Review: Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

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What can I say about Ruta Sepetys other than she’s amazing?  She has this amazing ability to take a piece of history and weave a complex, compelling piece of fiction around it.  Her latest masterpiece is no exception.

The year is 1945, the place is Prussia.  The war is winding down, but the horrors of it are not.  As thousands of refugees attempt to make their way to safety, we are introduced to several of them.  They each have a story to tell, and secrets to keep.  Their paths converge as one in an attempt to survive.

There’s Joana, a selfless nurse whose only goal is to save people.  There’s young Emilia, harboring a secret far beyond what we are led to believe. And Florian, the knight in shining armor who saves her.  And Alfred Frick…what can I say about him?  He’s shady and secretive and more than a bit unstable.  Is he really going to help save the others from sure death?

Time and again, tragedy strikes in one form or another.  Until finally, towards the very end, the biggest tragedy of all befalls Joana and Emilia and Florian and the others.  And yes, even Alfred Frick.  Some will survive, some will not.

Yet again, historical fiction written by a gifted author has given me new knowledge while telling an outstandingly brilliant story.  The tragedy of the Wilhelm Gustloff  was a real thing, while the tragedy of our characters was not.  But the author makes us feel as if the entire story truly happened.  And that’s exactly what exceptional books do…

~Thalia

Buy It Now:  Salt to the Sea

 

Review: The One I Was by Eliza Graham

25059957I’m a sucker for epic stories, pieces of historical fiction that not only provide factual information but also spin a marvelous tale. Some of my very favorite books ever read fall under this category. This book by Eliza Graham did not disappoint.

The time is the late 1930s, the place is England. Young Benny has come to England to escape Nazi Germany. He’s part of a group of young boys taken in by a well-to-do family. They have a chance at a new beginning, a new life away from the horrors back at home.

Fast forward to modern times. Rosamund has taken on a nursing job with ulterior motives, a chance to return to her childhood home and confront her past. Benny is now on his deathbed and requires round the clock care. He doesn’t know Rosamund, and he doesn’t know anything about her past. But he did know her grandmother, for she was the one who took him in as a young child. As Benny and Rosamund become closer, they begin to confide in each other. Turns out, Rosamund isn’t the only one hiding secrets.

This is a very well told story. The author seamlessly transitions between past and present as she writes. The storyline is well-thought-out, and the characters are described fully. It’s historically accurate as far as the culture and attitudes of that time period. The mystery and suspense aspect is drawn-out enough to keep you guessing until almost the very end. As far as historical fiction goes, it’s one of the better books I’ve read from that genre.

~Thalia

Buy It Now: The One I Was

Review: China Dolls by Lisa See

ChinaOh. My. Great. Goodness….and breathe….

Lisa See has really outdone herself with this one. I’m not at sure if she shouldn’t just put up her pen and call it a day…..this book was just so wonderful! I seriously wonder how she can ever top it….Most people if asked what this book was about would automatic reply with it’s about some Chinese and Japanese girls in San Francisco at the time leading up to, during and after WWII….But it’s not. To me, that’s the whole point. This is a story about 3 Americans from Chinese and Japanese descent. These ladies are every bit as American as any one else born and raised in the USA. Although your ancestry might help shape you, it does not define you. This is also the story of how people are judged and sometimes defined by their looks. This is the story of a great friendship. One that is true to life….but only if we are lucky. Yes, perhaps there will be parts that make you mad and wonder how anyone could call someone like that a friend, but this book broke my heart. It made me….no….it DEMANDED that I set my judgements aside….to leave them at the door and try to view the situation from someone else’s eyes. It made me seriously try to put myself in that time period. To imagine what it was like around me. The paranoia. The resentment. The sense of survival. Trying to maintain trust whilst everyone around you is pointing fingers. It reminds me that for some, trying to make peace with what you know, what is expected of you, what you want, and your own past…well, sometimes these things will never be reconciled. Sometimes the battles we fight in silence, within ourselves….well they are the bravest….and often the ones that are never celebrated.

When will any of us be judged solely on their own merits? By only their own actions? I know that’s a Pollyanna view and an unrealistic desire….but why? Why must we judge on the colour of skin? On our family? On our ancestors? On our Country? On all of the very things that we are powerless to change? Yet, the things within our power….those are the last things to come to be judged by…..

Yes, I won’t say that parts of this book didn’t just break my heart. That it didn’t depress me. It did. However, these characters were so rich to me. I fell in love with so many of them. I understood so many of them. I admired so many of them. I could sympathize with so many of them….even the ones I was angry with. By the way Lisa See presented them to me, well, even though I knew they were unyielding in their actions, even though I was angry and upset by this….I understood why they were that way….even if I didn’t agree or like it. However, the main characters of this book….wow…just wow….I can’t imagine going through what any one of them endured. Let alone coming out like they did. The courage they displayed. At their tenaciousness. How easy would it have been for any one of them to just throw in the towel and to despair at life. How easy it would be to just look at the actions of others and to toss them aside and never give them another thought….instead of looking at only actions, each one found it within themselves to try to understand the reason for the actions…Some would argue that this makes them too soft-hearted and gullible. I disagree. It is, in fact, much harder to set aside our own feelings and try to understand another’s…..

We should all be so lucky to have people around us like this….

No one ever does something without a reason…..nothing ever happens just “out of the blue”. Our past does define our future…..This doesn’t forgive anyone of any wrong doing…..but if we are to be judged by circumstances that are completely out of our control, shouldn’t we at least be forgiven for those within our control that we try to set right?

Read this book. Please. But leave your preconceived ideas of “china dolls” at the door. For me, this was not a novel about some night club dancers. That couldn’t be further from the truth….

I realise that my review might not convey how much I loved this book….

Let me set the record straight….right here….right now….

I LOVED LOVED LOVED this book…..I already miss Grace, Ruby, Helen and Eddie…..because they are no longer in my current read, I will gladly just keep them in my heart and hope they continue to encourage me to look deeper….

Until next time….

Urania xx

Buy it now China Dolls by Lisa See