YVO’S SHORTIES #27: The Orphan’s Tale & Murder On The Orient Express

Another day and another round of Yvo’s Shorties! Bringing you more shortie reviews of books I read during my hiatus. The Orphan’s Tale by Pam Jenoff has been on my list for a long time, and turned out to be just as good as I thought it would be. And I have been meaning to read more of Agatha Christie‘s work for a long time, so accidently watching the Murder On The Orient Express movie turned out to be the perfect excuse to do so.


Title: The Orphan’s Tale
Author: Pam Jenoff

Genre: Historical Fiction, War
First published: February 21st 2017
Publisher: Mira Books
Finished reading: May 18th 2018
Pages: 353

“Sometimes our forever life does not last as long as we think.”


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After a very difficult but extraordinary visit to the Auschwitz camps, I wanted to read another historical fiction story set during WWII to commemorate. I was browsing my kindle and my eyes fell on The Orphan’s Tale, a title I have been meaning to pick up for a long time, and I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to do so. While not exactly the story set in one of the camps I was looking for, this story shows the struggle and fear of the Jews trying to hide their true identity. The Orphan’s Tale has a wide variety of different characters and this diversity was one of the reasons this story worked. The circus setting with all its descriptions and opportunities for plot twists and new angles definitely was another key element. The writing is solid and makes it really easy to fully emerge yourself and keep reading to find out what will happen to the main characters. There comes the only minor flaw I experienced myself though: I didn’t agree with every decision of the characters and somehow it wasn’t as easy to get a proper feeling of some of them. This feeling of slight uneasiness and frustration made me lower the rating slightly, but overall The Orphan’s Tale is without doubt among the better WWII historical fiction stories I’ve read to this date.


Title: Murder On The Orient Express
(Hercule Poirot #10)
Author: Agatha Christie

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Classics
First published: 1926
Publisher: William Morrow
Finished reading: May 21st 2018
Pages: 256

“I know human nature, my friend, and I tell you that, suddenly confronted with the possibility of being tried for murder, the most innocent person will lose their head and do the most absurd things.”


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I’ve been meaning to pick up another Agatha Christie book ever since I finished And Then There Were None back in 2015, but somehow I never did. So I guess accidently watching the Murder On The Orient Express was a blessing in disguise, because since I normally never watch the movie before reading the book, of course I had to immediately remedy that. I had high hopes for the book, and even though I haven’t read the previous Hercule Poirot books yet, I was able to enjoy book number ten anyway. Because Agatha Christie writes in a way that will draw your attention from the start, and she gives just enough background of the main characters to be able to form an idea of their past without the previous books. I still want to read the other nine titles before this one as well of course, and the copies are on my list. But the fact is that Murder On The Orient Express can easily be read as a stand-alone as well and what a good story at that. From the main character to the development of the other characters, the mystery, the way Hercule Poirot conducts his investigation… There is just something about it that will fascinate you completely and any mystery/thriller fan will find themselves flying through it. I personally liked both movie and book equally, although I still wish I would have read the book first, because I had the actors stuck in my head and the descriptions of the characters in the book don’t really match. Thankfully the script itself follows the original plot closely; one of the reasons the adaptation was so successful to me. Murder On The Orient Express has shown me I really need to get copies of more of Agatha Christie‘s books soon, because I have truly been missing out by not reading them.


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ARC REVIEW: Sky In The Deep – by Adrienne Young @StMartinsPress

Title: Sky In The Deep
Author: Adrienne Young
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Historical Fiction
First published: April 24th 2018
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Finished reading: April 19th 2018
Pages: 352

“You’ll find your own end before the snow melts because your pride and your anger are more importan to you than your own survival.”

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

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I admit I was sold as soon as I saw the cover and the mention of vikings. And maybe the fact that Sky In The Deep is called one of the most anticipated YA fantasy releases this year, although that also made me a bit afraid it won’t live up to the hype. But thankfully Sky In The Deep is actually worth all the praise it has been receiving. What a wonderful and well written debut! Although this story has no exact time setting and appears to be more fantasy than historical fiction, with the viking culture playing such a central role it is easy to deduct this story was set long ago (probably 800s?). Would I have liked a more detailed worldbuilding with more descriptions and facts? Yes, but I can also understand why the exact details have been kept vague, focusing instead on the characters and clan feud plot. I would have liked to have a glossary for the foreign words and phrases used, although most are easy to interpret from the context. These little things aside, I absolutely loved this story. The main character is the typical strong female lead, but Eelyn really came alive in the descriptions and dialogue and was easy to connect to. The different clans and the old feud between the two had me completely hooked, as well as for the plot twists that changed their future forever. Definitely the best viking-inspired story I’ve read to this date! I admit I could have done without the romance, but at least we were spared the dreaded love triangle. And I’m sure romance fans will love that little twist (although I saw it coming quite early on). In short, while not perfect, this debut still managed to completely blow me away and Eelyn’s story will stay with me for a long time. Vikings to the win!

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Seventeen-year-old Eelyn was raised to be a warrior and fights alongside her Aska clansmen against the Riki clan. The two have been enemies for a long time, fighting each other every five years in a ruthless battle. This year is no different and Eelyn is fighting on the battlefield when something strange happens: she sees her brother Iri, the same brother who she watched die five years ago. Following his ghost, she ends up in a very dangerous situation herself…One that will be both hard to accept and find a way out of.

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Despite a few minor details that made me lower the rating slightly, there is no doubt I absolutely loved this book. I have a weak spot for viking stories and Sky In The Deep has to be the best viking-inspired fantasy story I’ve read to this date. The writing is very engaging and made it really easy to like this story. The plot and clan feud turning into something else was an interesting one and while there were slow parts, you will get plently of viking fighting action as well. A little advice: don’t read the full blurb before you start reading it! This one is more fun going in completely blind. YA fantasy fans who like their stories having a dose of romance, well developed characters and a couple of pretty intense fighting scenes will love Sky In The Deep. A very powerful debut!


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ARC REVIEW: The Air Raid Killer – by Frank Goldammer

Title: The Air Raid Killer
(Max Heller, Dresden Detective #1)
Author: Frank Goldammer
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Thriller
First published: September 23rd 2016
Publisher: AmazonCrossing
Finished reading: April 12th 2018
Pages: 292
(Originally written in German: ‘Der Angstmann’)

“How does anyone really know what someone’s capable of?”

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

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I stumbled upon this title during my hunt for more international authors/translations and I was immediately intrigued both by the cover and the blurb. I admit I had forgotten about the exact content of the story when I started reading it and went in blind thinking it was going to be a historical fiction read. And while there is no doubt that The Air Raid Killer is a proper historical fiction read set in Dresden, Germany during the final part of WWII, I was pleasantly surprised to find out especially the first part reads more like a historical detective thriller. Two of my favorite genres combined? Definitely a bonus! The Air Raid Killer starts out strong and will be able to draw you in straight away. Historical descriptions are mixed with a most brutal murder scene that will definitely chill you to the bone. The main character of this German detective series Max Heller has the almost impossible task to try and find out what happened when nobody seems to care about one more body in a war with so many casualties. But detective Max Heller is determined to find out even when he meets resistance everywhere. Both the actual murders and the general situation in Dresden are not suited for the weak-hearted; combined they form a very explosive and sometimes shocking plot. The serial killer on the loose is without doubt brutal, and combined with the air raid attacks and the chaos during the end of the war you have a recipe for a very disturbing read. While the first part focuses on the thriller aspect of the plot, the second half of the story is more historical fiction focused. I think I would have preferred to have it just one way or the other and not both, although I do understand why the author made the choice to swap and include more historical details in the second half. The final reveals of the murder case do feel a bit rushed though, and I’m also wondering up to what point the methods of investigation used were actually available in that time period. Still, The Air Raid Killer was without doubt a very good historical thriller set during the end of WWII, and both detective thriller and historical fiction fans will be able to enjoy this one.

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In the final months of WWII, the inhabitants of the city of Dresden not only have to fear the air raid bombs that might destroy the city at any time. There are also rumors about the Fright Man, a twisted killer who uses the nighttime air raid siren to hunt the streets unseen and kill… Only to disappear into thin air afterwards. Detective Max Heller begins to investigate, but is is harder to ever to start a proper investigation. And soon after the Fright Man kills again… Will Max Heller be able to find any clues with his resources non-existent and a new boss who doesn’t want him to investigate further?

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Historical fiction is mixed with a classic detective thriller, as a serial killer and air raid bombs fight for the title of ‘most feared’ by the inhabitants of the city of Dresden. The writing style and initial plot make it really easy to get a proper feel for the story, and the first half of the story is without doubt the strongest part of the book. I would have preferred a continued focus on the detective thriller side of the story, which felt a bit rushed in the second half. But I also understand the switch and need for a focus on what happened in Dresden during those final days and after. While not perfect, The Air Raid Killer is without doubt a great read for anyone who wants to read a WWII story with a slightly different focus and angle.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #23: Salt To The Sea & Ready Player One

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two titles I’ve been meaning to read for ages and that both turned out to be excellent reads. Salt To The Sea by Ruta Sepetys and Ready Player One by Ernest Cline… Popular hyped books that actually lived up to the hype and without doubt worth reading!


Title: Salt To The Sea
Author: Ruta Sepetys

Genre: YA, Historical Fiction
First published: February 2nd 2016
Publisher: Philomel Books
Finished reading: March 27th 2018
Pages: 393

“War had bled color from everything, leaving nothing but a storm of gray.”


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I’ve been wanting to read this novel for a long time now, probably ever since I first heard about it. I’ve become a fan of Ruta Sepetys‘ writing after reading Between Shades Of Gray and Out Of The Easy; both because of the fantastic writing and well researched and detailed historical settings and descriptions. Salt To The Sea without doubt fits all these points above. I have a weak spot for WWII historical fiction in general and I hadn’t heard about the Wilhelm Gustloff incident before, so that was a double bonus for me. It truly shows in the little details just how well researched this novel is and the descriptions made it feel as if you were there yourself along with the characters. The plot is an interesting one and shows just how difficult it was to find your way to safety close to the end of the war. I admit it took me a while to get used to the multiple POVs and remembering who is who, which slowed down the pace inicially, but each different character and POV does show a different view on the situation and add something to the story. I was a bit annoyed by Alfred, who I didn’t like at all and I wasn’t sure about the particular style of his chapters. But the rest of the characters were interesting and I liked how the different styles used in each POV showed their different personalities. There is even some sort of interaction between the POVs and sometimes different characters tell their personal experience of the same event… Adding power to what was happening to them. Salt To The Sea is without doubt a very strong historical fiction read that shines the light on an event that is not all that well known. It’s not my favorite Ruta Sepetys novel, but without doubt worth reading.


Title: Ready Player One
Author: Ernest Cline

Genre: YA, Science Fiction, Dystopia
First published: August 16th 2011
Publisher: Broadway Books
Finished reading: March 31st 2018
Pages: 386

“I felt like a kid standing in the world’s greatest video arcade without any quarters, unable to do anything but walk around and watch the other kids play.”


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I have been meaning to read this one for years (and that is without exaggerating). Somehow, the enormous hype around Ready Player One made me a bit afraid to actually pick it up, especially considering my complicated relationship with hyped books in the first place. I finally read Armada first last year, and I can’t say I was that impressed by it… But since people kept telling me that Ready Player One was so much better, I was determined to give it a go one day. And I’m glad I finally did do so, because I loved it so much better than I thought I would! Science fiction can go both ways for me, but as a (former) gamer myself I just loved the general worldbuilding and many many game references… The 80s references didn’t hit home, but that is mostly because I was too young to actually remember that time in the first place. And from what I could see, everything was well researched. Ready Player One is set in the future, and a dystopian future at that. A very interesting backdrop for this story and very well developed! The worldbuilding wasn’t the only thing that worked well for me. I also really enjoyed the writing style itself and of course the plot, which both made me want to keep on reading to find out what would happen next. The characters are well developed and easy to like, and I could also appreciate the fact we get to see both the online side and the ‘real’ side of the main characters involved. All in all a superentertaining and well written sci-fi and gaming adventure I can recommend to fans of the genre.


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BOOK REVIEW: Lilac Girls – by Martha Hall Kelly #buddyread

Title: Lilac Girls
Author: Martha Hall Kelly
Genre: Historical Fiction
First published: April 5th 2016
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Finished reading: February 11th 2018
Pages: 487

“There was no storm gathering in the east that day, no portent of things to come. The only ominous sign from the direction of Europe was the scent of slack water wafting off the East River.”

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I know I have been saying for months I was going to pick up Lilac Girls, but even my TBR jar couldn’t help me doing so. That’s why I was stoked when Nicki @ Secret Library asked if I wanted to buddy read it: the perfect excuse to finally stop procrastinating and get the job done! I can definitely see why so many people seem to love this novel, and I’m glad I finally did pick it up. It did leave me with a huge book hangover though! Because there is one thing for sure, Lilac Girls doesn’t try to soften the emotional blows and sweeten the horrific facts of the holocaust. O no, you will get a full share of dreadfulness and shocking details of the happenings in the concentration camp Ravensbruck. Trigger warnings are in place for those with a weak stomach! Because especially the WWII camp scenes are both intense and gruesome.

Lilac Girls is divided into three different storylines and POVs, each contributing to the story in a different way. I had my doubts about how the different storylines would work together at first, but now I’ve finished it I can see the role of each one more clearly. I do have to say it took a long time for Caroline’s POV to fit into the story. Both the lack of this connection, the fact it took a long time warming up to her character and the romance made me enjoy her POV considerably less, although I do admit they were a perfect pitstop in between the intense Ravensbruck chapters. And Caroline’s chapters set after the war improved considerably. That’s why her POV ended up coming second place for me. My favorite POV by far was Kasia’s, not only because her storyline itself is fascinating, but her development and story as well. Emotional, heartbreaking, intense… Some chapters are not easy to read, but her POV is by far the strongest of the bunch. I really didn’t like Herta though, although I guess that is kind of natural with her being a camp doctor and doing the things she does? Still, I felt she was less developed than the other two and didn’t add as much to the story either. I guess she did serve as a perfect ‘tool’ to demonstrate the horrors of the holocaust and the ‘other’ side.

What that stood out for me is the fact that this story is actually based on true events and both Caroline and Herta did exist. (Kasia and her sister are close matches). This fact makes the story that much more fascinating and the impact of the horrific details that much stronger. The writing is very well done as well as the plot itself. And what I also loved is that Lilac Girls doesn’t just show us the events during WWII, like most novels with a similar theme do, but also show the aftermath and consequences for the persons involved. These final chapters (the latest set in 1957-1958) add a whole new level to the story and made this story that much more unique.

All in all, despite the fact that I initially didn’t like Caroline all that much and wasn’t sure of the romance in her POV, and despite the fact I couldn’t stand Herta as a character, I do think this is a fascinating historical fiction read. If you are a fan of the genre and can stomach the horrific facts of the holocaust, Lilac Girls is definitely for you.

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Caroline Ferriday works at the French consulate in New York, and has her hands full with her post. Then her world is changed forever when Hitler’s army invades Poland in September 1939… And France might be next. Caroline has to work harder than ever to try and help all those people at the consulate. And some of the cases are rather too close to heart.

In Lublin, Kasia is a Polish teenager that decides to help the underground resistance movement after Hitler invaded Poland. Somehow the unthinkable happens and she is sent to Ravensbruck, the Nazi concentration camp for women. Will she be able to survive?

Young German doctor Herta wants to have a chance to show her talent and be seen as an equal to other male doctors, but this isn’t easy in Nazi Germany. When she sees an ad for a government medical position, she thinks it’s the chance to finally prove herself… But she ends up being trapped in a male-dominated Nazi concentration camp instead. She is still determined to reach her goal though…

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Lilac Girls is without doubt a story you will have to be in the mood for, because it is not an easy read. This historical fiction read will leave you emotionally drained and shock as you try to assimilate the many horrific facts and happenings in the Ravensbruck camp… No doubt excellent research and well written, but not for the weak hearted. Thankfully the Caroline chapters are there to bring some relief of the horrors… And the final part set after the war will help you breathe again as well. No doubt a great read, even if it did leave me with a book hangover!


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ARC REVIEW: A Castle In Romagna – by Igor Stiks

Title: A Castle In Romagna
Author: Igor Stiks
Genre: Historical Fiction
First published: 2000
Publisher: AmazonCrossing
Finished reading: February 2nd 2018
Pages: 128
(Originally written in Croatian: ‘Dvorac u Romagni’)

“He was overcome by the immobility one feels upon meeting something long sought after, that silent tension of the body that, before we take the object into our hands, forces us to pause for a moment, as if every passing second increases its value.”

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

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One of my goals this year is to read more international authors and translation, and I’ve been meaning to read more historical fiction that is not set during WWII as well. A Castle In Romagna manages to tick both boxes, and the blurb itself had me more than intrigued. Sadly, my reading experience wasn’t what I hoped it would be… Here’s why. First of all, I REALLY struggled with the writing style. I’m not sure if it’s because of the fact it is a translation and some of the magic is lost, but I do know it was really hard to stay focused and keep reading. The prose doesn’t flow and more often than not ‘formal’ or less natural phrases are thrown in. This slows down the pace considerably and kept distracting me from trying to follow the plot. Another thing that didn’t work for me was the dual storyline. I felt neither story had enough dept because of it, especially since this novel is not that long to start with. Both plot, background and characters in both storylines lacked fleshing out and honestly I think I would have rather seen two completely separate stories. Also, I think the connection of the two storylines through the 1995 setting and friar telling both stories was actually quite weak, as apart from the fact that both storylines are about doomed love they do not have all that much in common. I do have to say both the 16th century setting and the one in 1948 have a lot of potential, and I truly wish each would have been more developed. As it is, I failed to connect to any of the characters and I’m afraid to say I wasn’t able to enjoy my time with A Castle In Romagna.

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A young refugee of the Bosnian conflict decides to visit the old Mardi castle in the north of Italy in 1995. But instead of wandering around exploring the fortress, he will meet a guide who will tell him all about the past: both his own and how he ended up as a refugee himself in Italy in 1948 and the tragic fate of the poet Enzo Strecci back in the 16th century.

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I had such high hopes for this story, especially since the blurb sounded really promising, but unfortunately the story fell completely flat for me. Between the writing style, lack of dept and development in both the plot and characters and the failed dual storyline, I had a hard time reading A Castle In Romagna. Although I keep wondering if some of its charm has been lost in translation.


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ARC REVIEW: The Tattooist Of Auschwitz – by Heather Morris

Title: The Tattooist Of Auschwitz
Author: Heather Morris

Genre: Historical Fiction
First published: January 11th 2018
Publisher: Bonnier Zaffre
Finished reading: January 8th 2018
Pages: 288

“Choosing to live is an act of defiance, a form of heroism.”

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

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The Tattooist Of Auschwitz had me at the title. I have a weak spot for WWII historical fiction and the promise of a story from the POV of the tattooist of Auschwitz sounded intriguing. I have been looking forward to pick up this title, and there is no doubt that this is an excellent read. The Tattooist Of Auschwitz is based on true events, as the author has interviewed the real Tetovierer and this book is his account of his time in Auschwitz. A truly fascinating, emotional and heartbreaking account of how he tried to survive in the Polish concentration camp during the war…The writing flows and the author did an excellent job writing down Lale’s story without interfering. It was intriguing to see the daily life at the camp through the Tetovierer’s eyes… WWII historical fiction fans will love this book. Make sure to have some tissues ready just in case, because it’s hard to keep it dry especially in the final part of this novel. And that is coming from someone who normally has a heart of stone and almost never sheds tears when reading.

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Based on the true story of Lale and Gita Sokolov, two Slovakian Jews who survived Auschwitz and eventually moved to Australia. Shortly after arriving at the camp, Lale somehow ends up with the job of tattooing the prisoners marked for survival. The crude method is painful, but nobody dares to complain, Lale included. His job as the Tetovierer gives him a little movement and freedom other prisoners doesn’t have… And he decides to put this advantage to good use. He is determined to survive Auschwitz and help as many people as possible, a nearly impossible feat.

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I was sold as soon as I first heard about this book and it is a truly remarkable story. This book is based on real events and the author has interviewed the main character of this story personally. It gives a fascinating insight in the life at Auschwitz and how the main character manages to survive by having given the task of tattooing the numbers on the arms of the prisoners of Auschwitz. You probably won’t keep your eyes dry with this one! I can highly recommend The Tattooist Of Auschwitz to any fan of the genre.


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