Book Review of Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

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Book Review of Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

People ask me all the time what my all-time favorite book is. Well, here it is! I have LOVED Les Misérables for many, many years. I saw the Broadway play when I was younger, and it hooked me. I’ve read this book at least three times. The unabridged version, of course (1,463 pages)! I love, love, love it. Please enjoy my book review of Les Misérables by Victor Hugo. Did I mention that it’s my FAVORITE book??

Blurb:

“Introducing one of the most famous characters in literature, Jean Valjean—the noble peasant imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread—Les Misérables (1862) ranks among the greatest novels of all time. In it Victor Hugo takes readers deep into the Parisian underworld, immerses them in a battle between good and evil, and carries them onto the barricades during the uprising of 1832 with a breathtaking realism that is unsurpassed in modern prose.

Within his dramatic story are themes that capture the intellect and the emotions: crime and punishment, the relentless persecution of Valjean by Inspector Javert, the desperation of the prostitute Fantine, the amorality of the rogue Thénardier and the universal desire to escape the prisons of our own minds. Les Misérables gave Victor Hugo a canvas upon which he portrayed his criticism of the French political and judicial systems, but the portrait which resulted is larger than life, epic in scope—an extravagant spectacle that dazzles the senses even as it touches the heart.”

My Book Review:

Wow! Where to start? This book is amazing. Simply amazing. It is my all-time favorite book! I LOVE this book! The character development is unsurpassed. Each character comes to life on the page. Hugo’s attention to the details about the characters allows them to become a part of your life. They become beloved friends, hated enemies, and family. These characters don’t disappear with the closing of the book, either. They stay on your mind for days and years after. You wonder about them, long to see them again.

There’s a lot of history in this book. To some people it may be too much, but I love every word of it. I thoroughly enjoy learning about the French Revolution and its key players. Hugo somehow manages to make it exciting. Now, if you’re not really a fan of long history lessons, you may enjoy the (gasp!) abridged version instead. I, however, love the history and the descriptions of the time period. I love the intricacy and craft of Hugo’s writing. No one writes like that anymore, and I wish they did.

Les Misérables is filled with emotion. As you read you’ll feel the whole range of emotions. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll get angry, and you’ll begin to see your own life differently. You’ll look at how you treat people, and how others are treated. You will feel gratitude for your blessings and circumstances. Yes, there are still unkind people and there are still unjust circumstances, but overall, living conditions have drastically improved since then.

If you want a new friend, one that will be with you for awhile, then this book is for you. You’ll have this friend with you for the rest of your life. It takes a long time to read this book, but while you read it becomes a part of you. I cry the last 200 pages. Seriously. I don’t ever want it to end. Please read this book then call me so we can talk about it! I love this book so much and I highly recommend it!

Content Rating PG-13+Rating: PG-13+ (There are war-time atrocities and themes along with prostitution. Some characters die, and there are other adult themes.)

Recommendation: 16+ years-old

My Rating: 5/5

5 Star Book Review Rating

If you’d like to purchase this book, click here:

 

Similar Titles You May Be Interested In:

the book thief by markus zusak The Rent Collector by Camron Wright  the nightingale by kristin hannah
 
 
This review was first published on 09/24/09; updated on 6/18/18.
 

The Man Who Lived Twice by David Taylor

The Man Who Lived Twice Final Cover

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Book Review of The Man Who Lived Twice by David Taylor

I love learning about the American Revolution. It’s my favorite history subject to learn about. The American Civil War comes second on my list. So when the chance came to write a book review for The Man Who Lived Twice by David Taylor, I got excited. I haven’t read any books where the main character fights for the Confederacy, so I got really excited. With such a compelling teaser, I had to jump on the opportunity. 

Blurb:

“A hero to General Robert E. Lee and a legend to the gullible hillbillies under his command in the American Civil War, ‘Ole St Lege’ charged with the Light Brigade in the Crimea, defended the bullet strewn barricades in the Indian Mutiny and hacked his way through the Second Opium War. Yet the Cornish mercenary that fought so valiantly for the Confederate cause was a wanted criminal, a fraudster who bankrupted his own father.

In his search for redemption, Colonel George St Leger Grenfell leads suicidal cavalry charges, soars precariously over enemy lines in a balloon, rides the rails to the Old West and sees the inside of several appalling prison cells before his fortune changes. As he travels the length and breadth of the continent, he meets the characters who made, marred and mythologised American history: the business tycoons and social reformers as well as the back-shooting gunslinger and Lincoln conspirators. Finally, he is granted his fondest wish. A second chance in life.”

My Book Review:

As I stated above, I love learning about the American Civil War. I haven’t ever read a book written from the Confederacy point of view, so I was excited to read it. George St Leger Grenfell is a person I’ve never heard of. Apparently he didn’t start out as the greatest man. He made a lot of poor choices and came to regret some of them.

The book starts out talking about Major General Robert Ross commanding his British troops in August of 1814. His troops pretty much walk into Washington and burn the Capital building with books from the Library of Congress (gasp!). The troops waded through James Madison’s personal items to take souvenirs. One of them found some papers written by James Madison; they stated the reasons the Americans declared war on the British in 1812.

From there it skips to 1862, where George Grenfell is fighting for the Confederacy in the American Civil War. I hate to admit how confused I was reading this part. There are a lot of characters and I could not remember who was who. I’m not familiar with very many military terms, so I got a bit lost. I did catch that Grenfell was the main character and that he was English. I also gathered that he had a past that he seemed to be running from. The character development for Grenfell was pretty good. It takes about half of the book before you see the whole picture, but in the end I thought Grenfell was well developed.

I liked the part about Rose Greenhow and her daughter Rosie. Both of them were also well developed. The very intimate letters written between George and Rose were quite racy. Wow! (I’m still blushing…) What I really liked about Rose was that she was a spy! Seriously? I had no idea that women were spies back in the 19th century. Now I need to do a little research and find out if there are books about other women spies.

The story takes you many different places, and sometimes I found it a little difficult to follow. The author has quite the vocabulary! I had to look up a bunch of words because I didn’t know what they meant. This Grenfell guy had quite an exciting life! It’s neat that the story is based on a real man. I cringed a little bit at the end because of his feelings toward a certain someone, but I guess you never know. The meeting at the very end was a bit corny, but it would be quite an experience to have! (Sorry for being vague, but I don’t want to give anything away…)

Overall, I liked the book. I did find it quite confusing at times, but it’s probably my lack of understanding military terms. There are a lot of characters to keep track of, and that became a bit tricky too sometimes. In the end, I thought it was quite an adventure, and I liked that he tried to make things right. I always enjoy learning about new people, and I’m glad to have learned at least a little about George St Leger Grenfell.

Content Rating RRating: R (There is a little bit of profanity. There’s also some “intimacy,” including scenes and innuendos. Much of it occurs in wartime, so there is a lot of violence including war atrocities, bombings, fighting, and the death of several characters.)

Recommendation: Adult

My Rating: 3/5

3 Star Rating

If you’d like to purchase this book, click here: https://amzn.to/2INVPGJ

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

 

Similar Titles You May Be Interested In:

the book thief by markus zusak I Am David by Anne Holm  1776 by David McCullough
 
 

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

the nightingale by kristin hannah

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Book Review of The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

Although this story is sad, it is so inspiring. I can’t imagine living under the same circumstances that these people did. They were so strong, and brave in their own ways. I like to hope that I would have had the courage to do what they did. I first reviewed this book in December of 2016. It has been discussed quite a bit on social media lately, so I updated my review. I hope you enjoy this updated book review of The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. 
 

Blurb:

 
“In the quiet village of Carriveau, Vianne Mauriac says good-bye to her husband, Antoine, as he heads for the Front. She doesn’t believe that the Nazis will invade France…but invade they do, in droves of marching soldiers, in caravans of trucks and tanks, in planes that fill the skies and drop bombs upon the innocent. When a German captain requistions Vianne’s home, she and her daughter must live with the enemy or lose everything. Without food or money or hope, as danger escalates all around them, she is forced to make one impossible choice after another to keep her family alive.
 
Vianne’s sister, Isabelle, is a rebellious eighteen-year-old, searching for purpose with all the reckless passion of youth. While thousands of Parisians march into the unknown terrors of war, she meets Gaetan, a partisan who believes the French can fight the Nazis from within France, and she falls in love as only the young can…completely. But when he betrays her, Isabelle joins the Resistance and never looks back, risking her life time and again to save others.
 
With courage, grace, and powerful insight, bestselling author Kristin Hannah captures the epic panorama of World War II and illuminates an intimate part of history seldom seen: the women’s war. The Nightingale tells the stories of two sisters, separated by years and experience, by ideals, passion, and circumstance, each embarking on her own dangerous path toward survival, love, and freedom in German-occupied, war-torn France–a heartbreakingly beautiful novel that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and the durability of women. It is a novel for everyone, a novel for a lifetime.”

 

My Book Review:

I loved this book! You should know by now that I enjoy reading WWII books, and have read many of them. This one is definitely close to the top of that list! This book is very well written. It flows well, it transitions easily, and you find that the characters are among your best friends. The characters are very well developed and realistic; so much so that you find yourself laughing when they do (although there’s not a whole lot of that in this book), crying when they do, and fearing for your life as they do.

The story can be a little slow in a few places, but overall it moves at the perfect pace and draws you into life in Carriveau. I definitely relate more to Vianne in this story. I’m a rule follower and tend to not take scary chances on things that may get me in trouble or put someone I love in danger. I wish I had more of Isabelle in me. For sure. Vianne may surprise you though! The story of Rachel and what happens to her and her family just breaks your heart, and the story of Von Richter will make your blood boil. Then a character such as Beck will come along, and make you feel a little better about the world.

My book group and I looked it up, and there was a route that people took, just like the one that the Nightingale took, which is interesting to note. I had heard a lot of good things about this book before I read it, and let me say it did not disappoint!! I highly recommend it.

There is language in this book, including at least one “f” word. There’s also some “intimacy,” including scenes and innuendos. There is quite a bit of violence in this book. It is a war, so there is fighting and bombings, there are deaths of some of the characters, and a few of them are quite graphic and difficult to read.

Content Rating RRating: R (Profanity, including at least one “f” word. “Intimacy,” including scenes and innuendos. Violence including war atrocities, murder, bombings, fighting, and the death of several characters.)

Recommendation: Adult

My Rating: 4.5/5

4.5 Star Rating

If you’d like to purchase this book, click here: https://amzn.to/2raSqGj

 

Similar Titles You May Be Interested In:

the book thief by markus zusak Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand  The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown
 
 
This review was first published on 12/5/16; updated on 4/30/18.
 

Book Review of Ashes on the Moor by Sarah M. Eden

Ashes on the Moor by Sarah M. Eden

Book Review of Ashes on the Moor by Sarah M. Eden

I love that this book takes place in Victorian England! It reminds me more of a Jane Austen or Bronté sister novel than the other proper romances have. The research that went into this book shows through, and I like that it’s historical fiction as well. I hope you enjoy my book review of Ashes on the Moor by Sarah M. Eden.

Blurb:

“The life of an impoverished schoolteacher is not one Evangeline Blake would have chosen for herself. Torn from her home and her beloved sister and sent to work in the gritty factory town of Smeatley, Evangeline must prove herself to her grandfather, a man who values self-reliance above all else, before he will grant her access to her inheritance. Raised to be a lady of refinement, she hasn’t any of the skills necessary to manage on her own nor does she have the first idea how to be a teacher. But failure means never being with her sister again.

Alone and overwhelmed, she turns to the one person in town who seems to know how she feels—Dermot McCormick, and Irish brick mason who is as far from home and as out of place as she is. Despite the difference in their classes and backgrounds, Evangeline and Dermot’s tentative friendship deepens and grows.  Her determination and compassion slowly earn her the faith and confidence of the skeptical residents of Smeatley, who become like the family she has lost.

But when a secret from her past comes to light, Evangeline faces an impossible choice: seize the opportunity to reclaim her former life and rejoin her sister or fight for the new life she has struggled to build for herself—a life that included Dermot.”

 

My Book Review:

If I could choose somewhere to travel back in time to, it would be Victorian England. I would love to see the homes with their beautiful gardens and the landscape with the moors. The dresses the women wore would also be at the top of my list. Of course, I’m sure in everyday reality it wasn’t as romantic as a Jane Austen or Emily Bronté book.  However, I would love to stay a week and try it out. Taking this into account, you may imagine my happiness when finding out that Ashes on the Moor by Sarah M. Eden takes place in Victorian England.

As soon as I saw the beautiful cover I couldn’t wait to read this book. Evangeline is not the easiest person to like at the beginning of the book. Neither is Dermot, actually. Or Aunt Barton. The beginning of the book is a bit depressing, and there are a bunch of grumpy characters. Evangeline’s mood is understandable, though. She finds herself dropped into some very difficult circumstances. I did enjoy seeing her transformation over the course of the book.

Dermot also comes across as grumpy and rash. At least he usually acts as a gentleman. I thought Ms. Eden did a great job with his Irish accent and personality. Ronan is my favorite character. What a sweetheart! I also loved the school children. Now, I may be biased because my passion (besides blogging, of course) is teaching kids to read. I loved all of that in the book. Evangeline may have used some unconventional methods, but doing what is best for the children is always the right move. The children’s accents and dialect were written so well; you can tell that Ms. Eden did her homework.

I have read all of Sarah M. Eden’s books, and Ashes on the Moor is my favorite! The moment when the title came into play was such a tender scene, and I loved how it fit. The story is predictable and there is lots of cheese, but isn’t that what makes a proper romance so good? I thought that it was well written, well researched, and well….a fun, entertaining read. Will it change the world? Nope, but it is perfect for a snowy afternoon or a warm beach.

 

Content Rating PGRating: PG (There’s no profanity, no “intimacy,” except some brief kissing, and there isn’t any violence.)

Age Recommendation: YA (12-18 years-old) and up

Rating: 4/54 Star Rating

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

 
 

Similar Titles You May Be Interested In:

The Sheriffs of Savage Wells by Sarah M. Eden Longing for Home by Sarah M. Eden  Longing for Home Hope Springs Book 2 by Sarah M. Eden
 
 
Ashes on the Moor blog tour

[Book Review] The Lady of the Lakes by Josi S. Kilpack

The Lady of the Lakes by Josi S. Kilpack

[Book Review] The Lady of the Lakes by Josi S. Kilpack

I’m loving the historical fiction proper romance thing going on here! How fun to learn about a real literary historical figure and his love story. It’s fiction, of course, but Ms. Kilpack did her best to base the story off of real events and people. I liked this book a lot, and I hope you enjoy my book review of The Lady of the Lakes  by Josi S. Kilpack.

Blurb:

“Walter Scott has three passions: Scotland, poetry, and Mina Stuart. Though she is young and they are from different stations in society, Walter is certain their love is meant to be. For years, he has courted her through love letters. She is the sunshine of his soul.

Though Mina shares Walter’s love of literature and romantic temperament, it’s hard for her to know if she truly loves him or if she has only been dazzled by his flattery. When she meets the handsome and charming William Forbes, her heart is challenged. Who will she choose?

But as every poet knows, “the course of true love never did run smooth,” and on a windy morning in the lake country, Walter meets Charlotte.

At twenty-six, Charlotte Carpenter believes she will never find love. After all, she is a Catholic-born Frenchwoman living in London with a family history shadowed by scandal. Though quiet, practical, and determined to live a life of independence, her heart longs for someone to love her and a place to call home.

Passion and promises collide as Walter, Mina, and Charlotte must each decide the course for their futures. What are they each willing to risk to find love and be loved in return?”

 

My Review:

I have always enjoyed a sweet love story, and The Lady of the Lakes is no exception. This story has all the elements that make a good love story: poetry, romance, dedication, heartbreak, suffering, and true love. I love that Sir Walter Scott’s poetry is written throughout the book. As a reader you can just picture him writing his poetry for the love of his life, and also to combat his heartbreak. 

The characters come to life on the page. Josi S. Kilpack did a great job of developing them well and making them realistic. I especially liked Sir Walter Scott’s voice and Charlotte’s voice. Charlotte was one of my favorite characters. Her need for independence and her strong voice make for a great character. It was fun to see her grow and progress throughout the book. There were times when Walter’s character was a little irritating; I just wanted to scream, “Get over it already!!!” Thankfully, his brother and friend were there to help him!

The story flows well, and the transitions from person to person are easy to follow. Josi S. Kilpack does a great job of describing the scene without overdoing it. While reading, I felt like I had been transported back to the late 1700s. Each character sounds and feels different as you’re reading, so you don’t need to keep checking the beginning of the chapter to figure out which character you’re reading about. Reading this book definitely makes me want to go to Scotland and see where it all took place! It’s too bad we can’t all take a Readathon fieldtrip to Scotland; that would be so much fun! I thought this was a sweet love story and I enjoyed it. 

There is no profanity or violence in this book. There isn’t any “intimacy” either, except for some brief kissing and a few romantic moments. I love that it’s clean and you don’t need to worry about what the next page may hold! That’s definitely a benefit to reading the proper romances!

 
 Content Rating PG+

Rating: PG (There’s no profanity, violence, or “intimacy,” except for a few brief kisses and some romantic moments.)

Age Recommendation: YA and up (It is YA approved; girls will definitely enjoy it more than boys. My boys -15 and 13- would not enjoy this book, but girls will love it.)

Rated 3.5/5 

3.5 Star Rating

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

 
 

Similar Titles You May Be Interested In:

A Heart Revealed by Josi S. Kilpack Beauty and Clockwork Beast by Nancy Campbell Allen  Lies Jane Austen Told Me by Julie Wright
 
 

This post was first published on 1/20/17; updated on 3/1/18.

[Book Review] An Echo of Murder by Anne Perry

An Echo of Murder by Anne Perry

[Book Review] An Echo of Murder: A William Monk Novel by Anne Perry

One day last fall, this book just showed up in my mailbox. Best day ever, right? I’m assuming it came from the publisher, but I’m not sure? So, thank you to the mystery sender! I hope you enjoy my book review of An Echo of Murder: A William Monk Novel by Anne Perry. And feel free to send me books any time you want to!

Blurb:

“In this riveting new William Monk novel, Anne Perry delves into the diverse population of Victorian London, whose disparate communities force Monk to rethink his investigative techniques—lest he be caught in the crosshairs of violent bigotry.

In the course of his tenure with the Thames River Police, Commander Monk has yet to see a more gruesome crime scene: a Hungarian warehouse owner lies in the middle of his blood-sodden office, pierced through the chest with a bayonet and eerily surrounded by seventeen candles. Suspecting the murder may be rooted in ethnic prejudice, Monk turns to London’s Hungarian community in search of clues but finds his inquiries stymied by its wary citizens and a language he doesn’t speak. Only with the help of a local pharmacist acting as translator can Monk hope to penetrate this tightly knit enclave, even as more of its members fall victim to identical brutal murders. But whoever the killer, or killers, may be—a secret society practicing ritual sacrifice, a madman on a spree, a British native targeting foreigners—they are well hidden among the city’s ever-growing populace.

With the able assistance of his wife—former battlefield nurse Hester, who herself is dealing with a traumatized war veteran who may be tangled up in the murders—Monk must combat distrust, hostility, and threats from the very people he seeks to protect. But as the body count grows, stirring ever greater fear and anger among the Hungarian émigrés, resistance to the police also increases. Racing time and the rising tide of terror all around him, Monk must be even more relentless than the mysterious killer, or the echoes of malice and murder will resound through London’s streets like a clarion of doom.”

 

My Book Review:

I haven’t read a murder mystery in a long time, so I enjoyed this fun change of pace. As a reader, I thoroughly enjoyed delving back into Victorian London and learning about the Hungarian population there. Monk and his wife Hester seem like they’re very good for each other. It would be difficult to be a detective, especially when a murder is so gruesome. Consequently, having a good support system around you would be a necessity.

Along with the murder mystery comes the story of Crow and Will. Will is the adopted son of Monk and Hester, and he is one of my favorite characters. Will works as an apprentice for Crow, who is a doctor in a clinic. When they need a translator, Will finds Fitz, and he turns out to be quite helpful. I liked both Crow and Fitz as well. They work well together, and it’s fun to see Will learn and gain more responsibility.

At first, all the different characters confused me, but it didn’t take long to figure it out. I liked the writing style and thought it flowed well, was easy to read and understand, and did a good job of grabbing hold of your attention. Ms. Perry developed the characters very well. Although each has a hint of mystery with an uncertain past, I thought that added to the story. The title, An Echo of Murder, fits the story well. It doesn’t smack you in the face, but it doesn’t take a long time to figure out either.

I kept changing my mind about who I thought committed the murder, which is a sign of a good writer. There was a bit of a twist at the end, which made figuring it all out more difficult. I enjoyed this book a lot; it made me remember how much I enjoy reading mysteries.  

 

Content Rating PG-13+Rating: PG-13 + (There’s some profanity, and although there aren’t any “intimacy” scenes, there are a few innuendos and things are implied.  There is a little bit of violence, but the thing that warrants the higher rating is that the murder scenes are quite graphic and gruesome.)

Age Recommendation: 16 years-old and up

Rated 4/5 Stars

4 Star Rating

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

 
 

Similar Titles You May Be Interested In:

The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown The Tulip Eaters by Antoinette van Heugten  The Last September by Nina de Gramont
 
 

12 Amazing World War 2 Books You Can’t Put Down

12 Amazing WWll Books You Can't Put Down

12 Amazing World War 2 Books

Today I thought I’d switch things up a bit!
(I know, it’s unlike me…spring fever maybe??)
 
 

My 12 Favorite World War 2 Books

Here are my 12 favorite Wold War 2 Books. Some of them are nonfiction and some of them are fiction; I like both–I can’t help it!
(I didn’t put them in any particular order…Click on the Picture to Read My Review)
 
1. All The Light We Cannot See
by
Anthony Doerr
 
 
2. The Boys in the Boat
by
Daniel James Brown
 
 
3.  The Monuments Men
by
Robert M. Edsel
 
(Ok, this may not have been my favorite book, but the story of what these men did was amazing.)
 
 
4. The Book Thief
by
Markus Zusak
the book thief by markus zusak
 
5.  Unbroken
by
Laura Hillenbrand
 
6.  A Woman’s Place
by
Lynn Austin
 
7.  The Diary of Anne Frank
by
Anne Frank
 
(I have read this book several times, but not since I started my blog -gasp!- so I don’t have a review….I’ll need to get on that!)
 
 
8.  The Hiding Place
by
Corrie Ten Boom
 
 
9.  Man’s Search For Meaning
by
Viktor E. Frankl
 
(I have also read and loved this book, but I have not reviewed it….yet!)
 
 
10. When The Emperor Was Divine
by
Julie Otsuka
 
(I didn’t love this book, but it was VERY eye-opening.)
 
 
11.  The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society
by
Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
 
12.  The Nightingale
by
Kristin Hannah
the nightingale by kristin hannah
 
Each of these World War 2 books highlights a different aspect of World War 2. Some of them are fiction and some of them are nonfiction, but whether it is true or not, each brings a different piece of the war to light. There are people in internment camps, people trying to hide Jews in their homes, and a Japanese-American family inside an internment camp here in the United States. There is a story about what the women in the United States did at home during the war and how they helped the efforts, and there’s a story of how the war affected a little girl and her family in Germany.
 
I have laughed, cried, gotten angry, and learned so much as I have read these books. I hope they touch you as they have touched me.
 
Do you have any other favorite World War 2 books? Comment below, I’d love to read them!
Happy Reading!
~Monica 
 

This post was originally published on 3/31/16; updated on 2/15/18.

[Book Review] A Tangled Mercy by Joy Jordan-Lake

A Tangled Mercy by Joy Jordan-Lake
Photo Credit: Goodreads.com

A Tangled Mercy

by

Joy Jordan-Lake


Blurb:

“Told in alternating tales at once haunting and redemptive, A Tangled Mercy is a quintessentially American epic rooted in heartbreaking true events examining the harrowing depths of human brutality and betrayal, and our enduring hope for freedom and forgiveness. After the sudden death of her troubled mother, struggling Harvard grad student Kate Drayton walks out on her lecture–and her entire New England life. Haunted by unanswered questions and her own uncertain future, she flees to Charleston, South Carolina, the place where her parents met, convinced it holds the key to understanding her fractured family and saving her career in academia. Kate is determined to unearth groundbreaking information on a failed 1822 slave revolt–the subject of her mother’s own research. Nearly two centuries earlier, Tom Russell, a gifted blacksmith and slave, grappled with a terrible choice: arm the uprising spearheaded by members of the fiercely independent African Methodist Episcopal Church or keep his own neck out of the noose and protect the woman he loves. Kate attempts to discover what drove her mother’s dangerous obsession with Charleston’s tumultuous history are derailed by a horrific massacre in the very same landmark church. In the unimaginable aftermath, Kate discovers a family she never knew existed as the city unites with a powerful message of hope and forgiveness for the world.”

My Review:

The other day I was looking back at the list of books I have read this year. It’s not as long as it has been in years past, because my son has been sick for so long, but I have read some very good books. This book, however, is my favorite of the year. It’s so well written. The narrative transitions between 2015 and 1822, and it’s not hard to figure out where you are; it flows and transitions very well. Usually in books where it goes back and forth between the present and the past, I have a favorite. I like one better than the other one. In this book I loved both story lines! The descriptions in this book are amazing. I haven’t ever been to Charleston, but after reading this book I’d love to go there. I actually did “google” Charleston, though, and looked through pictures of the skyline. I can’t remember the last time I did that with a book. The city just came to life on the page, and I wanted to see it for myself. Each of the characters are developed so well. They are so realistic and lifelike, and you become a part of their lives as you read the story. Kate, Gabe, Dan, Scudder, Rose, Tom, Dinah, Emily, and Angelina become your good friends as you read. Many of the characters in the 1822 story line are real people, and it is so interesting to think of them and their lives. I love that real events are also woven into the book; both old events and very recent as well. The topics discussed in the novel are current and not without controversy. Ms. Jordan-Lake brings it up in way that provokes contemplation and a good soul-search. This book is intriguing and engaging; it will make you laugh and cry, and will make you take a good look at yourself and your beliefs, attitudes, and assumptions. I could not put this book down, and I highly recommend it!

Rating: PG 13+ (There is very little profanity and no “intimacy.” There is quite a bit of violence, though. A couple of scenes, especially, are very violent, graphic, and descriptive. Many people die, and it’s horrendous and very tragic. The scene that relates a more recent event is especially brutal and graphic to read.) 

Recommendation: 16 years-old and up, at least. (If the teenager is sensitive to violence then I would definitely wait. There is some value in having a teenager read it-it definitely gets you thinking about real life situations, and helps you think outside your box. I would not recommend it for anyone younger than 16. For sure.)


Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

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[Book Review] Hum If You Don’t Know The Words by Bianca Marais

Hum If You Don't Know The Words by Bianca Marais
Photo Credit: Goodreads.com
Hum If You Don’t Know The Words
by
Bianca Marais

Blurb:
“Life under apartheid has created a secure future for Robin Conrad, a nine-year-old white girl growing up in a mining town in the 1970s Johannesburg. In a rural village, worlds apart, Beauty Mbali struggles to raise her children alone in the blacks-only Bantustan of the Transkei. Their lives are divided by the colors of their skin, and their paths should never have crossed…until the historic Soweto uprising, where government forces violently crush a protest by black students, igniting reprisals on both sides. Their worlds shatter in the aftermath when Robin’s parents are found dead and Beauty’s daughter goes missing. After Robin is sent to live with her irresponsible aunt, Beauty is hired to care for Robin, and, for the first time in her sheltered existence, Robin learns about life beyond the white, upper-class privilege she has always known, discovering in Beauty the love and support she desperately craves. While Beauty’s frantic search for her beloved activist daughter puts her in contact with whites and blacks secretly combatting apartheid, her growing responsibility and affection for Robin, whose loss mirrors her own, forces painful choices on them both. When it becomes clear that Beauty could be lost to Robin forever if Beauty’s daughter is found, Robin makes a risky decision with devastating consequences. Her quest to make amends and find redemption is a journey of self-discovery that brings to light the harsh truths and injustices of a society she thought she knew.”
My Review:
Growing up as a white girl in the United States hasn’t always been easy, and my parents, and now my husband and I, have worked very hard to get where we are. After reading this book, however, I realize that I’ve definitely lived a sheltered and fairly easy life. My eyes were opened while reading this book. I’ve learned about apartheid in school, but I had no idea that things like the Soweto uprising occurred. I loved this book. I couldn’t put it down. The writing draws you in and captivates you. Ms. Marais’ descriptions and writing style are very well done. To be drawn into this time and place, and to be a part of such a difficult and harsh period in South Africa’s history, is surreal. The emotion seeps from the pages. Beauty is a difficult character to understand; she leaves her sons alone in order to go find her daughter. She thinks this journey will be a quick one. When it’s not, she doesn’t give up. Her sons are being taken care of by the community at home while she continues to search for her daughter. I love her determination and love for her child. Robin is just a child, but she and Beauty are bound together by the grief they share following the uprising. I had to keep reminding myself that Robin was just a child; she made some choices that, as an adult, made me scream at her through the pages. How could she be so selfish? Thankfully, she realizes her mistake and tries her best to fix it. The growth of both of these characters throughout the book is amazing to watch. It’s unthinkable the atrocities that occur around the world today, and those that have occurred in the past, and it’s when we step out of our own worlds, our own boxes, and truly see around us that we can begin to make things right. I loved that this book took me out of my comfort zone. I loved the lessons learned. This book is very well written. The characters come to life on the page, and you feel like you are there, living the story along with them. There are so many lessons to be learned in this book. We are all the same. We may look different, come from different places, speak different languages, have different experiences, but we are all the same. We just want to live, provide for our families, be loved, and be safe. Selfishness may seem ok when we rationalize it, but it can cause so much pain and heartbreak. Doing what we know is right, even when it is difficult. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and I highly recommend it. 
Rating: PG-13+ (There is a little bit of profanity, but not much. There is no “intimacy,” but there is violence. The Soweto uprising was difficult to read because of how many children were killed or injured. There was a character beaten almost to death, and there was also some domestic violence.)
Recommendation: 16 years-old and up. This book is not appropriate for younger readers. 
Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
I have a free copy of this book to give away!
(All you need to do is “like” my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/TheReadathon/ 
then comment on this post (below) with your name and email address 
so I can contact you if you win.)

All That Makes Life Bright by Josi S. Kilpack

All That Makes Life Bright by Josi Kilpack

All That Makes Life Brightby
Josi S. Kilpack

Blurb:

“When Harriet Beecher marries Calvin Stowe on January 6, 1836, she is sure her future will be filled with romance, a family (in due time), and continued opportunities to develop as a writer–Calvin has said she must be a literary woman, after all. Though Catharine, Harriet’s sister, worries Hattie will lose her identity in marriage, she is determined to preserve her independent spirit. God has called her to fulfill the roles of wife and writer, and she knows that God will help her accomplish everything she was born to do. Two months later, Hattie discovers she is pregnant just as Calvin prepares to leave for a European business trip. Alone, Hattie is overwhelmed–being a wife has been harder than she thought and being an expectant mother feels like living another woman’s life. Knowing that part of Calvin still cherishes the memory of his first wife, Hattie begins to question her place in her husband’s heart and yearns for his return; his letters are no substitute for having him home. When Calvin returns, however, nothing seems to have turned out as planned. Struggling to balance the demand of motherhood with her passion for writing and her desire to be a part of the social change in Ohio, Hattie works to build a life with her beloved Calvin despite differing temperaments and expectations. Can their love endure, especially after ‘I do’? Can she recapture the first blush of new love and find the true beauty in her marriage?”

My Review:

I’m loving these proper romances based on literary figures’ lives! Ms. Kilpack has found a fun niche; I like that she does her research and tries to form an accurate picture of what might have occurred in the lives of these important figures. In my mind, Harriet Beecher Stowe is Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and that’s about it. I didn’t really know anything else about her, and you know what? I think she and I would have been besties. Like her, I have struggled to keep clean house (I’m a perfectionist, but kids make that an impossible dream…), and dinner is never ready on time when my husband gets home. Yep, I think Hattie and I would have been on the phone (if it were available) chatting about how in the world we were supposed to sand the floors and tie the bed frames and take care of the kids without burning dinner. Hahaha! I’m pretty sure I’ve had similar conversations with my friends over the years. I felt for Hattie and a little for Calvin. I think he was just a little spoiled and should have been able to help out a little more at the beginning. I told my husband I was glad I didn’t live back then because I would not have put up with his attitude. I’m not going to tell you–you’ll have to read it to find out what Calvin requested as their daughter’s name. Oh boy! It’s a doozie! This is a fun read. It’s well written, it flows well, the dialogue is realistic and the characters are well developed. I couldn’t help but relate to Harriet. I did hope to learn a little bit more about how Uncle Tom’s Cabin came to be, but I’ll just need to find another book written on that. I’ve never actually read Uncle Tom’s Cabin, have you? Let me know in the comments. I enjoyed this book and would recommend it. It’s a fun, entertaining read. 

Rating: PG (There isn’t any profanity or violence. There isn’t any “intimacy” besides kissing.)

Recommendation: YA and up

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.