The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

34927828The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

440 Pages

Published February 6th 2018 by St. Martin’s Press

Goodreads Summary: Alaska, 1974.
Unpredictable. Unforgiving. Untamed.
For a family in crisis, the ultimate test of survival.

Ernt Allbright, a former POW, comes home from the Vietnam war a changed and volatile man. When he loses yet another job, he makes an impulsive decision: he will move his family north, to Alaska, where they will live off the grid in America’s last true frontier.

Thirteen-year-old Leni, a girl coming of age in a tumultuous time, caught in the riptide of her parents’ passionate, stormy relationship, dares to hope that a new land will lead to a better future for her family. She is desperate for a place to belong. Her mother, Cora, will do anything and go anywhere for the man she loves, even if it means following him into the unknown.

At first, Alaska seems to be the answer to their prayers. In a wild, remote corner of the state, they find a fiercely independent community of strong men and even stronger women. The long, sunlit days and the generosity of the locals make up for the Allbrights’ lack of preparation and dwindling resources.

But as winter approaches and darkness descends on Alaska, Ernt’s fragile mental state deteriorates and the family begins to fracture. Soon the perils outside pale in comparison to threats from within. In their small cabin, covered in snow, blanketed in eighteen hours of night, Leni and her mother learn the terrible truth: they are on their own. In the wild, there is no one to save them but themselves.

In this unforgettable portrait of human frailty and resilience, Kristin Hannah reveals the indomitable character of the modern American pioneer and the spirit of a vanishing Alaska―a place of incomparable beauty and danger. The Great Alone is a daring, beautiful, stay-up-all-night story about love and loss, the fight for survival, and the wildness that lives in both man and nature.

Review: This is the first time in a long time that I have actually felt like I’ve wanted to post a book review. I can’t even remember the last book I reviewed on this blog. I got this book last year from the Book of the Month Club but like most of the other books I got from that, it sat on my shelf unread.

For as long as I can remember I have had a fascination with Alaska and living life in the bush. Do I think I could live that way myself, HA probably not. I would miss certain things about the modern world too much. When I finally started reading this I wasn’t quite sure where it was going to go. I hadn’t read the summary for awhile so I mostly forgot what it was about, except that it was Alaska. It didn’t take me long to feel a kinship with the main character, Leni Allbright. She was so relatable and everything that happened to her really solidified my attachment to her.

I struggled so hard with the moments of abuse in this book. Not just because it was hard to read but because I wanted to reach through the pages and throttle Leni’s horrible father. I also found myself getting angry at her mother because it was clear to see she was never going to do anything to free herself and Leni. Don’t get me wrong, I know it isn’t her mother’s fault and that abusive relationships are hard to break free from, but that’s just how I felt in the moment. I don’t want to say too much more about it because… spoilers… so if you want to know how that whole situation goes down, you’ll have to read it for yourself.

I absolutely loved the secondary characters that Leni encountered in their new home. Especially Matthew Walker and Large Marge. They were so good to Leni and helped her in any possible way that they could.

My heart broke so many times for Leni throughout this book. She did not deserve all of the terrible things that happened to her, and neither did her mother. There were moments where I was so worried, I was literally sitting on the edge of my seat. This book was so well written, I felt like I was there in Kaneq. I had never read a Kristin Hannah book before but this book was so good I will definitely be on the lookout for more!

5 Stars

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DNF Review: The Sky Is Yours

35483928The Sky Is Yours by Chandler Klang Smith

Published January 23rd 2018 by Hogarth

464 Pages

Goodreads Summary: In the burned-out, futuristic city of Empire Island, three young people navigate a crumbling metropolis constantly under threat from a pair of dragons that circle the skies. When violence strikes, reality star Duncan Humphrey Ripple V, the spoiled scion of the metropolis’ last dynasty; Baroness Swan Lenore Dahlberg, his tempestuous, death-obsessed betrothed; and Abby, a feral beauty he discovered tossed out with the trash; are forced to flee everything they’ve ever known. As they wander toward the scalded heart of the city, they face fire, conspiracy, mayhem, unholy drugs, dragon-worshippers, and the monsters lurking inside themselves. In this bombshell of a novel, Chandler Klang Smith has imagined an unimaginable world: scathingly clever and gorgeously strange, The Sky Is Yours is at once faraway and disturbingly familiar, its singular chaos grounded in the universal realities of love, family, and the deeply human desire to survive at all costs.

Review: I give up. I was really intrigued by the synopsis and cover of this book but from almost the moment I began reading this book, I was at a loss. I don’t think I have ever disliked a book so much so early on while reading. I hate the characters, the world doesn’t make any sense nor anything in it. I set it to the side for a few days hoping to come back to it a few days later just in case but every time I thought about picking it up again, I felt nothing but dread. DNF for me on this one.

I received a review copy through Blogging For Books in exchange for an honest review.

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

7824322Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Published March 22nd 2011 by Philomel Books

344 Pages

Goodreads Summary: Lina is just like any other fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl in 1941. She paints, she draws, she gets crushes on boys. Until one night when Soviet officers barge into her home, tearing her family from the comfortable life they’ve known. Separated from her father, forced onto a crowded and dirty train car, Lina, her mother, and her young brother slowly make their way north, crossing the Arctic Circle, to a work camp in the coldest reaches of Siberia. Here they are forced, under Stalin’s orders, to dig for beets and fight for their lives under the cruelest of conditions.

Lina finds solace in her art, meticulously–and at great risk–documenting events by drawing, hoping these messages will make their way to her father’s prison camp to let him know they are still alive. It is a long and harrowing journey, spanning years and covering 6,500 miles, but it is through incredible strength, love, and hope that Lina ultimately survives. Between Shades of Gray is a novel that will steal your breath and capture your heart.

Review:  Wow… I just finished this book and immediately felt moved to write a review.  Something I haven’t felt in a very long time.  It was such a powerful read. I’ve read numerous World War II books and Holocaust books but I’ve never read anything about Stalin’s reign of terror over the Baltic people. I can’t even possibly imagine what it must have been like to have been ripped from your home and transported to Siberia. They were forced to live off of bread rations and whatever they could scavenge from the Soviets trash. They had live tightly packed into huts built of sticks and mud while their fellow prisoners were suffering from everything from dysentery to scurvy. I’m going to have to remember that the next time I complain about Minnesota’s cold winters and realize just how much worse things could be. I think this book will really open up people to learn more about what the Lithuanian, Latvian, and Estonians went through during this tragic time.

The main character, Lina, was a little off putting to me at first because she seemed overly naive and selfish. However, she gradually grew on me as she learned from her fellow people just what it was to survive and help each other out. I was totally pulling for her and Andrius to have some sort of happy ending. They both suffered so much throughout the course of the novel.

One thing I thought that was really interesting was that Lina’s cousin and best friend, Joana, was also from Lithuania but her family escaped to Germany. I had already read the authors latest book, Salt to the Sea, and remembered that one of the main characters in that book is named Joana and she was from Lithuania…. I’m thinking they must be the same person. I really like that Sepetys decided to tie these two books together like that.

I think it’s also really important that readers of this book read the author’s note. One of my favorite quotes was actually from this section.
“They chose hope over hate and showed the world that even through the darkest night, there is light.”

I don’t want to say I enjoyed this book for obvious reasons, but I will say that it really spoke to me taught me some valuable things. I think this is a really important book that people of any age should read.

5 Stars

The English Wife by Lauren Willig

35486046The English Wife by Lauren Willig

Expected publication: January 9th 2018 by St. Martin’s Press

384 Pages

Goodreads Summary: From the New York Times bestselling author, Lauren Willig, comes this scandalous New York Gilded Age novel full of family secrets, affairs, and even murder.

Annabelle and Bayard Van Duyvil live a charmed life: he’s the scion of an old Knickerbocker family, she grew up in a Tudor manor in England, they had a whirlwind romance in London, they have three year old twins on whom they dote, and he’s recreated her family home on the banks of the Hudson and renamed it Illyria. Yes, there are rumors that she’s having an affair with the architect, but rumors are rumors and people will gossip. But then Bayard is found dead with a knife in his chest on the night of their Twelfth Night Ball, Annabelle goes missing, presumed drowned, and the papers go mad. Bay’s sister, Janie, forms an unlikely alliance with a reporter to uncover the truth, convinced that Bay would never have killed his wife, that it must be a third party, but the more she learns about her brother and his wife, the more everything she thought she knew about them starts to unravel. Who were her brother and his wife, really? And why did her brother die with the name George on his lips?

Review:  I was really looking forward to reading this historical fiction set in New York’s Gilded Age when I first found out about it.  I had put off reading it for awhile during my reading slump and I’m so glad I waited until I was out of it.  The book starts off rather slowly and jumps around the timeline a bit so it was a little confusing until I got the characters in order and the timeline.  Janie at first seems really mousy and timid, but she gradually comes out of her shell and becomes a really interesting character.  I found myself rooting for her to be successful in uncovering the truth about Bay and Annabelle with Mr. Burke, the reporter.  As with any mystery novel, I had my own suspicions about what the truth was but the twists were revealed to be quite different than my original ideas.  I really enjoyed that because it adds more to the mystery when the reveal leaves you shocked.  And there were many twists in this story!  What I really loved was that each little twist ended up being woven into what the BIG reveal was about what had happened to Bay and Annabelle.  This whole story ended up being an intricately woven piece of tapestry and the final image was fantastic and shocking.  While I struggled a bit with the book in the beginning, it was well worth the read.  I will be looking at reading more from this author.

4 Stars

I received an advanced copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden

34050917The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden (Winternight Trilogy #2)

Published December 5th 2017 by Del Rey

363 Pages

Goodreads Summary: The magical adventure begun in The Bear and the Nightingale continues as brave Vasya, now a young woman, is forced to choose between marriage or life in a convent and instead flees her home—but soon finds herself called upon to help defend the city of Moscow when it comes under siege.

Orphaned and cast out as a witch by her village, Vasya’s options are few: resign herself to life in a convent, or allow her older sister to make her a match with a Moscovite prince. Both doom her to life in a tower, cut off from the vast world she longs to explore. So instead she chooses adventure, disguising herself as a boy and riding her horse into the woods. When a battle with some bandits who have been terrorizing the countryside earns her the admiration of the Grand Prince of Moscow, she must carefully guard the secret of her gender to remain in his good graces—even as she realizes his kingdom is under threat from mysterious forces only she will be able to stop.

Review

If you have not yet read book 1, The Bear and the Nightingale, I would highly suggest that you read it ASAP and proceed through this review at your own risk of potential spoilers.  Read my review of The Bear and the Nightingale here.

This book was one of my #1 anticipated reads, originally of 2018 until the publication date was bumped up to December 2017.  It did not let me down at all.  The gorgeous writing and imagery of the first book, The Bear and the Nightingale, continued throughout the story of Vasya as a young woman as she makes some of the toughest decisions in her life.  Vasya continues to show her strength and spunk as she becomes a traveler, wanting to see all that the world has to offer.  But it doesn’t take long for things to make a turn for the worse.  She must hide her true identity as Vasilisa, a girl, and become Vasilii and hope that nobody finds out, especially her cousin, the Grand Prince of Moscow.  What she doesn’t know is that not everybody buys her disguise…

I loved all of the mystery surrounding this book.  I had a vague guess regarding a certain character but never expected the full extent of the reveal involving said character.  The blend of historical fiction and fantasy make such a great combination that I think really adds to the mystery of the story.  Once you hit just past the halfway mark, events really start to amp up and it almost hits thriller mode.  As soon as Vasya enters Moscow, there is such a buzz of energy in the pages, you just know something major is going to happen.  There is so much excitement and drama that it is really hard to put the book down.  I found myself devouring every page as fast as I possibly could because I couldn’t get enough.  Prepare yourself for an array of emotions… I often found myself wanting to laugh, tear up, and sit anxiously at the edge of my seat.  I’ve never been a huge fan of winter, but Katherine Arden has been changing my mind lately with her beautiful writing.  I am very eagerly anticipating the release of book 3 later in 2018 because I am dying to know what happens next!

I received an advance copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.