Saturday, May 31, 2014

Prisoner of Night and Fog

Book: Prisoner of Night and Fog
Series: Prisoner of Night and Fog #1
Author: Anne Blankman

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?-Goodreads

Review: Historical fiction at it's finest-I loved almost everything about this book. Blankman crafts a story around actual events and while most of the main characters are fictional, many are not (including Hitler, Eva Braun and others). She definitely did her research (at times the book reads more like an essay than novel) and Munich really came to life on the pages. Gretchen, our protagonist, starts off very naive and trusting (the dialogue is very 'oh golly! What does Uncle Dolph think?' type of stuff) but once she starts 'seeing' the people around her she becomes someone the reader can root for. The book starts slow but the pace picks up about mid-way through. The mystery of who killed Gretchen's father was probably one of the least interesting things about the book, however the events and people it led her to was fascinating. 

Overall-fab read. 

Grade: 5/5

Friday, May 30, 2014

The Boys of My Youth

Book: The Boys of My Youth
Author: Jo Ann Beard

Review: 'The Boys of My Youth' is a memoir written through a collection of essays. The narrative is not linear and I enjoyed the shifting timeline and her overall writing style. The strongest chapters were Fourth Side of the Matter (recalling a horrific workplace incident) and a chapter written about her being followed in her car in the south (frightening). Without question, these sections were 5/5 stars. For the most part, I enjoyed the sections written about her childhood but her adult sections (excluding the ones noted above) that focused on her deteriorating marriage didn't grip me. I never felt like I really understood her as an adult person (this could also be a result of the disjointed narrative). There were also a few sections that I hated, like Coyote, which I ended up skimming because it was so boring. 

 Overall, I liked this. I would certainly recommend certain chapters to people.  

Grade: 3/5

The Cuckoo's Calling

Book: The Cuckoo's Calling
Series: Cormoran Strike #1
Author: Robert Galbraith

After losing his leg to a land mine in Afghanistan, Cormoran Strike is barely scraping by as a private investigator. Strike is down to one client, and creditors are calling. He has also just broken up with his longtime girlfriend and is living in his office.

Then John Bristow walks through his door with an amazing story: His sister, the legendary supermodel Lula Landry, known to her friends as the Cuckoo, famously fell to her death a few months earlier. The police ruled it a suicide, but John refuses to believe that. The case plunges Strike into the world of multimillionaire beauties, rock-star boyfriends, and desperate designers, and it introduces him to every variety of pleasure, enticement, seduction, and delusion known to man.

You may think you know detectives, but you've never met one quite like Strike. You may think you know about the wealthy and famous, but you've never seen them under an investigation like this.-Goodreads

Review: I love a good mystery and this book had it all: a smart investigator with personal problems, an efficient secretary with hidden talents and a mysterious death. This novel is slow and very detailed (those looking for something action packed and faced paced will be disappointed) and I enjoyed every minute. I picked this up in the airport after briefly skimming the summary on the back and read it the whole way home on a very bumpy flight. I only wish I had a pen and paper with me so I could write down characters and timelines while I was reading it (I love to be engaged in the book and try to follow the investigation, I sometimes do this with Agatha Christie books..yes I'm a dork).  While the killer was clear by the end, I still had fun with the red herrings and watching the investigation unfold.

Grade: 5/5 

The Winner's Curse

Book: The Winner's Curse
Series: The Winner's Trilogy #1
Author: Marie Rutkoski

As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions.

One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction. Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him—with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin.

But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined. -Goodreads

Review: This was well-written and I overall enjoyed it. However, I was expecting...a little "more" on all fronts. What exactly do I mean? Well, this is labeled fantasy so I was expecting/anticipating a mystical element, which did not exist. There was a lot of world building in terms of the politics, which I liked, but I never got a real sense of the city or landscape. I had a love/hate relationship with Kestrel, our heroine, who was at times spunky, clever, dense and extremely boring. I did enjoy the romance aspect of the book and think it was handled well. I'll avoid spoilers but Kestrel is betrayed on a grand scale toward the end of the book and she reacts like a doormat. For someone who grew up in her position with her father's views, I didn't think that was realistic. The author also should have killed off two secondary characters in this book (maybe she has big plans for them in the next two books but they should not have survived). 

While this book wasn't perfect, I still enjoyed the writing style, the political aspect of the book and the premise. I think the story has a lot of potential and I plan to read the rest of the series. 

Grade: 3/5