Historical Fiction

[Review] The Walled City by Ryan Graudin

The Walled City

The Walled City by Ryan Graudin
Series: None
Publication: November 4th, 2014 by Little Brown Publisher
Number of Pages: 432
Genre: YA, Historical, Fiction
Source: School library
Rating: ★★

Goodreads | Amazon | The Book Depository


Summary

730. That’s how many days I’ve been trapped.
18. That’s how many days I have left to find a way out.
DAI, trying to escape a haunting past, traffics drugs for the most ruthless kingpin in the Walled City. But in order to find the key to his freedom, he needs help from someone with the power to be invisible….
JIN hides under the radar, afraid the wild street gangs will discover her biggest secret: Jin passes as a boy to stay safe. Still, every chance she gets, she searches for her lost sister….
MEI YEE has been trapped in a brothel for the past two years, dreaming of getting out while watching the girls who try fail one by one. She’s about to give up, when one day she sees an unexpected face at her window…..
In this innovative and adrenaline-fueled novel, they all come together in a desperate attempt to escape a lawless labyrinth before the clock runs out. (more…)

[Review] The Boy Who Granted Dreams by Luca Di Fulvio

The Boy Who Granted Dreams

The Boy Who Granted Dreams by Luca Di Fulvio
Series: None
Publication: March 23rd, 2015 by Bastei Entertainment
Number of Pages: 780
Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance
Source: Netgalley
Rating: ★★★1/2

Goodreads | Amazon


Summary

1909. Ellis Island. Arriving off one of the many transatlantic freighters are Cetta Luminita and her illegitimate baby boy Natale, fleeing the poverty and violence of their Southern Italian hometown. Having sacrificed everything, and endured every possible shame, Cetta has but one wish: that her baby should be an American, and grow up with the freedom to decide his own destiny. As they alight, US Immigration officials give Natale a new name: Christmas.
Growing up in the Lower East Side of New York with his mother, who works as a prostitute, Christmas is determined to be a success, whether a decent person or a gangster. The city is ruled by gangs from each community, Italian, Jewish and Irish, and survival is dependent on ruthlessness and strength. But Christmas has a vivid imagination, and an ability to tell stories that people want to believe…and thus is born his imaginary gang, the Diamond Dogs, which earns him respect within the ghetto. All this changes the day he saves the life of a rich Jewish girl Ruth, and despite their different backgrounds, he falls hopelessly in love with her. When circumstance tears them apart, Christmas vows that he will find her, by any means possible.
A sweeping saga of love and hate set in the Roaring Twenties, The Boy Who Granted Dreams is the story of Christmas and Ruth; the story of the dawn of radio, Broadway and Hollywood; and above all, a story about believing in the power of dreams.

(more…)

[ARC Review] At the Water’s Edge – Sara Gruen

At the Water's Edge

Author: Sara Gruen

Series: None

Publication Date: March 31st, 2015

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Number of Pages: 368

Genre: Historical Fiction, Adult Fiction, Romance

Source: Netgalley

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | The Book Depository


Summary

In her stunning new novel, Gruen returns to the kind of storytelling she excelled at in Water for Elephants: a historical timeframe in an unusual setting with a moving love story. Think Scottish Downton Abbey.

After embarrassing themselves at the social event of the year in high society Philadelphia on New Year’s Eve of 1942, Maddie and Ellis Hyde are cut off financially by Ellis’s father, a former army Colonel who is already embarrassed by his son’s inability to serve in WWII due to his being colorblind. To Maddie’s horror, Ellis decides that the only way to regain his father’s favor is to succeed in a venture his father attempted and very publicly failed at: he will hunt the famous Loch Ness monster and when he finds it he will restore his father’s name and return to his father’s good graces (and pocketbook). Joined by their friend Hank, a wealthy socialite, the three make their way to Scotland in the midst of war. Each day the two men go off to hunt the monster, while another monster, Hitler, is devastating Europe. And Maddie, now alone in a foreign country, must begin to figure out who she is and what she wants. The novel tells of Maddie’s social awakening: to the harsh realities of life, to the beauties of nature, to a connection with forces larger than herself, to female friendship, and finally, to love. (more…)

[Review] Between Shades of Gray – Ruta Sepetys

Between Shades of Gray

Author: Ruta Sepetys

Series: None

Publication Date: April 3rd, 2012

Publisher: Speak

Number of Pages: 338

Genre: Historical Fiction, YA

Source: Public Library

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | The Book Depository


Summary

It’s 1941 and fifteen-year-old artist Lina Vilkas is on Stalin’s extermination list. Deported to a prison camp in Siberia, Lina fights for her life, fearless, risking everything to save her family. It’s a long and harrowing journey and it is only their incredible strength, love, and hope that pull Lina and her family through each day. But will love be enough to keep them alive?

(more…)

[Review] The Ring & The Crown – Melissa de la Cruz

The Ring and the Crown (The Ring and the Crown, #1)

Author: Melissa de la Crus

Series: The Ring & the Crown #1

Publication Date: April 1st, 2014

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Number of Pages: 384

Genre: YA, Historical, Romance, Fantasy

Source: Public library

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | The Book Depository


Summary

Princess Marie-Victoria, heir to the Lily Throne, and Aelwyn Myrddn, bastard daughter of the Mage of England, grew up together. But who will rule, and who will serve?

Quiet and gentle, Marie has never lived up to the ambitions of her mother, Queen Eleanor the Second, Supreme Ruler of the Franco-British Empire. With the help of her Head Merlin, Emrys, Eleanor has maintained her stranglehold on the world’s only source of magic. She rules the most powerful empire the world has ever seen.

But even with the aid of Emrys’ magic, Eleanor’s extended lifespan is nearing its end. The princess must marry and produce an heir or the Empire will be vulnerable to its greatest enemy, Prussia. The two kingdoms must unite to end the war, and the only solution is a match between Marie and Prince Leopold VII, heir to the Prussian throne. But Marie has always loved Gill, her childhood friend and soldier of the Queen’s Guard.

Together, Marie and Aelwyn, a powerful magician in her own right, come up with a plan. Aelwyn will take on Marie’s face, allowing the princess to escape with Gill and live the quiet life she’s always wanted. And Aelwyn will get what she’s always dreamed of–the chance to rule. But the court intrigue and hunger for power in Lenoran England run deeper than anyone could imagine. In the end, there is only rule that matters in Eleanor’s court: trust no one.

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[Review] Lies We Tell Ourselves – Robin Talley

Lies We Tell Ourselves

Lies We Tell OurselvesAuthor: Robin Talley

Publication Date: September 30th, 2014

Publisher: Harlequin Teen

Number of Pages: 384

Genre: YA, Historical Fiction, Romance, LGBTQ

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | The Book Depository


Summary

In 1959 Virginia, the lives of two girls on opposite sides of the battle for civil rights will be changed forever.

Sarah Dunbar is one of the first black students to attend the previously all-white Jefferson High School. An honors student at her old school, she is put into remedial classes, spit on and tormented daily.

Linda Hairston is the daughter of one of the town’s most vocal opponents of school integration. She has been taught all her life that the races should be kept “separate but equal.”

Forced to work together on a school project, Sarah and Linda must confront harsh truths about race, power and how they really feel about one another.

Boldly realistic and emotionally compelling, Lies We Tell Ourselves is a brave and stunning novel about finding truth amid the lies, and finding your voice even when others are determined to silence it.

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The Clockwork Angel – Cassandra Clare (DNF)

Clockwork Angel

Clockwork Angel (The Infernal Devices, #1)

Author: Cassandra Clare

Series: The Infernal Devices #1

Publish Date: August 31st, 2010

Genre: Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Paranormal, YA

In a time when Shadowhunters are barely winning the fight against the forces of darkness, one battle will change the course of history forever. Welcome to the Infernal Devices trilogy, a stunning and dangerous prequel to the New York Times bestselling Mortal Instruments series.

The year is 1878. Tessa Gray descends into London’s dark supernatural underworld in search of her missing brother. She soon discovers that her only allies are the demon-slaying Shadowhunters—including Will and Jem, the mysterious boys she is attracted to. Soon they find themselves up against the Pandemonium Club, a secret organization of vampires, demons, warlocks, and humans. Equipped with a magical army of unstoppable clockwork creatures, the Club is out to rule the British Empire, and only Tessa and her allies can stop them….


Review

Yes I DNF-ed this book. After hearing that The Infernal Devices series was better than The Mortal Instruments series, I read Clockwork Angel expecting it to be great. I read the first two books in TMI series but I never finished the third book. City of Glass was just boring and in the end, I had to return it to the library before I was finished. Naturally, I thought that I’d read TID since there are less books in the series and because the majority of the people who’ve read both series have said that they prefer this one over TMI.

I might as well have gone back to TMI because I really really hated Clockwork Angel. It was okay when I first started it. The historical-y old-timey speak was really pretentious but it was bearable. But then, I began to see the character of Tessa. And I hated it. I hated it with a burning, fiery passion. I dreaded the moment when I’d open the book again, hoping that some type of change would hit Tessa. Clearly, nothing really happened to her personality or else I’d still be reading the book. I swear, every time she opened her mouth to say something or think about how girls shouldn’t do certain things I wanted to slap her. Oh you say that it’s unladylike to read novels, but then you go and fangirl over other books that are clearly novels. I looked up these titles just to make sure too! The Woman in White is a mystery novel. Tessa was hypocritical and this really annoyed me.

OH BUT THEN. THEN WE MET THE OTHER CHARACTERS. I wanted to wring the necks of every character I’d meet and to be able to do that every time I read about some stupid action they did.

I struggled through 200ish pages of the book, realized that I wasn’t even halfway through and after much consideration, decided that I wasn’t going to spend any more of my time on it. Obviously, I wasn’t going to begin to enjoy it anytime soon. Even though I had heard that it gets better, by that point, I was too done with the book to care. And thus, I decided to DNF Clockwork Angel.

I’m pretty positive that I’m not going to pick up another Cassandra Clare book after this. Malec is fabulous, but the books themselves aren’t as great.

The Monstrumologist – Rick Yancey

The Monstrumologist

The Monstrumologist (The Monstrumologist, #1)

Author: Rick Yancey

Series: The Monstrumologist #1

Publish Date: September 22nd, 2009

Genre: Horror, YA, Paranormal, Historical Fiction

These are the secrets I have kept. This is the trust I never betrayed. But he is dead now and has been for more than forty years, the one who gave me his trust, the one for whom I kept these secrets. The one who saved me . . . and the one who cursed me.

So starts the diary of Will Henry, orphaned assistant to Dr. Pellinore Warthorpe, a man with a most unusual specialty: monstrumology, the study of monsters. In his time with the doctor, Will has met many a mysterious late-night visitor, and seen things he never imagined were real. But when a grave robber comes calling in the middle of the night with a gruesome find, he brings with him their most deadly case yet.

A gothic tour de force that explores the darkest heart of man and monster and asks the question: When does man become the very thing he hunts?


Review

Before I start this review, I have to say a few things regarding The Monstrumologist.

Firstly, I picked this book for a school book report and that I read it because every other girl in my English class was reading some sort of contemporary novel (and it was on my neverending to-be-read list). The next couple of posts on my blog will be related to this book because one of the options for the projects were to create a series of blog posts. They’ll cover a variety of topics from symbolism, theme, to other aspects of the novel. Needless to say, there will most definitely be spoilers. I’ll do my best to try to censor or warn but my teacher is going to read this so I’m sorry in advance if you get spoiled.

Maybe I’ll turn this into a sort of book feature. “Deconstructing a Novel” or something like that.

But yes, onto the review.

I was so so so excited to read The Monstrumologist. It had been on my to-be-read list for a while and omigod the premise sounds amazing. It mixes historical fiction (which I love) and monsters and it sounded really good. And I’m happy that I picked this one. I really enjoyed reading The Monstrumologist but there were a few problems here and there that I had with it.

Obviously it’s going to be completely fictional so any qualms I had about how realistic it would be flew out the window. Sure, I questioned the relationship between Will Henry and Dr. Warthrop (*cough child labor cough*) but in a world with monsters, why not?

It’s classified as a horror novel, yet never once did I ever feel scared. The Anthropophagi are depicted as fierce, man-eating beasts with long claws, huge jaws, and the ability to jump forty feet high. While the monsters and setting are fantastically described, the mood and suspense fell flat. The mood did feel historic (as the book is set in the 1800s) but there was a noticeable lack of suspense and fear. In my opinion, had Yancey had this aspect, the novel would have been even better than it was. While this book was missing this one emotion, it did have some pretty gory scenes in which I felt disgust (reading about worms come out of some nasty sores? ew.)

Additionally, the book started to really drag about halfway through. It had already been a slow book but it had really start to become boring at this point. The Monstrumologist chronicles the entire Anthropophagi case, from the moment Will Henry and Warthrop discover the first death to the aftermath of the case. As a result, the moments that are less suspenseful and exciting became extremely slow and were the reason that it took me so long to finish it. Would it surprise you if I said that entire 450ish-page book happens over the course of 2ish weeks? It feels like their expedition would have taken so much longer when you read it but it’s just how slow the plot progresses.

The characters are characterized very well. I have a love-hate relationship with Warthrop at the moment. I adore his eccentric personality but I hated some of the things he did and said to Will Henry. He was portrayed as a hard-working man that didn’t understand people emotionally. His backstory did explain why he was like that though. His change over the course of the book was simply great. He grew to learn how to understand people a little more, especially Will Henry, and I enjoyed reading about the progression and changes in his character over the course of the book.

He had a catch-phrase which some people might have found annoying. Contrary to this, it made me smile every time I read it.

“Will Henry!” floated his call through the open basement door. “Will Henry, where are you? Snap to, Will Henry!” Page 38

The main character, Will Henry, is a 12-year-old boy, orphaned a mere year earlier. He has been taken in as Dr. Warthrop’s apprentice and is the author of the journals. The book is entirely from his point-of-view. Will Henry was an interesting character. Although he isn’t forced to stay with Dr. Warthrop, in fact, he’s been asked many times during the book if he wants to live with a foster home instead, he stays with Dr. Warthrop for reasons unknown to the reader at the beginning of the novel. His reasons and desires for staying are complicated and also related to his back-story. While the writing and language is significantly more mature in terms of vocabulary and word choice than a 12-year-old would have, it can be attributed to the fact that these journals had been penned years after the incidents had happened. His character was also portrayed very well.

I wasn’t satisfied with the ending. The epilogue felt rushed and cheesy compared to the rest of the book. It flashed back to the future, the same setting as the prologue, right after the man (he’s unnamed in the book) has finished reading the journals. It was fine up until the last two pages. Then the events that transpire feel like a cop-out. Yancey ended it with a scene that felt unfinished and a quote! I would have been perfectly okay with it if there had been no prologue or epilogue. I felt that they didn’t contribute to the story of Dr. Warthrop and Will Henry. The ending of the last chapter before the prologue felt like a more appropriate ending.

About halfway through the book, I realized that this was the same author that wrote The 5th Wave. While I haven’t read that one yet, I’ve been hearing a lot of good things about it and after reading The Monstrumologist, my expectations have skyrocketed. I will be picking up the sequel, The Curse of the Wendigo as well.

4/5 Stars

Eleanor and Park – Rainbow Rowell

Eleanor and Park

Eleanor and Park

Author: Rainbow Rowell

Publish Date: February 26th, 2013

Genre: Realistic Fiction, Contemporary, YA, Historical

Two misfits.
One extraordinary love.

Eleanor… Red hair, wrong clothes. Standing behind him until he turns his head. Lying beside him until he wakes up. Making everyone else seem drabber and flatter and never good enough…Eleanor.

Park… He knows she’ll love a song before he plays it for her. He laughs at her jokes before she ever gets to the punch line. There’s a place on his chest, just below his throat, that makes her want to keep promises…Park.

Set over the course of one school year, this is the story of two star-crossed sixteen-year-olds—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try.


Review

I wanted to love this one so much.

I started this book mainly due to the huge hype and because there were copies of it at the school library. Obviously, if i can get the book without having to wait or put a hold on it, it’s a lot better for me. I checked it out, along with a number of other books two weeks ago. Eleanor and Park was the first on the stack. I went into it knowing almost nothing about it. I knew that it was probably a romance novel and that the main characters were Eleanor and Park.  From the very beginning, I could tell that I wasn’t going to like it very much. But I held out hoping that maybe, just maybe it’d grow on me and that I’d experience the feels and happiness that other readers had felt.

It didn’t.

From the first moment I saw the cover of this book, I had thought that Park looked Asian. I was right; he turned out to be half-Korean. I appreciate that Rowell decided to write about an interracial relationship and an Asian/Caucasian one at that because there’s very few books that deal with these types of couples. The problem that I had with the relationship was that it was too abrupt. It’s a case of insta-love mixed with bi-polar syndrome. Their first interaction is the moment when Park tells Eleanor to sit down on the bus. It’s not a very polite exchange and neither of them are left with positive relations. Eleanor refers to Park as “the stupid Asian”. Park is upset about it. I couldn’t see how Rowell was going to make a relationship about this without making it ridiculously cliche. My questions were answered when suddenly, the two begin to develop crushes on each other. It wasn’t the classic love/hate relationship because all of a sudden a switch flipped in their brains that made them like each other. It comes out of nowhere. I personally feel like their relationship feels like one where they got together because of convenience. They’re sitting next to each other on the bus everyday so why not get together while they’re at it? If I dated every person I sat next to every day I think I would have to shoot myself.

Bi-polor insta-love is one thing, but the rest of the relationship was just as bad. If you ask me, it felt like a really unhealthy relationship. Eleanor was always so insecure about it, constantly getting jealous and mad about the things that Park would do. If they were truly a happy couple, she wouldn’t feel so unconfident about it. I understand that she has those family problems, but I didn’t think she needed to always take out her emotions in insecurities on Park.

The characters in this book were a mixed bag. I hated Eleanor. I didn’t like her character or her personality or how even though her family is suffering, she doesn’t think to help them at all. If they tell her to not call the police, she meekly doesn’t even if she knows that it would help. She could’ve cared less about what happened to her family as long as she wasn’t hurt. It’s like she thought the whole world was against her and that she’s never in the wrong. Her problems might have been bigger than Park’s, but she handled them so badly. On the other hand, I liked Park. I liked reading about his family’s banter and the difficulties that he faced. He could have been a great character but he wasn’t fleshed out as well as I would have liked. Eleanor’s black friends were really fun to read about (even if a bit stereotyped). I loved the interactions that Eleanor had with them. Some characters were good, but the ones that weren’t, really really weren’t good.

This book was one of the most boring books I have ever read. Almost nothing happens besides the relationship Eleanor has with Park and the family interactions they have.  The plot is the slow way they fall in love during a school year. *yawn* When I was 1/4 of the way through, I looked at the page number and realized, “Holy crap there’s another two hundred pages to read. I’m going to die of boredom.” This never happens to me with books. Never. I sincerely hope that Eleanor and Park doesn’t get a sequel.

I think that there’s a problem with a book if I don’t realize that it’s in a certain time period until I look online. I knew that it was probably set sometime in the 1900’s but never did it cross my mind that it would be 1986. Um, please explain to me how Park hasn’t been bullied as much as his real life counterparts would have? Even in modern-day America, Asians are bullied for being who they are. I can’t even begin to believe that it wouldn’t have happened in 1986. The same goes for Eleanor’s friends Beebi and DeNice. The fact that they weren’t bullied by the white girls in the gym class surprises me.

Another thing. How did Park’s mom get carted off to America? She most likely didn’t know any English and I doubt that her parents would let her be taken. How does Park have green eyes? The brown allele is dominant. All Asians have brown eyes and since her ancestors are all Asian, it’s impossible that she would have a recessive gene for green eyes. Therefore, the only possible eye color their kids would have would be brown.

I do admit that the writing was well done. It had a John Green feel which most would probably think is a good thing. I could care less because I didn’t like his books but his flow was great and Rowell’s was too.

Not bad but I’m not on the bandwagon for this book. I’m hoping that Fangirl is a better read.

2/5 Stars

In the Shadows – Kiersten White, Jim Di Bartolo

In the Shadows

In the Shadows

Author: Kiersten White, Jim Di Bartolo

Publish Date: April 29th, 2014

Genre: Graphic Novel, YA, Fantasy, Historical Fiction

From the remarkable imagination of acclaimed artist Jim Di Bartolo and the exquisite pen of bestselling author Kiersten White comes a spellbinding story of love, mystery, and dark conspiracy, told in an alternating narrative of words and pictures.

Cora and Minnie are sisters living in a small, stifling town where strange and mysterious things occur. Their mother runs the local boarding house. Their father is gone. The woman up the hill may or may not be a witch.

Thomas and Charles are brothers who’ve been exiled to the boarding house so Thomas can tame his ways and Charles can fight an illness that is killing him with increasing speed. Their family history is one of sorrow and guilt. They think they can escape from it . . . but they can’t.


Review

Can I just say that I loved the art? But great art doesn’t always mean that the book is just as amazing. I found that the drawings didn’t communicate very well because I was extremely confused throughout the course of the book. The pictures would often look as if they had skipped a scene and I struggled to find a connection between the two stories up until near the end of the book. It made the reading experience less enjoyable. The connections are disjointed and jostle the flow of the book. In the Shadows lacked the storytelling aspect. The writing was bland and the plot was even more so. It lacked flavor and dragged a lot. It seemed like a lot of nothing was happening. Honestly, the back story and plot isn’t explained at all until the last fifty pages. It’s all rushed. The romance in this book was also shallow. It could have been something great, but instead it had the feeling of a summer fling.

Characterization wasn’t terrible but it could have been better. It felt as if the characters had certain personality traits pasted on them but that these traits weren’t constant. Some were obviously more strongly developed than the others although there were five principle characters. For instance, Minnie, Thomas, are significantly better developed than Charles. The execution of what could have been a great idea was sloppy and boring. Opposite the main characters, the villains were about as threatening as pansies. I didn’t feel any suspense or tension about what was happening; it was all told in a way that eliminated all the emotion.

And the writing gets it’s own paragraphs because I have lots to say about it.

FIRST OF ALL. The worldbuilding sucks. It’s downright terrible. It’s like the author took a historical setting (which is 18-something? Might be earlier. It doesn’t specify the exact date of the sections at the boarding house) and then stuck some type of supernatural/fantasy idea behind it. All of the worldbuilding is thrown into the last fifty pages (some of which were pictures) and as a result, is a discombobulated, non-descriptive mess. You get a small tidbit at the beginning, some scattered here and there in the middle, and the rest of it in the end. Badly developed, very unbelievable, and unsatisfying.

SECONDLY. The writing is choppy and repetitive. The flow is awkward. I see the same word used two or three sentences in a row. The sentences are broken up. Sometimes this works. Other times, it sounds awkward. Everything about the writing just screams awkward. It’s like being in a conversation with someone you just met.

I wish I had just skipped this one. I expected so much from it but was disappointed. When it was over I was literally like, “That was it?” The sweet, funny ending didn’t make up for the rest of the book. It worked, but at the same time, there were many elements missing that would have made it better. There was little to no actual content in this book. If you enjoy graphic novels, perhaps you would like this one, but otherwise, don’t bother.

Side note: I did like the title of the book. It seems so generic but then once you read the book, it all makes sense!

2/5 Stars