Review: The Women in the Castle – Jessica Shattuck

Another day, another World War II novel review here on The Paperback Pilgrim.

Now I know what you are thinking, ‘Sara, don’t you ever get tired of reading seemingly the same story ever three or four books?’

The answer.

No.

I don’t know what it is about World War II, but I keep coming back to fiction set during the period.

And yet, up to this point, I haven’t read a World War II novel set in Germany, told by Germans.

Enter The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck.

Set in World War II, and featuring three vastly different women, this book has been on my radar for quite some time.

Did The Women in the Castle live up to my expectations? Keep on reading to find out my thoughts and opinions.

The Book 

Set at the end of World War II, in a crumbling Bavarian castle that once played host to all of German high society, a powerful and propulsive story of three widows whose lives and fates become intertwined—an affecting, shocking, and ultimately redemptive novel from the author of the New York Times Notable Book The Hazards of Good Breeding

Amid the ashes of Nazi Germany’s defeat, Marianne von Lingenfels returns to the once grand castle of her husband’s ancestors, an imposing stone fortress now fallen into ruin following years of war. The widow of a resistor murdered in the failed July, 20, 1944, plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler, Marianne plans to uphold the promise she made to her husband’s brave conspirators: to find and protect their wives, her fellow resistance widows.

As Marianne assembles this makeshift family from the ruins of her husband’s resistance movement, she is certain their shared pain and circumstances will hold them together. But she quickly discovers that the black-and-white, highly principled world of her privileged past has become infinitely more complicated, filled with secrets and dark passions that threaten to tear them apart. Eventually, all three women must come to terms with the choices that have defined their lives before, during, and after the war—each with their own unique share of challenges.

The Review

This book was breathtaking.

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, thank you, by the way, you know how much I am a sucker for a good World War II novel.

This one, however, differs in the fact that it is set in Germany, before, during and after the war.

It tells the story of the other side, and for that, I am grateful to Shattuck.

Very rarely do you read a World War II novel told in Germany by German characters.

The characters themselves were flawed.

Beautifully flawed.

Marianne, Benita, and Ania did things they couldn’t be proud of.

It wasn’t pretty, but I suppose neither is war.

I don’t want to say much about the women, half of the beauty of the book is learning and feeling for each of them.

They are women, thrust into an impossible situation, and while I disagreed with how some of the decisions were made, I know each of their choices lead them to ‘The End’.

There is a quote, near the end of the book, which captures the essence of each of the women featured in The Women in the Castle, ‘there is nothing you can do about this now. Your actions are your actions. At the end of your life, you have done what you have done. You did what you to do to survive.’

I know this book will stay with me, it is one that teaches you about how easy it is to be complacent, while also showing that having the courage to stand up is far more rewarding.

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 stars. 

Purchase Links

William Morrow | Amazon | Barnes & NobleIndigo

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Tag: Bookish Superlatives

Today’s post is something I saw while I was perusing through Jamie’s, The Perpetual Page-Turner, Friday fun blog posts.

While my high school didn’t do superlatives for graduating seniors, I have always wanted to hand them out.

Interested to see what characters and books won my bookish superlative awards? Keep on reading to find out my thoughts and opinions.

Characters

Most likely to change the world: 

Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins – I mean, she did, right?

Cutest couple: 

Lina and Andrius from Between Shades of Grey by Rita Sepetys – if you need an explanation for this one, I won’t ruin it for you but read the epilogue.

Class clown: 

Fred or George Weasley from the Harry Potter series by J.K Rowling – no explanation needed.

Most likely to become famous for their athletic/musical/artistic abilities: 

Etta Spencer from Passenger by Alexandra Bracken – the girl is a violin prodigy for goodness sakes.

All around good person:

 Liesel Meminger from The Book Thief by Markus Zusak – she didn’t deserve anything she went through, and it still makes me cry thinking about what could have been…

Biggest flirt: 

Rhysand from A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas – in a note he calls himself a flirt, so it was a self nomination.

Most likely to be fought over: 

Bella Swan from the Twilight series by Stephanie Meyer. – because the first three books were a ‘blood bath’ between Edward and Jacob.

Most likely to be friends forever: 

Piglet and Pooh from Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne –  ‘We’ll be friends forever, won’t we, Pooh?’ asked Piglet. ‘Even longer,’ Pooh answered.’

Most likely to have their own reality show: 

The Plumb family from The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney – seriously, I’ve never read about so much drama contained in one family.

Most unique: 

Ava Lavender from The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton – I mean, the girl has wings…

Most likely to survive an apocalypse: 

Arya Stark from the A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin – because she is a bad ass.

Most likely to be a villain: 

Sauron from The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien – I think I would have some villainous tendencies if I was just an eye.

Biggest wallflower: 

Charlie Kelmeckis from The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky – the novel is called The Perks of Being a Wallflower, seems like a given?

Most likely to break your heart: 

Jest from Heartless by Marissa Meyer – he certainly did a number on Catherine’s heart.

Most changed: 

Katharine or Arsinoe from Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake – I am so pumped to see what these two do in One Dark Throne.

Most likely to get arrested: 

Any of the crows from the Six of Crows duology by Leigh Bardugo – they are all criminals after all.

Self proclaimed God/Goddess: 

The Darkling from The Grisha trilogy by Leigh Bardugo – with a name like the  Darkling it’s no wonder he self proclaims godhood.

Best person to bring home to mom and dad: 

Henry Sturges from Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith -knowing my parents, I think they would get a kick out of talking to the vampire who trained good ol’ Abe.

Books

Most likely to make you cry: 

Marley and Me by John Grogan – the book, the movie, either way bring some tissues.

Dares to be different (in world, plot, storytelling, etc.): 

Crank by Ellen Hopkins – the book outlines the dangers of crystal meth in verse style, definitely original.

Best dressed (prettiest cover): 

The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco – while I have yet to read this book it was a cover buy for me, therefore making me give it best dressed…for now…

Most likely to make you swoon: 

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han – this book was so delightful, that it’s hard not to swoon.

Loveliest prose: 

The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker – I never knew I needed so many descriptions of the city of New York.

Most likely to be a favourite of 2017: 

A Court of Wings and Ruin – because I cannot not talk about how excited I am for this book.

Most likely to change the world (or change your life): 

Columbine by Dave Cullen – this book was poignant, heart-rending, tear jerking and tragic. It only added to the reasons as to why I believe in gun control.

Book you are most likely to keep putting off: 

The Summer Garden by Paulina Simons – I don’t want to keep putting this book off, but I also don’t want the adventures of Tatiana and Alexander to come to an end.

Most likely to end up as a Christmas gift for everyone you know: 

Very Good Lives: The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination by J.K. Rowling – because I am sure everyone is getting sick of me buying them Harry Potter.

Mostly likely to be thrown: 

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë – because I’m sure I’ve already said that I’ve tossed this book, but it never hurts to reiterate.

Most likely to be reread more than once: 

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee – because by now I am sure you’re sick of me saying Harry Potter.

Most likely to make you read through an earthquake because its THAT good:

Ever the Hunted by Erin Summerill – this book was THAT good.

Most likely to be passed on to your children: 

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone 20th Anniversary Editions by J.K. Rowling – my best friend and I have already discussed that when our hypothetical children are old enough, we will just point to the bookshelf and say pick your house.

Most likely to break your heart into a million pieces: 

Sold by Patricia McCormick – this book is quite a difficult one to read, but if you can make it to the end there may or may not be a ‘happy’ ending.

Most likely to brighten up your day:

Redshirts by John Scalzi – this book is hilarious, especially if you are a fan of Star Trek, or any other science fiction related movie, tv, or the like.

_ _ _

And those are my choices for the bookish superlatives tag.

Have a book that you think deserved an award? Leave it in the comments below.

Tag: A to Z Bookish Survey

I have been blogging for about a year now, and I’m starting to fall into the slump of only doing review posts.

Therefore, as a challenge to myself, I am going to try to post one review and one ‘fun’ post a week.

For my first ‘fun’ post I’ve decided to do the A to Z Bookish Survey, a tag with questions corresponding every letter of the alphabet to bookish related questions.

Interested to see how I answer the questions? Keep on reading to find out my thoughts and opinions.

_ _ _

Author you’ve read the most books from:

Scouring my shelves, the two authors that came up time and again were J.K. Rowling (or Robert Galbraith) and Philippa Gregory.

Best sequel ever:

In my opinion, Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johansen is hands down one of the best sequels ever written.

Currently reading:

Physical Book: The Accidental Highwayman by Ben Tripp, Audio Book: The Romanovs by Simon Sebag Montefiore

Drink of choice while reading:

Nothing, I have an irrational fear of spilling liquid on my books and ruining their physicality

E-reader or physical book :

Physical book. There is noting more cathartic to me than hearing a book spine crack for the first time.

Fictional character you probably would have actually dated in high school:

If I am being honest to 15-17 year old Sara, my fictional high school boyfriend will always be Edward Cullen from Twilight. Now that I am older, and some might say wiser, I can recognize the faults in Mr. Cullen, but back in the day I wanted nothing more than to be in the sparkly arms of a character that redefined the vampire.

Glad you gave this book a chance:

Heartless by Marissa Meyer. When I picked this book up, I had not read a book by Meyer. Now that I have, I know to pick up The Lunar Chronicles one at a time, to amalgamate myself to Meyer’s writing style.

Hidden gem book:

Mischling by Afinity Konar. If you like books with a WWII setting, and are willing enough to read about twins in Auschwitz, this book is a must read.

Important moment in you reading life:

Becoming a reader? Having my mom read The Chronicles of Narnia to my sister and I? My Uncle buying me the first three Harry Potter books? Take your pick.

Just finished:

The Mermaid’s Daughter by Ann Claycomb

Kinds of books you won’t read:

I try not to limit myself in regards to what I read because I am a firm believer in the best books are the ones you aren’t looking for. As for genre I read least often, that would be contemporary.

Longest book you’ve read:

I’ve only just started finding myself in between the pages of epic fantasy novels, so for the time being it would be A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin.

Major book hangover because of:

Either Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K Rowling or A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas.

Number of bookcases you own:

I have four in the room my boyfriend has dubbed ‘The Book Room’ and one that houses my most beloved series in my bedroom.

One book you’ve read multiple times:

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K Rowling.

Preferred place to read:

Much like my answer for my drink of choice while reading, I won’t read anywhere near water. Anywhere else is fair game.

Quote that inspires you/gives you all the feels from a book you’ve read:

‘A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies, said Jojen. The man who never reads lives only one.’ – George R.R. Martin.

Reading regret:

I try to live my life without regrets so I regret nothing when it comes to books.

Series you’ve started and need to finish (all books are out in the series):

The Bronze Horseman trilogy by Paulina Simons. I have yet to read The Summer Garden, for reasons unbeknownst to even myself.

Three of your all-time favourite books:

In no particular order: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling, Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen, and Another Day in the Death of America by Gary Younge

Unapologetic fangirl for:

All of the books?

Very excited for this release more than all the others:

A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas. 43 days and counting.

Worst bookish habit:

Having to read to the end of a chapter before I put a book down. This is even worse for books that don’t have chapter’s in the traditional sense.

X marks the spot: Start at the top left of your shelf and pick the 27th book:

A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray.

Your latest book purchase:

Hunted by Meagan Spooner.

ZZZsnatcher book (last book that kept you up too late):

A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab. Still sad this series is over.

_ _ _

And those are my answers for the A to Z Bookish Survey tag.

Have some answers? Leave them in the comments and we can gawk over books together.

Review: Ever the Hunted – Erin Summerill

Evidently, this year is the year for YA fantasy.

Ever the Hunted by Erin Summerill is my fifth YA fantasy novel of the year, and oh man do I have feelings about it.

I picked this book up because the main character, Britta, has her life changed because she hunts on the king’s land.

Now I don’t know if you know this, but I am a major history buff (well actually I have a history minor but you get the gist) and back during the medieval times it was illegal to poach on the king’s land, ergo my immediate interest in this book.

Was it more historical fiction, or did Ever the Hunted live up to its fantasy branding? Keep on reading to find out my thoughts and opinions.

The Book

Seventeen year-old Britta Flannery is at ease only in the woods with her dagger and bow. She spends her days tracking criminals alongside her father, the legendary bounty hunter for the King of Malam—that is, until her father is murdered. Now outcast and alone and having no rights to her father’s land or inheritance, she seeks refuge where she feels most safe: the Ever Woods. When Britta is caught poaching by the royal guard, instead of facing the noose she is offered a deal: her freedom in exchange for her father’s killer.

However, it’s not so simple.

The alleged killer is none other than Cohen McKay, her father’s former apprentice. The only friend she’s ever known. The boy she once loved who broke her heart. She must go on a dangerous quest in a world of warring kingdoms, mad kings, and dark magic to find the real killer. But Britta wields more power than she knows. And soon she will learn what has always made her different will make her a daunting and dangerous force.

The Review

Just to get it out of the way, the aesthetics of this book are gorgeous.

It is definitely one of those books that I look at and almost think of rearranging my bookshelves to have certain books facing forward.

The story was equally as gorgeous.

The magic system was introduced into the plot in a way that it didn’t smack readers in the face.

It also played on the notion of people fearing what they do not understand, with the Kingdom of Malam prosecuting magic, while the Kingdom of Sharedan revels in it.

Speaking of the kingdoms, the use of realism sprinkled within their lore’s both made me connect and be able to visualize them.

The characters in Ever the Hunted were dynamic to read about, and the love aspect didn’t bother me because Britta and Cohen have known each other since they were young, no insta-love here!

Also, I’m saying it here, Leif is an amazing character and he better get more ‘screen time’ in future books, here’s looking at you Summerill.

But that ending though… Blew. Me. Away.

All I can say is I will be eagerly waiting for Ever the Brave to be published later this year.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

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Purchase Links

HMH Books | Amazon | Barnes & NobleIndigo

Review: Redshirts – John Scalzi

*Cue Science Fiction/Double Feature*

I love science fiction, though I love it even more when its short, sweet, and to the point.

Or if it has music because who doesn’t love Rocky Horror.

Redshirts by John Scalzi was recommended to me when I had mentioned I was headed to a Star Trek experience, and it was sold to me when it was described as what happens when the ‘Redshirts’ or extras get wise to the fact that they always end up dead.

Does Redshirts seem like your cup of tea? Keep on reading to find out my thoughts and opinions.

The Book

Ensign Andrew Dahl has just been assigned to the Universal Union Capital Ship Intrepid, flagship of the Universal Union since the year 2456. It’s a prestige posting, and Andrew is thrilled all the more to be assigned to the ship’s Xenobiology laboratory.

Life couldn’t be better…until Andrew begins to pick up on the fact that:
(1) every Away Mission involves some kind of lethal confrontation with alien forces
(2) the ship’s captain, its chief science officer, and the handsome Lieutenant Kerensky always survive these confrontations
(3) at least one low-ranked crew member is, sadly, always killed.

Not surprisingly, a great deal of energy below decks is expended on avoiding, at all costs, being assigned to an Away Mission. Then Andrew stumbles on information that completely transforms his and his colleagues’ understanding of what the starship Intrepid really is…and offers them a crazy, high-risk chance to save their own lives.

The Review

If you are a science fiction fan, than boy oh boy this book is for you.

Besides exploiting one of the more noticeable Star Trek plot holes to make a colourful cast of characters, Scalzi’s Redshirts engages many of science fiction’s quirks to make a hell of a 300 page book.

Jenkins was by far the best character, his witty replies about not being sent the scripts pretty much made me laugh every time.

I don’t want to say too much of this book because reading it not knowing what the plot was going to turn into was half the fun.

My only criticism of this book is the last three chapters.

While it was fun to visit ‘reality’ and see how characters like and Nick, Matt and Samantha were getting on in Scalzi’s version of Los Angeles, I did feel as if it took away from the already brilliant ending of the Redshirts storyline.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

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Purchase Links

Tor Books| Amazon | Barnes & NobleIndigo

Review: The Mermaid’s Daughter – Ann Claycomb

Life is the bubbles under the sea!

Today’s review is on Ann Claycomb’s novel The Mermaid’s Daughter, targeted as a modern day retelling of The Little Mermaid.

While some aspects of the Disney classic can be seen, this retelling is more for those morbid readers who have read the Hans Christian tale of the same name.

If you’re unfamiliar with Anderson’s story of The Little Mermaid, basically the sea witch gives the mermaid legs, which are painful to walk on, the prince is a dink who rejects her, the sea witch makes a pact with the mermaids sisters and the mermaid is tasked with killing the prince.

Wowza.

Was The Mermaid’s Daughter as dark as its source material? Keep on reading to find out my thoughts and opinions.

The Book

A modern-day expansion of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid, this unforgettable debut novel weaves a spellbinding tale of magic and the power of love as a descendent of the original mermaid fights the terrible price of saving herself from a curse that has affected generations of women in her family.

Kathleen has always been dramatic. She suffers from the bizarre malady of experiencing stabbing pain in her feet. On her sixteenth birthday, she woke screaming from the sensation that her tongue had been cut out. No doctor can find a medical explanation for her pain, and even the most powerful drugs have proven useless. Only the touch of seawater can ease her pain, and just temporarily at that.

Now Kathleen is a twenty-five-year-old opera student in Boston and shows immense promise as a soprano. Her girlfriend Harry, a mezzo in the same program, worries endlessly about Kathleen’s phantom pain and obsession with the sea. Kathleen’s mother and grandmother both committed suicide as young women, and Harry worries they suffered from the same symptoms. When Kathleen suffers yet another dangerous breakdown, Harry convinces Kathleen to visit her hometown in Ireland to learn more about her family history.

In Ireland, they discover that the mystery—and the tragedy—of Kathleen’s family history is far older and stranger than they could have imagined.  Kathleen’s fate seems sealed, and the only way out is a terrible choice between a mermaid’s two sirens—the sea, and her lover. But both choices mean death…

Haunting and lyrical, The Mermaid’s Daughter asks—how far we will go for those we love? And can the transformative power of music overcome a magic that has prevailed for generations?

The Review

This book is a retelling for the modern age.

Gone are the days of princes, long live princesses.

Katherine and Harry’s relationship was beautiful to read about, and while they were representative of the L in LGBTQ+, it was in by no means done in poor taste.

Harry loved Kathleen just as much as if the love interest was a man, to be honest maybe even more so, and I could honestly read another book if it had either of them in it.

The theme of music is interwoven into the plot, I mean the chapters tend to have ‘aria’ or ‘composer’ written in them, so I knew music was going to be pivotal.

I think it was adorable that even though he didn’t know what was going on with his daughter, Robin still loved Kathleen.

And it showed, given that he was stuck in how to write The Scarlet Letter opera but had no problem writing music for his daughter.

I think the other character I enjoyed was that of the sea.

It was ever changing, depending upon where the characters were, and we felt through Kathleen how the sea differed from Boston to Florida, to Ireland.

I would have enjoyed the Hans Christen Anderson short story woven into the later part of the book, where the sea witches voice was lacking, but even having it at all was a nice touch by Claycomb.

Overall Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Purchase Links

Harper Collins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indigo

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Review: Born Speaking Lies – Rob Leniham

Well, I think this is a new genre of book for The Paperback Pilgrim, crime fiction.

To be honest, I really don’t find myself reaching for crime fiction too often, mostly because when I go for a book I tend to gravitate towards the type of stories that couldn’t happen in real life.

I received Born Speaking Lies by Rob Lenihan for an honest review, and immediately I knew it was different.

I say that because while it could have happened in real life, there was soo much drama that I could really disassociate myself with Lenihan’s fictional world and my own semi-reality.

What did I think of Born Speaking Lies? Keep on reading to find out my thoughts and opinions.

The Book 

In Born Speaking Lies, New York mobster Billy the Kid gets a chance to escape the violent world of 1990s Brooklyn after being shot and left for dead in a Pennsylvania forest by members of his own crew. Billy tries to disappear into small town life with Lora, a local woman who finds him bleeding by the side of the road, but his desire for revenge and his rapidly deteriorating health drives him toward a bloody confrontation with his former friends.

The Review

While I’m not usually the person who likes a book where pretty much the entire cast of characters are insufferable, the characters in Born Speaking Lies were mobsters, so didn’t find myself not enjoying it for that reason.

Both Billy and Sal were dark humoured and I loved it.

I was constantly finding myself flipping ahead to see what quick whip they were going to crack, or what crazy adventure they were going to find themselves in.

Also, I did find that Lenihan tried to veer away from the typically mobster stereotypes, so that was quite the surprise for me.

Of the issues I had with this book, the biggest one was its length.

While the writing was very atmospheric, I felt because it was close to 500 pages I did find myself falling in and out of the pages a bit.

I think the book might have received a higher rating from me if it was either cut in half or was a two books, but for those who have no issue with length this book is definitely for you.

Overall Rating: 3 out of 5 stars. 

Purchase Links

Fomite PressAmazon | Barnes & NobleIndigo

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