Thursday, 21 September 2017

The Red Ribbon - Book Review


The Red Ribbon

Lucy Adlington

YA Historical 

UK Publisher: Hot Key Books

Synopsis:

As fourteen-year-old Ella begins her first day at work she steps into a world of silks, seams, scissors, pins, hems and trimmings. She is a dressmaker, but this is no ordinary sewing workshop. Hers are no ordinary clients. Ella has joined the seamstresses of Birkenau-Auschwitz.

Every dress Ella makes could be the difference between life and death. And this place is all about survival. 

Ella seeks refuge from this reality, and from haunting memories, in her work and in the world of fashion and fabrics. She is faced with painful decisions about how far she is prepared to go to survive.

Review:

I teared up so many times through the course of this story. A few times with happiness, but so often at the cruelty and injustice the prisoners suffered. However despite the grimness, hope flowed - a hidden undercurrent - through each and every page. THE RED RIBBON is a spectacular work of fiction, woven with shocking truths to form an incredibly emotional read. Warning: do not attempt to read without some tissues nearby!

Ella’s identity is gone. Snatched from her family, denied a name and any worldly possessions, she has become a stripey. Just another number in a roll-call of black and white uniforms. But unlike many in the Auschwitz work camp, Ella is determined to survive.

A skilled dressmaker, Ella claws her way into the tailors workshop - a better job than most - but with over ten thousand new arrivals everyday, no position is safe. In Auschwitz, everyone is replaceable. Now Ella must make a moral choice: help others and risk death, or help herself and risk losing her humanity… 

I had a hard time putting this book down. Anxious over which characters would and wouldn't survive, I devoured this story overnight. It is a tactfully told, haunting tale that somehow brings to life the horrors suffered, but without going into graphic detail. Steeped in emotion, this book really questions what it is to be human. 

Ella is strong protagonist. I loved how she assigned her fellow prisoners animal-titles, referring to them as a bear, or hedgehog, squirrel or shrew. It instantly opened up their personalities in a single line of description. But what caught me about Ella, is that from the get go, she knows she can’t be a mouse if she is to survive. 

In contrast to Ella is Rose. Generous, positive and kind, Rose signifies what every person hopes they would be in a time of crisis. Her friendship, I believe, kept Ella from becoming one of the darker characters who looked out only for themselves. However without Ella pushing Rose to be a little selfish at times, Rose would have been swallowed by the more bloodthirsty creatures. 

A line near the end of the books said something like, their came a point when all the mice, squirrels and ducklings were gone. Only the predators remained. This was in reference to the prisoners, and it broke my heart. 

Overall this is a real shades of grey story. Set in a place where you can’t judge who to trust, the book is written with a complexity where morals can’t be simplified into either good or bad. Even the prison guards couldn't be truly hated. 

I think  however the real beauty of this story was how it didn't focus on one group. It didn't zero in on any one race, religion or political belief. Instead it encompassed them as a whole, telling everyones story. In doing so, this book did a fantastic job of putting me, the reader, in that prison camp. Because Ella lacked description, and was stripped to very base of what it is to be human, her character will resonate with all. 

A truly unforgettable read. 5 stars!


Talk to me 

Have any you read this book? How do you feel about war stories as a whole? I must admit they aren't generally my thing, but this book really blew me away!

Sunday, 17 September 2017

The Disappearances - Book Review


The Disappearances 

Emily Bain Murphy

YA Magical Realism

UK Publisher: Pushkin Children’s Books


Synopsis:

Every seven years something disappears in the town of Sterling: people’s reflections, the stars in the sky, the ability to dream. Aila realises that her mother may be to blame for the curse. But some mysteries are buried very deep, and some secrets want to stay hidden - and one young woman’s desire to uncover the truth may not be enough to save Sterling from the past. 

A beautifully told story of love, loss, and finding the truth - no matter how difficult that may be.

Review:

I have read a lot of magical realism lately, and this one has been by far one of my favourites. With elements of magic, grief, romance, and a fantastically twisted plot, this story had it all. 

When Aila and her brother move to small village of Sterling, they begin to notice that things aren't quite normal. Scents have disappeared. Reflections aren't there. The stars no longer shine... and the people of Sterling are certain Aila's mother is the cause...

This is a slow burn story. Time is taken to build the world and the characters, so that when the magic is revealed, it blends seamlessly into reality. I often found myself waiting for something to happen, only to realise that something HAD happened several pages ago, I just hadn't picked up on it’s relevance straight away. That probably sounds strange, but if you read the book I’m sure you would understand.

However I also feel this is a story where you really need to pay attention to the details. There is a lot to absorb so I took my time with it, only reading a couple of chapters each night over a few weeks - crazy considering I read most books within two days, but some stories you really need time to digest. This is one of them. 

I also really enjoyed the writing in this book. There were some really poignant descriptions and I liked the main characters quirk of having a “finishing word” for every conversation, which summed up both her feeling and attitude toward things. 

However what I loved most about the characters was their ordinariness. Despite suffering under a magical curse, day to day, the tried to continue on with normal lives.  Dating, schoolwork, family dinners… while I thought this was sweet, it does keep the pacing fairly slow. That doesn't mean its boring in anyway, but for those of you who like an up and down beat, be aware that the pace of this book stays pretty steady throughout. 

In regards to the characters, most of the story is told from Aila's Pov. However there are interludes of another character, whose true motives and identity aren't revealed until very near the end of the story. Huge congrats to the author for keeping the reader guessing so long, it was certainly unpredictable. 

This of course meant that the plot had several seemingly unrelated threads, however by the last page, everything does come together nicely, with only a few things left a little open.  

Overall, this is a great read for fans of Shakespeare, Magical realism and although witches aren’t ever mentioned, I feel if you like a good story steeped deep in a curse, then this is a book for you. It reminded me a lot of Moira Fowley-Doyle's, Spellbook of the Lost and Found, so if you were a fan of that, then be sure to pick this one up too.

4 stars!

Chat with me

What are your thoughts on magical realism? Anything books you would recommend?



Wednesday, 6 September 2017

July in Review

(A sunny day in Scotland - I forgot how glorious the UK could be!)

July In Review

So today I’m posting my July wrap up (I’m a little behind on things, I know!) but my normal routine has gone completely out the window. Why? Well, I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that I’VE RETURNED TO ENGLAND… temporarily. 

I think I’ll be here until about October, which makes this my longest stay in about five years. As you can imagine, I’ve had a lot of catching up to do with friends and family… then there was the scary process of retrieving all of my stuff from storage. My room is currently a bed surrounded by 101 boxes of clothes, stationery (Why I have a thousand blank notebooks I will never know) and of course, books books books! It doesn't help that with me gone, my room became storage space for my parent’s things too.

So my highlights for July were:

*CLEAR OUTS! So far I’ve donated about a dozen boxes to charity, sold most of my Manga on eBay, and yet still more boxes of my stuff keep appearing from the depths of the garage. Its strange, but after living out of one 60 litre backpack for so long, I’ve become very un-materialistic. For me the rules have become simple.

  1. Clothes - If it doesn't fit, it goes. If it hasn't been worn in a year, it goes = about 3/4 of my wardrobe.
  2. Books - If they’ve been read and I wont re-read them (my feelings 98% of the time) they go. I think this stems from the fact that I HATE the idea of a perfectly good book only being read once. I truly believe a single book should be passed through as many hands as possible, which is why I adore book swaps and charity shops.
  3. Everything else - If I forgot I had it, its goes! If it has no purpose or sentimental value, it goes! If its never been used, it goes!

*MY MUM GOT ENGAGED! My mum and my soon-to-be-step-dad are finally tying the knot! They’ve only been together 17 years, and I’m so so thrilled. Although my mum has deviously planned the wedding for December 23rd. Her way of ensuring me and my boyfriend will be home for Christmas, instead of freezing our butts off in Mongolia like we had planned…

*ZERO WRITING - yep, you read that right. Not a single word has been added to my MG WIP. I have utterly failed my self-imposed deadline. However, I did hash out my query letter and half-a-synopsis (getting a little ahead of myself I know) but I’m totally in love with my query—it gives me chills (the good kind) — but first… I really have to finish the book….

And that pretty much wraps up my July. A quiet month for me compared to the rest of the year, but at least I got lots of reading done :)

How was July for the rest of you? Did you do anything exciting? And for those of you who attended YALC, know I am extremely and utterly jealous since I’m certain you had an unforgettable time!

Books Read:

  1. Hunted by Meagan Spooner *****
  2. Avenged by Amy Tintera **
  3. Queen of Hearts by Colleen Oakes ***
  4. Immortal Fire by Annette Marie ***** (This shall live on my shelves and be worshipped forever!)
  5. The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordon ****
  6. The Savage Dawn by Melissa Grey ****
  7. Blood Red Road by Moria Young ***
  8. Hollow Pike by James Dawnson ****
  9. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern ****
  10. Our Dark Duet by V.E Schwab **** (Beautiful but bittersweet!)

POSTS


And that’s a wrap. And yes, I am totally ashamed by my lack of posting… I’m heading off now to catch up on some long over due reviews!

Love and Hugs!