{Book Review} The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

Book Review: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes{Book Review}

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

By Suzanne Collins

It’s the 10th anniversary of The Hunger Games – the annual games held in the Capitol in which children (tributes) from the 12 districts of Panem (formerly known as North America) fight to the death, until only one remains. This year, things will go a little differently. In an attempt to spice things up, students from the prestigious Academy will mentor the tributes. 

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{Book Review} The Alice Network

Book Review: The Alice Network{Book Review}

The Alice Network

By Kate Quinn 

It’s 1947 and Charlie St. Clair is on her way to Europe with her mom, to take care of her Little Problem. Unwed and pregnant, Charlie is consumed with worry and hope for her cousin Rose, who disappeared in France during WWII. She may have lost her brother, but she’s determined to find and save her cousin. So Charlie ditches her mother and her appointment, and takes off looking for Rose by following the only lead she has – a name. Eve Gardiner. 

Eve is a grumpy woman who looks years older than she is. She swears like a sailor, drinks like a fish, and (frequently) drunkenly wields a gun. Eve is a woman burdened by her past. When an opportunity for revenge arises, Eve can’t resist. You see, Eve is a heroine, a WWI veteran of one of the most successful Ally spy networks based in France during WWI. The Alice Network. Her months as a spy – and the betrayal that ended those months – marked Eve’s life for years. So when Charlie shows up whispering a name Eve hasn’t heard for years… she can’t help but to aid the young socialite in her quest while seeing closure for herself. 

Review: After reading The Starless Sea and feeling a bit disappointed, I chose this book because I was sure I’d be sucked in. Over the past year or two, I’ve really been enjoying historical fiction novels and have a particular fondness for WWII-era novels. The Alice Network did not disappoint.

The story was well-written and engaging. The Alice Network has a little of everything – mystery unfolding, romance brewing, family drama, some action… I couldn’t put it down. I also really appreciate how the story was not all sunshine and rainbows – it wasn’t all happy endings, which is tough but it’s life. And the challenges and unhappy moments make people who they are as much as those happy times, so it’s important to have them in there. 

The Alice Network begins as two separate, distinct stories – that of Charlie and that of young Eve, the spy. About halfway through the novel, the two story lines sort of merge as Eve eventually reveals her past to Charlie. This was done really, really well. As unpleasant and cranky as 1947 Eve was, her story very quickly showed what a formidable woman she was. And for her part, sweet, naive Charlie was likable as a highly intelligent woman who cared deeply for people, and who just needed a little time to become the woman she was meant to be. 

I really enjoyed The Alice Network and would highly recommend it. It’s not a short novel but it’s so engaging that you’ll fly through it. 

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{Book Review} The Starless Sea

Book Review: The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern{Book Review} 

The Starless Sea

By Erin Morgenstern

One day, Zachary Ezra Rawlins takes a book out of the library… and suddenly finds himself reading about a moment from his childhood – a moment when he stands before a painted door and chooses not to open it. That library book changes the trajectory of his life. Why was he in this book? What did it mean? 

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{Book Review} America’s First Daughter

Book Review: America's First Daughter{Book Review}

America’s First Daughter

By Stephanie Dray & Laura Kamoie 

A historical fiction novel based largely on the remaining letters of Thomas Jefferson, America’s First Daughter tells the story of his daughter, Martha “Patsy” Jefferson, from childhood through old age. Throughout most of her life, Patsy was her father’s constant companion, protector and helper. With him, she saw America’s war for independence; she traveled through America’s colonies; she experienced France as a monarchy and a country in revolution. She fell in love, twice. She became a mother and a grandmother. She entered her father’s world of politics and became America’s First Daughter, both at the Capitol and at her father’s home in Monticello. And she struggled with conflicted feelings of loyalty to her country, loyalty to her family, and her moral responsibility to not just her people – her enslaved servants – but to the nation’s people. 

Review/Recommendation: When I finished My Dear Hamilton and published my book review, several friends and readers told me they enjoyed America’s First Daughter even better. So I promptly added my name to the 60+ person wait list at the library, and hoped that my turn would come up before I could forget about the book. Well, it was finally my turn, and I finished the almost 600 page book in a week (both because I enjoyed it and because I had some unexpected stretches of time to read due to travel). 

I finished the book and reflected: Did I agree with my friends and readers? Was this better than My Dear Hamilton? In the end, I decided that better wasn’t quite the right word. I did find it to be a little bit faster-paced, but there were a lot of similarities between the two books. Each told the story of a historical figure that was overshadowed in history by the man in her life. Each book chronicled that woman’s life, almost in its entirety. Both were based on as much fact as possible, using any surviving letters to chronicle the women’s lives. Liberties were taken for reader experience, with much of those liberties detailed in the Author’s Note at the end of the book. 

I thoroughly enjoyed America’s First Daughter – the story of Patsy’s life as well as her evolution, growing into not just a woman but an American leader in her own way. She didn’t have it easy, but she did her best to live her life in a way that would honor her father, her religion and her country. 

More than anything, America’s First Daughter – just like My Dear Hamilton – showed how one of the greatest men in America’s history was who he was, because of the great woman in his life. For that appreciation of overlooked women in American history, I’ll not only recommend American’s First Daughter to you, but also will continue to read similar books by Stephanie Dray & Laura Kamoie in the future.

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{Book Review} Now, Then, and Everywhen

Book Review: Now, Then and Everywhen by Rysa Walker - the first in the Chronos Origins series{Book Review}

Now, Then, and Everywhen
Chronos Origins Book 1

By Rysa Walker

Disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of this book from Wunderkind PR for my enjoyment. All opinions are mine alone.

A few years ago, I blogged about a series of writings by Rysa Walker, called the Chronos Files. The Chronos Files were a set of novels, novellas, and short stories about a girl named Kate who is told that she must travel through time – like several of her ancestors have done – and prevent history from being changed. 

Now, Then, and Everywhen is the first in a new series – Chronos Origins – that will eventually reveal the origins of the time travel organization from Kate’s era, Chronos. 

In this first book, two characters from different points in time meet up in America’s South in 1965, in the middle of the American Civil Rights Movement. Madison Grace (Madi) is from 2136. She stumbled upon her Chronos key and time travel quite by accident, and is trying to figure out not only how it works but how her ancestors may have been involved in time travel. Then there’s Tyson Reyes, a Chronos historian from 2304, trained in the art of time travel, observation and research. 

The two are in the middle of a jump back in time when they feel time shift, changing life as they know it. History is different; some people cease to exist while others are born. Both think that they accidentally changed history during their jump, and both go back to try to fix it – that’s when they meet up. Did either of them cause the time shift? Or is something else going on? Can they reverse the change? 

Review: When I was a kid, I was an avid reader. I had a whole list of authors who I loved, and would immediately read their new books as they were released. Sometimes I’d reread a previous one, but more often than not, I’d jump right into the new one. The older I get though, the more this has changed. I still have my list of authors that I love and watch for, but I’ve realized that I much prefer to read a series in its entirety, once it’s finished. I don’t have the time anymore to reread books, and I just don’t want to wait to find out what happens next. 

I tell you that little story because in this case, I do wish I had reread the Chronos Files before jumping into this one. There were just so many references back to characters from the Chronos Files that I do think you have to read it – at least once – to really appreciate Now, Then, and Everywhen. It’s been a couple of years for me, so I remembered a lot, but there were definitely some moments of deja vu, where I couldn’t grasp what I was missing. The further in the book that I got,the easier it got to put those pieces together, but if you haven’t read the Chronos Files, please read them before picking this one up. You’ll have a greater appreciation for the characters and stories within the novel, and better understand their significance to this story line. 

As for Now, Then, and Everywhen itself, I enjoyed it. I did find it to be less of a young adult book than the previous series. The main characters were all adults, and seemed very real. They were all likable and relatable (their personalities, not their time travel experience!). The dialog had an ease to it that I appreciated – no teenage angst, no over-the-top romance. All of the characters and their interactions felt very natural. 

Another reason this book seemed less young-adult than the previous series is that a good bit of time was spent on the science of time travel throughout the book – which was fairly complicated, addressed from the point of view of a physicist and geneticists. It was peppered throughout the book, so don’t think that science dragged down the pace, but from this perspective (verse the teenagers in the Chronos Files), it was just more complex.

I will say that the constant flipping back and forth, the references to things from the Chronos Files that I only vaguely remembered, meant that this book required a bit more focus than the previous series. Definitely not a mindless read. But that being said, I continued to enjoy the unique story.

In short, if you have read (and enjoyed) or plan to read the Chronos Files, this would be a good book to come next. But if you haven’t, then I’d probably skip this one. 

Disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of this book from Wunderkind PR for my enjoyment. All opinions are mine alone.

 

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