Code Name Verity (Code Name Verity #1)

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Code Name Verity (Code Name Verity, #1)

Oct. 11th, 1943-A British spy plane crashes in Nazi-occupied France. Its pilot and passenger are best friends. One of the girls has a chance at survival. The other has lost the game before it’s barely begun.

When “Verity” is arrested by the Gestapo, she’s sure she doesn’t stand a chance. As a secret agent captured in enemy territory, she’s living a spy’s worst nightmare. Her Nazi interrogators give her a simple choice: reveal her mission or face a grisly execution.

As she intricately weaves her confession, Verity uncovers her past, how she became friends with the pilot Maddie, and why she left Maddie in the wrecked fuselage of their plane. On each new scrap of paper, Verity battles for her life, confronting her views on courage, failure and her desperate hope to make it home. But will trading her secrets be enough to save her from the enemy?

A Michael L. Printz Award Honor book that was called “a fiendishly-plotted mind game of a novel” in The New York Times, Code Name Verity is a visceral read of danger, resolve, and survival that shows just how far true friends will go to save each other.”

-Taken from Goodreads

I love historical fiction as a genre, no matter the historical setting, and I have a strong interest in military history, particularly World Wars I and II. That being said, I felt that this book fell a little flat for me. I was expecting more from a book with such a hype.

The way this book was built made it clear that we weren’t seeing the whole scene. The setup for a twist was obvious from the start, and then, when that twist happened, my reaction was ‘Wait, is that it? Is that all of it?’. It was not as momentous as the setup led me to believe, and that frustrated me quite a bit. You see, I only kept reading in the hopes that the twist would be worth my while. It wasn’t.

Verity, our title character, annoyed me. I didn’t see what the point was to what she was doing. All that information that is given just went over my head. While reading, I was going, ‘Okay, but why are you telling me this?’. <spoiler> You see, there are many, many, many things that are quite specific to England. Therefore, if you’re not British, you’ll miss what the character is actually doing. </spoiler>.

At around 60%, there is a change in POV, that is quite an improvement. The reprieve was temporary for me, however. I found myself just skipping the pages to get to the end. And the end, when it finally came, was not as momentous as I thought it would be.

This is not, to sum it up, a WWII book that I would recommend.

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Lies We Tell Ourselves

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Lies We Tell Ourselves

“In 1959 Virginia, the lives of two girls on opposite sides of the battle for civil rights will be changed forever.

Sarah Dunbar is one of the first black students to attend the previously all-white Jefferson High School. An honors student at her old school, she is put into remedial classes, spit on and tormented daily.

Linda Hairston is the daughter of one of the town’s most vocal opponents of school integration. She has been taught all her life that the races should be kept “separate but equal.”

Forced to work together on a school project, Sarah and Linda must confront harsh truths about race, power and how they really feel about one another.

Boldly realistic and emotionally compelling, Lies We Tell Ourselves is a brave and stunning novel about finding truth amid the lies, and finding your voice even when others are determined to silence it.”

– Taken from Goodreads

I’d like to thank NetGalley and Harlequin Teen for providing me with a free copy in exchange for an honest review.

I’ll be blunt: this book made me angry. Not at the author nor at the characters, for they are fictional. It made me angry at human stupidity. While I do not live in the United States, my country also had a long and dark period in its history where slavery was legal. Even though slavery was abolished more than a century ago, society still bears the scars in the form of racism.

This book, by dealing with the beginning of the end of segregation in the United States made me angry. I know a lot has changed, but still, I can’t help but being angry at a society that blindly believed that Negroes (as they are called in the book) are inferior and dumb. Not only that, but that society felt entitled to treat these supposedly inferior individuals as animals. I don’t know how Sarah could keep her cool in the situations she was put through. I would have stabbed someone with a pencil in the second chapter of the book.

Another thorny issue dealt with in this book is sexism. While Sarah’s main struggle is with segregation, Linda struggles with sexism. Her main goal in life is to graduate high school and get married. Hold your horses, get married straight out of school? Yes, she has no thought of going to college. She just wants to get married so she can move out and leave her abusive father behind. In essence, she would be replacing her father with her husband.

While both are very serious issues, racism was the one that caused me the most anger. Maybe it’s because I have more experience with racism than with sexism (remember that first paragraph in this review?).

The ending, however, made all that anger go away. Not all the problems are solved, far from it, but it’s astounding to take a step back and see how much the characters matured, particularly Linda. I wasn’t expecting her to grow that much, so that was a pleasant surprise.

Between Shades Of Gray

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Between Shades of Gray

“Lina is just like any other fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl in 1941. She paints, she draws, she gets crushes on boys. Until one night when Soviet officers barge into her home, tearing her family from the comfortable life they’ve known. Separated from her father, forced onto a crowded and dirty train car, Lina, her mother, and her young brother slowly make their way north, crossing the Arctic Circle, to a work camp in the coldest reaches of Siberia. Here they are forced, under Stalin’s orders, to dig for beets and fight for their lives under the cruelest of conditions.

Lina finds solace in her art, meticulously–and at great risk–documenting events by drawing, hoping these messages will make their way to her father’s prison camp to let him know they are still alive. It is a long and harrowing journey, spanning years and covering 6,500 miles, but it is through incredible strength, love, and hope that Lina ultimately survives.Between Shades of Gray is a novel that will steal your breath and capture your heart.”

– Taken from Goodreads

Somehow, I was expecting more out of this book. Nearly every review stated that this was a tearjerker. I have to confess that I didn’t cry while reading this. I guess the imagery just wasn’t strong enough for me. This does not mean I’m a cold, heartless person. I cried my eyes out with “Schindler’s List”, especially because of the girl in the red dress.

Did I know that Stalin’s rule killed millions of people in forced labor camps? Yes. But, for some reason, the Western front of World War II gets more attention than the Eastern front. Both instances were horrifying crimes against humanity, and both instances deserve to be remembered through books and movies and memorials in the hopes it doesn’t ever happen again.

While I could see that Lina’s situation was awful, I couldn’t feel it. Most of the narrative was too detached, as if she had retreated into herself to avoid dealing with the horror of her situation. There were some strong turns of phrase here and there, but they were too few and far between.

Lina’s mother annoyed me at times. I understand she was trying to shelter her children, but her optimism was a bit too much for me. Again, maybe she had to cling to that hope that everything would be okay in the end, but I, as a person, don’t relate to that. However, I don’t think I’d have made it as far as she did. It’s more likely that I’d kill myself at some point. Different people, different reactions.

My biggest issue with this book was the ending. After hundreds of pages of one bad thing after the other, I was hoping for a glimpse of happiness, and I didn’t get it. A longer epilogue, with more information about what happened to the survivors after they were liberated would have been nice. I do think the author could have afforded to write ten or twenty pages about what happened afterwards.

Rating: 3 out of 5

The Book Thief

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The Book Thief

“It’s just a small story really, about, among other things, a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery.

Set during World War II in Germany, Markus Zusak’s groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist: books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids – as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement before he is marched to Dachau.

This is an unforgettable story about the ability of books to feed the soul.”

-Taken from Goodreads

I’ll start this review by saying that this was the second time I tried to read this book. The first time, it was a Portuguese translation, and I couldn’t read more than 3 pages, much to my sister’s consternation. Some year after this, I decided to try again. This time, I read it in English.

My sister loves this book, for some reason that escapes me. I didn’t love this book. It was, for me, an okay read, that didn’t really stand out among all the historical fiction I’ve read before.

You see, in spite of being a book set in Nazi Germany during World War II, not much actually happens. And what does happen, is quite predictable, it being a war book and all. What I did learn were some new swear words in German. How could I not? They’re there, on every page.

This was more a book about routine than a book about war. We see Liesel learning to read, day after day after day. We see her foster mother, Rosa, swearing at her and cooking bad pea soup day after day after day. We see her foster father, Hans, rolling cigarettes and trying to find work day after day after day. Not even Max, the Jew hidden in their basement makes this more exciting. He just becomes a part of the family’s routine.

Why the three stars, then? While the characters and the events were unremarkable, the writing style was something else. I did not quite like it, but I have to recognize that you don’t find it anywhere else. However, all that talk about colours was a bit excessive, in my opinion.

Some say this is a tearjerker. Maybe I am stone-hearted, but I was never even close to tears while reading this. All the sad events were, one way or another, expected, and I even felt some of them came too late. Because this is a war book, I was expecting tragedy to strike at every page, which does not happen.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5

Stormbird (Wars Of The Roses #1)

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Stormbird (Wars of the Roses, #1)

“King Henry V – the great Lion of England – is long dead.

In 1437, after years of regency, the pious and gentle Henry VI, the Lamb, comes of age and accedes to the English throne. His poor health and frailty of mind render him a weakling king -Henry depends on his closest men, Spymaster Derry Brewer and William de la Pole, Duke of Suffolk, to run his kingdom.

Yet there are those, such as the Plantagenet Richard, Duke of York, who believe England must be led by a strong king if she is to survive. With England’s territories in France under threat, and rumours of revolt at home, fears grow that Henry and his advisers will see the country slide into ruin. With a secret deal struck for Henry to marry a young French noblewoman, Margaret of Anjou, those fears become all too real.

As storm clouds gather over England, King Henry and his supporters find themselves besieged abroad and at home. Who, or what can save the kingdom before it is too late?”

-Taken from Goodreads

No matter how long or how far I stray into other genres, I always go back to historical fiction at some point. This time, I chose the Wars of the Roses, an event that interests me quite a bit, as I lived in York for a while.

I do not claim to be an expert in British history, so I can’t say anything about the accuracy of this book. What I can say is that this book is not a portrayal of the Wars of the Roses, but it does set the stage for what is to come.

There were some subplots that did not draw my interest that much. Jack Cade’s ill-fated revolution (so far) was one of them. On the other hand, I loved it whenever Margaret of Anjou or Derry Brewer made an appearance.

As I’m not that familiar with British history and its characters, I missed a list of characters, with a brief who’s who.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Prisoner Of Night And Fog (Prisoner Of Night And Fog #1)

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Prisoner of Night and Fog (Prisoner of Night and Fog, #1)

“In 1930s Munich, danger lurks behind dark corners, and secrets are buried deep within the city. But Gretchen Müller, who grew up in the National Socialist Party under the wing of her “uncle” Dolf, has been shielded from that side of society ever since her father traded his life for Dolf’s, and Gretchen is his favorite, his pet.

Uncle Dolf is none other than Adolf Hitler. And Gretchen follows his every command.

Until she meets a fearless and handsome young Jewish reporter named Daniel Cohen. Gretchen should despise Daniel, yet she can’t stop herself from listening to his story: that her father, the adored Nazi martyr, was actually murdered by an unknown comrade. She also can’t help the fierce attraction brewing between them, despite everything she’s been taught to believe about Jews.

As Gretchen investigates the very people she’s always considered friends, she must decide where her loyalties lie. Will she choose the safety of her former life as a Nazi darling, or will she dare to dig up the truth—even if it could get her and Daniel killed?

From debut author Anne Blankman comes this harrowing and evocative story about an ordinary girl faced with the extraordinary decision to give up everything she’s ever believed . . . and to trust her own heart instead.”

– Taken from Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17668473-prisoner-of-night-and-fog)

This book had a horrifying opening scene. The blurb had already implied that scenes like that would happen, but I hadn’t expected one of them to be the very first scene in the book. It was a brutal way of making me understand what I could expect from Prisoner Of Night And Fog.

Even though this story centers on a badly explained death, it was not the mystery that pulled me in. It was character growth and change. Gretchen, our main character, has grown under Uncle Dolf’s influence and protection. At first, Uncle Dolf seems quite sweet, albeit a bit quirky, like that weird uncle we all have. But then, as events unfolded, he morphed more and more into Adolf Hitler, the man that went down in History as the mind behind the Holocaust. And watching that change happen through Gretchen’s eyes was mesmerizing.

Another very interesting aspect was how Gretchen changed her view of Jews. In her sheltered life, she had never had any contact with Jews, and had no reason to doubt what she learned about them. And when that changes, it’s really interesting to see her faltering in her beliefs, and then tossing them aside.

Plotwise, there is the mystery element. It is interesting and well done, but not enough to sell the book on its own. I was more fascinated by the growing danger that Gretchen is in than in the murder resolution. Given the timeframe, I think it’s a given this danger will only increase in the sequel.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Debutantes Don’t Date

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Debutantes Don't Date

At the stroke of midnight…

One minute Grace Lancaster is an overworked event manager organising 2013’s New Year’s Eve ball… The next she’s kissing a rather gorgeous man at the Regency themed party. Everyone’s entitled to an out-of-character New Year’s kiss, right? Except Jasper Mossman, Earl of Bingham, isn’t at a costume party – he’s a real-life gentleman from 1813…

And, it seems, kissing a man in Regency London has consequences!

What Grace considers normal behaviour scandalises Regency society and so far she’s provided the irrepressible gossips of the ton with a season’s worth of conversation! In a scramble to protect her reputation, as well as his own, Jasper insists that they marry for the sake of her honour. Marrying Mr Darcy might be a 21st century girl’s dream – but the reality is far from romantic. Corsets are uncomfortable, no running water is disastrous! Grace had always planned on falling in love before she got married, but when Jasper takes her in his arms she just might believe she’s finally found her very own Prince Charming.”

– Taken from Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/21842288-debutantes-don-t-date)

I’d like to thank NetGalley and Carina UK for providing me with a free copy in exchange for an honest review.

When I first read the synopsis of this book, I was reminded of the movie Kate and Leopold, which featured Hugh Jackman and Meg Ryan. While the movie was very sweet, with some funny scenes, this book fell a bit short.

I would say my biggest issue was with character building. I felt some of them, such as Jasper, acted inconsistently. I do not know if it was because the author wanted to write a racy book set in the Regency era, but it was odd to have Jasper thinking as a gentleman of that time and age would and then, in the next page, all that proper behavior and manner of thinking were thrown out of the window.

Another thing that bothered me was that Grace didn’t seem at all bothered with the fact that her showing people her cell phone could have drastic impacts in the future, or rather her present. As that is a concern present in nearly every story that involves time travel, I felt it was really weird. Furthermore, Grace didn’t seem nearly as bothered as she should be by the fact that she somehow ended up in a time 200 years before her own.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5