Author: Ruta Sepetys
To Be Published: October 1, 2019
Reviewed By: Kim
Kim’s Rating: 4 stars
Under the fascist dictatorship of General Francisco Franco, Spain is hiding a dark secret. Meanwhile, tourists and foreign businessmen flood into Spain under the welcoming guise of sunshine and wine. Among them is eighteen-year-old Daniel Matheson, the son of a Texas oil tycoon, who arrives in Madrid with his parents hoping to connect with the country of his mother’s birth through the lens of his camera.
Photography–and fate–introduce him to Ana, whose family’s interweaving obstacles reveal the lingering grasp of the Spanish Civil War–as well as chilling definitions of fortune and fear. Daniel’s photographs leave him with uncomfortable questions amidst shadows of danger. He is backed into a corner of decisions to protect those he loves. Lives and hearts collide, revealing an incredibly dark side to the sunny Spanish city.
Ok so first off, I love Sepetys’ books. They’re amazing and she’s one the authors that I will pick up no matter what the book is about. But I’m gonna start with my one criticism that applies to multiple books. The endings frustrate the crap outta me! I’m learning to accept open endings that could go in any direction and could be interpreted and imagined in a myriad of ways. However, with Sepetys’ stories, I want to know more! She always seems to completely draw me into the stories and the characters’ lives and I get so involved and want to know as much as possible, but then she just cuts the story off. It feels like there’s so much more of the story, but she just refuses to give us the info. That is honestly my only criticism and I’ll admit it’s a big one.
However, up until the endings, the stories are all fantastic. This book is no different. The setting is stunning and I now officially want to go to Spain and explore as much as possible. She captures the fear and tension of Franco’s Spain and shows what true fascism looks like. She didn’t pull any punches and I appreciated the history. The characters were all likable and the twists scattered throughout were believable and realistic. I’ll admit that I found this book weeks before the release date at a bookstore and I’m so glad I did! It’s a beautiful book and I recommend it to pretty much everybody!
Author: Abbi Waxman
Published: July 9, 2019
Reviewed By: Kim
Kim’s Rating: 5 stars
The only child of a single mother, Nina has her life just as she wants it: a job in a bookstore, a kick-butt trivia team, a world-class planner and a cat named Phil. If she sometimes suspects there might be more to life than reading, she just shrugs and picks up a new book.
When the father Nina never knew existed suddenly dies, leaving behind innumerable sisters, brothers, nieces, and nephews, Nina is horrified. They all live close by! They’re all—or mostly all—excited to meet her! She’ll have to Speak. To. Strangers. It’s a disaster! And as if that wasn’t enough, Tom, her trivia nemesis, has turned out to be cute, funny, and deeply interested in getting to know her. Doesn’t he realize what a terrible idea that is?
Nina considers her options:
- Completely change her name and appearance. (Too drastic, plus she likes her hair.)
- Flee to a deserted island. (Hard pass, see: coffee).
- Hide in a corner of her apartment and rock back and forth. (Already doing it.)
It’s time for Nina to come out of her comfortable shell, but she isn’t convinced real life could ever live up to fiction. It’s going to take a brand-new family, a persistent suitor, and the combined effects of ice cream and trivia to make her turn her own fresh page.
This book is fantastic! As soon as I read the description, I knew I had to read it. And the cover is gorgeous. From the very first page, I was completely engaged. I’ve said before that I very rarely ever “relate” to many characters. I enjoy them, I sympathize with them, I get very emotionally involved with them, but I usually don’t identify with them. Nina Hill is a big exception. I identified with her from the very beginning. To this day, I’m still the one in any group who is the know-it-all nerd who pulls out random trivia. I’m the one who makes plans, but then at the last minute backs out cuz I’m in the middle of a good book.
Thankfully, I’m a successful enough gold digger that I get to stay home and read and review books all day. But a good second choice dream job would be at a bookstore. Plus, all the dialogue is flippin’ hilarious. Nina’s interactions, not just with her friends, but with random people she meets along the way, are so much fun to read. One thing that the author does so well is the seemingly contradictory nature of LA. I have never been there so I can only base my knowledge on things I’ve read or seen on TV. While in one sentence, Waxman makes fun of the usual LA stereotypes, in the next she applauds the beauty of the city. It was just fascinating and now I kinda want to visit.
Overall, this was a really fun read that made me laugh a lot. It’s nice to know that I’m not the only weird one in the world. I had a great time reading it and I would love to read other things that Waxman has written. I adore this book and I think y’all would too!
Author: Armando Lucas Correa
Published: May 7, 2019
Reviewed By: Kim
Kim’s Rating: 3 stars
BERLIN, 1939: The dreams that Amanda Sternberg and her husband, Julius, had for their daughters are shattered when the Nazis descend on Berlin, burning down their beloved family bookshop and sending Julius to a concentration camp. Desperate to save her children, Amanda flees toward the south of France, where the widow of an old friend of her husband’s has agreed to take her in. Along the way, a refugee ship headed for Cuba offers another chance at escape and there, at the dock, Amanda is forced to make an impossible choice that will haunt her for the rest of her life. Once in Haute-Vienne, her brief respite is interrupted by the arrival of Nazi forces, and Amanda finds herself in a labor camp where she must once again make a heroic sacrifice.
NEW YORK, 2015: Eighty-year-old Elise Duval receives a call from a woman bearing messages from a time and country that she forced herself to forget. A French Catholic who arrived in New York after World War II, Elise is shocked to discover that the letters were from her mother, written in German during the war. Despite Elise’s best efforts to stave off her past, seven decades of secrets begin to unravel.
I’m so sad about this book. I wanted to love it and I’d been looking forward to reading it for quite a while. I know that reviewing WWII/Holocaust books can be tricky, especially when the review isn’t completely positive. The premise for this book held so much potential. The characters also had great range of emotions and I easily sympathized with them. However, the main thing that didn’t work, and I hope no one misinterprets what I’m saying, is that everyone was so melodramatic.
Some books don’t convey the horrors of war or of the Holocaust and I try to call them out on it. But this book almost had a parallel, yet still opposite effect. It wasn’t like reading a history book, it was like watching a soap opera version of WWII/Holocaust stories. I tried to see the emotions underneath everything, but if the writing had its nose up in the air any higher, it would have drowned when it rained. I sincerely doubt that those who were arrested by the Nazis spent so much time poetically identifying their feelings. It all just felt so over the top, in a not good way at all.
Plus, I felt like a whole half of the story wasn’t being told. I wanted to hear about Viera’s life in Cuba. Everyone else got to be so emotional, why didn’t she? I wanted so badly to love this story and the characters, it just all fell flat. However, I will say that it did hold my attention, and for such lofty writing, it was very easy to read. Overall, this is not my favorite WWII/Holocaust literature, but I don’t want to write it off completely. It was by no means a bad book, it just isn’t for me.