Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Rose Under Fire

Do you know that feeling when you read a really good book, and then pick up the second book in the series or a different book by the same author and end up disappointed? I was a bit hesitant to pick up Rose Under Fire, Elizabeth Wein's follow-up novel to the wonderful Code Name Verity, afraid of another second book let-down. And Code Name Verity was a hard book to follow up on--the intricate plotting, the sharing of small details, the robust characterization, the chemistry of the friendship, and that one scene (if you've read it, you know what I'm talking about)--but Wein didn't disappoint. Rose Under Fire was a different book than Code Name Verity, telling a wider and arguably darker story by flying us into Ravensbrück, a women's concentration camp in Germany.

Rose Under Fire still shares a lot with Code Name Verity--female pilots, the focus on friendships, and spunky, well-rounded female characters. Rose Under Fire also brings back a major character as a supporting character, bringing a bit more closure to the original story. We're introduced to Rose Justice, a young, American pilot who grew up in Pennsylvania flying planes and going to Girl Scout camp, who crosses the Atlantic to join the Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA) in Britain. There are hints that World War II is drawing to a close, as well as some disturbing rumors about concentration camps and unthinkable medical experimentation coming out of Germany.

Rose finally finagles her way into a flight to France, but disappears on the return trip, forced to land by German fighter pilots and sent away to Ravensbrück. While in Ravensbrück, Rose is adopt by a group of Rabbits, Polish women and girls who survived horrific, inhumane medical experimentation at the hands of the Nazis, who form a small family group in order to survive. Like Code Name Verity, Rose Under Fire is written as a collection of journal entries, a few letters from a friend, poetry, and a magazine article. Most of Rose's experience in Ravensbrück is shared in retrospect by a Rose who has just escaped the camp, unable to function in her newfound freedom and trying to make some sense out of what happened to her.

I didn't need to worry--Rose Under Fire surpassed my expectations. As I stated earlier, the story told was wider. The first book was the story of a friendship between Maddie and Julie. There is no defining relationship in Rose Under Fire, but rather many friendships that helped these women survive horrific circumstances. Rose Under Fire has more characters, but all of them remain well-rounded, real people. Instead of the emotional shock of Code Name Verity, Rose Under Fire was in some ways a quieter, but more horrifying book that is trying to witness and recognize the horrors of the Holocaust. Yet, despite its dark subject matter, it leaves readers with a sense of hope. Rose remains a charming, honest, sympathetic narrator who manages to share a horrible story while pointing out the places where humanity survives--a poem, a shared piece of bread, hiding a friend, moments of humor, or a secretly embroidered handkerchief.Rose Under Fire works well as a follow-up/semi-sequel, but it would be equally as good as a stand-alone book. It's not an easy book to read, but I highly recommend it!

4.5 stars

I received an ARC of Rose Under Fire through NetGalley. Rose Under Fire was published June 3, 2013 in the UK and will be released on September 10, 2013.

Saturday, June 15, 2013


I loved this so much. This was hilarious!!! I should not have been reading any part of this book in public because there was a lot of laughing out loud. If I wasn't laughing out loud, I was chuckling to myself. I looked mental. This book was totally worth it. The writing was witty and the characters were well written.

The main character, Kami (Ok, I really didn't like her name.), was fabulous. I also really loved that Kami didn't fully depend on the male lead. She wanted to do things on her own and was not afraid to tell him that. She wasn't immediately in love or totally suckered by him. There was enough romance to satisfy romance needs and enough distance that it wasn't overdone. THIS NEVER HAPPENS ANYMORE! Why is the new trend to just instantly fall in love? Where is the getting to know him, being excited yet unsure how we feel, THEN the mistrust in our feelings phase AND THEN we are falling in love. She didn't spend pages pining over him and I thank the author for that. Sarah Rees Bennan deserves a high five and maybe even a hug.

There is a bit of a love triangle but not really. There are some reasons I can't get into without giving away some plot points but just know that it isn't really a love triangle. It's more of a third wheel triangle....that isn't a triangle...just go with it.

Not absent parents? What? This is unheard of. They care where she goes and appear more than the beginning and end of the book? What? Back up...nope..there they are.

We have to talk about Angela. The best friend that isn't totally forgotten once the boys show up. She is gorgeous but could care less and she HATES people. She wants to avoid them because they suck. I love her. She is so wonderful. There are three strong females in this book but they aren't over the top and you can still relate to them.

I can't wait for the next book in this series. I hope that it is just as hilarious or I will be upset. If the characters have totally different personalities I might lose it because they are so great as they are now. The next cover is so far a let down but I am more than willing to still read it.

4.5 stars. I loved this but the very last part made me hostile for reasons I can't get into. If you read it you know what I'm talking about. That knocked it down to 4.5 stars so still fabulous.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Circumnavigating Fairyland

I loved 'The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making' by Catherynne Valente. You'll probably love it too if you like whimsical fantasy and/or playing with words and language and/or works by Neil Gaiman, Erin Morgenstern, Jasper Fforde, or even C. S. Lewis.

'The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland on a Ship of Her Own Making' is the story of September, a girl from Nebraska growing up during what seems to be World War II (she feels a bit abandoned by her father who is fighting abroad and by her mother who is working in an airplane factory). To her delight, the Green Wind shows up and offers to take her on an adventure to Fairyland, which she accepts without looking back because she is "Somewhat Heartless" (like all children), and a book-loving girl after my own heart who knows exactly what a trip to Fairyland means. She explores Fairyland, makes friends, and confronts the evil Marquess, whose recent changes to Fairyland have not been received well. Oh, and she builds a ship to circumnavigate Fairyland too.

Here are the top reasons why you should read this book.
  • The title. Despite it's length and the fact that I can rarely remember it completely, who wouldn't want to read 'The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making'?
  • The Wyverary. The Honorable Wyvern A-Through-L is a half-Wyvern (think dragon), half-library (his father was a library) who goes by Ell. His siblings grew up in the library with his siblings M-Through-S and T-Through-Z. Ell knows about anything that starts with the letters A through L, but is less helpful if you need to know what a Marid is. Ell becomes great friends with September and accompanies her on her quest. I'd like to adopt him.
  • The language. I started bookmarking pages with quotations I wanted to share with you, but ended up with too many pages bookmarked. Here's what I mean:
    • "The earth, my dear, is roughly trapezoidal, vaguely rhomboid, a bit of tesseract, and altogether grumpy when its fur is stroked the wrong way! In short, it is a puzzle, my autumnal acquisition, like the interlocking silver rings your aunt Margaret brought back from Turkey when you were nine" (5).
    • "For the wishes of one's old life wither and shrivel like old leaves if they are not replaced with new wishes when the world changes. And the world always changes. Wishes get slimy, and their colors fade, and soon they are just mud, like all the rest of the mud, and not wishes at all, but regrets" (61).
    • "That's what a map is, you know. Just a wish to go back home--someday, somehow" (169).
  • The other characters, especially Lye, a golem made out of soap, and Saturday, a marid that September rescues and befriends, and Gleam, a paper lantern. Oh, and the green smoking jacket, a partially-anthropomorphized coat given to September by the Green Wind that I would very much like to own. 
'The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland on a Ship of Her Own Making' was a pleasure to read, and I'm looking forward to reading the next book, 'The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There'. 5 stars.

Friday, June 7, 2013


Go ahead. Judge me. It's fine. No, really it is. I loved the first book in this series. Loved. A dystopian novel meets the bachelor? Oddly enough...sign me up!!!

I didn't expect it either. The cover drew me in with the pretty dress and the premise was unlike anything I had read before and that was all it took. The main character has an AWFUL name. America Singer. I know. There is definitely a love triangle but I thought the first book did an ok job with it. America didn't seem super hung up on guy #1 and guy #2 is 'The Bachelor' so he was new. I can understand the torn feelings since she also sort of got dumped and forced into the competition.

Anyway, the love triangle really almost ruined book 2 for me. I was so fed up with the main character I was ready to scream. Why did I keep reading? My love for book 1 forced me to persevere. I was starting to get really upset because America would be with Maxon and then tell him "I need more time. BUT I really care for you. I will be here for you" Then she would go dink around with Aspen and tell him how much she still cared for him and he still had a place in her heart. Then she would do the same thing all over again!! Not only would she do that but she got all pissed off at Maxon for kissing a couple of the other girls after she and Aspen made out! I despise double standards and that alone almost made me up the book down.

I will still read book 3 because I have to know how this ends. If she picks Aspen I will be super pissed. I think he's kind of a tool. Unsure if I am excited but I will read it anyway. I will give this 3 stars still so that's acceptable.

And the Mountains Echoed

It's been awhile since I've posted, but I swear have a good reason. I promise! The last two books I've read have both been very long. First, I struggled through 'Love in the Time of Cholera.' I disliked it almost as much as Zelda, who rather viciously tore apart for us already. Then I read 'A Game of Thrones' by George R. R. Martin. It was an easy read, but have you looked at the size of that book recently? Really, though, enough has been said by many other people about the book and tv series, so I think it's safe if we move on.

This week, I finished up Khaled Hosseini's newly-published third book 'And the Mountains Echoed.' I'll start by saying that the official blurb for the book is very unsatisfying and has to be one of the least informative descriptions I’ve come across. See for yourself what I mean:
“Khaled Hosseini has written a new novel about how we love, how we take care of one another, and how the choices we make resonate through generations. 
In this tale revolving around not just parents and children but brothers and sisters, cousins and caretakers, Hosseini explores the many ways in which families nurture, wound, betray, honor, and sacrifice for one another; and how often we are surprised by the actions of those closest to us, at the times that matter most.  
Following its characters and the ramifications of their lives and choices and loves around the globe…the story expands gradually outward, becoming more emotionally complex and powerful with each turning page” (find the full blurb on GoodReads).
These few paragraphs could apply to many, many books. What is this book even about?! It’s like the editor reached into a grab bag of guaranteed book blurb sentences and put them all together. However, since I remembered loving Hosseini’s other books when I read them 3 or 4 years ago, I decided to give ‘And the Mountain Echoed’ a read despite it’s generic description.

Big surprise--the book is about families, love, generations, and choices. But lucky reader, I’ll give you a bit more to go on. If you want to read this book without any spoilers whatsoever, skip ahead to the ***.

A different character narrates each chapter of ‘And the Mountains Echoed’. Some of them are intimately tied to the main story while others are only loosely connected. Hosseini also uses letters, bedtime stories, and a magazine interview to share the stories of these characters. The main story, or the most important story, is that of Abdullah and Pari, a brother and sister growing up in Afghanistan in the 1950s. Abdullah, who is 9 or 10, shares a deep bond with his younger sister, Pari (somewhere around age 3 or 4), who he is also essentially raising after their mother died in giving birth to Pari. Their world revolves around each other, until their father makes a very difficult decision. Unable to provide for his entire family, Pari is sold to a wealthy family and raised as the daughter of an eccentric French-Afghan poet, unaware of her true parentage.  This is the story I cared most about, waiting the entire book to find out if the siblings ever find each other again.


As promised, the stories and relationships of many other characters are woven into this book, making it very different from ‘The Kite Runner’ or ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns.’ The plot and characters in Hosseini’s first two books were much more self-contained. Both books only used a few points-of-view and the stories were much more tied to Afghan history. In comparison, ‘And the Mountains Echoed’ is also a lighter, less violent book, and more global book.

In one chapter, a self-described "Westernized Afghan" is explaining his discomfort at being back in Afghanistan, and the way his brother interacts with the people they meet. “I just think these people, everything they’ve been through, we should respect them...The stories these people have to tell, we’re not entitled to them…” The aid worker he’s talking with completes his thought. “No, I understand…You say their stories, it is a gift they give you.” (147-148*). This quotation frames what I think Hosseini was trying to do with ‘And the Mountains Echoed.” The telling or sharing of one’s story defines this novel, and in many cases when these characters tell their stories, it is an act of bravery, affection, reconciliation, or healing—a gift for the person their sharing with (I’m veering dangerously close to sounding like the back of the book now).

I liked ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’ better than ‘The Kite Runner,’ but I can’t decide where my opinion of the third book falls. It certainly isn’t as emotionally powerful or draining as ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns,’ which had me sobbing a few times, if I remember correctly. But, it was a good book, and I spent the whole time trying to think up ways to bring Pari and Abdullah back together. Overall, I’d give the book 4.5 stars.

*Page numbers refer to an advance reading copy

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Peter & Max

I have a slight problem. If there are books I know that I want to read and I see them at the bookstore, I'll buy them. Problem is: I also have library books - lots of library books. Those books have due dates. As a result I've owned Peter & Max for 3 years and have never read it! Terrible, I know.

Peter & Max by Bill Willingham takes place in the same world as the Fables comics, but you don't need to know the comics to enjoy the novel. When I bought it (way back in 2009), I hadn't read any of the comics, but meant to someday. Since then I've read a few and do really like them. The premise behind Fables is a group of fairytale characters live in modern-day New York after their world was conquered. Their borough is protected by wards that prevent regular humans from wandering onto a farm full of talking animals and other such potentially awkward situations. 

Peter Piper and his wife, Bo Peep, live in the country away from Fabletown and usually stick to themselves, but Peter's rival brother, Max (the Pied Piper) has appeared and promises to wreak havoc on the fables way of life. To protect their way of life, Peter sets off across the world to hunt down his brother. The novel switches from telling what's going on in the now-time and what happened when Peter and Max were growing up, showing Max's decent into madness. 

It was a fun, enjoyable read. Not great literature by any means, but entertaining. I was originally going to give it 3.5 stars since the character development was a little lacking, but the end made me feel so warm and happy it gets 4!