Hello Summer!!

I am officially, 100% finished with my first year of university. All my essays turned in, all my classes over, the end. I have been so incredibly lucky to have had such a great year. Honestly – I’ve met the most amazing people, whom I already miss terribly. It’s funny to look back at where I started, barely eight months ago. I was petrified to begin. I wonder what orientation day me would have thought of the me that I am today. She’d certainly have questions, that’s for sure. And I think the thing that I would answer with is: It’s not easy, but most of the time it turns out better than you ever thought it would. Also, it’s way more fun than you imagined, so go easy on yourself, OK?

Funny how time gives us perspective on things. Of course I have regrets – there are things I could have done differently. But on the whole, I think I did a smashing job flailing my way through uni, america and everything else. Like being a real proper adult – EEK.

Speaking of being a real proper adult – I cannot believe this, but I’m actually staying in my own apartment for the summer. That’s right – staying in america, without any safety net of college. I’ve got some great roommates and am really looking forward to making the best of my internship. I’m researching a lady who worked for the Red Cross in WW2 called Sue. A couple of hours ago I just read a hilarious letter where she describes how her undergarments were stolen by the french maid. That’s not even covering the delightful correspondence between her and her family. It feels creepy sometimes – this is a person’s life I am reading, after all. But most of the time it feels insanely cool. I get a whole new perspective into the war. Alright, enough history geeking for one day.

Still working on driving without feeling like I’m having a panic attack behind the wheel. Driving is the worst. Why didn’t I pick a country or state or city with good public transportation? Bad show, Past Me.

Also, obsessed with the show Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. Who amongst us doesn’t want to be a Phryne when they grow up? A fast-talking, feminist, gun-toting, fashionista, lady detective with irrepressible humor? Sign me up for the starter course! The second I finish you can expect a more in depth review.

There are good things ahead – I may be done with first year, but I’m certainly not done with the summer. I’ll keep you posted on future events – and on whether or not Sue ever recovers her stolen underwear.

 

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Life After Life

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Blurb:

What if you could live again and again, until you got it right?

On a cold and snowy night in 1910, Ursula Todd is born, the third child of a wealthy English banker and his wife. She dies before she can draw her first breath. On that same cold and snowy night, Ursula Todd is born, lets out a lusty wail, and embarks upon a life that will be, to say the least, unusual. For as she grows, she also dies, repeatedly, in any number of ways. Ursula’s world is in turmoil, facing the unspeakable evil of the two greatest wars in history. What power and force can one woman exert over the fate of civilization — if only she has the chance?

Wildly inventive, darkly comic, startlingly poignant — this is Kate Atkinson at her absolute best.

Goodreads Score:3.74/5

Review:

I was somewhat disappointed by this book, to be honest. After hearing raving reviews from friends, and intrigued by the plot (time travel? WW2? Y’all know that’s my jam) I decided to pick up Atkinson’s latest work and give it a go.

It was…long. I don’t remember really enjoying anything about the book. I just remember thinking that I had to work my way through it, because there had to be a reason that everyone loved it so much. Now – don’t get me wrong. Atkinson is extremely gifted with the written word, and her lyrical prose is probably what kept me trying to read on. There are several chapters that were like honey to my eyes (which is a weird sentence) and I liked the recurring theme of the snowy night, but overall her book was lacking for me, plot wise. The end just had nothing to it, which was frustrating after such an impactful beginning. I felt like I had literally clawed my way through this (frequently depressing and confusing) story only to wind up even more frustrated. Because I am not ashamed to admit it. I just didn’t get the ending.

I thought that the biggest hang up for this book was the time travel element. The characters were all so fragmented (even the sister, who is ostensibly a main character) and I couldn’t get a feel for the main character. Likewise, some of Ursula’s lives were far too long, whilst others were too short. I felt like half the time I was reading something that could have been edited out and I would not have missed it. All in all, not a great thing for me to think while I’m reading a book.

Life After Life is simply an interesting idea that was poorly executed. While Atkinson’s lyrical prose definitely save this book, the dead characters and meandering chapters don’t help the floundering plot line.

Code Name Verity

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Blurb:

Oct. 11th, 1943-A British spy plane crashes in Nazi-occupied France. Its pilot and passenger are best friends. One of the girls has a chance at survival. The other has lost the game before it’s barely begun.

When “Verity” is arrested by the Gestapo, she’s sure she doesn’t stand a chance. As a secret agent captured in enemy territory, she’s living a spy’s worst nightmare. Her Nazi interrogators give her a simple choice: reveal her mission or face a grisly execution.

As she intricately weaves her confession, Verity uncovers her past, how she became friends with the pilot Maddie, and why she left Maddie in the wrecked fuselage of their plane. On each new scrap of paper, Verity battles for her life, confronting her views on courage, failure and her desperate hope to make it home. But will trading her secrets be enough to save her from the enemy?

A Michael L. Printz Award Honor book that was called “a fiendishly-plotted mind game of a novel” in The New York TimesCode Name Verity is a visceral read of danger, resolve, and survival that shows just how far true friends will go to save each other.

Review:

This book. This book was so good y’all. At first I was a little apprehensive to read it, because I will be honest with you – I am a complete pansy when it comes to reading books where the outcome isn’t assured. It takes me a while to psych myself up for books with plot twists, but I am so so glad that I read Verity.

The book opens with the chilling announcement that Queenie (a civilian ambassador) has sold her country’s secrets for the return of her clothes. From there it turns into a harrowing account of life under her German interrogators and how Queenie struggles to adapt to her new surroundings. I don’t really want to give away much (which makes this review so hard to write, because this book is filled with twists and turns, keeping you on the edge of your seat every minute you read) but I’ll just say this; a new and compelling view into the minds of those who actually suffered under torture during WW2. It flips between Queenie’s life under the germans and her recollections of her best friend Maddie.

The relationship between Queenie and Maddie is one of the greatest parts of this book, and it was so refreshing to read a female driven action and suspense story. I also loved that their relationship was the core of book, as strong female relationships are incredibly important. The memories that Queenie has of her best friend makes the book equal parts melancholy and up-lifting. The descriptions that Queenie gives us are uncompromising and at times extremely uncomfortable, which adds to the impact of the story. I would sincerely recommend this book to anyone looking for a suspenseful and riveting read. You might want to keep some tissues nearby though.

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Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

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WOO! I just finished my spring break, and was lucky enough to do a TON of reading over the last couple of days. I’m back at college now, so you can expect a full post on what I did over break and a few more book reviews. This is one of my new favorites – alone with Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand. 100% give both of these lovely books a try.

Blurb: January 1946: London is emerging from the shadow of the Second World War, and writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject. Who could imagine that she would find it in a letter from a man she’s never met, a native of the island of Guernsey, who has come across her name written inside a book by Charles Lamb….

As Juliet and her new correspondent exchange letters, Juliet is drawn into the world of this man and his friends—and what a wonderfully eccentric world it is. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society—born as a spur-of-the-moment alibi when its members were discovered breaking curfew by the Germans occupying their island—boasts a charming, funny, deeply human cast of characters, from pig farmers to phrenologists, literature lovers all.

Juliet begins a remarkable correspondence with the society’s members, learning about their island, their taste in books, and the impact the recent German occupation has had on their lives. Captivated by their stories, she sets sail for Guernsey, and what she finds will change her forever.

Written with warmth and humor as a series of letters, this novel is a celebration of the written word in all its guises, and of finding connection in the most surprising ways.

Review:

You know how there are books that you just fall in love with? That you can read over and over again? This book is one of them. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is one of my favorites, and whenever someone asks me for book recommendations I immediately point to this one. It’s just such a charming story.

The book is told through the correspondence between Juliet and the citizens of Guernsey. It’s set immediately after WW2, which I found particularly interesting (as many books are set during) and it was an insight into the rebuilding of London and the lives of people immediately after the tragedy. The story follows what happened to the citizens of Guernsey during the German occupation – as the only British territory to fall under Hitler’s hands. Every person that Juliet writes too manages to inject humor and warmth into the suffering that every person experienced. They don’t shirk away from anything, but their humane approach and love of life help make Juliet and the reader fall in love with them.

At it’s core, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is a story about loving books and reading and the hope it can inspire. Juliet and Dawsey first begin their correspondence after he receives an old book of her. From there, the story unwinds. I’m an absolute sucker for quiet happy stories, and found families are ALWAYS my jam. Therefore, it’s not surprising that I loved this book.

The one sticking point that I have with this novel is its relative inaccuracy of 1940’s letter writing. Some of the language choices rings far more modern, but since I wasn’t unduly concerned with it, I don’t let it bother me. The characters are all fantastic and its just such a lovely read. A guaranteed feel good with just enough punch to keep it from getting overly saccharine.

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