Review: White Chrysanthemum by @marylynnbracht ‏@ChattoBooks ‏

35004351.jpg

Buy Here

Hana and her little sister Emi are part of an island community of haenyo, women who make their living from diving deep into the sea off the southernmost tip of Korea. One day Hana sees a Japanese soldier heading for where Emi is guarding the day’s catch on the beach. Her mother has told her again and again never to be caught alone with one. Terrified for her sister, Hana swims as hard as she can for the shore. So begins the story of two sisters suddenly and violently separated by war. Switch-backing between Hana in 1943 and Emi as an old woman today, White Chrysanthemum takes us into a dark and devastating corner of history. But pulling us back into the light are two women whose love for one another is strong enough to triumph over the evils of war.

White Chrysanthemum was a sad and beautiful novel that told a story based on real events that I honestly had no idea of. And I’m so glad I learned about what happened, even if the reality was hard to process. By the time I finished the book, I read the author’s notes and kept searching for more info about “confort women”. It was simply terrifying.

So, what the book is about: 1943, Jeju Island (Korea). Hanna is a sixteen-year-old girl who is considered a “haenyeo” woman (fema divers). One day at the beach, Hanna wants to protect her little sister from the Japanese soldiers, but she ends up being abducted instead. From that moment, we follow Hanna’s devastating story in 1943 as she becomes a victim of sexual slavery, and Emi’s life as a woman in her seventies, while she tries to come to terms with what happened many years ago.

This is not an easy book to read due to the subject matter, but I believe it’s an important read nevertheless. Maybe because of that, I felt much more connected to Hanna’s story than Emi’s, as hers wasn’t as “emotional” or shocking, but I guess it was still necessary so as to show us what happened to those women who remained in the island. By the way, the concept of “haenyeo” women was so fascinating, I wish I could be like them.

Despite the heartbreaking events that were portrayed in this novel, I believe Mary Lynn Bracht’s writing was beautiful and evocative and I would definitely read another book by hers. Let’s remember “comfort women” and don’t let history forget them…

ARC, Chatto & Windus, 2018

Advertisements

Review: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo @tjenkinsreid

32620332

Buy Here

Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one in the journalism community is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now? Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband, David, has left her, and her career has stagnated. Regardless of why Evelyn has chosen her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career. Summoned to Evelyn’s Upper East Side apartment, Monique listens as Evelyn unfurls her story: from making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the late 80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way. As Evelyn’s life unfolds through the decades—revealing a ruthless ambition, an unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love—Monique begins to feel a very a real connection to the actress. But as Evelyn’s story catches up with the present, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.

Last year, I saw that a lot of blogger friends were reading a book called The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo (x. x, x). I don’t know why, but I wasn’t really interested until I started reading the reviews, perhaps because of the title. However, you all know I’m a big Hollywood fan and every review I read made me more excited about this novel. And it was definitely not what I expected at all. It was better.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo was one of my favorite books that I’ve read recently. I hadn’t been so addicted to a non-mystery book in a long time. This was a compulsive read, one of those you can’t put down because it’s so fun, dramatic and completely captivating. A well-written soap-opera that you don’t ever want to finish.

This is the story of famous actress Evelyn Hugo and the relationship between her and her seven husbands. Who was Evelyn’s true love? The narration is told in a pretty unique way, which was one of my favorite aspects of the book. Evelyn Hugo, after decades of silence, decides to give Monique Grant the truth about her life. Monique is a relatively unknown journalist and doesn’t know why Evelyn chose her. Thus begins the story of Evelyn Hugo, who narrates every chapter of her life story, beginning with her first husband.

I loved the structure because you got to judge every one of Evelyn’s husbands and decide who was your favorite. She was a fascinating character, albeit she made some terrible mistakes. Hers seems like an easy life at first sight, but it wasn’t, not really. I loved how every character in this novel (even the ones you hate with all your heart) has virtues and flaws. No one is perfect, and that makes them more realistic in my opinion. This was a book where both the plot and the characters were fantastically crafted.

After finishing the book, I realized I didn’t want it to end. When a great story like this one spans so many years, you can’t help but fall in love with the characters and it’s sad to see them go. This book touched many themes that I didn’t expect… and it tackled them beautifully.

Atria Books, 2017

Review: The Road to Bittersweet by Donna Everhart @wordstogobuy @KensingtonBooks

34853146.jpg

Buy Here

Set in the Carolinas in the 1940s, The Road to Bittersweet is a beautifully written, evocative account of a young woman reckoning not just with the unforgiving landscape, but with the rocky emotional terrain that leads from innocence to wisdom. For fourteen-year-old Wallis Ann Stamper and her family, life in the Appalachian Mountains is simple and satisfying, though not for the tenderhearted. While her older sister, Laci—a mute, musically gifted savant—is constantly watched over and protected, Wallis Ann is as practical and sturdy as her name. When the Tuckasegee River bursts its banks, forcing them to flee in the middle of the night, those qualities save her life…

The Road to Bittersweet came exactly at the right moment for me. This past month has been a bit difficult because of work stuff and I tried to keep myself busy, so I didn’t read as much as I usually do. However, I loved this book from the moment I started it, and even though it took me almost a week to finish it, I must say I adored every page. I had a feeling it would eventually drag a little because of the slow pace, but the truth is that it kept me engaged the whole time. I highly recommend it.

The Education of Dixie Dupree was one of my favorite books last year and I was excited to dive into Donna Everhart’s new novel. That being said, I was instantly surprised when I started reading it because although both books are set in the southern United States, in my humble opinion, they have nothing else in common. Dixie Dupree was a tougher read, dealing with darker themes and featuring a more cynical perspective. On the other hand, The Road to Bittersweet had more of an “epic” feeling and I think it was much more hopeful and innocent in some ways.

Don’t get me wrong, this is not a happy book. It’s actually so dramatic that for the first 50%, I kept wondering how could anyone endure so many tragedies and still be willing to go on. I loved the Stamper family and wanted them to be happy, but Donna Everhart kept making that particular goal less clear with every page. So I guess the title fits perfectly, since this novel truly felt like a journey. The Road to Bittwesweet tells us all about Wallis Ann’s coming of age (although not your usual one by any means) and how families never give up, even under the worst of circumstances.

The book was emotional (I cried when something terrible happened) but it never felt overly sentimental, I think it portrayed everything in a very realistic way and I loved the writing. As for the characters, Wallis Ann was amazing, I loved everything about her and I could understand her jealousy and insecurities as well. She was fourteen years old, after all. She was the main protagonist of the story, but it was nice to read about Laci, Seph, the parents, and Clayton too.

All in all, this was such a beautiful book that I would recommend it to all those looking for a different kind of historical read, one that deals with a family’s struggle to live happily ever after. I removed part of the blurb because I feel it reveals way too much and it’s better to read it without knowing some things.

Edelweiss, Kensington, 2017

#ThrowbackThursday Out of The Easy by @RutaSepetys

Throwback thursday (4).png

Renee @It’sBookTalk began this Throwback Thursday meme as a way to share some of our old favorites as well as sharing books that we’re FINALLY getting around to reading that were published over a year ago. I’ve wanted to join this meme for a long time and I thought it would be a great idea because it forces me to read books from the TBR and not only new releases. And, of course, I can also include some old favorites!

descarga

Buy Here

It’s 1950, and as the French Quarter of New Orleans simmers with secrets, seventeen-year-old Josie Moraine is silently stirring a pot of her own. Known among locals as the daughter of a brothel prostitute, Josie wants more out of life than the Big Easy has to offer. She devises a plan get out, but a mysterious death in the Quarter leaves Josie tangled in an investigation that will challenge her allegiance to her mother, her conscience, and Willie Woodley, the brusque madam on Conti Street. Josie is caught between the dream of an elite college and a clandestine underworld. New Orleans lures her in her quest for truth, dangling temptation at every turn, and escalating to the ultimate test. With characters as captivating as those in her internationally bestselling novel Between Shades of Gray, Ruta Sepetys skillfully creates a rich story of secrets, lies, and the haunting reminder that decisions can shape our destiny.

I’m having so much reading books that had been on my TBR for years!

This week it was Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys and I absolutely loved this sweet and unforgettable story. This is a book that could’ve been a tough read because of the subject matter but I actually found it quite funny at times. And undoubtedly, the best word to describe Out of the Easy is “charming”. I was so captivated by the characters and the setting that I didn’t want it to end.

Josie was a lovely character to read about and the supporting characters were also incredible. Also, I don’t remember reading a better first paragraph in a long time. I was instantly hooked.

My mother’s a prostitute. Not the filthy, streetwalking kind. She’s actually quite pretty, fairly well spoken, and has lovely clothes. But she sleeps with men for money or gifts, and according to the dictionary, that makes her a prostitute.

Overall, this was such an entertaining book… okay, so maybe it’s not full of action and keep in mind that the story isn’t original by any means, but Ruta Sepetys’ writing was one of the best I’ve come across lately. Of course, I immediately added her other two novels to my list.

Review: The Last Hours by Minette Walters #OutsideComfortZone

35993602.jpg

Buy Here

When the Black Death enters England through the port of Melcombe in Dorseteshire in June 1348, no one knows what manner of sickness it is or how it spreads and kills so quickly. The Church proclaims it a punishment from God but Lady Anne of Develish has different ideas. With her brutal husband absent, she decides on more sensible ways to protect her people than the daily confessions of sin recommended by the Bishop. Anne gathers her serfs within the gates of Develish and refuses entry to outsiders, even to her husband. She makes an enemy of her daughter by doing so, but her resolve is strengthened by the support of her leading serfs…until food stocks run low and the nerves of all are tested by their ignorance of what is happening in the world outside. The people of Develish are alive. But for how long? And what will they discover when the time comes for them to cross the moat? Compelling and suspenseful, The Last Hours is a riveting tale of human ingenuity and endurance against the worst pandemic known to history. In Lady Anne of Develish – leader, saviour, heretic – Walters has created her most memorable heroine to date.

So I’ve been wanting to do something like this for a long time. To read something different, something which I wouldn’t have chosen a year ago. To read something outside my comfort zone. And when I stumbled upon The Last Hours on Netgalley, I saw the opportunity and requested the book. It was definitely not my usual kind of read: a hist-fic novel but set in the Middle Ages. However, it still piqued my interest.

I’m going to be completely honest here. Despite my issue with its length, I think The Last Hours is a really good book. I expected it would take me longer to enjoy it, but I was hooked from the very first pages. The writing was good and Lady Anne was undoubtedly a fascinating character. She was a woman living in the 1300s and she was smart, fierce, educated and I deeply admired her determination, as she surely had a lot of people against her. There were some characters like Thaddeus Thurkell and Gyles who were also great and multi-layered and others that you couldn’t help but hate with a passion (I’m looking at you, Eleanor).

The best part of reading this book was that it allowed me to learn about an era that I honestly knew nothing about. It was almost educational. I learned that religion was basically their only reason to live and they did everything in life in order to avoid going to hell. When the pestilence came, most people thought it was God’s punishment and they didn’t think Lady Anne was being helpful at all when she ordered to keep the sick separated from the healthy. Oh, and people not getting sick meant that they had experienced a miracle, not that they were simply stronger than others. I found it fascinating.

What prevented me from enjoying The Last Hours more was simply its length. I think I would’ve loved it if the book had been 200 pages shorter. Unfortunately, I had to skip some chapters because I really wanted to finish it and there were some boring parts where I felt it dragged. I was sad because of my initial enthusiasm and I just wished that feeling had lasted forever.

Still, I recommend this book because I truly believe there’s a great story here. If you’re not like me and you usually read longer novels, you shouldn’t have a problem. And I’m sure you’ll find Lady Anne a fascinating character to read about.

Netgalley, Allen & Unwin, 2017