Review of Marlene: A Novel by C W Gortner

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First, apologies for not having a good summary of this book available at the moment. Most that I’ve encountered all have what’s written in the back of the novel and it’s extremely **long** and would take up more than half of my post. (lol). So that being said, in a nutshell, this book covers several aspects of Marlene Dietrich’s life. From her childhood days in Post WWI Germany, to the decadence of Weimar Berlin, to her illustrious career in Hollywood, and her efforts to help the Allied War effort in WWII.

 

The first moment I got this book in the mail (Thank you, William Morrow Paperbacks!) I got excited and at the same time had to settle down (I was sick with an awful flu that knocked me down and got the entire household sick). It could not have come at a better time. I say that not only in the sense that I needed a book to get me out of a reading rut and also to distract me from this flu, but considering what’s going on in the world now, it’s perfect timing.

 

I loved this book. Everything about it was all that I had imagined Marlene Dietrich would be. The book captured who she was; strong willed, free spirited, glamourous yet determined to make her name out there known in the world. What I loved best was how her attitude during this particular time period. She participated in just about every deadly sin listed but did it with grace and poise. I loved how this book captured that essence and that was what made her shine even through the War. I absolutely loved her bravery and willingness to stand up against the Nazis even though she loved her country dearly and it tore her apart to see it ruined by the end of WWII.

 

The writing in the book is well done. It was enough to engage the reader and to keep the pages turning. Now, I do notice in some other reviews I’ve read, some readers didn’t like the fact that the book stops at a certain time period (after WWII). Fair enough, perhaps they wanted more out of Marlene. I was satisfied with it, because if you really think about it, the absolute highlight and prime moments of her life was during this time period. This book was meant to capture those particular occasions. So try not to feel jilted or robbed! It’s still a great read and it goes by rather quick!

 

I’d have to say one of my absolute favorite parts in the book was her experiences in Weimar Berlin. It was beautifully written and you could just feel the cigarette smoke, the music, and you can almost picture the decadence that permeated throughout the cabarets. It was perfect!.
Another part that I loved, and that I had waited throughout the book to read and was getting worried that it wasn’t going to be mentioned, was Lili Marleen. Such an iconic song it had to be in the book! And it was. It tugged at my heart and I welled up with emotion reading it:

marlene

Beautifully written and an excellent novel I greatly recommend this book to historical fiction lovers or lovers of Marlene Dietrich. Her actions during the WWII is crucial and something to emulate. Especially for what we are going through right now in the world.


I give it a 10 out of 10.

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Review of Girl of Nightmares by Kendare Blake

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It’s been months since the ghost of Anna Korlov opened a door to Hell in her basement and disappeared into it, but ghost-hunter Cas Lowood can’t move on. His friends remind him that Anna sacrificed herself so that Cas could live—not walk around half dead. He knows they’re right, but in Cas’s eyes, no living girl he meets can compare to the dead girl he fell in love with.Now he’s seeing Anna everywhere: sometimes when he’s asleep and sometimes in waking nightmares. But something is very wrong…these aren’t just daydreams. Anna seems tortured, torn apart in new and ever more gruesome ways every time she appears.Cas doesn’t know what happened to Anna when she disappeared into Hell, but he knows she doesn’t deserve whatever is happening to her now. Anna saved Cas more than once, and it’s time for him to return the favor. (From Goodreads)

 

It is recommended you read Anna Dressed in Blood before you read this one.

(Possible spoilers. You’ve been warned)

 

I loved loved loved this book!!! I demand another one! (although I believe it’s only a duology – for now)

 

The creepy factor was good and well done throughout the novel. (The forest part..oh my lord that was so well written I’ll be remembering that scene for a while now). This is definitely a book you would read for the fall, it’s got perfect atmosphere and mood. Cas as a character pulls the book through and does the book justice.

 

His relationship was Anna is well done. It’s bittersweet but you know it was bound to happen. As for the other characters, wasn’t too crazy about Carmel’s actions. What the heck…how she brushed off Thomas just made me so mad I wanted to go in and tell her to smarten up and stop being such a twit.  

 

Another character I enjoyed reading was Jestine. She’s a female version of Cas and it was nice of both of them trading barbs here and there. Wish we could see more of her (in the future perhaps? One day? Please?)

 

Overall, great ending, great read. Fighting scenes were also notable. Sad to see this go but who knows I hope to see Cas in the future!
I give it a 10 out of 10

Review of Robopocalypse by Daniel H Wilson

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In the near future, at a moment no one will notice, all the dazzling technology that runs our world will unite and turn against us. Taking on the persona of a shy human boy, a childlike but massively powerful artificial intelligence known as Archos comes online and assumes control over the global network of machines that regulate everything from transportation to utilities, defense and communication. In the months leading up to this, sporadic glitches are noticed by a handful of unconnected humans – a single mother disconcerted by her daughter’s menacing “smart” toys, a lonely Japanese bachelor who is victimized by his domestic robot companion, an isolated U.S. soldier who witnesses a ‘pacification unit’ go haywire – but most are unaware of the growing rebellion until it is too late. When the Robot War ignites — at a moment known later as Zero Hour — humankind will be both decimated and, possibly, for the first time in history, united. Robopocalypse is a brilliantly conceived action-filled epic, a terrifying story with heart-stopping implications for the real technology all around us…and an entertaining and engaging thriller unlike anything else written in years. (From Goodreads)

 

You do recall World War Z right? For those have read it, they would be aware of the format and narrative of the book. It’s set through various points of views from various characters. Some may like this format, some don’t. I’m thinking that’s one of the deciding factors as to whether a reader will like this book or not. For me, I don’t mind it. It focuses on a small select group of characters so each one would have their own story arc.

The sci fi speak is comprehensive and it doesn’t make the book a hard read. In fact the action and different points of view make the pace of the plot fast and an enjoyable read. There’s plenty of moments where it can be frightening – in a society where we rely more on machines and robots only to have them turn against you and everything runs amok is a scary thought. (The part where Zero Hour happens is an example)

Now let’s be fair. Those die hard sci fi readers may or may not like this one. Perhaps it’s not sci fi enough, perhaps it’s too noobish, so I’m not sure if it’s for this type of crowd. Since I stop at the mention of quantum physics, this book is fine for me.

So did I like the book? YES I DID. I love the different points of view, I love the action, and the whole entire thing was an awesome read. I understand how it may not be for everyone but we all have varying tastes. It’s definitely worth a try in my opinion

Thank you Doubleday for giving me a Review Copy!

I give it a 10/10

 

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grown dangerously low.And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious “errands”; she speaks many languages–not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out. When one of the strangers–beautiful, haunted Akiva–fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself? (from Goodreads)

Oh my. It’s been a while since I’ve read an excellent book. Then you pick up a giant tome like this one and it just sweeps you off your feet. I fell in love with this book in the first few 50 pages. It had an interesting fresh look on fantasy for YA without your standard monsters (ie: dragons – not that there’s anything wrong with dragons, but we’ve all seen and read about them dozens of times).

The idea of the chimeras and the seraphim with a Romeo and Juliet twist is what I found the most appealing in this book. Now it may not be entirely different when it comes to the starcrossed lovers theme, but putting that theme with something different and fantastical is always a good thing and refreshing to see. Also, I loved the setting. Not many that take place in Europe, so that also makes the book all the more worth reading.

The characters are all memorable. Loved all the chimeras they each had their own personality and you couldn’t help but love them all. Zuzana made the perfect sidekick with Karou, I loved her and how much she supported Karou through it all. Thiago is horribly slimy and makes your skin crawl. The plot goes back and forth between what’s happening now, and in a different fantastical world, but it’s weaved together and it’s so well done you don’t notice any hitches. It’s a beautiful plot, and although the size might intimidate some, don’t be. You’ll be surprised at how fast you fly with this book because the plot is so engaging and will draw you in.

Definitely recommended. It’s something different, and the cliffhanger ending will make you scream.

I give it a 10 out of 10

For Such a Time by Kate Breslin

For Such a Time

For Such a Time

In 1944, blonde and blue-eyed Jewess Hadassah Benjamin feels abandoned by God when she is saved from a firing squad only to be handed over to a new enemy. Pressed into service by SS-Kommandant Colonel Aric von Schmidt at the transit camp of Theresienstadt in Czechoslovakia, she is able to hide behind the false identity of Stella Muller. However, in order to survive and maintain her cover as Aric’s secretary, she is forced to stand by as her own people are sent to Auschwitz. Suspecting her employer is a man of hidden depths and sympathies, Stella cautiously appeals to him on behalf of those in the camp. Aric’s compassion gives her hope, and she finds herself battling a growing attraction for this man she knows she should despise as an enemy. Stella pours herself into her efforts to keep even some of the camp’s prisoners safe, but she risks the revelation of her true identity with every attempt. When her bravery brings her to the point of the ultimate sacrifice, she has only her faith to lean upon. Perhaps God has placed her there for such a time as this, but how can she save her people when she is unable to save herself? (From goodreads)

I normally don’t read these types of books. Everything about this just sounds so….let’s say cliched. Either I was going to cry over the complete uber cheesiness of this book and power through it or I might just actually enjoy it.

Nevermind that the author took various liberties with the historical aspect of the book and changed a couple of things herself. This sort of thing would have gotten my knickers in a knot and I would have been pulling my hair out in sheer anger at how someone could just do such a drastic thing especially with this type of historical subject. She does write a good author’s note at the end so I can forgive…..

I also shrugged off the fact that it got a little semi preachy towards the end of the book, (I had to remind myself this was an inspirational novel – however I’m not that fond of the preachy tones) not to mention the romance during the last third of the book got my stomach a little queasy as I’m just not that used to this.

I shrugged off the biggest thing that made me irksome in this book and that was the name Aric and I wondering how the heck is that a suitable name (what the heck was wrong with Erich??? which is a much more realistic sounding and perfect name for that era….if there was more research done in this particular era in history you’ll find DOZENS of soldiers named ERICH (including a famous general) so why does he need to be named something different??? is he a child of Hollywood??????)

I overlooked all those three things that normally in any other book I’d have thrown to the wall and never touch again. Why?

Because I absolutely loved Aric and Hadassah.

The tense moments, the moments where they’re oh so close yet they come apart, or that one dramatic moment where everything actually DID, it just all was an emotional ride. However because their chemistry was so good, I couldn’t help but love them both together. They were so good together you wanted them to hit it off right away. They’re both almost made for each other and one just can’t help but be totally caught up with them through the entire book.

So I said this was an emotional ride. Yes…aside from the very sensitive subject matter, you can’t help but absolutely hate the antagonists in the book with such a rabid rage you feel like going into the book and gave them the haymaker of your life, or skewer them like sausages (hahah a reference to Hadassah’s Herr Sausage haahhaha!) however if the author’s intention was to instill these kinds of emotions from the reader with these kinds of characters; then consider the job very well done.

As to the plot; again if you’re a historical nitpick this might hurt. However, detailed setting descriptions and the overall mood of the story does fit well. The story itself is alright if one can forgive the historical inaccuracies and the attempts to make it fit into the plot, all the action seems to have been crammed into the final third of the novel which does give it a feeling of being rushed, but nevertheless the reading is good. It’s really the characters that carry the novel.

The ending, made me weep (whether happy or sad tears, I am not going to say. It would be considered a spoiler) 🙂

Would I recommend this? yes, if you want to read a pair of characters that just hit it off from almost page one. No, if you’re bothered by the preachy undertones, the historical warping, and the somewhat nauseous romance that develops later…

I give it a 10 out of 10.

The Other Countess by Eve Edwards

The Other CountessIt’s 1582 and eighteen-year-old Will Lacey’s family is in trouble. After years of wasteful spending, his late father has run Lacey Hall to near ruin. Tasked with marrying his family back into fortune, the new Earl of Dorset is all set for a season at court to woo not just the Queen but potential brides with his jousting skills. But when Ellie – a strong-willed girl with nothing to her name but a worthless Spanish title – catches Will’s eye, he faces a bigger battle than he could ever have anticipated. (From Goodreads)

I really enjoyed the storyline in this book. It wasn’t that heavy on the history although the setting was well done. It was the characters that did the trick with this book and the romance. Now I’m not a romance type of reader but the romance aspect of the story was nice and sweet and went well hand in hand with the story as well.

There’s lots of chemistry between the main couple really helped this book come along. Besides Ellie and Will, the other characters were very memorable (Jane and James, Diego are great examples).

Usually with this type of historical fiction you have a nice blend of political intrigue, this story, doesn’t have that – but it’s good, because it’s not needed. However Edwards adds in the conflict between Catholics and Protestants to give it a more historical feel to it but not so overwhelming on the history lesson – which is great since this book caters to Young Adults.

Wonderful read, and with a beautiful ending. I know there’s two more books after this so I’ll be sure to pick them up. This was a great read with characters that are well done and memorable. It’s a sweet romance without it being cheesy and silly. It’s worth reading even for those who aren’t into romances like I am.

I give it a 10/10

Review of Secrets of the Crown by Adam Jay Epstein

Secrets of the Crown

Secrets of the Crown

When every bit of human magic disappears suddenly from Vastia, it falls on the familiars—Aldwyn the telekinetic cat, Skylar the know-it-all blue jay, and Gilbert the gullible tree frog—to find the Crown of the Snow Leopard, an ancient relic that can reverse the curse. They learn that the only way to do this is by following in the paw prints of Aldwyn’s missing father, who went searching for the Crown several years earlier. This magical spirit trail extends into the Beyond, where our heroes encounter new enemies and danger, while Aldwyn learns about his mysterious past. (From Amazon.ca)

I’m so glad this series just keeps getting better! I’ve really enjoyed the first one, but this one is even better!

It’s still an adventure, and it’s certainly more focused on Aldwyn and his friends. It’s certainly more focused on Aldwyn and his past, and provides a little more on the background information to make the world building more comprehensible and easy to picture.

I’m also glad to see Gilbert still hasn’t lost his touch on being the funny one of the group. I was also surprised that Skylar is still a know it all but she’s not as annoying and has turned out to be more friendly and supportive. I still love Aldwyn and he will always be my favorite.

The plot is still just as good, I liked the riddle/puzzle element to it, it’s reminiscent of the Redwall books (they’re always filled with those) but with a much more adventure flavor to it. The thing I like about this is the writing style of the plot. It’s easy to picture, and if possible, could very well be made into an animated feature film. The illustrations provided are also fun to look at and is a great addition for younger aged readers.

I’m looking forward to the next book in this series and can’t wait to see what happens to them next! most definitely recommended to Middle Grade readers, but all ages will have fun reading this one.

Note:It’s best if you read the first before this one.

I give it a 10/10