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Search tags: srs-fiction
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text 2018-04-26 03:46
Reading progress update: I've read 44%.
Planetfall - Emma Newman

I keep wanting to quote this book but I listen to it while doing other things so it's not really convenient. Plus I'm not sure how isolated quotes would come across. Newman manages to convey Ren's anxiety in such a way that I can relate to her despite not necessarily feeling the way she does about the world and I just want to give her a hug although of course I wouldn't because she would find that invasive. If anything I find her voice more intense via audio.

 

Seriously, this book brings out ALL THE FEELS, even on a reread.

 

On a side note so far the book doesn't mention a character that left behind a baby so maybe I didn't miss it like I thought. I still couldn't remember which character it was from the first book though and now I can't be sure about which character it was from the second... Shrug.

 

Since the book was hard for Emma Newman to write, I wonder if the audio was hard for her to read?

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review 2018-04-25 23:47
Praise in the Storm
My Heart Belongs in Glenwood Springs, Colorado: Millie's Resolve - Rebecca Jepson

Glenwood Springs, Colorado, 1888. The peaceful surroundings belie the burgeoning turmoil that enters Millie Cooper’s life once again. As a poor fisherman’s daughter from Nantucket, she has ventured west and established herself as a nurse, working under a kindly doctor. The heartbreak of her past seemingly behind her, she has settled into the routine of her new life. However, when she reluctantly agrees to accept a position as personal attendant to a condescending, asthmatic woman, her past returns with a vengeance. Forced to confront what she had hoped was behind her—and the fact of her lingering hurt—she strives to find peace in the midst of life’s storms.

From the start, “My Heart Belongs in Glenwood Springs” captured and held my interest. Millie makes a dynamic character, with an independence that is unique for the time period and that serves as both a blessing and a hindrance given the constraints of nineteenth-century society. There are many twists and turns in the plot as characters emerge and interact with one another, and as a result, the novel’s conclusion is not clear-cut, with the suspense lasting until the end. This is difficult to accomplish in works of this nature, with a strong thread of romance and redemption and what can easily become a cookie-cutter narrative. As Millie’s story illustrates, healing sometimes comes long after the initial hurt, but God’s grace and mercy can always be found in all of life’s circumstances, guiding us toward His good purposes.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Barbour Publishing and was under no obligation to post a review.

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text 2018-04-25 22:55
Reading progress update: I've read 9%.
How To Be Brave - Louise Beech

I'm only an hour in to an eleven-hour book but I'm not sure this one is going to be for me. The story seems sound - nine-year-old-girl dramatically passing out and being diagnosed as having Type 1 diabetes, a mother having to cope with the consequences alone and the perhaps ghostly intervention from a dead but still inspirational great grandfather.

 

This book is semi-autobiographical and I can feel the authenticity of the experience but  the pace is a little slow, the language is a little over-written while still managing to sound flat and the sentiment verges on Hallmark

 

I'll give myself another hour before I decide to listen or leave.

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review 2018-04-25 21:07
Compelling WWII historical fiction, coming-of-age and M/M love story, and a fascinating backdrop.
The Artist and the Soldier. A Novel - Angelle Petta

When I was approached about the possibility of reviewing this book, I was fascinated by the historical background behind it, which I was not familiar with. A book combining World War II, Nazi summer camps in the US, the filming of a movie by Vittorio De Sicca in Rome during the war, and a love story, had to be a winner.

The author manages to combine a coming-of-age (both male protagonists, Max and Bastian, are very young at the beginning of the book) and love story with a fascinating historical background. The two youths meet at a Nazi summer camp in New York. Both their fathers are German and want them to grow up aware of their heritage. Max and Bastian are, in many ways, mirror images of each other, opposites that, indeed, attract. Bastian looks German (blond, tall, strong), is impulsive and always excels when it comes to sports, and outdoor activities, whilst Max takes after his Italian mother, is quiet, and has the soul of an artist. They both suffer trauma and have difficult childhoods, although in different ways. The unlikely pair becomes close and Bastian supports Max when tragedy strikes, although things take a bad turn, and they end up separated by life and circumstances.

They go their separate ways, and we keep waiting, convinced they will meet again. Bastian is still daring, impulsive, and is plagued by self-hatred and doubt. Max, who has always been more accepting of his own identity and has become stronger and more determined, has been living in Italy, has studied film, and finds a great opportunity to help Italian Jews. He takes part in the project of filming a movie under the protection of the Vatican and comes up with the idea of offering them contracts there. De Sica is determined to keep filming for as long as he can to keep all those people safe, and this historical fact provides a fascinating backdrop to the story of the two lovers.

The story, told in the third person, follows the point of view of the two male characters first, and later we also get to read about the adventures of Ilsa, Bastian’s sister, a fantastic character, from her point of view. She is strong, a fighter, and is determined to find her brother, no matter how far she has to go and what she has to do. Her experiences as a nurse during the war are gripping, and she keeps working despite terrible personal loss, hardship, and deprivation. Her character allows us to see things from a different perspective and also provides us more background into Bastian’s character, that is, perhaps, the most complex of the book, at least in my opinion.

Although the love story is central to the book, this is not a light and easy book to read. Apart from the tragedy and the terrible events that happen during the war, there is child abuse, mental illness, bullying, and the novel does not shy away from the unsavoury aspects of life. The characters are not all good and perfect either, and they sometimes do things that are questionable, while at others they can behave like true heroes.

The writing beautifully conveys the emotions of the characters, the setting (Rome as an open city provides a great backdrop), and the relationships, without going over the top with the descriptions, and ensuring the story keeps moving at a good pace. Being a big movie fan, I would have liked to read more about the filming of the movie, but the author refrains from getting sidetracked, and the guest appearances by the actors of the film and the interventions by De Sica are all the more enjoyable for being kept under control and not overwhelming the main story.

I wanted to share a couple of quotes from the book:

“Travel safely, signora. It is a dangerous world we are living in.” Her world had always been a dangerous one. A gun instead of a fist, a war instead of an irate father, her present didn’t feel so different from her past.” (This reflection belongs to Ilsa, Bastian’s sister).

Did something as inconsequential as film belong in this new world? It was De Sica who’d helped him see his misconception. “We need film, and music, and art, more than ever now,” De Sica had said. “These mediums help us remember that we are humans living in a world filled with monsters. What we are doing here is not frivolous. It is saving us, our humanity.” (Max questions his vocation, but De Sica comes to the rescue).

The ending feels appropriate and fits in well with a love story. It shows that both characters have grown and learned to accept who they are and what their relationship means. Other issues are resolved as well, and although some of the coincidences and the way the characters always seem to be in the right place at the right time require some suspension of disbelief, this does not go beyond the expectations for the genre.

In an end note, the author explains the conception of the story and clarifies that although Max, Bastian, and Ilsa are creations of her own imagination, the historical events and backdrop are accurate, and she has used her fictional characters as a conduit to tell the story. I believe this would be a great selection for book clubs, as there is much to discuss and many interesting aspects that will attract readers of different types of stories.

I recommend this book to readers of historical fiction, especially those interested in WWII, Italian cinema, and love stories with complex protagonists. I look forward to following the author’s career in the future.

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review 2018-04-25 15:59
Slow Moving Book That Doesn't Deliver
The Distant Hours - Kate Morton

I kind of laugh at this book being marketed as Gothic. It's really not. I mean there's an old castle, but the book itself is so far from Gothic it's not even funny. This is a slow moving book that doesn't pick up any speed. When the book comes to the reveal at that point I just shrugged about it. There is ultimately nothing to say in the end except what a waste of many lives we get to read about in this book.


"The Distant Hours" has a long lost letter being delivered many decades after it should have gone. One of the characters in this book, Edie, is displeased (maybe that's too strong a word) that her mother may have secrets that she has never heard. Deciding to force herself into her mother's past, Edie goes hunting and goes to a castle her mother stayed at during the war years in England (Milderhurst) where the three Blythe sisters still live. Edie's mother (Meredith) has her own reasons for not wanting to revisit her past. However, Edie is given the opportunity to learn about the author of the mysterious "The True History of the Mud Man" and goes to learn more about the Blythe sisters. 

 

Eh, Edie bugged me. Sorry. I just could not get over her sneaking and even reading her mother's private letters. Yes her aunts sucks for giving them to her (and seriously though) but Edie feels entitled to know everything about her mother. She also pries about the Blythe sisters since she also feels as if they should just open themselves up to her. Edie feels sorry for Juniper, likes the one twin, Saffy (Seraphina) and fears Percy (Persephone). 

 

The secondary characters are barely present in this book. You read about the Blythe father and his madness, but you don't get to see it. You hear about it for the most part. We hear about how Juniper has been broken since her long lost fiancee left her, but you don't really get it since she is portrayed as vaguely confused. Juniper is also supposed to be a wonderful writer, but once again we don't get to "see" that, we just hear about what a genius she is. Same issue when we get the reveal about Percy's love life. I don't know why Morton decided to cut out things that would make these characters come to life, but she did. I absolutely loved "The Forgotten Garden", felt meh about this one, and just down and out disliked the last two books of her that I read. 

 

The writing was okay, I just found myself bored. Honestly nothing much happens in this book until the very end. And the ending was not worth slogging through this thing. 

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