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Book Review: Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

  • Method of Obtaining: I obtained my copy from my local library.
  • Published by:  Egmont Press
  • Release Date:  02.06.2012

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I have two weeks. You’ll shoot me at the end no matter what I do.

That’s what you do to enemy agents. It’s what we do to enemy agents. But I look at all the dark and twisted roads ahead and cooperation is the easy way out. Possibly the only way out for a girl caught red-handed doing dirty work like mine — and I will do anything, anything, to avoid SS-Hauptsturmführer von Linden interrogating me again.

He has said that I can have as much paper as I need. All I have to do is cough up everything I can remember about the British War Effort. And I’m going to. But the story of how I came to be here starts with my friend Maddie. She is the pilot who flew me into France — an Allied Invasion of Two.

We are a sensational team.

I  recommend:

My Review:

Sometimes I think there may be something wrong with me because I’ll pick up a book that has been gushed over and be all excited to dive into it and then… nothing.  It falls flat for me. Completely flat – as in, I want to put it down mid-”action” and never pick it up again.  Unfortunately, Code Name Verity was that book for me this time around.

Code Name Verity is the third book by Elizabeth Wein I’ve read this year.  I’m really conflicted on what I think about her because, from a literary standpoint, there’s quite a bit that could be chewed on with her books but from a pure enjoyment standpoint… well, I’d rather watch paint dry I think.  I was so lost in portions of Code Name Verity that I had to go back and reread and then reread and I still didn’t know what the heck was going on.

There’s no doubt that Wein knows her WW2 airplanes and did her research on female pilots.  Unfortunately, I know next to nothing about the subject so I was left to muddle my way through technical terms, strange names, and unreliable narrating all at once.  And it flew (no pun intended) right past me more than once.  I think I may have enjoyed the book so much more had there been just a touch more stability somewhere in the book.  I also don’t think it helped that I read Rose Under Fire just a month or so ago and so felt like I was reading large portions of the same book over again, just re-packaged.

So, you can imagine that the “big” moment – the tear-jerker… the climax of the book that just gets people…well, it didn’t work for me.  I almost missed it. I was so confused and I still don’t know what exactly went on in that moment.  Man, I wish this review was less jumbled because I just don’t know how to explain how this book really just did not work for me without being all vague and confusing myself.

I think Code Name Verity would pay off if its reader had the time to devote to research, criticism, and in-depth discussion.  I think there are some really valid points and information bits brought up about the treatment of prisoner of wars by the Nazi soldiers.  I just didn’t think this book worked for me on an entertainment level, and it certainly didn’t work for me to read approaching it from the blockbuster viewpoint.

Check out what these bloggers had to say!

Book Scents | The Book Smugglers | Another Novel Read

 

Book Review: The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan

The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan

  • Method of Obtaining: I received my copy from the publisher.
  • Published by: Riverhead Books
  • Release Date:  1/10/2013
        

Paris. 1878. Following their father’s sudden death, the van Goethem sisters find their lives upended. Without his wages, and with the small amount their laundress mother earns disappearing into the absinthe bottle, eviction from their lodgings seems imminent. With few options for work, Marie is dispatched to the Paris Opéra, where for a scant seventy francs a month, she will be trained to enter the famous ballet. Her older sister, Antoinette, finds work—and the love of a dangerous
young man—as an extra in a stage adaptation of Émile Zola’s naturalist masterpiece L’Assommoir.

Marie throws herself into dance and is soon modelling in the studio of Edgar Degas, where her image will forever be immortalized as Little Dancer
Aged Fourteen
. Antoinette, meanwhile, descends lower and lower in society, and must make the choice between a life of honest labor and the more profitable avenues open to a young woman of the Parisian demimonde—that is, unless her love affair derails her completely.

Reason for Reading:
  • There are ballerina’s on the cover!

I also recommend:

 

My Review:

When I was a little girl I craved books about ballet – scouring the shelves of the library, looking through bookstores, garage sales, and flea markets trying to find anything that would have pictures of pointe shoes, references to famous ballerina’s or composers of ballets. I still remember reading a book I found at a garage sale so many times that it literally fell apart in my hands one day (but for some reason I cannot recall the title of it, I just know it was so so good to my nine-year-old self).

I wasn’t a big fan of Cathy Marie Buchanan’s previous novel, so I approached The Painted Girls with some trepidation. I mean, her writing was sound – but the subject matter in her previous book left me a little, well, bored. That did not happen with The Painted Girls.

Told from two viewpoints, sisters Antoinette and Marie, this is the story of a family who has lost its father, the mother is a drunkard, the oldest sister a foolish girl and the younger one struggling to find her footing. There is a third sister, Charlotte, but she does not receive much of a voice in this story.

Also making an appearance in this book is the painter, Degas, and Buchanan references quite a few of his famous pieces of art to give the story setting and context.

I found The Painted Girls to be a heart-breaking, beautiful story and I walked away feeling like I’d read something that wasn’t only interesting, but educational and enriching as well. Buchanan has redeemed herself in my eyes with this subject matter and I’m anxiously awaiting her next project.

Don’t just take my word for it! Check out what these bloggers say!

Beth Fish Reads | RedRoomBook Review Blog

Delicacy by David Foenkinos

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Reason for Reading:
  • The cover has Audrey Tautou on it.  That’s a big hook for me.

I also recommend:

Summary from GoodReads:

Reminiscent of novels by Nick Hornby, Muriel Barbery, and Jonathan Tropper, internationally acclaimed novelist David Foenkinos delivers a heartfelt and deftly comedic tale of new love brightening the dark aftermath of loss–and of wounded hearts finding refuge in the strangest of places. After her husband’s unexpected death, Natalie has erected a fortress around her emotions–and Markus, clumsy and unassuming, will never be her knight in shining armor. Yet slowly but surely, an offbeat romance begins between these two mismatched, complex souls, and contrary to everything Natalie knows of affection, her perfect suitor may turn out to be love’s most unlikely candidate–the fool, not the hero, who is finally able to reach her heart.

My Review:

This is a beautiful, touching, whimsical, heartbreaking, and oh so very French story.

What do I mean by that last? It’s hard to describe – but I think it’s the combination of refined/whimsical/slightly stuck-up mixed with not-so-neatly wrapped endings.

Delicacy was all that. And, much like it’s title suggests, it’s a delicate story.

I loved so much about this book – I loved the way the relationships are wrote about, and the breaks in the story to feed the reader random facts about what is happening. I found it utterly charming, and laughed and cried my way through it all.

For such a thin little book, this one packs a punch, and I hope you give it a chance – now.. I need to get my hands on the film!

About the Author

  • Information regarding David Foenkinos:
David Foenkinos (born 1974) is a French author and screenwriter. He studied literature and music in Paris. His novel La délicatesse is a bestseller in France. A film based on the book was released in December 2011, with Audrey Tautou as the main character. (From Wikipedia)

For more reviews on Delicacy by David Foenkinos, please follow the book tour.

 

 

Le Père Goriot by Honoré de Balzac

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Reason for Reading:
  • Part of the 1001 Challenge – plus I’ve always wanted to read Balzac!

I also  recommend:

Summary from GoodReads:

Nobody writes about money like Balzac, and his classic chronicle of a young man from the provinces clawing his way to success in 19th century Paris, even as an older man is victimized by the same milieu, shrewdly captures the financial dimension of so much that goes on between people. The boarding house in which the two protagonists live is a microcosm of their world, and Goriot’s treatment by his daughters would make Lear blanch.

My Review:

This book floored me.  I mean, jaw on the floor, gaping as I read, type of floored me.  Who knew Balzac could be so approachable?  I picked up this book fully expecting to struggle through it, much like my earlier trials with Middlemarch, and instead I found myself thoroughly intrigued by this drama.  And Balzac himself, as narrator of the story of Father Goriot, calls it a drama, although he hastens to explain that it isn’t quite the same as those other dramas of the time.

The word drama has been somewhat discredited of late; it has been overworked and twisted to strange uses in these days of dolorous literature; but it must do service again here, not because this story is dramatic in the restricted sense of the word, but because some tears may perhaps be shed intra et extra muros before it is over. – Father Goriot by Balzac

The story is focused around two characters – Father Goriot and a young, law student named Eugene Rastignac.  They are acquainted by being one of several boarders in a respectable, if a bit shabby, boarding house in Paris, France.  Goriot is the father of two married daughters, and Rastignac is, at the expense of his parents and two sisters, attempting to marry into society and wealth – but in a respectful way!

This drama has everything – murder and intrigue through the character of Vautrin, the Trick of Death.  It has humor – there is an entire scene which made me think of our modern day Snoop Dog “shizzle” moments – Balzac talks about how the diorama has recently been unveiled, and as a result, in passing, humorous conversation, the morpheme “orama” is added to the end of random words – such as Goriot-orama.  There is an entire scene at the dinner table in which words are bantered about, and even referenced later in the book that had me laughing out loud in sheer delight.  It has tragedy – the outcome of Father Goriot and his daughters relationship is one that, as Balzac foretells, worthy of tears.  It showcases both the good and bad sides of the human character, and provides an interesting commentary on situations and feelings that are relevant still today.

Some day you will find out that there is far more happiness in another’s happiness than in your own – Balzac

The human heart may find here and there a resting-place short of the highest height of affection, but we seldom stop in the steep, downward slope of hatred - Balzac

I wish I could go further into the quotes and how many things I highlighted on my Kindle – but then this entire review would be just repeated quote after quote, since there are quite a few of them.  I have to encourage you to pick up this book and read it – I hope you will find it as fascinating as I did.  Such an incredible story of the tragedy of life.

 

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A Common Reader

Expressions

Becoming Marie Antoinette by Juliet Grey

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Reason for Reading:
  • I love historical fiction and this has a beautiful cover!

I recommend:

Summary from GoodReads:

Raised alongside her numerous brothers and sisters by the formidable empress of Austria, ten-year-old Maria Antonia knew that her idyllic existence would one day be sacrificed to her mother’s political ambitions. What she never anticipated was that the day in question would come so soon.

Before she can journey from sunlit picnics with her sisters in Vienna to the glitter, glamour, and gossip of Versailles, Antonia must changeeverything about herself in order to be accepted as dauphine of France and the wife of the awkward teenage boy who will one day be Louis XVI. Yet nothing can prepare her for the ingenuity and influence it will take to become queen.

My Review:

Since reading Michelle Moran’s Madame Tussaud, I’ve had a bit of a fascination with France and the revolution.  Michelle touches on Marie Antoinette, but I needed something with more substance and, frankly, I’m tired of watching movies about it.

So I decided to give Becoming Marie Antoinette a shot.  Juliet Grey goes back in time and details what Marie’s life might have been like before her marriage to Louis XVI and her removal to Versailles.  While the story was interesting, it did seem a bit far-fetched and juvenile – almost like I was reading a book written in such a way to be accessible to young teenagers – aside from the subject matter, of course.  I was disappointed.  After reading historical fiction by masters such as Sharon Kay Penman and Michelle Moran, I wanted something with meat to it, but instead got a very fluffy read that seemed more concerned about inspiring happy, fuzzy feelings then actually giving me something to think about.

I was disappointed by this one.  I don’t think it was terribly written, or that the book shouldn’t be read, I just was expecting more from it.

Becoming Marie Antoinette is the first of a planned trilogy, but I think I’m going to bow out of the series now and let those who enjoyed Juliet Grey’s writing style review her later books.

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Booking Mama

The Lantern by Deborah Lawrenson

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Reason for Reading:
  • I’m a huge fan of gothic mysteries.

I also recommend:

Summary from GoodReads:

When Eve falls for the secretive, charming Dom, their whirlwind relationship leads them to purchase Les Genevriers, an abandoned house in a rural hamlet in the south of France. As the beautiful Provence summer turns to autumn, Eve finds it impossible to ignore the mysteries that haunt both her lover and the run-down old house, in particular the mysterious disappearance of his beautiful first wife, Rachel. Whilst Eve tries to untangle the secrets surrounding Rachel’s last recorded days, Les Genevriers itself seems to come alive. As strange events begin to occur with frightening regularity, Eve’s voice becomes intertwined with that of Benedicte Lincel, a girl who lived in the house decades before. As the tangled skeins of the house’s history begin to unravel, the tension grows between Dom and Eve. In a page-turning race, Eve must fight to discover the fates of both Benedicte and Rachel, before Les Genevriers’ dark history has a chance to repeat itself.

My Review:

I finished reading this book a few hours ago and I am still battling the chills it brought to life.  Holy smokes, this one blew me away.

I’m a huge fan of Kate Morton, I loved Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier and so it was inevitable that I’d pick up The Lantern, gothic romantic mystery? Yes please!

I have to say, I was intrigued enough for the first half of the book to keep reading. I, like Eve, needed to know the secrets.  I was confused by the narrative but quickly got used to it and appreciated that I didn’t have to read long before going back to the other story.

Then, something magical happened.  I started jumping at every little noise, looking over my shoulder at the slightest breeze of air touching it and whimpering with needing to know exactly what was going on.

I’ve read a lot of books with psychological torture, but I have to say  - I think an event in this book about takes the cake.  I won’t say anymore about it, but .. yeah, you’ll know when you read it.

If you love books that just tingle with mystery, sweeping, beautiful descriptions of homes fallen into disrepair and ruin, filled with mystery, ghosts and more then The Lantern is a must-read.

 

About the Author

 

For more reviews on The Lantern by Deborah Lawrenson, please follow the book tour.

Madame Tussaud by Michelle Moran

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Reason(s) for Reading:
  • I’m a huge fan of Michelle Moran and jumped at the opportunity to read this book.
I  also recommend:
  • Mistress of Rome by Kate Quinn
  • Lady Macbeth by Susan Fraser King

Summary from GoodReads:

In this deft historical novel, Madame Tussaud (1761-1850) escapes the pages of trivia quizzes to become a real person far more arresting than even her waxwork sculptures. Who among us knew, for instance, that she moved freely through the royal court of Louis XVI, only to become a prisoner of the Reign of Terror? Her head was shaven for guillotining, but she escaped execution, though she was forced to make death masks for prominent victims. Novelist Michelle Moran covers this breathtaking period without losing the thread of its subject’s singular story.

My Review:

I’m in complete awe of Michelle Moran.  I mean, yes, I’m a fan-girl and I’ve loved her writing ever since I first started Nefertiti but she did something raw and fantastic in Madame Tussaud.

I’ve read the stories and seen the movies about Marie Antoinette but rarely have I see anything about those surrounding her.  Of course, I’ve heard about Madame Tussaud, but I had no idea about how closely she was involved with the Royal Family or that she had to do the things she was forced to do.  I was horrified, fascinated and enthralled with the story.

Michelle Moran has given voice to a whole host of characters and, reading this book, I found myself caught in the middle along with Marie.  What could she possibly do? How would she escape?

This is a gem of a book and one that proudly holds a spot on my bookshelf.  My only regret was that I didn’t pick it up sooner – but then I would have not enjoyed that glorious anticipation I was experiencing from the time I picked up the book until today.

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