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Review – The Pieces We Keep – Kristina McMorris

the pieces we keepThe Pieces We Keep
Author: Kristina McMorris

Review Copy Provided by the Author via Sisterhood of the Traveling Book on Goodreads

Description:
Two years have done little to ease veterinarian Audra Hughes’s grief over her husband’s untimely death. Eager for a fresh start, Audra plans to leave Portland for a new job in Philadelphia. Her seven-year-old son, Jack, seems apprehensive about flying—but it’s just the beginning of an anxiety that grows to consume him.

As Jack’s fears continue to surface in recurring and violent nightmares, Audra hardly recognizes the introverted boy he has become. Desperate, she traces snippets of information unearthed in Jack’s dreams, leading her to Sean Malloy, a struggling US Army veteran wounded in Afghanistan. Together they unravel a mystery dating back to World War II, and uncover old family secrets that still have the strength to wound—and perhaps, at last, to heal.

Review:
To say words have defied me once i finished reading Kristina McMorris’ latest book is an understatement. I was literally jumping with joy when it showed up in the mail but I forced myself to wait to read it on the metro the next week. And I devoured it – in fact, I realized about 20 seconds prior to the train leaving the station that I needed to get off if I wanted to make my connection…(and I totally tweeted that to Kristina). But I had to ponder my review – not because there were many negatives, but rather because I had so many strong emotions during the reading, that words can’t really describe how it made me feel. She made me laugh, she made me cry, she made me suffer from a severe book depression when I realized that it was over and I wouldn’t visit with the characters again.

While all of her previous books have been set in the past, Kristina took a different route with this story, using an alternating POV with one set in contemporary US and the other WW2 U.S. (which is the setting of her previous books). I will admit that sometimes I find this type of writing style hard to read because it doesn’t always flow well, and the voices of the POV’s sound the same. But that wasn’t the case. Both the voices of Audra (present) and Vivian (past) were unique. I think it also helped that the publisher used two different type-faces for the POV’s. So not only did they sound different, but they also looked different (to geek out a bit, it potentially got rid of the cognitive dissonance from the same format writing but different POV’s).

I could probably go on and continue gushing about the story and how it blew my mind, but I’ll save that for others. But before I close out this review, I wanted to tell a story that reading this reminded me off. When I was in high school, the Holocaust was a major subject of interest for me. In fact, if I had ever decided to pursue graduate education in history, the Holocaust probably would have been my main focus. Anyways, when I was doing my senior English project, I spent time interviewing survivors and talking about how their survival had impacted their lives. One of the survivors I had talked to, survived the Auschwitz Death Marches. In fact, the only reason he survived the initial arrival at Auschwitz was because he was wearing long pants and was put to work, the rest of his family died that day. Post war, he never really talked about his experiences until he started having nightmares several decades later. Then he talked about his experiences to his family and to others, he even started traveling and talking to school groups. When he did this, he found that his nightmares went away.

Reading The Pieces We Keep reminded me of his story and the idea of how dreams and nightmares can tell the story of our experiences, or if you believe in the idea of reincarnation, others. Gushing aside, a solid 5 stars for this book and now begins the torture of waiting for her next book (and its going to be a very long wait)…

 
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Posted by on October 8, 2013 in Book Review

 

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Audiobook Review – Grave Mercy – R.L. LaFevers (@RLLaFevers)

grave mercyGrave Mercy
Author: R.L. LaFevers
Series: #1 in the My Fair Assassin series

Narrator: Erin Moon
Run time: 14 hrs and 14 mins
Publisher: Recorded Books

Description:
Seventeen-year-old Ismae escapes from the brutality of an arranged marriage into the sanctuary of the convent of St. Mortain, where the sisters still serve the gods of old. Here she learns that the god of Death Himself has blessed her with dangerous gifts—and a violent destiny. If she chooses to stay at the convent, she will be trained as an assassin and serve as a handmaiden to Death. To claim her new life, she must destroy the lives of others.

Ismae’s most important assignment takes her straight into the high court of Brittany—where she finds herself woefully under prepared—not only for the deadly games of intrigue and treason, but for the impossible choices she must make. For how can she deliver Death’s vengeance upon a target who, against her will, has stolen her heart?

Review:
Anyone who knows me as a review, knows that I rarely give 5 star review for books, so that fact that I am seriously considering giving one to Grave Mercy should sum up what I thought of it. I originally bought the audiobook back in July after I heard it discussed on a message board and now for the life of me, I can’t remember why I didn’t listen to it then. Now having finished it, I want to kick myself for not listening sooner, but at the same time, so glad I didn’t, because now I only have 4 month wait for book 2, rather than a 9 month wait (and I can tell you that it is going to be torture…). Really hoping that the audiobook is going to be available for pre-order so I can start it on the day of release. But back to Grave Mercy…

The first thing that sucked me in (aside from the recommendation) was the cover – I love the current popularity of girls in these fancy dresses on the cover, and this one totally suited the time period that the book was set in. Plus, she was carrying a cross-bow – I mean, how bad-ass is that ;) Then there was a time period. Having a mom that is a french/history teacher has made me a sucker for books set in unique time periods (thanks Mom!) And the history of France, and Brittany is one that has intrigued me in the past. I can’t think of any other books off the top of my head that are set during that time period (maybe a Julie Garwood romance, but not sure). Wow, have I managed to get distracted again…I totally have a case of BSN disease (bright, shiny, new…ohhh pretty!)

So anyways, cover, time period in history, oh yeah, assassin nuns…ummm, ’nuff said. I loved that Ismae wasn’t a typical wilting heroine that seems to predominant in many books (the kind of heroine that I often want to beat over the head). Although, she did have a few moments of dumb-assery (and yes, that is a real word according to Dee, and probably urban dictionary), for the most part, she was fairly level headed – while at the same time, maintaining the naitivety of a teenager, because ultimately that is what she was (I think maybe 17-19 in the book, if I can do my math).

Yes, there is romance, but it isn’t the sickly sweet, insta-love, but rather a slow developing, burning/smoldering flame. It felt real to me (and having read romances for like 15+ years now, I have a lot to compare it to). I liked the ending because everything wasn’t tied up in a pretty bow, because a) history isn’t all pretty like that (and if you google this time period and the individuals mentioned you will know why) and b) she is writing 2 more books that I am hoping/guessing will take place in roughly the same time period.

Someone commented on an Amazon message board about currently reading YA that they weren’t necessarily a fan of all the political intrigue. but for me, I really liked it – it reminded so much of what I remember reading in my history books in high school and college – there was just so much back-stabbing, jealous, planning going on. I did manage to figure out relatively early on who the traitor was (but don’t worry, I’m not going to tell you). But I did like seeing how it was all revealed as part of the plot.

Erin Moon is a new narrator to me, like so many of the audiobooks I have tried this year. She had this sweet teenage-esque voice that I think suited Ismae to a tee – but at the same time, was able to make the multiple male characters (Duval, Beast, DeLornay) sound masculine. There were a few of the lesser male characters (Francois, and the Captain of the Guards) that I felt weren’t voices as well. Mostly because they didn’t have as much of a speaking role and many of the others. I’m really hoping that she ends up narratoring the next book in the series – I don’t know (off the top of my head), any other narrators who I think could do it as well (maybe Natalie Ross or Xe Sands).

So yeah – overall, read it, listen to it, devour it…just get a copy of this book in some shape or form and read it. You won’t regret it (and if you do, well then, I plead innocent of all charges – it wasn’t my fault).

 
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Posted by on December 6, 2012 in Audiobook Review

 

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Recommend A… Book You Read This Year

Forbidden – Tabitha Suzuma
November 27, 2006 from Simon Pulse
Hardcover,
ISBN: 978-1442419957
Available from Amazon here: Forbidden

She is pretty and talented – sweet sixteen and never been kissed. He is seventeen; gorgeous and on the brink of a bright future. And now they have fallen in love. But… they are brother and sister.


I likely never would have picked up this book if it hadn’t been a voted on group read in YA-MA rated group on Goodreads – although it finally came into the library almost 3 months after the group had read it, so I was a bit behind. I’ve lost track now of how many times I have recommended this book to different people for different reasons. As of right now, I haven’t read any other books by Ms Suzuma, but when I can reduce Mt. TBR to a less significant pile, I am going to seek out some more.

 
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Posted by on July 23, 2012 in Blog Hop, Recommend A...

 

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Review – Fifteen Days – Christie Blatchford

Fifteen Days: Stories of Bravery, Friendship, Life and Death from Inside the New Canadian Army
Author: Christie Blatchford

Narrated By: Matilda Novak
Run Time: 13 hours, 32 minutes

Book Description:
Long before she made her first trip to Afghanistan as an embedded reporter for The Globe and Mail, Christie Blatchford was already one of Canada’s most respected and eagerly read journalists. Her vivid prose, her unmistakable voice, her ability to connect emotionally with her subjects and readers, her hard-won and hard-nosed skills as a reporter–these had already established her as a household name. But with her many reports from Afghanistan, and in dozens of interviews with the returned members of the 1st Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry and others back at home, she found the subject she was born to tackle. Her reporting of the conflict and her deeply empathetic observations of the men and women who wear the maple leaf are words for the ages, fit to stand alongside the nation’s best writing on war.

It is a testament to Christie Blatchford’s skills and integrity that along with the admiration of her readers, she won the respect and trust of the soldiers. They share breathtakingly honest accounts of their desire to serve, their willingness to confront fear and danger in the battlefield, their loyalty towards each other and the heartbreak occasioned by the loss of one of their own. Grounded in insights gained over the course of three trips to Afghanistan in 2006, and drawing on hundreds of hours of interviews not only with the servicemen and -women with whom she shared so much, but with their commanders and family members as well, Christie Blatchford creates a detailed, complex and deeply affecting picture of military life in the twenty-first century.

Book Review:
Normally, I am really bad about getting my audiobook reviews done as soon as I finish a book, because I have so many other things going on, but this book affected me on such an emotional level that I needed to write about it. While listening to Fifteen Days, on my commute to and from work for the past week, I literally spent every day in tears driving, I felt like I was so emotionally connected to the writing in the book.

I think that one of the reasons I was so emotionally invested in the book, is that I did a deployment to Iraq and many of the methods used by the Taliban in Afghanistan that resulted in Canadian casualties – I also saw in Iraq. One of which was the use of IED’s…so when they talked about stuff like that in the book – I could visualize the damage that they did to vehicles, the same with the damage inflicted by suicide bombers and other methods. If I had known how emotionally involved I was going to be in this book, I honestly don’t know if I would have picked it up. If nothing else, it did make me realize that while I have been back in the US for over 3 years now, what you face over there never truely leaves your mind – you might think that you can pick up and go on, but its not that easy.

But not only did the author spend time with the soliders, she also talked to their families. Interspersed through-out the book were recollections from the spouses and parents of the soldiers killed – what they were doing on the day that the Officer and the Padre came to visit them to tell them the news. How they had to go and tell their children – some of them hours away at military school, some only toddlers – the experiences ran the gammit. Ironcially, the last chapter of the book, where the various soldiers are travelling to memorial ceremonies all over Canada was actually the least emotional for me – I honestly feel that by the time I got to that point, I was so emotionally exhausted and drained that I couldn’t be upset anymore.

One of the good things about listening to a non-fiction book is that the narrator doesn’t have to try and use the multitude of different voices as they would in a fiction book. That being said, Matila Novak’s narration blew me away. She sounded like she was so connected with the writing, that everything just flowed. I did appreciate the places where she used specific voices (when there were quotes of British soldiers vice the normal Canadians) and a few other places. I will definately be seeking out her narrations again in the future and would like to see how she handles a fiction narration.

I highly recommend this book if anyone is curious about reading what not only our troops, but those of other countries have gone through in Afghanistan, and also, in Iraq. One thing I would caution readers is that the author didn’t take a typical chronological approach in the book, and the fifteen days highlighted actually jump back and forth. In the preface she explains why she did this and to me, the jumble, made it all seem more realistic – there are certain days on any deployment that stand out more than others, and her method of writing highlighted this. But at the same time, if the reader chooses to do it chronologically, they easily could, because each chapter starts with the dates. 5 stars for me on an emotional level and for this book, that is what counts the most.

 
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Posted by on July 14, 2012 in Book Review

 

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Review – Forbidden – Tabitha Suzuma

Forbidden
Author: Tabitha Suzuma

Book Description
She is pretty and talented – sweet sixteen and never been kissed. He is seventeen; gorgeous and on the brink of a bright future. And now they have fallen in love. But… they are brother and sister.

Seventeen-year-old Lochan and sixteen-year-old Maya have always felt more like friends than siblings. Together they have stepped in for their alcoholic, wayward mother to take care of their three younger siblings. As defacto parents to the little ones, Lochan and Maya have had to grow up fast. And the stress of their lives—and the way they understand each other so completely—has also also brought them closer than two siblings would ordinarily be. So close, in fact, that they have fallen in love. Their clandestine romance quickly blooms into deep, desperate love. They know their relationship is wrong and cannot possibly continue. And yet, they cannot stop what feels so incredibly right. As the novel careens toward an explosive and shocking finale, only one thing is certain: a love this devastating has no happy ending

Review

“How can something so wrong feel so right?”
I actually read Forbidden back in March and yet, I still think about it periodically, that is the kind of impact that it had on me. This is also the first time that I have tried to write a review of it because there was just so much stuff that I had to think about, process and try to understand. This is one of those YA books that is written in a way that most teens could read, and yet, the subject matter is definately more on the adult side of the scale. It definately breeches the gap between the traditional YA (with 13-16 year olds) and adult fiction – I would probably call it Mature YA (which I think is the classification people are starting to use with books similar to this).

The subject matter, sibling incest, is one of the most controversial that I have encountered in fiction recently and yet, I think that the author handled it in the best way possible. I have to say going into the book, knowing what it was about, I swore up and down that there was no way I was going to enjoy it…but I was sucked in. It was, more than anything else, an exploration of relationships and how they develop. Most of us would agree that a brother and sister falling in love isn’t right, and yet, Lochlan and Maya have gone through events in their lives that most people could probably never contemplate and in all likelihood are more experienced in traumatic events that most adults.

There were so many quotes that I wanted to write down as I was reading this, and I never seemed to have pen/paper handy – so thanks to goodreads and favorite quotes, here are a few that struck me as being pivatol to the book:

“At the end of the day it’s about how much you can bear, how much you can endure. Being together, we harm nobody; being apart, we extinguish ourselves.” – to me, this brings up a good question, what is the harm? I know there are likely a variety of responses, but in all truth, what is the harm – yes, its not socially accepted by society – well, neither was interracial marriage and yet now, it is…does this mean that in the future, people might become more accepting and there is truth in the state – who is hurt when people are in the relationship like this…I can’t think of any aside from the direct family should something happen to split the individuals up

“This whole time, my whole life, that harsh, stony path was leading up to this one point. I followed it blindly, stumbling along the way, scraped and weary, without any idea of where it was leading, without ever realizing that with every step I was approaching the light at the end of a very long, dark tunnel. And now that I’ve reached it, now that I’m here, I want to catch it in my hand, hold onto it forever to look back on – the point at which my new life really began.”

This is one of those books that got a rare 5 star review from me and I seem to recommend it regularly, but only to people who I think can handle the topic, which I know isn’t everyone. I hope that anyone reading this blog, who opts to read it, will find it a thought-provoking read like I did, and I would love to hear comments on it after you have ;)

 
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Posted by on July 8, 2012 in Book Review

 

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Review – I am Forbidden – Anouk Markovits

I am Forbidden
Author: Anouk Markovits

Book Description:
A family is torn apart by fierce belief and private longing in this unprecedented journey deep inside the most insular sect of Hasidic Jews, the Satmar.
Opening in 1939 Transylvania, five-year-old Josef witnesses the murder of his family by the Romanian Iron Guard and is rescued by a Christian maid to be raised as her own son. Five years later, Josef rescues a young girl, Mila, after her parents are killed while running to meet the Rebbe they hoped would save them. Josef helps Mila reach Zalman Stern, a leader in the Satmar community, in whose home Mila is raised as a sister to Zalman’s daughter, Atara. With the rise of communism in central Europe, the family moves to Paris, to the Marais, where Zalman tries to raise his children apart from the city in which they live. Mila’s faith intensifies, while her beloved sister Atara discovers a world of books and learning that she cannot ignore.

Review
Aside from reading some Chaim Potok back in high school, as well as Night by Eli Weisel, I have really not read a lot of fiction books in the past where religion, and specifically Judaism, play a huge role. However, after seeing I am Forbidden show up as a highlighted book on goodreads, as well as on another website, I was intrigued enough to pick it up.

Words can’t really describe how much I enjoyed the book, as well as how much I learnt from it. While I had heard of the Hasidic sect of Judaism before, I had never heard of the Satmar’s which is a movement within the Hasidic branch. The majority of Satmar jews come from the Hungarian/Romanian part of the world and many were Holocaust survivors. The book itself, started off in Romania during World War 2, followed the Stern family to Paris where the majority of Mila’s (one of the Stern daughters) takes place and then travels to Williamsburg (in New York, not Virginia, like I was expecting), when Mila Stern marries Josef. There was so much detail about life in a Satmar household, that a simple book review cannot cover it all. From the preparations that a woman goes though when she gets her period, traditions governing wedding night protocal and so many other glimpses into the daily life.

It came of no surprise to me, when I read the brief bio of the author on the dust-cover of the book, that she grew up in a Satmar household and then left when she was 19. As a reader, following this discovery, I had to wonder if she had modelled any of the characters on her family, whether Atara (Mila’s sister) was supposed to represent her in some form. I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in learning more about Judaism as a whole, as well as the various movements within. As well as anyone that is looking for an intriguing family saga that encompasses over 50 years of living and multiple generations. The writing style is easy to get sucked into and I had a hard time putting it down.

 
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Posted by on June 15, 2012 in Book Review

 

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