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review 2017-07-13 12:13
For lovers of historical fiction and the French Resistance, a novel based on a true episode of cruelty and destruction that should never be forgotten.
Wolfsangel - Liza Perrat

This is the third book by Liza Perrat I have read, and it won’t be the last one. After The Silent Kookaburra set in Australia in the 1970s, I read the first book in the Bone Angel Series, Spirit of Lost Angels. (Read the review here). This is a series that follows the women of a French rural family through the generations, with big jumps in time. The name comes from a little bone angel talisman these women wear and inherit down the female line, together with a skill and talent for nursing (including knowledge of herbs and natural remedies) and midwifery. While Spirit of Lost Angels is set around the time of the French Revolution, this book follows the main character, Célestine (Céleste) through the difficult years of the German occupation of France during the Second World War and its immediate aftermath.

The book is again narrated by its protagonist, a young girl, eager to prove herself and to lead an interesting life away from her seemingly uncaring and cold mother, in the first person. I know some readers do not like first person narrations although they bring an immediacy and closeness to the proceedings, and help us understand better the main character (well, to the point she understands herself). This device also means that we share in the point of view and opinions of Céleste and we are as surprised by events as she is, as we do not have any more information than she does. I am fascinated by narrators, and although Céleste is not an unreliable narrator by design (she does tell things and events as she experiences them), her rushed and unthinking behaviour at times, her quick reactions, and her youth make her not the most objective of people at times. Of course, if readers cannot manage to connect with Céleste at some level, the novel will be harder to read, but she is a likeable character. She is young, impulsive, and enthusiastic. She is eager to help and will often do it without thinking about the consequences and risks she might be taking. She helps a Jewish family very early on, hiding them on the farm, even when she is convinced her mother will not be happy. She wants to help the Resistance cause and is frustrated by the assumption that she is incapable of making any meaningful contribution to the war efforts because she is a woman. She works hard to prove she can be as useful and courageous as a man and runs incredible risks to achieve her goals.

She is not perfect, though, and her youth is particularly well reflected in her romantic attachment to one of the German officers. As is often the case for young lovers, Céleste seems to fall in love with her idea of romance, having only very limited and furtive contact with the officer. If at first she tries to convince herself that she is only playing a part to gather intelligence (and even her sister Felicité encourages her to try and obtain information), soon things turn serious, proving that she is not as calculating and mature as she would like to believe.

Céleste develops throughout the novel, moving to the city, becoming a true resistance fighter, helping the war effort as a nurse, feeding the prisoners at the station on their way to the camps, spying and passing secret information, and becoming a determined and independent woman. She also proves her strength and determination and survives a terrible ordeal and severe losses.

The cast of secondary characters is also exemplary. Céleste’s family (except for her father that we don’t know much about) are well-drawn and fascinating. The relationship mother-daughter is one of the strongest points and it reminds us of the strong bonds and connections between women (not always straight forward) the series is built on. Felicité, Céleste’s sister, is an amazing character, brave beyond the call of duty and, as we learn later, based on a historical figure. Her actions and her courage are very touching. Her brother is strong and supportive, and also a member of the resistance, and we get to know her friends, the doctor, the priest, and to understand that a lot of the population supported the resistance (some more openly than others), although there were collaborationists there too.

The author creates a great sense of place and historical era. The language, the foods, the clothing, the difficulties of an occupied nation trying to survive and resist are vividly brought to life thanks to the detailed descriptions of the landscape and the events, that make us share in the experience, without burdening the novel with extraneous information. The research is seamlessly incorporated into the story and it reminds us of how close the events are to us and makes us reflect on historical similarities with current times. The style of writing is poetic at times (the descriptions of the forest, Céleste’s love for her home and her pendant…), dynamic and flowing, and it has psychological depth and insight too.

The novel is harrowing and realistic as it describes death and tragedy on a big scale. The events that took place in Oradour Sur Glane in 1944 (and that inspired the novel) are horrific and reading them in the first person helps us understand more fully the kind of horror experienced by the victims and also the survivors.

The ending ties all loose ends together and is perfect for the story.

This is a great book for anybody who loves historical fiction and is interested in the French resistance from a more human perspective. It personalises and brings the readers closer to the experience of the era, at the same time helping us reflect on events and attitudes that are all too familiar. If you prefer your history close, personal, and in the first person, this is your book.

 

 

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review 2017-06-14 01:13
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Review)
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - J.K. Rowling

Alright, once again, I finished the book almost two years ago and because I was in school and had other nonsense going on, I took very few notes and put off writing the review until now. I have few details to give, which is especially depressing when you’re giving a low rating to a book that is beloved by thousands, if not millions, of readers. You want to have more to say to defend your opinion, but… well, yeah.

 

When I first tried to read this series at the age of thirteen or fourteen, Prisoner of Azkaban killed me. I quit partway through, and this is a big deal because I never just quit a book. I have not finished exactly two books since Prisoner of Azkaban all those years ago, and both of those were because they had graphic sexual content—obviously not the case here. Even the second time around, it took me months to finish this book.

 

This book is just boring. There’s not a lot happening, and it follows a very distinct pattern from the first two books. I enjoyed Lupin, but that was about it. There’s an incredibly interesting story lurking somewhere underneath the side plots and downright boring writing. Without the nostalgia of reading this as a child, I don’t have a lot of patience for the childish nature of the side stories and writing. Most of the story happens in a few exciting chapters, but everything else is muddled and boring. I get that these books are sentimental to lots of people, and I know there are things I love to read that others find boring, but this one was just kind of painful to get through.

 

Overall: Fortunately, I’ve already read Goblet of Fire, and I actually enjoyed that one. For me, this is where the childishness ends and we can move forward into a grown up and intricate plot. I’m relieved to put this one behind me and move forward with the series. I can’t count how many people told me to skip to Goblet of Fire to begin with, and they’re certainly right.

 

Read this review on my blog!
http://thaliasbooks.tumblr.com/post/161793118862/harry-potter-and-the-prisoner-of-azkaban-review

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text 2017-06-14 00:33
31 of 369 (8%)
The Martian - Andy Weir

Let me preface this by saying that I loved the movie of The Martian. I went into it completely expecting science fiction suspense, and it was one of the funniest films I've seen in a really long time. 

 

So far, the book is much the same (thank goodness!). It's got quite a bit more cursing than the film (which bothers me, but oh well), but so far that's the only stickler for me. Mark is a sarcastic, deprecating narrator, but he's smart and witty. I'm trying to follow the science, but since I'm the type of girl who gets low Cs on science tests (when you're allowed to use Google), it's slow going and most of it goes over my head. 

 

This is slow going so far because I'm kind of easing myself back into reading for fun. I grew up listening to stories when I went to bed, and I've been listening to the same "Emperor's New Clothes" collection since I graduated from college. I decided to listen to Fellowship of the Ring, but since I always fall asleep before the chapter ends, I'm also reading along. So my main priority right now is reading a chapter of Fellowship a day, and this gets fit in between that.

 

Sorry Andy Weir, but Tolkien will always be bae. 

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text 2017-06-14 00:27
Finished!
Never Eighteen - Megan Bostic

Short version: This was boring and dull. It was anticlimactic, and I despise when first person present tense narrations switch over to third person narrations when the main character dies. BOO. 

 

It wasn't the worst book I've ever read, and I reserve one star rating for things I truly hate, so this doesn't quite fit the bill. But I wouldn't recommend this at all, so there's that.

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text 2017-05-22 18:27
72 of 200 (36%)
Never Eighteen - Megan Bostic

Hey, there's the classic haunted-house-cart-thing-we're-totally-gonna-kiss-but-wait-there's-the-end-of-the-ride moment. 

 

Austin's obsession with Kaylee is starting to outweigh everything else this story is supposed to be about. Also, he went to visit his friend Allie, who was raped. How do I know she was raped? Because as soon as Austin came over, she gave us a play-by-play of exact how it happened, where it happened, etc... For a girl who has supposedly closed herself off from the world, she opened up pretty fast to a guy she hasn't talked to in a long time.

 

Just... bleh. Everything about this is too convenient, too packaged, too Austin-saves-the-day. I don't like it. 

 

Also, is this day like, 100 hours long?? How did they have time to visit like, four or five different people, go to the county fair (complete with roller coasters, other rides, and food--that kind of expedition takes me about a whole day), AND drive to Seattle, eat dinner at the Sky Deck place at the Space Needle, etc... And then drive home... And now he's trying to convince Kaylee to take him somewhere else. Kaylee claims it's nine o'clock, but I don't see how that's physically possible. 

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