Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Sarah's Key - Tatiana de Rosnay

Title: Sarah's Key
Author: Tatiana de Rosnay
Paperback: 295 pages
Publisher: St Martin's Press
Published date: 2007
FTC: Bought at library book sale

Sarah's Key has been on my radar since it first came out in 2007.  I kept meaning to read it but never got around to it.  Then they made a movie and I knew I'd want to read the book before I saw the film.  Was it good? Yes. Five star good? No. Will I watch the movie and probably get all teary eyed? Yes. Will I keep the book? No.

Back of the book:

Paris, July 1942: Sarah, a ten year-old girl, is taken with her parents by the French police as they go door-to-door arresting French families in the middle of the night. Desperate to protect her younger brother, Sarah locks him in a bedroom cupboard - their secret hiding place - and promises to come back for him as soon as they are released.

Sixty Years Later: Sarah's story intertwines with that of Julia Jarmond, an American journalist investigating the roundup. In her research, Julia stumbles onto a trail of secrets that link her to Sarah, and to questions about her own romantic future.

My thoughts:

It's hard not to get overwhelmed at the number of fictional books out there centered around the Holocaust during WWII.  I've read a number of them so I am always in awe of authors who manage to find something "new" and manage to make it a fascinating, absorbing, and moving story.  Before Sarah's Key, I had never heard of the French police's involvement and the absolutely horrendous treatment of children during the Vel' d'Hiv Roundup. Sometimes it's easier to just blame the Nazi's but Ms de Rosnay's ability to remind us that ordinary people in any time period are capable of committing horrendous acts and how such horrible events are already becoming forgotten.  It is unbelievably sad.

On top of the Holocaust and the craziness that was the Vel' d'Hiv Roundup, Ms de Rosnay manages to throw in the story of a young boy locked in a cupboard by his ten year old sister because just like it seems unfathomable to us, it was unimaginable to her that she would not be returning to her home. Sarah's story, while fictional, is one that everyone should read about and remember so history such as hers is never repeated.

I understood why Sarah's Key was interspersed with Julia Jarmond's story. I think to have the whole story centered around Sarah would have been almost too hard to read. I liked Julia's quest to uncover the truth, to find out who Sarah was and what happened to her, to want to tell her that people like Julia will never forget what happened.  But there is much of Julia's personal story that got in the way and I felt it was almost distracting. I could have done without the drama of her failing marriage or her husband's infidelity or her being l'américain in Paris. 

Other covers:

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Half a King - Joe Abercrombie

Title: Half a King (Shattered Sea #1)
Author: Joe Abercrombie
Hardcover: 352 pages (my version egalley)
Publisher: Del Rey/Random House
Published date: July 15, 2014
FTC: Received eGalley from NetGalley

I've been wanting to check out Joe Abercrombie's books for some time. So when I saw NetGalley had the first book in a new series by Abercrombie, I jumped on it.  I didn't realize it until later but it's his first foray into YA.  I probably wouldn't have realized that since I haven't read any of his other books but don't let that stop you from checking it out. Wow. I will definitely be reading the rest of the series when it comes out and will be checking out more of Abercrombie's books. If you are a fan of Game of Thrones and want something just as good but not as gory, you must check out this series.

Back of the book:

"I swore an oath to avenge the death of my father. I may be half a man, but I swore a whole oath."

Prince Yarvi has vowed to regain a throne he never wanted. But first he must survive cruelty, chains, and the bitter waters of the Shattered Sea. And he must do it all with only one good hand.

 The deceived will become the deceiver.

Born a weakling in the eyes of his father, Yarvi is alone in a world where a strong arm and a cold heart rule. He cannot grip a shield or swing an axe, so he must sharpen his mind to a deadly edge.

The betrayed will become the betrayer.

Gathering a strange fellowship of the outcast and the lost, he finds they can do more to help him become the man he needs to be than any court of nobles could.

Will the usurped become the usurper?

But even with loyal friends at his side, Yarvi finds his path may end as it began - in twists, and traps, and tragedy.

My thoughts:

I love the niche that Joe Abercrombie has found and is filling superbly.  Game of Thrones and many other fantasy novels are widely popular but they are definitely something that I wouldn't want my boys reading (and definitely not watching) when they are YA age. Half a King is superbly written, well-crafted and is filled with addicting characters.  What I liked was that while there were battles and death, it lacked the over-the-top graphic battle and sex scenes that some fantasy novels have and was the perfect length at under 400 pages.  Often there are some interesting series or trilogies out there but the massive chunksters can turn me off.  A master storyteller can accomplish create a world, populate it with fascinating people and characters, and a compelling story that makes you eager for the next book to come out without making it a massive tome.

If you are not used to reading fantasy novels, Half a King would be a great introduction to the genre. The story is shown through Yarvi's eyes and is centered around his "coming of age" journey from younger inept brother suddenly thrust into becoming a king.  Yarvi was born with one hand partially formed and was constantly told he was not a whole man. His older brother was destined to become king.  Fate threw him onto the throne he did not want and into avenging the deaths of his father and brother. I love books where circumstances thrust a young character into growing up. It reminds me of Treasure Island or Silver. It's also reminiscent of Game in Thrones only in the fact that the world isn't too far off from our Middle Age past. I would have loved to have a map included in my galley edition and hope there is one in the hard cover version.  I am looking forward to book #2 whenever it comes out. In the meantime I will be checking out Abercromie's other acclaimed books.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

With Every Letter - Sarah Sundin

Title: With Every Letter (Wings of the Nightingale #1)
Author: Sarah Sundin
Paperback: 432 pages
Publisher: Revell
Published date: 2012
FTC: Ebook from the library

I was perusing my library's ebook collection and while I've been trying to read ebooks that I own, for some reason I was drawn to this book.  I am such a sucker for WWII novels and I was drawn to the stories of these flight nurses.  While not five star material (ok four and a half), I was totally sucked into the series and am reading book two right now.  I'm looking forward to book three coming out in August. This book is also Christian fiction which I've been enjoying more and more.

Back of the book:

Lt. Mellie Blake is looking forward to her training as a flight nurse. She is not looking forward to writing a letter to a man she's never met - even if it is anonymous and part of a morale-building program.

Lt. Tom MacGilliver, an officer stationed in North Africa, welcomes the idea of an anonymous correspondence - he's been trying to escape his infamous name for years. As their letters crisscross the Atlantic, Tom and Mellie develop a unique friendship despite not knowing the other's true identity.

When both are transferred to Algeria, the two are poised to meet face-to-face for the first time. Will they overcome their fears and reveal who they are, or will their future be held hostage by their pasts?

My thoughts:

This sounds like such a cheesy romance right? Ok sort of. But what I loved about the story is that it went much deeper than that.  I loved Mellie Blake's background - part Filipino who helped her father apply medicine in the field in jungles and back country.  She prays for his safety as he is currently missing in Japan. Her background provided excellent training for a nurse but she struggles with making friends and being social. I adored the other flight nurses - Rose, Georgiana, and Kay.  So while there is romance, a good part of the story is watching Mellie grow as a person.  The other two books center around Lt. Georgiana and Lt Kay. Sarah Sundin's books are also great because the chapters alternate perspectives between Mellie and Tom.  I really enjoyed Lt. Tom's voice and insight. This book is also Christian fiction so while it's not slam in your face, I loved the ethical and moral decisions these characters faced and how they overcame them.

As a history buff, I loved learning about different theaters, operations, and people during WWII.  Lt. Mellie Blake, while fictional, was part of the 802nd Medical Air Transport Squadron. If you head over to Sarah Sundin's website she gives more in depth about the historical aspects of her novel. Lt. Tom MacGilliver was part of the Corps of Engineers. I thoroughly enjoyed following Mellie and Tom through Algeria and Tunisia as Operation Torch was carried out.

This book is a great read whether you are wanting romance or history.  I was also excited to find book #1 of her other series Wings of Glory free as a Nook book.