Wait For Me book review

Sorry for the absence, guys. I am in a new season of life and it has been kicking my butt!

I had been waiting to read Wait For Me by Caroline Leech since before it came out. From the cover reveal to release, I’ve been very excited about this WWII Historical Fiction. And I was not disappointed! Here’s the description:

It’s 1945, and Lorna Anderson’s life on her father’s farm in Scotland consists of endless chores and rationing, knitting Red Cross scarves, and praying for an Allied victory. So when Paul Vogel, a German prisoner of war, is assigned as the new farmhand, Lorna is appalled. How can she possibly work alongside the enemy when her own brothers are risking their lives for their country?

But as Lorna reluctantly spends time with Paul, she feels herself changing. The more she learns about him—from his time in the war to his life back home in Germany—the more she sees the boy behind the soldier. Soon Lorna is battling her own warring heart. Loving Paul could mean losing her family and the life she’s always known. With tensions rising all around them, Lorna must decide how much she’s willing to sacrifice before the end of the war determines their fate.

The story of Lorna and Paul really brought me into Lorna’s world. I enjoyed getting to know the characters, and above all loved how much their relationship tugged on my heartstrings. The struggle of their story was real, and it was a good change from many other romances in YA literature.

I felt like I really got to know Lorna through her relationships and inner dialogue. She was a teenager that others can relate to, even with the historical time period. The only thing I wished for more of were perhaps descriptions of her surroundings. I wanted to see more of where she was in Scotland, and feel it with her. There was just a small piece missing in this, but it didn’t hurt the story or character development by any means.

One thing I have learned lately is to always read the notes from the author, especially when it comes to historical fiction. It’s intriguing to know what is real and what was changed for the sake of the story. I found it so reassuring to know that the author had received a letter from someone who had a grandmother who actually married a POW- knowing that Lorna and Paul’s story could have some truth to it made it that much more heart-wrenching.

If you love period pieces, particularly learning more about WWII, and you love a good romance- I highly recommend this book!

 

the rose & the dagger book review

img_0975The Rose & The Dagger is Renne Ahdieh sequel to The Wrath & The Dawn. I went through this book as quickly as I did the first, though I must admit there were slower places in this one, where the first one kept me intrigued and desiring more and more.

Not saying this one didn’t do that, juuuust saying that there were a few places that we were in character’s heads for a little too long for my taste. More action would have been nice to break it up a bit, though I understand why the thoughts were necessary.

Here’s what Goodreads has to say about it:

In a land on the brink of war, Shahrzad is forced from the arms of her beloved husband, the Caliph of Khorasan. She once thought Khalid a monster—a merciless killer of wives, responsible for immeasurable heartache and pain—but as she unraveled his secrets, she found instead an extraordinary man and a love she could not deny. Still, a curse threatens to keep Shazi and Khalid apart forever.

Now she’s reunited with her family, who have found refuge in the desert, where a deadly force is gathering against Khalid—a force set on destroying his empire and commanded by Shazi’s spurned childhood sweetheart. Trapped between loyalties to those she loves, the only thing Shazi can do is act. Using the burgeoning magic within her as a guide, she strikes out on her own to end both this terrible curse and the brewing war once and for all. But to do it, she must evade enemies of her own to stay alive.

The saga that began with The Wrath and the Dawn takes its final turn as Shahrzad risks everything to find her way back to her one true love again.

 

I loved the new characters we got to see in this book, as well as the old. Being introduced to Shazi’s sister was a definite plus for me, since I have two sisters of my own and understood the struggle Shazi had with that relationship and the secrets she had to protect.

However, with new characters meant that I was taken away from my two favorites for longer periods. While it was necessary to the story, and it helped tie some loose ends, I thought that there could be a little more between Shazi and Khalid to help bring their relationship even more to life in this second book.

Over all, Ahdieh did her story justice, and I was sucked in the second book as quickly as I was with the first. I would recommend these books to anyone who loves One Thousand and One Nights. I’m really looking forward to Ahdieh’s next project, which is said to focus around the legend of Mulan.

“between shades of gray” book review

imageI previously read Salt to the Sea and decided I needed more Ruta Sepetys in my life. I feel behind the times this year, catching up on so much YA that I missed out on in the last couple of years. But this book…oh, this book.

While I enjoyed from salt to the seaBetween Shades of Gray is more my style. With only one POV and Lina as the narrator– I connected with it so much more.

Here is the Goodreads description:

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.

When I read Ruta Sepetys’ books, I feel as though I’m being plunged into areas of history I previously had no knowledge of. I suppose when we learn things ins school, or even on our own time, we focus so much on what is closest to us. With WWII, I am very aware of the American part, and more of Britain and the Western European front than anything else. But Ruta Sepetys has introduced me to something I hadn’t thought of in so long, and that is what happened to so many others.

This book pulled on my heart and opened my eyes to Lena’s world. I wanted, more than anything while reading, to see her drawings. While Septeys describes everything so vividly, I kept hoping to flip the page and find an illustration. I know that many times this is the beauty of novels, that we can see without seeing, but this was an exception where I wanted it in front of me so badly. I wanted to see the pain in her charcoals, and her twisted views like Munch.

I want to call this book beautiful, but in fact the images that come to mind are anything but your standard “beautiful.” They are heart breaking, and stomach churning, and mind blowing– as they should be.

If you have yet to read this book, or any of Ruta Septeys books, might I suggest changing that– especially if you are a lover of YA historical fiction.

 

book review: the wrath & the dawn

imageThe Wrath & The Dawn by Renee Ahdieh is one of my favorite books that I have read thus far. Based on A Thousand and One Nights, the story of Scheherazade. It was one that I could not put down, and now all I want to do is life my self-inflicted-book-buying-ban to get the sequel, The Rose & the Dagger.

The Wrath & The Dawn was released in May of last year, and the sequel was released in April of this year.

Here is what Goodreads has to say:

In a land ruled by a murderous boy-king, each dawn brings heartache to a new family. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, is a monster. Each night he takes a new bride only to have a silk cord wrapped around her throat come morning. When sixteen-year-old Shahrzad’s dearest friend falls victim to Khalid, Shahrzad vows vengeance and volunteers to be his next bride. Shahrzad is determined not only to stay alive, but to end the caliph’s reign of terror once and for all.

Night after night, Shahrzad beguiles Khalid, weaving stories that enchant, ensuring her survival, though she knows each dawn could be her last. But something she never expected begins to happen: Khalid is nothing like what she’d imagined him to be. This monster is a boy with a tormented heart. Incredibly, Shahrzad finds herself falling in love. How is this possible? It’s an unforgivable betrayal. Still, Shahrzad has come to understand all is not as it seems in this palace of marble and stone. She resolves to uncover whatever secrets lurk and, despite her love, be ready to take Khalid’s life as retribution for the many lives he’s stolen. Can their love survive this world of stories and secrets?

 

When I was young, one of my favorite books was The Shadow Spinner, by Susan Fletcher, was one of my favorite books. It was also based on Scheherazade, but was from the perspective of a young girl who was taken into the story-tellers confidence to fuel her with more stories to share with the Sultan so she may continue to live.

The Wrath & The Dawn was like the story went even further for me, only better. Being able to see from the perspective of many characters, and get to know Khalid and Shahrzad in an entirely new light, I literally could not put down the book.

Another thing that it did was make me desperate for the food and colors of this Arabian world that Ahdieh created. With the descriptions of costumes, foods, surroundings, and traditions– I wanted to dive deeper and deeper into it, and Ahdieh did an amazing job of providing me with enough to fuel my imagination in technicolor.

There were a few parts of the story that I found myself questioning the tale, but then I felt like a ‘traditionalist’ and wanting all the stories of One Thousand and One Nights to come to life, not just the love story between Khalid and Shahrzad. With a killer cliff-hanger ending, I can’t imagine how readers who bought this book when it was first released felt without having the sequel ready at their finger-tips. I’m already itching as it is because I didn’t buy the two together at the same time!

This book gets 5/5 for me. Shahrzad, Jalal, Khalid, Despina– all the characters in this story have a voice of their own that makes a reader love (and sometimes dislike) them. If you haven’t read it (and I already feel late to the game), you must. And heed my warning: buy The Rose & The Dagger at the same time so you don’t end up like I am right now.

my love for historical fiction

historical fictveion loI come by my love of historical fiction honestly. Growing up in a family of historians, writers, readers, artists– all of it added up to my creation.

It started when I was young and I would hear my parents talking about historic events at the dinner table. Whether it was Biblical, American, Russian, European, it didn’t matter. Any topic was open for discussion, debate, and ultimately giving my sisters and me history lessons. As I continued in my education, it shocked me that others didn’t know the things I knew already. Not to say that snobbishly, only to say I was blessed in knowing what I knew because of my parents.

Not only did I know it, but I appreciated it. I lived for it. And I always wanted to know more.

I’m pretty sure I only read historical fiction up until I had required reading in school. Even then, the classics to me are from the same pot of tea, so I was always wanting to get my hands on more. However, there are three authors who made me want to read more, and more, and more– and with that, study more, and more, and more.

Ann Rinaldi

Samuel Shellabarger

Elizabeth George Speare

These three authors, to me, filled pages with adventures, challenges, and history that everyone should want to learn more about.

When I first started writing, I knew I wanted to write historical fiction. But it frightened me. I was afraid of the hours dedicated to research to get the details right. I was intimidated by the idea that someone could read my book and decide that I was no true historian, and give me a raving review that was less than mediocre.

I. Was. Afraid.

So I avoided it. I first wrote a YA Contemporary, which I love and hope someday others still might as well, but my editor and CP pointed out the language was very formal. I didn’t understand the concept of it being anything but, and realized that perhaps that came from my choices of reading. When I started reading contemporary novels, I tried to refocus my own into language that wasn’t ‘antiquated’.

Then I moved West, and something clicked inside of me. Having gone through my own adventure of moving with my family cross-country, I remembered books I read about families doing the same in covered wagons. And that’s when I realized I needed to stop being afraid of chasing my passion, and go for it.

I wrote my first historical fiction. And it’s what got me my agent.

History, the past, is a part of all of us. The amazing thing is that we all have our own lineage, our own pasts, our own family stories that have been passed down for generations– but the bulk of it is we all come from somewhere.

That, to me, is the beauty of historical fiction. These stories bring everything that we may have learned or wished to learn to life. Even if we know they aren’t straight facts, they help us feel a part of that time in history. They make us crave for ‘simpler’, or harder, times. And many times, they also make us appreciate the here and now.

You will find me reading just about every genre, and if you question that you can take a look at my bookshelves. But, if we get down to it, I write historical fiction because it made me who I am as a reader and a writer– and I’m so thankful for that.

 

#writerslifeapparel

You may have noticed a new page recently showed up on my main page. If you didn’t, you can check it out: here.

If you want to save yourself a click, here’s the summary of it all: I’ve started a new business.

A line of shirts, to be exact. Well, and stickers. But that’s where it ends for now.

The other day I read an article about how important it was to set aside time for writing. To designate those hours as working hours, and to have something to wear, look out, or even eat that would help you focus on what you were there to do.

What is that?

WRITE.

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So I started to search. I searched, and searched, and searched– and I found nothing.

I found no shirts, or sweatshirts, or coffee mugs that really made me want them.

There are some out there. The cheesy shirts that say, “Watch out or you’ll end up in my novel,” or the mugs that say, “Editing Day.” All cute ideas, of course, but none of them were what I was looking for.

I decided, then, to create my own.

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After weeks of working on some designs, a logo, and recruiting some amazing people to help me out– #writerslifeapparel is ready to go.

You can find it on Twitter, Instagram, and TeeSpring.

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Please share your thoughts! Always looking for feedback to make the designs more geared towards YOU.

 

“Salt to the Sea” review

imageI was very excited to pick up Ruta Sepetys latest book, Salt to the Sea, as my next new read. I’m ashamed to say this is the first of hers I’ve read, and am now counting down the minutes before her other book, Between Shades of Grey, arrives in my mailbox.

After being slightly hungover from reading Passenger, I should’ve known this historical fiction was going to leave me dry in a different way. The four characters who I got to know and experience the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff with left me questioning myself as an adult and how I would have acted when I was younger. Emilia, most of all, left my heart aching.

Admittedly, it took me quite a while to really get into the book. Bouncing from one point-of-view to another left me, well, confused. The book started off with each character having a short introduction, to the point that I had to flip back and forth a few times before I got the characters straight. This seems common enough, but it kept me from getting deep into each character for the first fifty pages or so.

The writing style, however, and the over-all story and development of characters was just beautiful. Rita Sepetys seems like a kindred spirit to me, not hesitating to share with her audience the gruesome images of a worse-than-Titanic moment in history. Sepetys does not hold back, and it is because of that I was pulled deeper into the moment and blurry to the world around me as I followed Emilia, Joanna, Florian, and even Alfred, into the sea.

I don’t want to give any spoilers, but as this book is about an incredibly journey through East Prussia, ending with the sinking of a German vessel near the end of WWII… you shouldn’t be surprised that you’ll end the book with tears in your eyes and heart.

My favorite part of this book was actually found in Sepetys’s note at the end. She said:

“If historical novels stir your interest, pursue the facts, history, memoirs, and personal testimonies available. These are the shoulders that historical fiction sits upon. When the survivors are gone, we must not let the truth disappear with them.

Please, give them a voice.”

This is put into words exactly how I fell. Why I love reading historical fiction so much, and ultimately why I love writing it.

But that’s sharing for another time.

If you don’t mind taking a few pages to get your characters straight, and you’re intrigued by more than your typical WWII book– this one is for you.

 

 

 

 

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a reader lives one thousand lives

one thousand livesWhen I was in high school our homeroom met for about ten minutes and the students were divided up the same every year. We were in alphabetic order, so I always had the same person sitting in front of me, next time, behind me…it never changed.

There was a kid who sat in front of me who always asked me how many books I had read that day, or that week. He especially loves Monday’s because he would get to ask me how many books I read over the weekend. Sometimes it was only two, sometimes four. Once I was so excited to tell him I had read seven books between Friday afternoon and Monday morning.

I think I started seeing it as a challenge. “I want to be able to tell him I read more.”

Near the end of our senior year, I finally had the guts to ask him why it intrigued him so much. Part of me was so afraid I’d find he had been making fun of me for four years, but the other part of me–the stronger part–wondered if it was just something to talk about. But his answer always stays with me.

“I’m such a slow reader. It amazes me that you can read so fast, and so many books at the same time, and soak up all those stories. I wish I could do that.”

I was floored.

Part of me felt proud. My older sister and I had times each other to see how long it took us each to read a page of a book since I was about eight. The other part of me wondered if he had a right to be amazed. Because I got to thinking, and asking myself: was I really soaking up all the stories?

Some of them, yes. I always go back to my favorites. But some of them were just fillers. Books to read to pass the time. Those books I couldn’t really remember.

Suddenly I began to panic. I’ve been reading WRONG. I should be slow…and steady…because that’s the true winner, right?

Well, I listened for a millisecond or so before I pulled out my book and started pushing through it. I wanted to finish it. To add it to my list. My ever-growing list.

Now that time and life have forced me to slow down, I’ve learned that I don’t mind having a shorter list. I know there are so many books out there, and truth be told– time and mortality will keep me from reading all the books that I’d probably enjoy.

Yes, that makes me sad. But I’ve come to terms with it.

Quantity isn’t quality. That’s how the saying goes, right? I’ve slowed down to picking new books with precision, and made sure to revisit books that I might have sped through. I revisit the timeless tales that are my favorites, and balance them with the new and exciting books I find on various shelves.

But I’m not reading for anyone else.

I’m not reading to brag about how many books I finished. I’m not reading to keep up with the literary crowd. I’m not reading to make a name for myself.

I’m reading to live one thousand lives. I’m reading to enjoy the beautiful words so many authors toiled over. I’m reading to go on countless adventures. I’m reading to learn lessons that can’t be lost in the pages.

I’m reading to, well, live.

“A reader lives one thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.” -George R.R. Martin

If nothing else, I will read one thousand books before I die. Just so I can live up to this quote.

Do you have a numbered list of all the books you’ve read?

 

 

 

Make sure to follow my Instagram for more writerly & bookish things. Giveaways are in the future, starting with the 100 followers mark!

“Passenger” review

imageThere are many books that leave me wanting more.

And I mean that in the best of ways.

More time with the characters. More chances to know their deepest secrets. More adventures to share with the characters. More, more, more.

And PASSENGER left me wanting more.

This is the first book I’ve read by ALEXANDRA BRACKEN, but it won’t be the last. She has a way of taking a reader through history that leaves one feeling like it’s so many books in one.

The very beginning reminded me of Libba Bray’s A GREAT AND TERRIBLE BEAUTY, with Etta being thrown into an unfamiliar life with a surprising gift she had no idea she possessed.

I was transported with Etta and Nicholas through time wishing it would go on because I wanted to experience the era longer.I am a historical fiction guru, so the twist with the time travel was an all time win for me. I mean, America in 1776? Paris in 1880? London in 1940?? Um, yes, please!

Bracken’s descriptions and talent to voice each point of view kept me so wrapped up, admittedly I read well into the night on more than one occasion (and fought sleep because I didn’t want to miss what happened next).

With a surprising turn of events near the end, one I was grateful for because I was preparing to go on a spoiler rant, I am now in a lull just WAITING for the next book. To my dismay, I didn’t realize that PASSENGER just came out this year.

How much longer will I have to wait??

If you haven’t read this YA treasure, you need to. If I had the authority, I’d say that’s an order–but I hope you’ll just take my word for it.

snobby [young adult] reader

snobby ya readerAs a young adult I didn’t read young adult fiction. I looked at people reading “modern books” and wondered how they thought they could call it reading. After all, you haven’t READ until you’ve read the classics.

In college I had to take an adolescent literature class, and it wasn’t until then that it dawned on me that I was being hypocritical. I thought less of those who actually ENJOYED contemporary literature when I, me, myself wanted to write contemporary literature.

Are you seeing the problem?

The truth is, I used to hate reading just about anything that wasn’t historical fiction or close to it. I still love period pieces the most–it’s why I write them. Being transported to another time with different style and ideals and challenges intrigues me the most.

What would it have been like to live as a governess, or cross America in a covered wagon, or sailed the seas on a tall ship, or lived in the middle of nowhere when technology was a glint of the future?

Books take me to these times, reveal the impossible, and give me a sense of character, through characters, of the time. That’s the beauty of books.

I have since learned, that is the beauty of ALL books. Not just historical fiction.

While I’m probably shooting myself in the foot with this post, I’m sharing to be honest. I didn’t start off reading contemporaries– I started as a literature snob.

It started in first grade when I wrote my first true story: “The REAL story of Pocahontas, not the Disney one.”

It continued to fourth grade when I started reading Shakespeare. And in seventh grade when I read Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters.

I don’t know if these facts come across as bragging, but they’re not meant to. On the contrary, it’s to show that I couldn’t see past the classics stand at Barnes and Noble to open my eyes to so many other opportunities.

But now I have. And it’s exciting. And I’m ashamed of nothing that I read. Because I’m reading, and learning, and growing. And Stephen King really did say it best:

“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”

I would add: Read a variety of things. Your writing (and knowledge and growth and creativity) depend on it.