Adult Historical, Reviews, Special Review

Book Review: The Book of Crows by Sam Meekings

 

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of the review, first I want to talk about the unique way I read this book. I read The Book of Crows on The Pigeonhole. They are a website where you buy a book and read it collectively with other people. You say isn’t that a book club and can’t we do that right now? What guarantees me someone won’t read ahead? Well… the thing about The Pigeonhole is that they release staves approximately each night, so everyone is at the same spot in the book as everyone else. This gives you the opportunity to read the book and discuss it in real time. I thought it was pretty neat and if it weren’t for this format, I most likely would have never read a book like The Book of Crows. 

Summary:

A young girl is kidnapped and taken through the desert to an isolated mountain brothel. Two thousand years later, after a suspicious landslide near Lanzhou, a low-level bureaucrat searches for a missing colleague. A thirteenth-century Franciscan monk, traversing the Silk Road, begins his extraordinary deathbed confession, while five hundred years earlier, a grieving Chinese poet is summoned to the Emperor’s palace.

In a series of delicately interlaced stories, Sam Meekings’ richly poetic and gripping second novel follows the journeys of characters whose lives, separated by millennia, are all in some way touched by the mysterious Book of Crows, a mythical book in which the entire history of the world – past, present and future – is written down.

Review:

Holy Crap. That ending. I didn’t see it coming at all. But… Alright, let’s rewind…

At the beginning of the story we learn about a woman who is now in a whorehouse, and a man on a journey to find his friend. It starts off slow, but picks up quickly and you start piecing the story together. As you continue to read, more characters are brought to light and you start seeing how each character is connected to The Book of Crows. Many want to find it, while others want to destroy it. There is great mystery surrounding the book that has been revered and searched for centuries.

Each character’s story you are introduced to throughout the book is in a different time era. I really enjoyed this because the reader is able to see how much intrigue and chaos the book has caused. It’s legacy has lived through many generations.

Overall, I really like the concept, how the story was set up, and how each key part of the story was revealed. I believe that reading it in staves how The Pigeonhole set it up made my reading experience better because you had to hold on and ponder on what you read, adding to the mystery of it all.

I feel like the average YA reader might not like The Book of Crows, but if you are a history lover and/or mystery in itself, you might enjoy it.

 

Rating:  4/5

Disclaimer: I’d like to thank The Pigeonhole for providing me with a copy of The Book of Crows. Receiving this book for free does not influence my opinion in any way.

Reviews

ARC Review: Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave

Everyone Brave is Forgiven

GoodReads Summery:

It’s 1939 and Mary, a young socialite, is determined to shock her blueblood political family by volunteering for the war effort. She is assigned as a teacher to children who were evacuated from London and have been rejected by the countryside because they are infirm, mentally disabled, or—like Mary’s favorite student, Zachary—have colored skin.

Tom, an education administrator, is distraught when his best friend, Alastair, enlists. Alastair, an art restorer, has always seemed far removed from the violent life to which he has now condemned himself. But Tom finds distraction in Mary, first as her employer and then as their relationship quickly develops in the emotionally charged times. When Mary meets Alastair, the three are drawn into a tragic love triangle and—while war escalates and bombs begin falling around them—further into a new world unlike any they’ve ever known.

Review:

I am a lover of World War II (as demented as that may sound). I live for the documentaries and movies that take place during that time period. And this book absolutely stole my heart.

We experience the war through several different points of view, and if I didn’t know that this was a work of fiction I could truly believe that this story, or something similar, took place in real life. This story is about real life- how one lives and responds to war, death, destruction, love, and rebuilding after it’s over.

Mary North is not your average London socialite- she wants to help with the war effort and does so through teaching children the countryside neglected. Tom Shaw, her supervisor and lover, is there to support her effort. The story through their everyday life. Alistair is an exceptional young man who befalls the misfortunes of war. Hilda is the typical socialite (and I don’t understand how Mary is friends with her) who just wants love, specifically the love of a man in a uniform- she is very superficial. Zachary is one of Mary’s students who suffers through the war, but also through the racism of 1940s London.

Each person is the glue and Everyone Brave is Forgiven wouldn’t be complete without them. This book isn’t about the big moments in one’s life, but the small moments that we don’t think about or celebrate. And don’t think to know the end. If this book is about everyday life, then the ending is representative of that.

The language Cleave uses is baroque and abundant. He clearly did the research to know how these characters spoke in the 1940s. It shows real thought and courage to get the story as accurate as possible.

I have never read a Chris Cleave book before, and this book certainly was not on my TBR list. I kind of stumbled upon it thanks to NetGalley and their little emails. And I am glad I did stumble upon it. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys historical fiction, but also to anyone who likes realistic stories about love, loss, and rebuilding.

Everyone Brave is Forgiven is beautifully gut-wrenching.

“It was a world one might still know, if everyone forgiven was brave.”

Rating: 5 out of 5Blog Signature

 

Everyone Brave is Forgiven will be available on May 3, 2016. you can purchase it at Amazon and B&N.

Disclaimer: Thank you Simon & Schuster and NetGalley for giving mr the opportunity to read this ARC in exchange for an honest review. Receiving this book for free does not influence my opinion.

Reviews, YA Historical, YA Sci Fi

Book Review: The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig

The Girl from Everywhere (The Girl from Everywhere, #1)

GoodReads Summary:

Nix has spent her entire life aboard her father’s ship, sailing across the centuries, across the world, across myth and imagination.

As long as her father has a map for it, he can sail to any time, any place, real or imagined: nineteenth-century China, the land from One Thousand and One Nights, a mythic version of Africa. Along the way they have found crewmates and friends, and even a disarming thief who could come to mean much more to Nix.

But the end to it all looms closer every day.

Her father is obsessed with obtaining the one map, 1868 Honolulu, that could take him back to his lost love, Nix’s mother. Even though getting it—and going there—could erase Nix’s very existence.

For the first time, Nix is entering unknown waters.

She could find herself, find her family, find her own fantastical ability, her own epic love.

Or she could disappear.

My Review:

When I first started The Girl From Everywhere, I was really worried it was going to be so similar to other time-travel novels I have read.  Specifically, Passenger by Alexandra Bracken. So I went into this novel with low expectations, not really sure I would like what I found. And I have to say I was extremely wrong! Which, in this case, feels amazing.

Heidi Heilig tells a very original, profound story.She grew up in Hawaii and took the tales and folk lore she learned and wrapped them into an adventure full of beauty and paradise. Also, Heilig’s idea of time travel, using maps of different places and times is quite imaginative. I haven’t read a story where that is how time is traveled by.

Nix, the main character, was born in Hawaii, but after her mother dies, her father takes her aboard his ship. This is where she lives for 16 years. Nix, her dad, and their crew travel to different continents through time. All the while, her father is in search of a particular map, to take him back to the time before Nix’s mother died. And this is how the story twists and turns, in search of a map.

The relationship Heilig presents between Nix and Slate (her father) is one that is truthful, distant, and full of regret. She regards him with distance. She is resentful of his dependence on her because she is the “expert” with maps. And she is fearful that when he finds the map, her life will change for the worse. He wants to go back to before her mother passed away, therefore changing her current life. Will she become a different person? Or will she disappear all together? And it is very clear that Slate doesn’t think about the consequences of his actions. He is very narrow minded.

The events that take place over the course of The Girl From Everywhere really show character growth. Not only from Nix, but from her father as well as crewmate Kashmir. Kashmir is an interesting character, with a very unique background. The relationship between him and Nix is full of tension. There were moments when, had Nix said something, their friendship could have moved to be more. But because she is fretful of her father’s plan, and her own longing to escape Slate, she keeps Kashmir as a distance as well. She is mostly worried about losing him, and becoming her father. She is witness to what happens when you lose the love of your life.

The Girl From Everywhere is refreshing and envisioning. I thoroughly enjoyed the intertwining relationships between all the characters.

Rating: 5 out of 5

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Reviews

Book Review: Blackhearts by Nicole Castroman

Blackhearts (Blackhearts, #1)

GoodReads Summary:

Blackbeard the pirate was known for striking fear in the hearts of the bravest of sailors. But once he was just a young man who dreamed of leaving his rigid life behind to chase adventure in faraway lands. Nothing could stop him—until he met the one girl who would change everything.

Edward “Teach” Drummond, son of one of Bristol’s richest merchants, has just returned from a year-long journey on the high seas to find his life in shambles. Betrothed to a girl he doesn’t love and sick of the high society he was born into, Teach dreams only of returning to the vast ocean he’d begun to call home. There’s just one problem: convincing his father to let him leave and never come back.

Following her parents’ deaths, Anne Barrett is left penniless and soon to be homeless. Though she’s barely worked a day in her life, Anne is forced to take a job as a maid in the home of Master Drummond. Lonely days stretch into weeks, and Anne longs for escape. How will she ever realize her dream of sailing to Curaçao—where her mother was born—when she’s stuck in England?

From the moment Teach and Anne meet, they set the world ablaze. Drawn to each other, they’re trapped by society and their own circumstances. Faced with an impossible choice, they must decide to chase their dreams and go, or follow their hearts and stay.

My Review:

Blackhearts is an unstoppable story full of history, romance, and intrigue. This is Nicole Castroman’s debut novel and her writing style is genius.

The story is told from the 3rd person limited POV. You go through the story seeing through both Teach’s and Anne’s perspectives. The 3rd person limited narration allows the reader to fully understand the context of the situation through the character’s eyes. When Anne is speaking, we only know how she is feeling and how she is interpreting Teach’s actions. The reader comes to understand how high society functions as well as the behind the curtain of the household staff. Anne is considered beneath the regular household staff due to her mother’s background (being from the West Indies).

Castroman did an excellent job at conveying the misogynistic, sexist,  and racist standards present during the time period Blackhearts is written. I didn’t have any preconceived notions about this book, but I will say reading others reviews of it helped me set my mind. When you hear “Blackbeard retelling”, you think pirates and ships. While Castroman didn’t give us those things in Blackhearts, she gave us a starting place, which I am grateful for. To understand Blackbeard you have to know where he comes from, and specifically, what made him into a pirate.

The romance itself is a slow burn, building to greatness. You can feel the attraction between Teach and  Anne from the first page. It also helps that there are other characters who get in their way. Miss Patience, the little priss teach is betrothed to (I wished she’d fall off a cliff. I am sure there are plenty in Bristol). Master Drummond, Anne’s employer and Teach’s father. I hope, if there is a second book (there better be), we come to understand why Master Drummond was so controlling, thinking he knew what was best for his son. I can’t believe that his character is just that controlling.

And finally, THAT CLIFFHANGER ENDING! I stayed up super late to finish reading Blackhearts and it was totally worth it (I also had a terrible nights sleep, dreams filled with rats, cockroaches, ships, and seas). The slow burning love Teach and Anne have for each other reaches it’s climax and then everything explodes. My only thought at the end of the book was, if Anne hadn’t lied to Teach originally then none of this would be happening!

Black Sails tv season 3 starz pirate

If you like historical fiction, retellings, and romance, Blackhearts is the perfect combination.

Rating: 5 out of 5

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Historical Fiction, Reviews

Book Review: Imperium by Robert Harris

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In his “most accomplished work to date” (Los Angeles Times), master of historical fiction Robert Harris lures readers back in time to the compelling life of Roman Senator Marcus Cicero. The re-creation of a vanished biography written by his household slave and right-hand man, Tiro, Imperium follows Cicero’s extraordinary struggle to attain supreme power in Rome.

Goodreads Summary:

On a cold November morning, Tiro opens the door to find a terrified, bedraggled stranger begging for help. Once a Sicilian aristocrat, the man was robbed by the corrupt Roman governor, Verres, who is now trying to convict him under false pretenses and sentence him to a violent death. The man claims that only the great senator Marcus Cicero, one of Rome’s most ambitious lawyers and spellbinding orators, can bring him justice in a crooked society manipulated by the villainous governor. But for Cicero, it is a chance to prove himself worthy of absolute power. What follows is one of the most gripping courtroom dramas in history, and the beginning of a quest for political glory by a man who fought his way to the top using only his voice — defeating the most daunting figures in Roman history.

What I liked:

This book was a masterpiece. Robert Harris made history fascinating. I, a person whose worst subject in school was history, has fallen in love with historical fiction. This book made me cheer for Cicero from his meager beginnings to the moment he became a consul, a freaking consul. Cicero reached Imperium. The characters were really well built and executed throughout the book. It was a bit like reading a memoir. I think this book would be amazing as a movie. The world needs to see this on screen.

What I “disliked”:

This book is so brilliant that I cannot say one bad thing about it. I may be biased because it gives rhetoric and communication high importance, and I am about to obtain a BA in Communication Studies at the end of May. I guess the only thing I “disliked” was the difficulty I had with the names. Apart from Cicero and Tiro, the names are pretty abnormal for this time and age.

Rating: 5/5

Rating System:

1/5: I hated it

2/5: It had some redeeming qualities but overall, not a good book

3/5: I liked it (A fun read)

4/5: I really like it, but something was missing

5/5: I love it! It’s as close to perfection as it can get!