Greta Wells is devastated after losing her twin brother Fel...moreMy rating: 4 of 5 stars Source: Library Checkout
'The impossible happens once to each of us.'
Greta Wells is devastated after losing her twin brother Felix to AIDS and after her long term partner Nathan also leaves her. Burdened by a deep depression that is slowly getting the better of her, she takes the advice of her Aunt Ruth and visists a doctor who recommends electroconvulsive therapy. Ironically, right before her first session she considers, "How I longed to live in any time but this one. It seemed cursed with sorrow and death."
The night following her first session she goes to sleep in 1985 and arises the next day in 1918. She wakes up as herself just under slightly different circumstances: her brother is alive and she is married to Nathan but is in love with a younger man named Leo. She discovers that her 1918 self is also undergoing electroconvulsive therapy and again, the night following her session she arises the next day in another time; this time in 1941. The cycle continues: 1985, 1918, 1941 and so on for 25 treatments.
"You’re all the same, you’re all Greta. You’re all trying to make things better, whatever that means to you. For you, it’s Felix you want to save. For another, it’s Nathan. For this one, it’s Leo she wants to resurrect. I understand. Don’t we all have someone we’d like to save from the wreckage?"
This is a time travel story, yet it's not really. It touches on the possibilities of past lives and how your actions resonate to future lives and reincarnations of a sort. Because while 1985 Greta is traveling to her past selves, these individuals she's 'taking over' for are also on the same adventure and they're all trying to correct past mistakes and secure their own happiness.
"Is there any greater pain to know what could be, and yet be powerless to make it be?"
The heart of the story is of course Greta, her lives, and the individuals she loves in these lives. It's a tale of romance and how each Greta found (and loved) Nathan but after experiencing each of these lives a wrench gets thrown into the works as she is forced to consider the possibility that he is not her one true love, that she's been blinded into repetition and is only resorting to what she knows.
While each life could easily showcase the historical detailing of the time, this is glazed over. In 1918, we have the flu epidemic and World War I is ending. In 1941, World War II is beginning. In 1985, we have the AIDS epidemic. While living in these time periods, Greta maintains a certain absence as if she's truly just a visitor and isn't quite experiencing the moments around her. For someone who said, "...not all lives are equal, that the time we live in affects the person we are, more than I had ever though" I really wished to see the transformation of her character due to her environment and the impacts her surroundings had on her as a person.
The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells is treated as a serious tale of time travel yet is rife with flaws in its design. A definite suspension of disbelief is required because of how truly 'Impossible' the story is. Despite this (and the crazy unraveling that occurred at the end), it all managed to still work. It would be easy to nitpick it to death but in all actuality, time travel is not an exact science and different variations are definitely possible and this was quite an original interpretation of it. The story of Greta Wells is an imaginative tale about past lives and the implausible impossibility of "what if".(less)
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars A copy of The Girl You Left Behind was provided to me by Pamela Dorman Books for review purposes. ____________________________...moreMy rating: 3.5 of 5 stars A copy of The Girl You Left Behind was provided to me by Pamela Dorman Books for review purposes. ______________________________
"Once it is done, it cannot be undone."
1916 In the midst of WWI, a small French town is overtaken by the Germans and Sophie and her sister Helene are forced to make the soldiers extravagant meals every night. When the portrait of Sophie that her husband painted of her catches the attention of the Kommandant, he begins showing her a kindness not afforded to any others. Sophie decides to take advantage of that kindness in hopes that she will be able to help free her husband from the ravages of the prison camp. For his help though, it will come at a steep cost.
'Sometimes life is a series of obstacles, a matter of putting one foot in front of the other. Sometimes [...] it is simply a matter of blind faith.'
2006 Liv is still grieving for the husband she lost unexpectedly 4 years prior. She meets a man that she feels she could actually move on and be happy with only to find that he's been searching for a long lost painting that Liv's husband gave to her while on their honeymoon. He was hired to recover the painting when the descendants came forward when she was discovered as being stolen from the family during WWI. Liv begins researching information on the girl in the portrait in hopes to uncover the truth behind it's origins.
I'm a huge fan of dual narrative stories, especially when you have a wonderful mix of old with the new. This is perfect for fans of historical fiction and/or contemporary because you get both genres intertwined. I personally was a bigger fan of the 1916 storyline and all the aspects of WWI, plus I felt Sophie's story was simply a better written and riveting tale. Sophie's story was heartrending as war tales typically are. Liv's story was equally distressing but lacked a clear understanding why she was so adamant about keeping the portrait.
I picked up this story after being thoroughly enchanted by 'Me Before You' however, this is a vastly different type of tale with much more focus on the historical aspects. I would recommend this read to fans of Sarah Jio and Susanna Kearsley as both typically focus on dual narratives and/or the blending of past and present.
The Girl You Left Behind is the tale of two women, both surviving trying times, joined through decades by a remarkable portrait. A portrait that brings to light what's right and wrong and how there is oftentimes a middle ground, a grey area.(less)
My rating: 4 of 5 stars A copy of Rose Under Fire was provided to me by Disney Hyperion for review purposes.
'Hope is the most treacherous thing in the...moreMy rating: 4 of 5 stars A copy of Rose Under Fire was provided to me by Disney Hyperion for review purposes.
'Hope is the most treacherous thing in the world. It lifts you and lets you plummet. But as long as you're being lifted, you don't worry about plummeting.'
Rose Under Fire tells the story of Rose Justice, an American pilot who is captured and sent to the concentration camp Ravensbrück which held primarily women and children. The beginning of the story is a short, day to day accounting in epistolary (journal) form of her duties as a pilot. After, she transcribes everything she remembers from her experiences in Ravensbrück and how she managed to be one of the few who lived to tell the tale.
The horrors that Rose and the thousands of other women suffered through at Ravensbrück will break your heart. There isn't a lack of detailing either, the story is vividly retold making it disturbingly palpable. It also doesn't help to know that while the story is fictional, Elizabeth Wein's story is based on fact and is a slight retelling of actual survivors from Ravensbrück.
Over a six year period between 1939 and 1945 over 130,000 women and children resided at the camp; some were transported to other camps, some survived till the end of the war and most died within those walls. Out of that inconceivable number only a reported 15,000-32,000 managed to survive. The most horrid aspect of what went on at this camp are the details of the medical experimentation that was done on a reported 86 women that were known from then on as 'Rabbits'. I will avoid detailing this as you'll receive enough within the book itself, but the fact that even a single one of those women were able to survive is astounding.
Rose Under Fire is a companion novel to Code Name Verity. It's not necessary to have read CNV prior, but I would definitely recommend it. Code Name Verity came close to being a DNF for me only because it was overly focused on the mechanical aspects of piloting but Julie was an amazing character. Rose Under Fire is a much more prevalent and typical tale of a WWII survivor; an incredible character possessing a perseverance that was truly admirable. (less)
After reading the abundant amount of rave reviews and seeing all of the awards this book was both nominated for and won, I knew this was one worth che...moreAfter reading the abundant amount of rave reviews and seeing all of the awards this book was both nominated for and won, I knew this was one worth checking out. While I didn't love it as many have, it was still a heart wrenching and devastating tale about two girls who are best friends that become lost to each other in the midst of WWII. This is a difficult story to discuss as it's saturated in potential spoilers. Albeit, it was a truly remarkable story but one you shouldn't take at face value for the narrator is the very definition of unreliable. The story definitely had an optical effect like that of a mirage, because what you see is definitely not as it truly is.
I only give this 3 stars though because the technical aspects of planes and the war details was done in excess and overpowered the story at heart. While understandable why this was done, it still made for a long drawn out read. I personally recommend the audio of this as it made it infinitely easier to get through these sections (I had originally attempted to read this book and called it quits before I had even read very far. I am glad I re-attempted this on audio.) Even though I didn't care for the technical aspects, I really have to applaud the author on the extensive research that was obviously done to make this an extremely potent and plausible story of World War II.
Code Name Verity is a moving and unforgettable tale that will leave you heartbroken and clutching your tissue box. Not speaking from experience or anything of course, just a guess. :)
My rating: 3 of 5 stars A copy of The Illusion of Separateness was provided to me by Harper for review purposes.
'In a sense we are all prisoners of som...moreMy rating: 3 of 5 stars A copy of The Illusion of Separateness was provided to me by Harper for review purposes.
'In a sense we are all prisoners of some memory, or fear, or disappointment-we are all defined by something we can't change.'
The Illusion of Separateness tells the story of six different individuals who are all interconnected in ways they don't even realize. The story begins in Los Angeles, CA in 2010 but goes as far back as 1939 in the midst of World War II. Through these first-person stories and the recounting of past events, it slowly begins to unfold how these seemingly random people are all effected by a strangers actions.
I'm quite enamored with interweaving story lines in movies (Crash, Babel, Love Actually, The Fountain.. I could obviously go on and on) relishing in the stories of many only to find just how interconnected they are to one another. It takes a skilled writer to successfully write several plot lines, connect them effortlessly and at the same time give each of them a proper ending. I was immediately interested in this book once I realized it dealt with multiple plot lines yet found myself leery when noticing how few pages the author gave himself to work with, made me worry that he wouldn't give each and every one of his characters proper credit or back-story. While I wish I did have more back-story on these characters, what we were given was sufficient enough to make each of them memorable.
'...finding the candles by heat, and blowing them out one by one, as we, one day, will be vanquished with a last puff and then nothing at all - nothing but the fragrance of our lives in the world, as on a hand that once held flowers.'
While the characters 'illusion of separateness' did on occasion feel strained and slightly forced this was still undoubtedly an enjoyable tale. Slow to build with a simplistic way of writing but was ultimately extremely pleasing in the end.(less)
My rating: 5 of 5 stars A copy of Life After Life was provided to me by Reagan Arthur Books/Netgalley for review purposes.
"What if you had the chance t...moreMy rating: 5 of 5 stars A copy of Life After Life was provided to me by Reagan Arthur Books/Netgalley for review purposes.
"What if you had the chance to do it again and again, until you got it right? Would you do it?" -Edward Beresford Todd
This is the story of Ursula Todd's live(s), and of her death(s), and of how she lives when given a second chance. Each time she dies (and returns) she obtains a sense of deja vu from her past lives. She uses these bits of knowledge from these previous scenes of life to "get it right" and to change the outcome of her life now. Practice makes perfect after all.
The writing was flawless, albeit a tad hard to grasp at first. There's a constant flipping back and forth between time and it was supremely difficult to determine which story went with which one, however it all comes together in the end. I found it best to simply read, absorb, and watch the story unfold without putting too much thought into it or keeping notes regarding what is happening with each date (speaking from personal experience, it's completely unnecessary).
"No point in thinking, you just have to get on with life. We only have one after all, we should try and do our best. We can never get it right, but we must try."
Despite her multiple chances to "get it right", Ursula did not always succeed. She may have avoided one obstacle she encountered in a previous life only to run into another. As Ursula said, "We can never get it right, but we must try." Life isn't perfect, and even if you had multiple chances to go back and change things it still won't be perfect. I think it also meant that sometimes we need to experience these imperfections in order to truly know how to "get it right".
It was amazing to watch each scene transpire and be able to witness how one single act not only resulted in evading death (the second time around of course) but how drastically different her life often was. But what was even more amazing was finishing the story and fully grasping all the story lines that had been going on and having them all come together harmoniously. There truly aren't enough adjectives in existence for me to properly describe how truly amazing I found this book to be. Life After Life was genius, superbly written, intricately detailed, and capable of an emotional resonance you won't see coming.(less)
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars Source: Library Checkout
The Book Thief tells the tale of Liesel Meminger, a girl who loses one family only to gain another. H...moreMy rating: 4.5 of 5 stars Source: Library Checkout
The Book Thief tells the tale of Liesel Meminger, a girl who loses one family only to gain another. How she becomes dubbed The Book Thief. How she slowly gains an understanding of Germany and the Nazis and the wrongness of it all. How her family comes to hide a Jewish man, Max, in their basement despite all risks. And how Max transformed her life completely and defined her in a whole new light. It's a tale of sorrow and joy, of friendship and love, of bravery and acceptance.
'I witness the ones that are left behind, crumbled among the jigsaw puzzles of realization, despair, and surprise. They have punctured hearts. They have beaten lungs.'
The Book Thief's use of Death as the narrator is not only thoroughly alluring in concept alone but it serves to utilizes dark humor to lighten the saddest of situations. Death is not the cold and emotionless specter you would expect him to be though. He's unintentionally humorous, and has a fascination for humans despite his awareness of his need to remain impartial. He seeks meaning in his work and becomes mesmerized by the interesting and courageous humans, Liesel being one of them.
"...to prove to myself that you, and your human existence, are worth it."
The symbolism is rife within these pages. Most importantly is Liesel and her book thieving. She remains blissfully naive of what is truly going on in the world until April 20, 1940 when a book burning was organized in the town square to celebrate Hitler's birthday. She discovers things that greatly impact her and change her outlook on what has happened in her life up till that point and swiftly regards Hitler as her enemy. She steals a book from the pyre to mark the occasion. The book thieving continued after that but it wasn't just a bad childish habit, it became a symbol for her resistance to the Nazi regime and specifically to Hitler and all he had done. Each book stolen became a symbol of hope for a better future in the post-Holocaust world.
I've only recently become drawn to stories of war, the majority of those I've read have been based around WWII, and The Book Thief is absolutely one of the very best. I loved that it was told from the point of view of a German sympathetic to the Jews which made it immediately different than any of the others I had read. Possessing richly drawn characters is what makes this story absolutely unforgettable. Liesel and Rudy, Hans and Rosa, and of course Max...their cumulative story will forever live on in my mind.
The Book Thief is an emotional tale regarding the power of words and how that power can be used for good or bad, depending on how you choose to use them.(less)
'How guilt refined the methods of self-torture, threading the beads of detail into an eternal loop, a rosary to be fingered for a lifetime.'
I very rar...more'How guilt refined the methods of self-torture, threading the beads of detail into an eternal loop, a rosary to be fingered for a lifetime.'
I very rarely pick up a book if I've already seen the movie. Sure, there are likely to be differences but the experience is still spoiled for me. I had to make an exception with Atonement because I adored the movie but I could see how much more the story would shine and benefit from text. And shine did it ever.
Usually I complain about over-descriptiveness in stories, and this was definitely descriptive, yet the author possesses a skill in writing that is completely captivating. He sets the scene with ease and transports you into the very midst of it. His words envelop you and leave you mesmerized. I could go on and on regarding the beauty of this story and the multitude of emotions it managed to evoke in me but put simply, this book was a breath of fresh air.
I've been told this is the best to expect from Ian McEwan but I will still eagerly dive into more of his works. (less)