Genre: Historical Fiction

Reading roundup – January 13th 2017

Hello, and happy new year to you all.  Wishing you a wonderful, prosperous and book filled 2017.  

You know, sometimes you can go for months without coming across a real gem of a book.  Other times, every book you read is a five-star wonder.  That’s been the case for me so far in 2017.  Here are some great reads I’ve picked up lately.

Reading roundup – January 13th 2017The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
Also in this series: Passenger
Format: eBook
Narrator: Saskia Maarleveld
Pages: 384 pages
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
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Evelynne's rating: five-stars

I know I’m a bit late to the table with Nicola Yoon’s masterpiece.  The Sun is Also a Star tells the story of Natasha, an undocumented Jamaican-American immigrant on the point of deportation and Daniel, a young Korean-American struggling with the conflict between his dreams and his family’s expectations.  The novel takes place over 12 hours, during the day on which Natasha’s family is due to be deported.  The characters are well grounded, beautifully described and their romance is believable.  I was really rooting for those two, despite their different outlooks.

I loved how the lives of those with whom they come into contact are also briefly described, showing how everyone’s lives are interconnected and that no man is an island.  I’m pretty confident that, come December 2017, The Sun is Also a Star will be featured on my top reads of 2017.  That’s how much I loved it.

I gave The Sun is Also a Star five stars out of five.

Reading roundup – January 13th 2017Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
Pages: 402 pages
Genres: Young Adult, Historical Fiction
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Evelynne's rating: five-stars

Ruta Supetys’ Salt to the Sea is a young adult historical fiction novel which tells the story of four young people towards the end of the Second World War as they attempt to flee East Prussia from the advancing Russian army and to board the Wilhelm Gustloff.  As in real life, the Wilhelm Gustloff is torpedoed by Russian submarines and sinks with the loss of thousands of souls.

Our four main PoV characters are Joana, a young Lithuanian nurse fleeing from East Prussia, Florian, a young apprentice with a secret, Emilia, a fifteen year old Polish girl pregnant as the result of a rape, and Alfred a German sailor with an inflated opinion of himself and a deep seated belief in Nazi propaganda.  Their stories are deeply moving and I found myself very emotionally engaged with them.  

The writing style is beautiful and poetic, with wonderful images, themes and emotion.  

I gave Salt to the Sea five stars.  A must-read if you enjoy historical fiction.

Reading roundup – January 13th 2017Wayfarer by Alexandra Bracken
Series: Passenger #2
Also in this series: Passenger
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Saskia Maarleveld
Length: 16 hrs and 16 mins
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
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Evelynne's rating: four-stars

Wayfarer is the second and final book in Alexandra Bracken’s time travel Passenger duology.  it continues the story of Etta and Nicholas and their attempt to keep the powerful astrolabe out of the hands of the various groups who would seek to abuse it. 

I loved the characters and their relationships – that’s one thing that Bracken does especially well.  Learning more about Rose and the addition of Li Min were real highlights here.  The pacing was excellent and moved along at a real clip – Bracken has expertly defined what’s at stake for our characters, and it is a believable motivator for them.  The ending was satisfying and felt well-earned.

What I wasn’t so fond of was the development of the mystical aspect of the story.  The time travel was setup in such a clear and logical way with all its rules and limitations that it felt almost pseudo scientific.  The mystical and magical side that was developed felt somewhat out of place in the narrative.

All in all though I really enjoyed Wayfarer and gave it four stars out of five.

The next book I’d like to talk about in my home run of awesome reads is Laini Taylor’s Strange the Dreamer.  Hachette Canada was kind enough to give me a netgalley and I’m about a third of the way through it.  I don’t want to say too much as I’ll be doing a full review shortly, but our protagonist was one I felt extremely connected to right from the beginning.  I’m certain it will be an awesome book.

Upcoming books in January

Divergent author Veronica Roth has a new series coming out next year starting with Carve the Mark.  This is young adult sci-fi/fantasy novel set in a world in which a Force-like current pervades the universe and grants special powers or currentgifts to inhabitants.  We follow two teens, Cyra and Akos, whose worlds collide and who must decide whether to aid or thwart the other.  Although it’s one of my most anticipated reads, I do have some qualms about it.  It has a dual PoV, which Roth didn’t handle so well in Allegiant.  The world could either be amazing or it could be a mess.  I’m still intrigued enough to add this to my most anticipated reads of 2017, so time will tell on which side it falls.

Carve the Mark is released on January 17th 2017.

I admit I cheated here somewhat; I’ve actually already read Caraval by Stephanie Garber and LOVED it (I was lucky enough to pick up a copy at BEA).  It was one of my top reads of 2017 – the characters, the world and the twisty turny plot was breathtaking.  Don’t miss this one.  I’ve added it to my most anticipated reads of 2017 as I’m looking forward to experiencing it again.  I will pick it up in audiobook format as it’s being narrated by Lunar Chronicles narrator Rebecca Soler.  

Caraval is released on January 31st 2017.

That’s all for today.  Let me know what you’re reading in the comments!


five-stars

Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon – Review

Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon – ReviewDrums of Autumn Format: eBook
Pages: 896 pages
Genres: Historical Fiction, Fantasy
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Evelynne's rating: four-stars

Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon is the fourth in the time travelling historical fiction series following our protagonists Claire and Jamie Fraser as they attempt to start a new life in the American Colonies.

Weighing in at nearly 900 pages, or 44 hrs and 54 mins of audiobook, this is a real behemoth of a book.  It’s also the book on my shelf that’s taken me the longest to read.  GoodReads tells me that I finished the previous book in the series, Voyager, back in April 2015, and I started Drums of Autumn around that time.  This means that Drums of Autumn has taken me almost a year to finish.

I read it in chunks.  I would read a large section – usually when the Outlander TV series piqued my interest again – and then struggle to continue and put it aside for other books.  It’s not that I didn’t enjoy it; I simply struggled to maintain my interest to read 800+ pages over a short period.  

What I liked

The characters.  I love the characters in the book, particularly Claire and Jamie and their unconventional romance.  Gabaldon has said that she wanted to show a mature relationship – one in which the partners have been together for many years – and she certainly achieves that with Claire and Jamie.  Brianna and Roger also take centre stage in this book and that was wonderful to read.

The Jamie/Brianna relationship.  For me, this was one of the highlights of the book.  I adored the interactions between Jamie and his daughter.  They are both stubborn Frasers, with differing views of morality due to their different upbringings in different centuries and both have red headed tempers.  it was clear that things were never going to go smoothly for them.  I loved that Claire was stuck in the middle and was uncertain if she should physically separate them or let them fight it out.  What was particularly beautifully written was the way in which Jamie’s and Brianna’s past experiences created a real bond and connection between them.

What I didn’t like

Repetition.  I must admit, earlier parts of the book are rather foggy in my memory having been read almost a year ago, but I seem to remember there was a distinct pattern of Jamie and/or Claire getting into some kind of situation in which they are in mortal danger and then they are rescued.  Rinse and repeat.  Given that this is the fourth in a (likely) ten book series, there was absolutely no dramatic tension at all.  There was no way either of our two main protagonists was not going to survive.  I imagine this was intended to provide colour to show how dangerous their environment was, and perhaps to develop their relationship, but I must admit I found it a little tedious after a while.

All in all I really enjoyed Drums of Autumn and gave it four stars out of five.

four-stars

Reading roundup – August 28th 2015

In the three weeks since I blogged, I have read several great – and some not so great – books.  Check out my full (spoilery) review of Fool’s Quest by Robin Hobb.  Other books I’ve read are as follows.

Reading roundup – August 28th 2015Voice of Gods by Eleanor Herman
Series: Blood of Gods and Royals #0.5
Format: eBook
Narrator: Gemma Whelan, John Meagher
Pages: 122 pages
Genres: Cutesy romance, Epic Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Young Adult
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Evelynne's rating: three-half-stars

One of the YA books generating the most buzz this autumn is Eleanor Herman’s Legacy of Kings.  Herman is a respected historical author and Legacy of Kings is her first foray into YA historical fantasy.  The blurb makes it sound along the lines of Alexander the Great meets Game of Thrones.  I’m assuming minus the graphic sex and violence as it’s YA.  Early reviews have been positive.  I have not yet read/listened to Legacy of Kings (it’s on my TBR list) but I have read the prequel Voice of the Gods, which is currently free on major ebook sites.  It tells the story of the prophecy, which, I assume, is at the basis of the series.  it was… fine.  The worldbuilding was great, as you’d expect from a historian.  The characters were engaging, but in the space of a novella, it was more difficult to become overly attached to them.  I liked the story, but it’d didn’t grab me as fiercely as other books.  It did, however, show me enough to convince me that Legacy of Kings has potential.  Why not check out Voice of the Gods for yourself to see if you might be interested?

I gave Voice of the Gods three and a half stars out of five.

Reading roundup – August 28th 2015Magician's End by Raymond E. Feist
Series: Chaoswar #3
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: John Meagher
Length: 17 hrs and 4 mins
Genres: Epic Fantasy
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Evelynne's rating: two-stars

This month I finally finished Magician’s End, the last in Raymond E. Feist’s Midkemia Cycle.  To be perfectly honest, if it hadn’t had Feist’s name on it and been the culmination of a series I’ve been reading for decades, it would have ended up in my did not finish pile.  There were two storylines, one, the political/practical which involved characters about whom I struggled to care, and which seemed disconnected from the magical storyline, which had much loved characters but which got bogged down in the philosophical.  

In my opinion the trilogy could have benefited from some heavy editing and been condensed into two much stronger novels. Despite a few wonderful scenes, Magician’s End was a very disappointing entry from a normally masterful storyteller.  

Magician’s End only earned two out of five stars from me.

Reading roundup – August 28th 2015Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Gemma Whelan
Length: 6 hrs and 36 mins
Genres: Cutesy romance, Young Adult
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Evelynne's rating: five-stars

Finding Audrey has been in my Audible to listen pile for some while now.  I was inspired to listen to it by the review over at PolandBananasBOOKS on YouTube and, like Christine, I loved this book.   Being British born and bred, Kinsella is for me the go-to beach read; light, amusing and witty – think Confessions of a Shopaholic or Remember Me.  Finding Audrey is Kinsella’s first foray into young adult territory and tells the story of the titular Audrey and her recovery from mental illness and her growing romance with her brother’s friend, Linus.  

The subject matter of the protagonist’s dealing with her anxiety issues adds real depth to this novel, more than I generally would expect from Kinsella.  Audrey’s whole healing process is beautifully and sensitively handled.  This doesn’t mean, however, that the book is lacking Kinsella’s usual wit and charm – on the contrary, there were some really hilarious and sweet moments.  The humour is typically British and I very much enjoyed it.

I loved Audrey’s relationships with her family and her growing romance with Linus.  I appreciated that her friends and family were really there for her, even if they didn’t always like the impact her illness had on her – and their – lives.

Gemma Whelan (Yara from Game of Thrones!) took on narration duties and did an amazing job.  She really brought out the humour as well as the challenges of a full blown anxiety attack.  This is a book I would recommend experiencing in audiobook format.

Finding Audrey rated a five stars out of five on my scale.

Added to my library recently

As I mentioned earlier I had been interested in Legacy of Kings, Eleanor Herman’s Alexander the Great/Game of Thrones mashup.  I picked this up in both Kindle and Audible formats, and will likely be my reading/listening matter for my next nightshifts.

Recently I finished Heir of Fire – full review coming soon! – and to ease the wait for Queen of Shadows I picked up the Assassin’s Blade, the compendium of the five Throne of Glass prequel novellas.  It’s going to be interesting to go back to see pre Endovier Celaena.  I picked this up in both Audible and Kindle formats.

There are so many good new releases coming out in September that I will start a new blog post for those.

See you then!

three-half-stars

The Winter Palace by Eva Stachniak – Review

The Winter Palace by Eva Stachniak – ReviewThe Winter Palace by Eva Stachniak
Format: eBook
Pages: 464 pages
Genres: Historical Fiction
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Evelynne's rating: four-stars

The Winter Palace by Eva Stachniak is a historical fiction novel based on the early life of Russian Empress Catherine the Great.  Through the eyes of bookbinder’s daughter turned lady-in-waiting Varvara it tells the story of Catherine’s arrival at court and of her navigation through Court politics to the Imperial Throne itself.

Now, historical fiction is not a genre of which I read a lot; however I was intrigued by this one and it turned out to be the perfect antidote to my waiting-for-Dorothy-Must-Die reading slump.  I don’t know a great deal about Russian history and I found myself checking Wikipedia from time to time to learn more and to help me separate fact from fiction.

What I liked

Engaging protagonist.  Although the novel is about the rise to power of Catherine the Great, we follow her story through Varvara’s eyes as Varvara herself goes through her own journey.  Varvara is intelligent, resourceful and has a keen eye for observation.  Although she starts off relatively powerless, by the end of the book, she has amassed considerable wealth and influence, making hard choices along the way.  In that respect her journey mirrors Catherine’s.

The vivid picture Stachniak paints of court glamour and intrigue.  It’s always fun to read of grand ballrooms glittering with chandeliers and jewels and of lords and ladies wearing elaborate costumes.  It’s equally interesting to read about the power plays between the players and Stachniak describes this beautifully.

What I didn’t like

There was nothing I didn’t enjoy about The Winter Palace.  Indeed, I’ve already picked up the sequel, The Empress of the Night from Audible.

I gave The Winter Palace four stars out of five.

 buy from Amazon, Kobo, iTunes, eBooks.com

four-stars
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