ARC REVIEW: From Sand And Ash – by Amy Harmon

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Title: From Sand And Ash
Author: Amy Harmon

Genre: Historical Fiction, Fiction, Romance
First published: December 1st 2016
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Finished reading: December 26th 2016
Pages: 386
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“They can take our homes, our possessions. Our families. Our lives. They can drive us out, like they’ve driven us out before. They can humiliate us and dehumanize us. But they cannot take our thoughts. They cannot take our talents. They cannot take our knowledge, or our memories, or our minds. In music there is no bondage. Music is a door, and the soul escapes through the melody.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Lake Union Publishing in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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Brandie @ Brandie is a Book Junkie has been telling wonderful things about Amy Harmon‘s novels this year, so when I saw her newest novel at Netgalley I grabbed the chance (and copy!) with both of my greedy hands. And she (like many other bloggers) was absolutely right about this author. I really enjoy reading historical fiction stories and I have a special interest in any story about WWII, and From Sand And Ash will definitely appear on my list of all time favorites of the genre. Amy Harmon both writes beautifully and is able to make you feel connected to the characters and the things that happen to them. It’s a haunting and well researched story that will keep with you for a long time… The pace is a bit slow at points, but you forget all about that when you reach the final part. Make sure to keep your tissues ready! I liked the Italian setting and I could really appreciate the attention to detail when it comes to both descriptions and character development. I fell in love with the prose and I will no doubt read more of her work soon! If you enjoy reading historical fiction, I can strongly recommend From Sand And Ash.

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Eva Rosselli and Angelo Bianco were raised like family, but religion separated them as Eva is Jewish and Angelo Catholic. As the years go by, the two find themselves falling in love, but the circumstances are less than ideal as World War II is looming over them. Angelo chooses becoming a Catholic priest even though he has deep feelings for Eva, and Eva has nowhere to go… It is not longer save to be a Jew in Italy, or anywhere in Europe for that matter, and when things become to dangerous Angelo does anything to hide Eva from the Gestapo. But Eve feels she cannot just hide quietly…

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I have read many historical fiction novels set during or around WWII over the years, and From Sand And Ash is no doubt one of the best novels of the bunch. The prose is simply beautiful and the character development as well as the plot are excellent, making it really easy to both connect to the story and enjoy reading it. Sure, the pace is a bit slow at points and I had initially deducted a star from the rating, but the final part of the story is just too good not to give it one of the highest rating. You will probably feel emotional after reading From Sand And Ash, so make sure to keep some tissues ready! This is without doubt an excellent read.

WWW Wednesdays #117 – December 28th

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WWW WEDNESDAYS is a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Taking On A World Of Words and is all about answering the three questions below.

  • WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?

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I’ve picked up another (modern) classic as I’m trying to finish a challenge: Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown. It’s turning out to be a fast and entertaining read, so I will probably finish it today. I’m also still reading Point Of No Return by Martha Gellhorn, a Netgalley ARC that has been republished last week but was actually first published back in 1948. I’m hoping to finish it before the end of this year, because it will bring me only one classic away from finishing my last pending challenge. And that classic I’m keeping my fingers crossed will be Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë. I’m listening to the audiobook version of this one and I’ve made quite some progress so far, so I’m hoping I will be able to listen to the last part while I make preparations for New Years Eve. I’m enjoying this classic so much better than I thought I would!

  • WHAT DID YOU RECENTLY FINISH READING?

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* The first book I finished is The Gift by Louise Jensen. As I’ve said in my review yesterday, I enjoyed this second book even better than her debut novel and she is without doubt one of my favorite new discoveries this year. Her stories are well written, fast-paced, have an interesting plot and basically keep you on the edge of your seat for the duration of the ride. I was hooked right from the beginning and I loved the refreshing angle in The Gift. Without doubt an excellent psychological thriller I can recommend to any fan of the genre!
* I then picked up What Light by Jay Asher, trying to make up for the fact I completely ignored the Christmas themed stories so far. Unfortunately I was quite disappointed by this story. Thirteen Reasons Why was such a strong novel, but What Light was basically a whole lot of cheesiness, cliches and drama wrapped in Christmas lights to make it appropriate for the holiday season. I liked the idea of the Christmas tree lot and I’m sure contemporary romance fans will love this story, but there was just SO MUCH DRAMA everywhere! It almost felt like an overdose, and not in a good way. The prose is easy to read though and it was quite a fast read as well.
* The last novel I was able to finish is From Sand And Ash by Amy Harmon. I finally know why so many people seem to love her work! I really enjoyed reading this historical fiction novel and it has without doubt a very strong plot… The pace slows a bit at points, but you forget all about that when you reach the final part. Make sure to keep your tissues ready! Amy Harmon both writes beautifully and is able to make you feel connected to the characters and the things that happen to them. It’s a haunting story that will keep with you for a long time… If you enjoy reading historical fiction, I can strongly recommend this one.

  • WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’LL READ NEXT?

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Since I probably won’t be able to start any new titles this year (I still can’t believe the year is nearly over!!!), my next reads will be the very first of my 2017 TBR. First up is The Perfect Stranger by Megan Miranda, which I only haven’t read yet because I needed to read other titles first before the end of 2016. Words cannot describe how excited I am to be reading this one next week! I’ve also been convinced to pick up the Alice In Wonderland retelling Splintered by A.G. Howard next. I have been wanting to read another fantasy story anyway so it works perfectly. The Netgalley ARC Witness by Caroline Mitchell is also on my list… And my next TBR jar pick is still Little Women by Louise May Alcott. (Yes, I’m quite ashamed I haven’t been able to pick up this classic yet.)

WWW Wednesdays #116 – December 21st

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WWW WEDNESDAYS is a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Taking On A World Of Words and is all about answering the three questions below.

  • WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?

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I was in the mood for a psychological thriller and couldn’t resist the temptation of my Netgalley copy of The Gift by Louise Jensen any longer. I’ve seen a lot of raving reviews around, and they are totally right when it comes to this story. Such an original and refreshing plot! It’s well written and fast-paced as well; definitely worth it. I have also started From Sand And Ash by Amy Harmon, which is turning to be another well written story with beautiful prose. I’m having a feeling I will be able to finish both soon! I’ve also made some progress with my second audiobook ever and a classic: Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë. I’m about 5 hours into the story now and I’m liking it better than I thought I would. It’s going to be the second classic in a row I actually enjoy reading in a while!

  • WHAT DID YOU RECENTLY FINISH READING?

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* The first book I finished is The Picture Of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. I’ve heard a lot of positive things about this classic, and I can definitely agree with those who enjoy this classic now that I’ve read it. The first part is probably the strongest of the story, as the pace slowed down considerably in the middle and there were a lot of long ‘pointless’ lists where Dorian went on and on about random things. The final part is again better and all in all it is still a pretty fast-paced story for a classic as well. Recommended!
* I second book I was able to finish was Down The Rabbit Hole by Julia Crane. My copy was a granted Netgalley wish and I was really looking forward to it, but unfortunately I can’t say it lived up to expectations. I was so happy when it turned out to be an Alice In Wonderland retelling, but my initial excitement turned into disappointment. It started out promising enough and Alice is an interesting character, but there are a lot of innecessary and annoying romance scenes (including annoying tropes like insta-love and love triangle) included that didn’t add anything to the plot. The Lacie chapters are weak and the last part of the book was a little too ‘weird’ to my taste. All in all not what I was expecting at all.

  • WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’LL READ NEXT?

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I’m a bit behind with my Netgalley ARCs, so I have three titles up next. Witness by Caroline Mitchell and Missing by Monty Marsden will work perfectly to feed my thriller addiction… And Point Of No Return by Martha Gellhorn was actually published yesterday and I need to read it ASAP. It sounds like such an interesting story! My next TBR jar pick is still Little Women by Louise May Alcott, which I’m hoping to read before Christmas but probably won’t be having time for.

Teaser Tuesdays #119 – December 20th: From Sand And Ash

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TEASER TUESDAYS is a weekly book meme hosted at The Purple Booker. To participate, just open the book you are currently reading to a random page, and choose two ‘teaser’ sentences from somewhere on that page. (no spoilers!)

I have been wanting to read one of Amy Harmon‘s novels ever since I first saw her work mentioned by Brandie @ Brandie Is A Book Junkie, and when I got the opportunity to request a copy of her newest story From Sand And Ash I grabbed it with both hands. I love historical fiction stories and this one sounds SO good! I’m only a few pages into the story so far, but I’m having a feeling I will be going to enjoy this one.

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My teaser (7%):

“He thought he had sheltered his daughter from it, or maybe she was just Italian enough, young enough, naïve enough, that she completely missed the gathering storm and thought only of dancing in the rain. Most of her friends had no idea she was Jewish.”

What are you reading right now?

WWW Wednesdays #115 – December 14th

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WWW WEDNESDAYS is a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Taking On A World Of Words and is all about answering the three questions below.

  • WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?

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  • I’ve actually just decided I will be DNFing Tipping Point by Tomas Byrne. It was taking me way longer than expected to finish it because of the slow pace and the fact that I feel this story simply isn’t for me. I’m having a hard time to stay focused on the story, and I’ve decided to no longer force myself to continue. I’ve also started my second audiobook ever and a classic: Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë. I’m about 3 hours into the story right now and I still have 10 hours left… I’m liking it better than I thought I would so far and I’m going to keep my fingers crossed I will be able to finish it before the end of this year. I’m also still only a few pages into The Picture Of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, but I’m hoping to change that today or tomorrow.
  • WHAT DID YOU RECENTLY FINISH READING?

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* The first book I finished is Kill The Next One by Federico Axat, which was a very interesting psychological thriller with a lot of plot twists. The memory loss is an interesting twist that makes the story a lot more original, but I do have to admit I found things to be a bit too weird at some points. It took me a little while to fully understand what was going on, and that took away a little of the reading pleasure. It’s still an interesting read though.
* I then picked up Catacomb by Madeleine Roux, mostly because that way I would be able to finish my fifth and final series this year. It turned out to be another fast-paced and entertaining horror read and a great ending to this series. The photos are a nice twist as always, although they are yet again not as strong as in the first book. I don’t think I will read the novellas, but the three books of this trilogy I can definitely recommend.
* The last book I was able to finish is Walk Into Silence by Susan McBride. It’s without doubt a fast-paced and well written psychological thriller and a new series that will be on my radar for sure. The main character and detective is a bit of a cliche, but the case they are investigating is interesting enough and there are a lot of plot twists involved.

  • WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’LL READ NEXT?

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I’m trying to read more books published before 2000 to finish a pending challenge, so I might read Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown next. I also need to read both Netgalley ARCs Down The Rabbit Hole by Julia Crane and From Sand And Ash by Amy Harmon soon…. And my newest TBR jar pick is still Little Women by Louise May Alcott., which I will probably pick up closer to Christmas.

WWW Wednesdays #114 – December 7th

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WWW WEDNESDAYS is a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Taking On A World Of Words and is all about answering the three questions below.

  • WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?

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I’m close to finishing Kill The Next One by Federico Axat. The story started out strong, but became a little weird later on… Fingers crossed the last part will make up for it. I’m also a few pages into The Picture Of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, and I’m looking forward to continue this classic later today. Finally, I’m about to start my very first Reading Alley ARC: Tipping Point by Tomas Byrne.

  • WHAT DID YOU RECENTLY FINISH READING?

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* I first decided to switch genres a bit and pick up a contemporary romance read. I wasn’t too sure about 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson, but I remember I liked her short Christmas story last year and the travel theme sounded great. YA contemporary romance fans will without doubt love this book, but I have to admit it fell a little flat for me. Sure, the travel bits are quite interesting, but the whole plot just isn’t believable. I mean, why did her parents let her travel to Europe like that in the first place? And the things happening to her weren’t all totally believable either. It is fast-paced though and can be entertaining if you forget about the credibility details.
* I picked up Another Day Gone by Eliza Graham afterwards, and I have to admit I had high hopes for this book. Historical fiction, set during various generations, interesting blurb… It had all the right signs, but unfortunately I had a hard time enjoying this story. I couldn’t get a proper feel for the story OR characters and it was all kind of confusing. It took a long while for it to become clear what the story exactly was about, and those plot twists and suspense around the past were actually annoying instead of entertaining. It seems like a well-researched story and it has a lot of potential, but I couldn’t warm up to the actual story. Most people seem to love it though, so this might just be another case of unpopular opinion review.
* I then finally picked up another classic: The Strange Case Of Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson. I was vaguely familiar with the story, but this is the first time I’ve actually read this classic. It took a while to get into the story, but the second half of the story was without doubt very entertaining. I don’t think it’s my favorite classic, but I definitely enjoyed it a lot better than his other story Treasure Island.
* Afterwards, I FINALLY picked up my copy of This Savage Song by V.E. Schwab. People kept telling me I should just read this one and that I would love it, and they were totally right. ADSOM is still my absolute Schwab favorite, but this one came a close second! Brilliant, just brilliant. The prose is just excellent and I love LOVE the worldbuilding. Like in Shades Of Magic, the worldbuilding isn’t all that complicated, but this simplicity just WORKS. The idea of Verity with its three types of monsters is intriguing, and I loved the main characters August and Kate. Both the dynamics between the characters and their development is very well done and I can’t wait to read the sequel next year. V.E. Schwab has definitely proven to be worthy to be in my TOP 10 of all time favorite authors!

  • WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’LL READ NEXT?

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I’m trying to read more books published before 2000 for a challenge, so I might read Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown next. I also need to read both Netgalley ARCs Walk Into Silence by Susan McBride and From Sand And Ash by Amy Harmon soon…. And my newest TBR jar pick is still Little Women by Louise May Alcott., which I will probably pick up closer to Christmas.

Friday Finds #110 – December 2nd

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FRIDAY FINDS showcases the most interesting books I’ve encountered during the last week and have added to my neverending TBR list on Goodreads. Below a selection of my newest additions; click on the book descriptions to go to its Goodreads page! 😀

My finds:

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