Today's Grateful List/31 December 2015

  • Going to get answers no matter what

Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Forgotten Room

Where to begin with this absolute gem of a book? It's a sweeping tale of love found, love lost, and mystery surrounding a room in a mansion in New York City. It's centered around families and blooming where you are planted, as it were. But it's soul stirring and well written and just beautiful. The fact that three different authors contributed seamlessly to the story is just the icing on the cake. You won't be able to tell the difference in styles and the characters never suffer from a lack of continuity.

The story is told from three points of view:  Olive, a housemaid in 1892, seeking to revenge her father against the owner of the mansion in which she works; Lucy, Olive's daughter, who is a secretary in New York in 1920, seeking to find the truth about her paternity; and Kate, Lucy's daughter, a nurse during World War II, looking to find acceptance in a male-dominated field and to fight her attraction to the handsome patient in her care. We go from one point of view to the next and the next and then circle around again, each time bringing the story forward and laying groundwork for exposing mysteries. All three women live in the Pratt mansion at different times, and all three struggle with life choices and following their hearts. There are layers and layers and as you read on, nothing is really what you thought it would be.

I cannot write enough good things about this book. It is gripping and well written, and the storyline, while not necessarily unique, is well plotted. I found myself reading well past my bedtime in order to find out "one more thing" about one of these three thoroughly engaging young women. Pick it up and treat yourself. It's a pleasure.


Friday, November 13, 2015

The Highest of Recommendations

Ruta Sepetys is one of the finest writers, young adult or otherwise, writing today. Her two previous novels, Between Shades of Gray and Out of the Easy, held me enthralled through every page. Now comes Salt to the Sea, and it is everything and more that the others are. But a word to the wise up front...have tissues close by.

There are four points of view telling the story of Salt to the Sea, and each is distinctive, secretive, and profound. We have Emilia, a young Polish girl of fifteen who has faced untold horrors of World War II, and is saved early on by the "knight", Florian. Florian has a major secret of his own; he is carrying something very valuable and is trying to get away to safety while simultaneously exacting revenge on those with whom he worked. Distracting Florian, however, is the young nurse, Joana, a Lithuanian who is leading a rag tag group to the safety of a ship leaving Germany now that Hitler has deemed it all right in the final months of the war. Finally, there is Alfred, a young sailor in the German navy who "writes" letters in his head to his love, Hannelore, while avoiding work and planning a dazzling future.

Though these are the voices we hear, there are so many others involved and each one will wrap themselves around your heart, in particular the Shoe Poet and the Wandering Boy who are assisted in getting on the liner Wilhelm Gustloff along with the others. They are stunning examples of man's inhumanity to man and yet the power of hope and the determination to survive. Sepetys gives them lives that represent so many more who experienced as much trauma or even worse.

So much happens that you will find yourself wanting to totally inhale this story, but make yourself slow down and feel the ache of hunger, the biting cold, the long walks, the deceptions and the triumphs. Sepetys has done her research meticulously and it shows in every word. I cannot rate this one highly enough and I urge you to read it and remember it.


Sunday, November 08, 2015

Second in the Series

Where to start on The White Rose? It picks up almost precisely where The Jewel left off, with Violet in big trouble with her mistress over her affair with the companion, Ash. As he is sentenced to die, the Duchess visits unbelievable cruelty on Violet, and it's apparent that she and Ash must escape pronto. Luckily, there is Lucien and Garnet there to secret them, along with Raven, out of the Jewel. But it's a long journey to safety, and once there, will they truly be safe, really?

First admission:  Not really a fan of a second book that spends a good deal of time traveling. Ash and Violet make some ridiculous mistakes along the way, and occasionally I felt as though the author was purposely prolonging the story. It's certainly not bad, and I admit I was turning those pages fairly quickly. I just wanted it to end so I could get to the *good* part. 

Second admission:  The "talents" the girls have sort of brought to mind images of the House of Night series by P.C. and Kristin Cast. Not bad, but not fully believable, either. But I'm still on board because it is intriguing.

So, final thoughts: It's a good sequel and has a killer cliffhanger that will definitely have me waiting for the final in the series. It's a good set up for a revolution, and I mostly like all the main characters. It does suffer a bit from middle book syndrome, but I did enjoy it and am definitely looking forward to the ending of the series. 


Sunday, November 01, 2015

Excellent Historical Fiction

Sisters of Treason is a delightful surprise; in a world that is glutted with Tudor fiction, this one is a cut above as it looks at two of the forgotten females of the tenuous succession:  Katherine and Mary Grey, younger sisters of the tragic Lady Jane. I have to admit I was hopeful but skeptical that this novel would be something new and interesting, and was very pleasantly surprised when it exceeded expectations in almost every way.

The focus of the novel is, of course, the Sisters Grey, and the very tight line they had to walk in order not to follow their elder sister to the block. Just by virtue of their births and blood, there were many who looked to Lady Katherine in particular as an alternative to both Catholic Mary I and possibly illegitimate Elizabeth I. Told from the polar opposite points of view of both Katherine and Mary, we see how frustrating life at court could be and the chafing it caused as both girls longed to live as they pleased. Katherine comes across as flighty and flirtatious, and it's those characteristics that eventually lead to castrophe. Mary, on the other hand, is serious and intellectual, but having been born with a hump back, she is seen as a liability by many. In the end, both sisters suffer for who they are and what they stand for.

Also mixed into the story is that of Levina Teerlinc, a portraitess whom Fremantle gives strong ties to the Grey family. There is some evidence that Levina did have access to at least four of the Tudor monarchs, and her story brings a depth to the tale as time passes and hard choices are made. While I liked Levina, I did find the third person present tense of her narrative a bit annoying; I would have preferred for her to tell her own story just as the sisters did.

The writing in this novel is active and the girls' story is tragic, intriguing, and harrowing. I'm inspired to learn more of the Greys and their unfortunate place in history, and am highly pleased to be able to recommend this novel for anyone who is a fan of historical fiction.