Book Review: The Hate U Give

This book popped up repeatedly on bestseller and recommendation lists. I had to discover the basis for the hype.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

This book popped up repeatedly on bestseller and recommendation lists. I had to discover the basis for the hype.

Back Cover Description

“Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.”

Characters

Starr is a relatable teenager in that she is still figuring out who she is and where she belongs. While not everybody has lived between two different socioeconomic classes, most people have felt they didn’t belong. I like that the author didn’t put Starr in a single box; instead, she showed us many aspects of Starr’s personality. It was as if Starr says “This is me too. Why should I have to choose?”

The other characters were unique without be cartoonish. I particularly liked Seven’s mother’s small act of redemption toward the end.

Plot

I usually read at a glacial pace, stopping to savor the story as it unfolds, but this book’s pacing is like a galloping horse—steady and strong. Thomas strikes the perfect balance between increasing tension and allowing enough time for development and emotional resonance. The focus on Starr, her family, her choices, and her reactions kept me engaged until the end when everything devolved into a riot. I couldn’t relate to a crowd of angry people and had trouble suspending my disbelief after that. A bit too crazy for a passive-aggressive, people-pleasing Midwesterner like me.

I appreciate the author’s explaining the rap that made the story’s the theme. As a classical music fan, I would have been lost without that.

Writing Style

The strength of Thomas’s writing lies in her delving into ambiguity and forcing the reader to sit there, uncomfortable. She portrays life for the complex, messy thing it is, and I admire her for that. Few books have characters as flawed but human as hers.

One masterfully written scene was when Starr’s family got together to watch the basketball game. Rivalries reared their ugly heads, and each person had their own win-ensuring rituals. I don’t give a rat’s left toe about basketball, but if you replace the sport with hockey and the family with a bunch of sun-starved Minnesotans, this scene could have come straight from my childhood. What family can’t relate to friendly competition?

Pairing such a relatable family event with something so tragic, so wrong, made for a powerful read. This wasn’t my favorite book I’ve ever read, but it was worth reading for that scene alone.

Conclusion

The Hate U Give speaks to a relevant issue in modern American culture and opens the door for discussion. Thomas’s prose didn’t make me swoon like say, Laurie Halse Anderson’s or Diane Ackerman’s, but it was solid, and many of her scenes packed an emotional punch.

Worth the hype?

I didn’t find this book as earth-shattering as other reviewers, but I enjoyed it, and I admit it made me think.

Worth the money/time to read?

Yes. I checked a copy out from the library, but purchasing it wouldn’t be a waste. It makes a good discussion book, so it’d be good to loan to a friend.


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Book Review: Speak

The publisher recently released the 20-year anniversary version of this story. I am far behind the boat on this, as it is my first time reading it. That’s what I love about words: they’re timeless. Twenty years later, I can discover a book and immerse myself in its pages.

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

The publisher recently released the 20-year anniversary version of this story. I am far behind the boat on this, as it is my first time reading it. That’s what I love about words: they’re timeless. Twenty years later, I can discover a book and immerse myself in its pages.

Cover Description

“From the first moment of her freshman year at Merryweather High, Melinda knows this is a big fat lie, part of the nonsense of high school. She is friendless, outcast, because she busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops, so now nobody will talk to her, let alone listen to her. As time passes, she becomes increasingly isolated and practically stops talking altogether.

Only her art class offers any solace, and it is through her work on an art project that she is finally able to face what really happened at that terrible party: she was raped by an upperclassman, a guy who still attends Merryweather and is still a threat to her. Her healing process has just begun when she has another violent encounter with him. But this time Melinda fights back, refuses to be silent, and thereby achieves a measure of vindication.”

Characters

Melinda sees the world through the cynical eyes of someone it has treated unjustly. Her personality has a sharp edge to it, but not the edge of someone who is belligerent by nature. The bitter irony in her perspective is a defensive reaction to the pain acidifying her insides. Only Heather, a new student who is desperate to climb the social hierarchy, speaks to her.

You can tell a lot about a person by how they react to pain. Melinda holds hers inside, bearing her trauma in silence. Heather wails and shouts her troubles like a wolf howling at a full moon. The contrast between them adds power to the theme of the book.

Plot

The strength of this story is its subtlety. This is not a political manifesto, a b*tch party at the bar, or a transcript of a therapy session. The story focuses on Melinda as a person, her individual experience, and her processing what happened to her. It does not claim to represent all rape victims, nor does it strive to make vast cultural changes. This is about one girl learning to speak up for herself. Because of that, it is even more powerful.

Writing Style

This was the author’s debut novel, and her writing is flawless. When you begin with flawless and improve from there, you know you’re a good writer. I can attest to that, because, while this book was well written, the writing in her later publications left me in awe.

Other

As you can see in the Amazon link below, the 20th anniversary edition has a different cover than the copy I checked out of the library. I like them both.

This book often appears in discussions about censorship and what topics ought to be permitted in public schools. Personally, I don’t see any reason this shouldn’t have a place on school library shelves. The descriptions were not so graphic as to be unreadable, and the subject is relevant to teenagers. The book itself is short enough not to take up an entire semester should teachers make it required reading, and I recommend they do. I got more from Speak than I did from most of the stuff teachers forced me to read in high school.

Conclusion

This book is well-worth reading. I read it in two sittings, but it is short enough to read in a day if you’re so inclined. I went to the library, but I would say it is not only worth buying, it would be worth buying two to have one to give to a friend.


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Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson


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Book Review: A Very Large Expanse of Sea

I picked up this book because I love reading about people who are different from me. Not a lot of young adult novels feature Muslim protagonists, so I grabbed this as soon as I saw it available the library.

A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi

I picked up this book because I love reading about people who are different from me. Not a lot of young adult novels feature Muslim protagonists, so I grabbed this as soon as I saw it available the library.

Back Cover Description

“It’s 2002, a year after 9/11. It’s an extremely turbulent time politically, but especially so for someone like Shirin, a sixteen-year-old Muslim girl who’s tired of being stereotyped.

Shirin is never surprised by how horrible people can be. She’s tired of the rude stares, the degrading comments—even the physical violence—she endures as a result of her race, her religion, and the hijab she wears every day. So she’s built up protective walls and refuses to let anyone close enough to hurt her. Instead, she drowns her frustrations in music and spends her afternoons break-dancing with her brother.

But then she meets Ocean James. He’s the first person in forever who really seems to want to get to know Shirin. It terrifies her—they seem to come from two irreconcilable worlds—and Shirin has had her guard up for so long that she’s not sure she’ll ever be able to let it down.”

Characters

I love that Shirin breaks so many stereotypes. She’s a fashionista and break-dancer. I appreciate the author’s describing the break dance moves for a neophyte like me. I also liked that the author portrayed a varying level of piety. One of my favorite passages was when Shirin’s mother asks her and her brother if they said their prayers, and they lie and say they did. The mom rolls her eyes and says to do better with their afternoon prayers, and they lie and say they will. That’s an exchange a lot of young people can relate to.

If I had met Shirin in real life, her “back off” vibes would have scared me away long before I got to know the wounded heart inside her. Shirin is so disillusioned and bitter she is difficult to like. I have trouble immersing myself in that much anger.

The author mentions Shirin writing in her diary a lot. I wish she had included some of those entries in the book to show her softer, vulnerable side. Without that, getting to know Shirin is like singing Christmas carols to the Wicked Witch of the West. We see more of her inner self later in the book, but I almost didn’t make it that far.

Plot

The tough girl falling for a sweet guy is a common theme in young adult literature, but I always have trouble believing the guys are that persistent. Perhaps that comes from being an invisible wallflower in high school. Mafi gets away with it by making Shirin beautiful and stylish and orchestrating the circumstances such that the leading male finds her lack of interest in basketball refreshing. Still, as far as this trope goes, I much preferred Laurie Halse Anderson’s The Impossible Knife of Memory.

The plot’s main asset is an excellent portrayal of the arbitrariness of popularity. I won’t spoil it by including details, but it exposes the hypocrisy of high school (and adult) social circles. Much like real life, the characters transition from social lepers to reigning sovereigns with the speed of a viral video.

Writing Style

The author’s tone was consistent with the protagonist’s voice—short sentences and curt language. Not a style I gravitate to, but well-executed and fitting for the story. The plot moved at an acceptable pace, and I got a decent sense the setting. As Shirin often moved from school to school, I felt it appropriate that the setting didn’t receive too much attention. After so many moves, she wouldn’t care enough to invest in making it home.

Other

The cover image is hard to read, and it doesn’t reveal the premise of the book. I first discovered this book on a recommendations list, so I already knew what it was about, but a browsing reader wouldn’t.

Conclusion

If you are into tough-girl protagonists, or if you have a similar life experience to the main character, then this book is well-written enough to warrant spending money. For shy girls like me who have trouble relating to that type of character, it’s a library read. Either way, worth reading.


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Book Review: Wintergirls

I advise you to tie a rope around your waist before diving into this book, because after swimming in the darkness, you’ll need a lifeline to pull yourself back to the surface.

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderso

“Lia and Cassie are best friends, wintergirls frozen in fragile bodies, competitors in a deadly contest to see who can be the thinnest. But then Cassie suffers the ultimate loss—her life—and Lia is left behind, haunted by her friend’s memory and feeling guilty for not being able to help save her.”–Back Cover Description

Character and Plot

From page one, Lia is deep into mental illness and anorexia. The author shows us her world through her hallucinating eyes: a broken family that tries and fails to understand her; a friend she should have helped who now haunts her; classmates who speak meaningless words; other wintergirls who encourage her to “stay strong.” Despite Lia’s distorted view of herself, she shows her sweet personality with her stepsister, Emma. This relationship provides the single thread of hope that runs through the novel.

The plot reminds me of Dexter and Breaking Bad based on its disturbing spiral from Lia’s memories of being “a real girl” into her reality of a “wintergirl.” You watch Lia do horrible things to herself, and though in your head you scream at her to stop, you can’t tear your eyes off the page as you witness it happen.

Writing Style

If Tim Burton had written Alice and Wonderland, it might have looked something like this book. This is the second book I have read by Laurie Halse Anderson, and once again her writing leaves me gaping in awe. Her descriptions are as beautiful as they are haunting. Her tweaks of style serve a purpose. Running words together, crossing words out, filling entire pages with the same words, and leaving pages empty tell the story with the visual of the words themselves in addition concepts they represent.

Other

At first, I didn’t like the cover, but after finishing the book, I agree with it. I don’t believe the description on the back cover does justice to the potency of the narrative.

Conclusion

This book is not for readers who like long walks on the beach, but the right type would binge read it. Through the lens of its pages is an unflinching look into a sick mind and a grieving heart.

I’ll be honest, this book was too intense for me. It forced me back to a place I’d thought I’d left behind. Halfway through the book, I knew I should never have picked it up, but by then, I needed to reach the end. I needed the hope of a happy ending.

The right reader wouldn’t regret shelling out their precious pennies for a hardcover copy. I’m glad I can return mine to the library, lest it haunt me from my bookshelf.

I advise you to tie a rope around your waist before diving into this book, because after swimming in the darkness, you’ll need a lifeline to pull yourself back to the surface.

Read with caution.


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Wintergirls

If this interests you, you may also like The Impossible Knife of Memory and Speak (Reviews Pending)


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Book Review: True Colors

I haven’t yet read a book by Kristin Hannah that I didn’t love.

True Colors by Kristin Hannah

I have yet to read a book by Kristin Hannah that I didn’t love. My favorites remain The Great Alone and The Nightingale, but this was a worthwhile read.

Back Cover Description

The Grey sisters had only each other when their mother died years ago. Their stern, unyielding father gave them almost no attention. Winona, the oldest, needs her father’s approval most of all. An overweight dreamer, she never felt at home on the sprawling horse ranch that had been in her family for three generations. Aurora, the middle, is the peacemaker. Vivi Ann, the youngest, is the undisputed star of the family. Everything comes easily to Vivi Ann, love most of all.

A terrible crime will shatter their family and tear their beloved town apart. Accused is Vivi Ann’s new husband, an outsider. For the first time, the sisters will be pitted against each other.

Characters

Each of the Grey sisters embodies common family roles—the misfit, the peacemaker, the little princess—but the struggles in their personal lives prevents the books from falling into clichés. A former lawyer herself, Hannah often includes lawyer characters. I liked Winona, especially since so many books are filled with skinny beauties. Winona’s bull-like personality gives her the strength through the entire book, but her sisters balance her out, and her admission of her own mistakes at the end is authentic. Once again, Hannah has done an incredible job creating relatable characters with depth and personality.

Plot

The plot begins with a bit of a love triangle, then switches to the crime, then takes a decade-long break and returns to the crime. A lot of set-up, but it comes together in the end. The author leads the reader through one link in the chain at a time. While exploring the darker side of the criminal justice system, the story centers around themes of family, prejudice and reconciliation.

Writing Style

Hannah has a gift for describing the passage of time without boring the reader. She can span months in a single paragraph. Instead of saying “and then summer came,” she describes which flowers come into bloom, what chores the townsfolk do, and what weather plagues the city. This maintains the magic of the story while still allowing us to fast-forward through time.

Other

The cover image is similar Between Sisters, though I like the sharp contrast between the horse silhouette and the background. The horse relates to the plot and symbolizes one character, so works well for the cover.

You can tell the author is writing what she knows when she describes the setting, and that she has a great deal of affection for the Pacific Northwest. Much like her depiction of Alaska in The Great Alone, her descriptions of the ranch made me want to pack my bags and hop on the next flight there. That’s the highest compliment I can give a book’s setting.

Conclusion

Another excellent book by Kristin Hannah, well worth the price to buy and the time to read. If you are deciding between True Colors and Between Sisters, I’ll say that I liked Between Sisters, but they are similar. The Great Alone and The Nightingale are still my favorites by Kristina Hannah, but True Colors earns its place on the shelf.  



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True Colors

Other books by Kristin Hannah I enjoyed

(still working on writing the reviews)

Winter Garden


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Book Review: Everyone Brave is Forgiven

Cleave wields words like a miner wields a pickax: he strikes hard and sharp. His descriptions leave you feeling as if you experienced the setting not from the comfort of your living room sofa, but in all the grit and passion of place itself.

Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave

As I wrote in this post and this post, I never tire of WWII stories. Everyone Brave is Forgiven tells the story from the perspective of those who stayed in London and experienced the war on their own front porches.

Back Cover Description

“The day war is declared, Mary North leaves finishing school unfinished, goes straight to the War Office, and signs up. Tom Shaw decides to ignore the war—until he learns his roommate Alistair Heath has unexpectedly enlisted. Then the conflict can no longer be avoided. Young, bright, and brave, Mary is certain she’d be a marvelous spy. When she is—bewilderingly—made a teacher, she finds herself defying prejudice to protect the children her country would rather forget. Tom, meanwhile, finds that he will do anything for Mary.

And when Mary and Alistair meet, it is love, as well as war, that will test them in ways they could not have imagined, entangling three lives in violence and passion, friendship and deception, inexorably shaping their hopes and dreams.”

Characters

Mary North is a delightfully rebellious socialite who has more backbone than many soldiers. Her relationship with her disenfranchised students—African Londoners and children with disabilities—shines a light on the period. Even Nazi bombs couldn’t destroy prejudice. It’s no wonder Tom Shaw, a soft-hearted sloth of a man, falls for her. She loves him too, until Alistair’s quick wit sticks to her heart and forms a love-triangle that crosses oceans.

Mary’s high society rebellion, Tom’s “why’s everyone so upset about all this” attitude, and Alistair’s stark irony each give a striking perspective on the war. Cleave’s characters are well-rounded and realistic.

Plot

The plot reminds me of digging in the rocky soil of my landscaping. Every page reveals a stone, a new ugly truth about the war. From prejudice, to war crimes, to overblown bureaucracy, Cleave leaves no room to romanticize war. This book made me think.

As a romantic myself, I wanted things to work out better for Tom, Mary, and Alistair. Like all well-written characters, they became my imaginary friends, and I wanted a fairy tale ending for them. Don’t misinterpret this to mean that I didn’t like the ending. It was a satisfying ending, but like the rest of the plot, reflected the difficulties of life at war.

Writing Style

Cleave’s writing has a no-nonsense feel to it that differs from the female authors that I typically read. He is particularly gifted at Alistair’s wit, which reminds me of my older brother. His writing style reflects the overall tone of the novel. With little in the way of flowery fluff, Cleave wields words like a miner wields a pickax: he strikes hard and sharp. His descriptions leave you feeling as if you experienced the setting not from the comfort of your living room sofa, but in all the grit and passion of place itself.

Other

I like the cover image, though I wish it showed London in its damaged state. That was one of the more striking parts of the book, experiencing the bombings of London.

Conclusion

My grandmother loaned me this book, but it would be worth buying a used copy, unless you’re one of those people who can’t resist that new-book smell. If you’re stingy like me, this could be a library read, though I wouldn’t have regretting purchasing it.


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Similar Books I Enjoyed

(still working on writing the reviews)

Click HERE for my review for this book about the making of Winston Churchill


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Book Review: The Language of Sycamores

Like the book, hate the cover. Karen is a middle-aged career-focused woman who burned out of a high-stress job in the tech industry. The cover image makes her look like an over-zealous millennial about to snap an Instagram photo of her avocado toast. I could forgive that, but the depiction of Dell is a crime.

The Language of Sycamores by Lisa Wingate

Another one from the library of Grandma 🙂

Cover Description

“Karen Sommerfield has been hiding from the big questions of her life—the emotional distance in her marriage, her inability to have children, and her bout with cancer. Getting lost in her high-powered career provides the sense of purpose she yearns for. Until the day she’s downsized out of her job and the doctor tells her the cancer may be back. It’s a double blow that would send anyone reeling.

It sends Karen to Grandma Rose’s old farm, where her sister has made a seemingly perfect life. Opening herself to the unexpected, Karen finds a lonely child in need of nurturing and insights into her family’s past. In the quiet of the Missouri Ozarks, where the sycamore leaves whisper their soft, secret language, she discovers answers—and a joy to make her life complete.”

Characters and Plot

Karen is a typical middle-aged burn-out with family issues. Years of competitions for her father’s approval strained her relationship with her sister, a perfectionist homemaker. These characters were relatable, but my favorite character by far is Dell, the shy little girl who comes alive with music. The author does a phenomenal job of building empathy for Dell, and I found myself routing for her the entire book. I also like how Dell brings out different sides of the other characters, like Karen’s husband, who plays guitar and does Elvis impressions.

I am a sucker for found family stories, so I enjoyed the plot. The perfect story for curling up on the couch with a mug of hot tea.

Writing Style

The writing style of this book was too explanatory for me. The author seemed to think I needed her to explain how Karen was feeling. I would rather she depicted more dramatic scenes and let me experience Karen’s emotions for myself. Also, flashbacks litter the beginning of the book, which made the pace slow to start.

Despite containing a sermon, this book is not preachy. The single sermon helps drive the plot. My only criticism is the ending, where the author gives God credit for everything that happens. It felt forced, as if the author finished the story and thought, “Shoot, I was supposed to make this a Christian book” and slapped three inspirational paragraphs together. I would rather Karen spent more time throughout the book questioning God about her circumstances, or had the final scene in a church or near one. Then her reflections would be more natural.

Other

I liked the book, but I hate the cover. Karen is a middle-aged career-focused woman who burned out of a high-stress job in the tech industry. The cover image makes her look like an over-zealous millennial babysitter about to snap an Instagram photo of her avocado toast. I could forgive that, but the depiction of Dell is a crime.

Dell comes from a low socioeconomic status in an abusive home. We only ever see her uncle’s verbal abuse, but the storyline hints at worse. She also cares for her ill grandmother. The cover image, however, gives no hints of her home life, no dirt or patches on her clothes, no tangles in her hair, no ill-fitting or mismatched clothes.

The worst by far is the girl’s skin. Dell is half African American. The girl on the cover? Paler than I am after hibernating through a nine-month long Montana winter.

Dell is half African American. The girl on the cover? Paler than I am after hibernating through a nine-month long Montana winter.

Dell’s uncle disparages her for having a “n—r father.” His constant verbal abuse affects her confidence, her self-worth, and her ability to trust others. Even the way she moves, silently, and the way she interacts with a group—staying on the edges and covering her face with her hair—reflects her poor self-image. Her skin tone is an integral part of her character, one that affects the way she behaves in the story. Simply put, Dell cannot be white* and still be Dell.

Dell cannot be white and still be Dell.

How many people on the publishing team gave that cover their approval? Don’t get me wrong; it’s a good image. The title is clear; the tone is consistent with the genre; and the image evokes the desired emotion. It’s a good cover, just not for this book.

Our media is whitewashed enough. People shouldn’t have to take a brown sharpie to their surroundings to see themselves depicted, especially not when the character in the book is already described as having “cinnamon-colored skin.” You can’t tell me there were no pictures of adorable brown girls they could have used.

People shouldn’t have to take a brown sharpie to their surroundings to see themselves depicted.

Conclusion

Did I enjoy the book? Yes. The explanations and flashbacks were not disruptive enough to detract from the storyline, which was heartwarming.

I enjoyed the book, but I’d be lying if I said that cover didn’t make me want to rage out of my winter den like a grizzly on the hunt for stupid tourists.


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The Language of Sycamores

You may also like

Same author. I actually liked this one better.

Great book. Stay tuned for my review!


*By “white” here, I mean 100% white like the girl on the cover. Dell already is 50% Caucasian.

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Book Review: Hero of the Empire

Holding a millennial’s attention with a biography is no small feat, but Candice Miller did so effortlessly. She brought Churchill to life with prose both intriguing and informative.

Hero of the Empire: The Boer War, a Daring Escape, and the Making of Winston Churchill

by Candice Millard

At the age of twenty-four, Winston Churchill was utterly convinced it was his destiny to become prime minister of England. He arrived in South Africa in 1899, valet and crates of vintage wine in tow, to cover the brutal colonial war the British were fighting with Boer rebels and jumpstart his political career. But just two weeks later, Churchill was taken prisoner.  Remarkably, he pulled off a daring escape—traversing hundreds of miles of enemy territory, alone, with nothing but a crumpled wad of cash, four slabs of chocolate, and his wits to guide him.
    Bestselling author Candice Millard spins an epic story of bravery, savagery, and chance encounters with a cast of historical characters—including Rudyard Kipling, Lord Kitchener, and Mohandas Gandhi—with whom Churchill would later share the world stage. But Hero of the Empire is more than an extraordinary adventure story, for the lessons Churchill took from the Boer War would profoundly affect twentieth century history.” –Amazon Description

Every time I visit, my grandmother gives me a stack of books, which I return on my next visit. The Library of Grandma is the best because, as a school librarian, she knows good literature. We have similar tastes, by which I mean, we’ll read anything that’s well written.

In fiction or non-fiction, two subjects never fail to fascinate me: World War II, and La Guerra Civil de España (The Spanish Civil War, and subsequent years under El Generalísimo Franco. Click HERE for a great book set in that period).

Hero of the Empire doesn’t touch WWII, but reading it gave me a deeper understanding of Winston Churchill. Not only that, it convinced me that the Boer War is a fascinating tale in its own right, not just a precursor to WWI and WWII.

After finishing, my first thought was “Why isn’t this a movie?” The book read like an action film: bravery (or male stupidity disguised as bravery), political intrigue, culture clashes, class wars, imperialism, explosions, and daring escapes. With so much in a true story, it’s a wonder anyone writes fiction. I came away with two impressions of Winston Churchill: 1) Either Someone was watching over him, or he abounded in sheer dumb luck; 2) pardon my French, but that guy had serious balls.

Churchill threw himself into danger countless times, yet somehow escaped unscathed. He was as arrogant as the aristocrats from whom he descended, and stubborn as a toddler in the candy aisle at the grocery store. In other words, he was exactly what the world needed at that point in history.

Holding a millennial’s attention with a biography is no small feat, but Candice Miller did so effortlessly. She brought Churchill to life with prose both intriguing and informative. I highly recommend this book, and I can’t wait to read her others.


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Hero of the Empire


Other books by this author that my grandmother recommends (I haven’t read them yet)


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Book Review: Between Sisters

I have yet to read a book by Kristin Hannah that I didn’t love. This one is no exception.

Between Sisters by Kristin Hannah

Back Cover Description

“Meghann Dontess is a woman haunted by heartbreak. Twenty-five years ago she was forced to make a terrible choice, one that cost her everything, including the love of her sister, Claire. Now, Meghann is a hotshot divorce attorney who doesn’t believe in intimacy–until she meets the one man who can change her mind.

Claire Cavenaugh has fallen in love for the first time in her life. As her wedding day approaches, she prepares to face her harsh, judgmental older sister and their self-absorbed mother. It is the first time they have been together in more than two decades. Over the course of a hot Pacific Northwest summer, these three women who believe they have nothing in common will try to become what they never were: a family.”

Characters

A former lawyer herself, Kristin Hannah includes lawyer characters in many of her books. Meghann is a believable character who uses the sword of her own bitterness to slice through other people’s marriages. Claire, a single mom, is more practical, until she falls in love at first sight. Her practical nature sides with her sister, but the little princess in her can’t help leaping at her chance for true love.

Kristin Hannah has a gift for creating nuanced characters with thorough backstories. Though the backstories impact they way each character behaves, she doesn’t waste time with endless explanations and flashbacks. The backstories emerge naturally, when relevant.

Plot

The overarching plot is the sisters’ reconciliation, riding on the themes of love and second chances. A disaster in Meghann’s work and Claire’s wedding bring the siblings together, but the forge that fuses them solid is an unrelated medical even that occurs in the latter half of the book. I wish the author had included more foreshadowing for this, but I will admit that it raised the stakes and made the story more interesting.

Writing Style

As I mentioned earlier, Hannah doesn’t waste time on endless explanations of why the characters act the way they do, she drops natural hints along the way that make her characters feel like real people. Her prose is as polished and pressed as a lawyer’s suit, beautiful in its precision.

Other

The cover is nearly identical to True Colors, and I don’t like the beach. A more appropriate setting would be the woods, as Claire runs a resort near the mountains. The colors are vibrant, but a bit too intense, as if screaming “this book’s for women.”

Conclusion

I have yet to read a book by Kristin Hannah that I didn’t love. This one is no exception. My favorites remain The Great Alone and The Nightingale, but Between Sisters is perfect for a book club, well worth the money to buy and the time to read.


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Between Sisters by Kristin Hannah

Other books by Kristin Hannah I have read and enjoyed

(still working on writing the reviews)

The Nightingale


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Book Review: The Fountains of Silence

When your criticism of a book is wanting more, you know it’s a good one. If you’re looking for a story to make your heart pound with apprehension and burst with love at the same time, look no further.

These Are a Few of My Favorite Books

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The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys

“Madrid, 1957. Under the fascist dictatorship of General Francisco Franco, Spain is hiding a dark secret. Meanwhile, tourists and foreign businessmen flood into the country under the welcoming guise of sunshine and wine. Among them is eighteen-year-old Daniel Matheson, the son of a Texas oil tycoon, who arrives in Madrid with his parents hoping to connect with the country of his mother’s birth through the lens of his camera. Photography–and fate–introduce him to Ana, whose family’s interweaving obstacles reveal the lingering grasp of the Spanish Civil War–as well as chilling definitions of fortune and fear. Daniel’s photographs leave him with uncomfortable questions amidst shadows of danger. He is backed into a corner of decisions to protect those he loves. Lives and hearts collide, revealing an incredibly dark side to the sunny Spanish city.” – Amazon Description

Me: Nooooooooo!

My Husband: Are you okay?

Me: I finished the book.

I am not a binger. My husband can watch an entire season of a TV show in one day. I’m lucky to get through half an episode. I say this so when I tell you I binge-read this book, you understand the implications.

Two subjects, whether fiction or non-fiction, never fail to cause an abrupt end to my to-do list: World War II, and La Guerra Civil de España (the Spanish Civil War and subsequent years under El Generalísimo Franco). A summer in Madrid was enough to capture my heart, but not enough to satisfy my curiosity. Alas, student loans kept further study abroad experiences beyond my reach, so I learn vicariously through books.

Many readers know of the Spanish Civil War thanks to Ernest Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls, but life under the dictatorship is often overlooked. This book fits into the gap, telling the stories of young people who inherited the consequences of the previous generation’s war. Their struggles are no less impactful for taking place in “peace time.”

The setting made this book a guaranteed win for me, but the writing itself gave it the addictive quality of heroin. Originally, I was bummed this book wasn’t written in Spanish. Now I’m glad I read the original English. Sepetys’s prose is a work of art, beautifully constructed. Her entrancing narrative voice presides over the storyline, yet each character’s perspective is unique. For example, she uses the phrase “hair as black as crude oil” when writing in the perspective of the young Texan.

I felt part two wrapped things up rather quickly, but I was okay with that because after part one I was dying for a happy ending. If I had to list a criticism, it would be that the dialogue of the younger characters, Rafa and Buttons, was so similar it made it hard to separate them as distinct characters. Both speak with the boundless enthusiasm of energetic youths, but when the story switches to Rafa’s perspective, we meet a thoughtful young man braving to transcend his troubled history. Other characters note the dichotomy between his past and his carefree personality, but they could have been better blended. I would have also liked to see more of Daniel’s mother’s reaction to conditions in her home country.

When your criticism of a book is wanting more, you know it’s a good one. If you’re looking for a story to make your heart pound with apprehension and burst with love at the same time, look no further. I highly recommend The Fountains of Silence, and I can’t wait to read more from this author.

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The Fountains of Silence

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