduced (though gradually; no instalove in sight) and Jane finds a place for herself in Thornfield's life.
The pacing slowed and it became far less compelling. A disappointing and anticlimactic, if not unexpected, end to a novel that started so well.
4 1/2 stars. This is pretty close to five stars and I might change my mind yet. Just a beautiful, lyrical and magical book, even though there is no li4 1/2 stars. This is pretty close to five stars and I might change my mind yet. Just a beautiful, lyrical and magical book, even though there is no literal magic or fantasy elements.
karen pretty much nailed it when she said this was "classic-feeling". This whimsical historical tale has something timeless and wonderful about it - like all the best children's classics. The characters are so well-drawn and memorable, and the writing sparkles with a certain bittersweetness.
It's about a spunky, intelligent girl called Sophie, who was found floating in a cello case in the English channel as a baby. The man who found her - Charles - decides immediately to do the only natural thing - raise and love this baby girl as if she was his own.
People will easily fall in love with Charles. He is not a conventional parent and the child services certainly don't value his habit of letting a little girl wear trousers (god forbid!). He is quirky, weird and more concerned with raising a happy child, than one who fits into society's expectations. Also this:
“I do, I’m afraid, understand books far more readily than I understand people. Books are so easy to get along with.”
There's something about his attitude and the way he speaks that gives me a Dumbledore vibe.
The setting moves between the rooftops of London and Paris as our charming pair of criminals run from the authorities who wish to take Sophie away. Behind this, though, is the search for Sophie's mother and all they have to lead the way is the cello and it's music.
There is so much love for life, language and adventure in this book. It has you wishing you were the kind of person who could go racing around rooftops at midnight, seeing the whole of a beautiful European city laid out before you.
If I had books, if I could scrape together an education, I'd have a future, whether any man ever asked me to marry him or not.
Maybe you've seen this
If I had books, if I could scrape together an education, I'd have a future, whether any man ever asked me to marry him or not.
Maybe you've seen this book lurking around with its high ratings and positive reviews. Maybe you've even noticed that it got critical acclaim, a Kirkus star, and that the author is a Newbery Medal winner. And then maybe, like me, you glanced over it quickly, took in the story about a girl trying to get hired in 1911, and quickly went off to find some fast-paced fantasy to read.
I understand. The premise of this book may not sound that compelling. But it is. Through the author's fantastic, sympathetic portrayal of the narrator and her situation, The Hired Girl becomes a story that is charming, frustrating (in a good way) and moving.
Like some of the best books, this story comes to vivid, colourful life through the eyes of our narrator - Joan Skraggs. She is a truly wonderful character. She's naive, clumsy and prone to misfortune, and yet also spirited and ambitious. Sometimes I have the pleasure of reading about characters that truly feel real and Joan is one of those rare examples.
With a narrative voice that is both true to the time and evidently feeling constrained by it, we are taken on a journey with Joan, through themes of feminism, religion and love. In this book, she becomes our hero. We desperately want her to succeed.
Once upon a time, Joan had a loving mother who encouraged her to read, learn, and better herself. She told Joan she could be something more than a wife, that she would never have to rely on a man. But now Joan's mother is dead, her father has pulled her out of school to keep the house, and he has burned her beloved books. Joan is trapped and sad, but most of all, she's determined.
So Joan runs away to Baltimore where she finds work as a parlor maid. She has to somehow try to fit in with her new Jewish family, please the old maid, and not set anything on fire. Trickier than it sounds.
I love the dynamic between Joan, the Rosenbachs, and Malka. There are many sweet and funny moments, as well as an interesting exploration of their two different religions without ever becoming preachy. Most of all, I love the genuine growth and development of Joan's character. She changes with the novel in a way that feels realistic and natural.
Anyone looking for a grisly re-imagining of one of the darkest times in human history? Because Front Lines
“You’re a girl.” “No, sir, I’m a sergeant.”
Anyone looking for a grisly re-imagining of one of the darkest times in human history? Because Front Lines is most definitely that. It's a war story that packs a lot of punch, combining historical fact with an alternate version of history in which a court decision makes American women subject to the draft and eligible to fight on the front lines.
I do want to say one thing, though. It's a concern I have that I think needs to be said, though it's not exactly a criticism. I'm a little worried that books like this could further hide women from history - the fact being that over 400,000 U.S. women really did serve with the armed forces during World War II, and this fact is already often forgotten.
I'm confident that Grant's intentions were good, but I just wanted it to be said.
Anyway, Front Lines contains a lot of elements we would find in traditional war stories - brutal training of soldiers, incredibly young men and women having no idea what they're getting into, tanks, bombs and poorly-trained medics... but this particular tale is also about social injustice; a reminder that social injustice is at the heart of the Second World War.
Not only has Grant imagined army life and conditions from the POV of three different female soldiers, but he also factors in race and the effect this would have had in the early 1940s. Rio Richlin is a white female from small town California, Frangie Marr is an African-American from Oklahoma, and Rainy Schulterman is a Jewish girl from New York City. It's actually rare that someone remembers that the story of gender injustice and sexism is not the same across all women.
I didn't love Grant's last two sci-fi/fantasy series, but I have been waiting to return to his intricate characterization since the early days of the Gone series. He has this way of paying attention to small details of life that, rather than being tedious, contribute to the realism of his story. I once called him a YA Stephen King and I stand by that comparison. He just blends fiction with fact in such a way that it's entirely believable.
“PFC Schulterman, your scores are . . . acceptable. This does not alter my opinion that your proper role is at home working in a defense industry and raising children.”
Of course, being true to history, some of the language used in this book will be abhorrent to today's readers. Grant does not shy away from portraying sexism, racism and antisemitism. Some of the racial or sexual slurs might be discomfiting, but I was thankful for the realism.
And the characters themselves are sympathetic, realistic and flawed. Each has a distinct personality, her own ambition, and her own reason for being there. As with male soldiers, some of these female soldiers were eager to fight and prove themselves, others were desperate for an army paycheck. Grant also pays attention to his secondary characters, creating people who bring humour, distaste and flirtations to the mix (but don't worry, this book has very little romancing).
I do think that nearly 600 pages might be a little too long for this YA novel. Like Mr King, sometimes the attention to detail - while excellent - drags the book down a little. But it's a minor complaint. I enjoyed it a lot. Very gritty, dark and sad.
We understood nothing, you see. We thought we were soldiers, but we were still civilians dressed in khaki and OD. None of us had yet felt the fear so overpowering that you shake all the way down to your bones and your bladder empties into your pants and you can’t speak for the chattering of your teeth. None of us had yet seen the red pulsating insides of another human being.
I am a huge Bronte fan. I generally consider Wuthering Heights to be my favourite book of all time, and I grew up not far from the little village of HI am a huge Bronte fan. I generally consider Wuthering Heights to be my favourite book of all time, and I grew up not far from the little village of Haworth, where the Brontes lived. I've visited their house several times and walked the same streets they once walked. I have an interest in them that goes beyond their books and their characters.
How did these three young women write some of the best novels of all time between them? Especially in a time where women were not encouraged to write. What about that isolated little place in the Yorkshire moors inspired such a deviance from the norm? I've always wondered. So, naturally, a book imagining the Brontes' childhood called to me right away.
There are two major problems with this book, though one of them might not be such an issue if you know very little about the Bronte siblings. But let's start with the other one.
Most of the book is happening inside their heads. The book takes us deep inside the imaginations of all four Bronte siblings - Charlotte, Emily, Anne and Branwell - trying to recreate the thought processes that led them towards such magnificent stories. Each of them has their own perspective and, during these chapters, their daily lives blend into their imagination as they create worlds and characters (some we will recognize as future Heathcliffs and Rochesters) in their minds.
Firstly, it is not always easy to tell what is actually happening and what is in their heads. There's no warning; the narrative simply moves straight from their actual lives to a fantasy scenario.
But the bigger issue is: why do we care? It sounds like a potentially fascinating premise in theory, and yet it feels a little bit like when someone wants to tell you about the weird dream they had last night and you just DO NOT CARE.
You know what I mean - Do you really want to hear about the wanderings of someone's subconscious? Even if they dreamed that Katniss Everdeen got sent to Hogwarts instead of the Hunger Games and became a badass witch, other people's dreams are always incredibly boring. You know it's true.
So, for me, reading a story about people making up stories in their heads is honestly not that interesting. I do not know if this was simply never going to work, or if this book just didn't do it very well, but either way - I was really bored.
The other major problem is that I know a little something about Charlotte, Emily and Anne. And this book runs with the most basic knowledge of their personalities and doesn't really develop anything else. Charlotte is romantic, but plain, dreaming of equally plain heroines who fall for the very Mr Rochester-like Zamorna. Emily is a loner who loves the moors. Anne is a preachy good girl.
You could probably gather these facts just from reading their books. I would have liked to see a little more depth, a little more personality. This book isn't a biography, so make it up! Be creative! Artistic license!
Instead, I got a mixture of what I already know and what I don't care about. An interesting attempt to look at the young Brontes but, in my opinion, it just didn't work.