I’m Warming Up to Historical Fiction (My Thoughts: Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys)

Historical Fiction has never been a genre I really enjoyed. In school, history was actually my least favorite subject. I did well in it. I could memorize what was needed for the test, but none of the information ever stuck with me. I’m not sure what made me pick this book up, but surprisingly, I enjoyed it.

The book actually held my attention the entire way through, which has been a problem for me this past week. Every time I picked up a book I’d get bored and put it down, so I was happy to read something that kept me engaged. Between Shades of Gray was very easy to digest. Before reading it, I thought it would be a lot more bleak and soul-crushing than it actually turned out being. The events that took place were definitely sad, but I think the way it was written softened the blow. More on that in a bit.

Although I enjoyed this book overall, there were 3 main flaws in it for me:

  • The Romance
    • Okay, I understand that this book is supposed to focus on this heinous event in history and that is at the fore-front. But I can’t help feeling some kinda way about the romance in this book. It should have either been fleshed out more or just left out entirely.
  • Withdrawn Writing
    • Considering the content of this book, by then end I should have been ugly-sobbing. This book should have destroyed my entire life, but I only got a tiny bit teary at one part. I think this largely had to do with the way Sepetys chose to write it. The prose seemed withdrawn and it stunted the emotional impact it could have had.
  • Abrupt Ending
    • Towards the end of the book it just stops and BAM! EPILOGUE! It was so abrupt it kind of felt like she just gave up. The ending could have done with some more detailing about how we got from there to what was talked about in the epilogue.

Despite all this, I would recommend this book. Perhaps for someone who doesn’t normally read historical fiction, but you want to try it out…you can start with this book.

3.5 Stars!

star-1   star-1   star-1   halfstar-1


Title: Between Shades of Gray
Author: Ruta Sepetys
Genre: Young Adult – Historical Fiction
Publisher: Speak
Release Date: April 3, 2012
Pages: 344
Find On: Goodreads | Amazon

Synopsis:
Fifteen-year-old Lina is a Lithuanian girl living an ordinary life–until Soviet officers invade her home and tear her family apart. Separated from her father and forced onto a crowded train, Lina, her mother, and her young brother make their way to a Siberian work camp, where they are forced to fight for their lives. Lina finds solace in her art, documenting these events by drawing. Risking everything, she imbeds clues in her drawings of their location and secretly passes them along, hoping her drawings will make their way to her father’s prison camp. But will strength, love, and hope be enough for Lina and her family to survive?

Advertisements

3 Books I Want to Read from the 2016 Baileys Longlist

Yesterday the 2016 Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction Longlist was announced. The list contained 20 books of which I have previously read (and loved) only one: A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. If you want to check out the full list of books, you can do so here.

I checked out all the books on Goodreads — it was a pretty diverse list! — and out of the 30, there were three that stood out to me that I would like to read.

Girl at War by Sara Nović

Zagreb, summer of 1991. Ten-year-old Ana Jurić is a carefree tomboy who runs the streets of Croatia’s capital with her best friend, Luka, takes care of her baby sister, Rahela, and idolizes her father. But as civil war breaks out across Yugoslavia, soccer games and school lessons are supplanted by sniper fire and air raid drills. When tragedy suddenly strikes, Ana is lost to a world of guerilla warfare and child soldiers; a daring escape plan to America becomes her only chance for survival.

Ten years later Ana is a college student in New York. She’s been hiding her past from her boyfriend, her friends, and most especially herself. Haunted by the events that forever changed her family, she returns alone to Croatia, where she must rediscover the place that was once her home and search for the ghosts of those she’s lost.

 

My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout

Lucy Barton is recovering slowly from what should have been a simple operation. Her mother, to whom she hasn’t spoken for many years, comes to see her. Gentle gossip about people from Lucy’s childhood in Amgash, Illinois, seems to reconnect them, but just below the surface lie the tension and longing that have informed every aspect of Lucy’s life: her escape from her troubled family, her desire to become a writer, her marriage, her love for her two daughters. Knitting this powerful narrative together is the brilliant storytelling voice of Lucy herself: keenly observant, deeply human, and truly unforgettable.

 

The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney

One messy murder affects the lives of five misfits who exist on the fringes of Ireland’s post-crash society. Ryan is a fifteen-year-old drug dealer desperate not to turn out like his alcoholic father Tony, whose obsession with his unhinged next-door neighbour threatens to ruin him and his family. Georgie is a prostitute whose willingness to feign a religious conversion has dangerous repercussions, while Maureen, the accidental murderer, has returned to Cork after forty years in exile to discover that Jimmy, the son she was forced to give up years before, has grown into the most fearsome gangster in the city. In seeking atonement for the murder and a multitude of other perceived sins, Maureen threatens to destroy everything her son has worked so hard for, while her actions risk bringing the intertwined lives of the Irish underworld into the spotlight . . .

I can’t say for sure when/if I will be reading these as the International Manbooker Prize Longlist is to be announced TOMORROW! I’m super stoked for it. I feel like I’ve been waiting for it foreverrrr.

Have you read any of the books on the Baileys Longlist? If not, do any of them appeal to you?

Book Review | The Vegetarian by Han Kang: Weird

The Vegetarian - Han KangTitle: The Vegetarian
Author: Han Kang
Genre: Literary Fiction
Publisher: Hogarth
Release Date: February 2, 2016
Pages: 192

Synopsis:

Before the nightmare, Yeong-hye and her husband lived an ordinary life. But when splintering, blood-soaked images start haunting her thoughts, Yeong-hye decides to purge her mind and renounce eating meat. In a country where societal mores are strictly obeyed, Yeong-hye’s decision to embrace a more “plant-like” existence is a shocking act of subversion. And as her passive rebellion manifests in ever more extreme and frightening forms, scandal, abuse, and estrangement begin to send Yeong-hye spiraling deep into the spaces of her fantasy. In a complete metamorphosis of both mind and body, her now dangerous endeavor will take Yeong-hye—impossibly, ecstatically, tragically—far from her once-known self altogether.

Review:

This was a weird one for me. I’m really interested in South Korean literature, so when I found out that this book had been translated to English I had to get a hold of it. Unfortunately, I was disappointed by it, but I did have a couple things I liked.

The Vegetarian - Han Kang

What I Liked:

  • At the beginning, the book had a cool, creepy vibe to it; that feeling that something is going on beneath the surface.
  • Getting a general view of how vegetarianism is perceived in Korea.
    • I only have experience with the American view on vegetarianism, so it was really interesting to see how it is viewed by some in Korean culture.
  • In-hye’s section of the book.
    • The book is split into three sections that are told from three different viewpoints. One is told from Yeong-hye’s husband, one from Yeong-hye’s brother-in-law and one from Yeong-hye’s sister, In-hye.
    • I enjoyed reading In-hye’s section of the book the most. I actually felt a tinge of emotion when we reached the resolution which was a stark change from the confusion I felt throughout most of the book.
  • This isn’t about the contents of the book, but the cover is pretty gorgeous!

What I didn’t Like:

  • It was confusing. At times I found myself asking, “Why is this happening and how did we get here?”
  • The section narrated by Yeong-hye’s brother-in-law was weird — not in a good way — and made me feel uncomfortable. Sometimes it seemed purposeful, and sometimes it didn’t.
  • The “dream” parts of the book.
    • Yeong-hye decides to become a vegetarian because of a dream she has, and we get paragraphs dispersed throughout the book that piece together the dream for the reader.
    • I can tell what they were going for, but those parts weren’t executed very well. Towards the middle I started just skimming the dream bits.

After thinking about it, I can’t really tell what the author was trying to say with this book. If someone knows, please tell me because I’m lost.

Overall, I’d give The Vegetarian

2.5 Stars!

star-1    star-1    halfstar-1

I received this book from Blogging For Books in exchange for an honest review.

Reading Wrap-Up | February 2016

I managed to read 5 books this month. One was an audio book and one was super short, so I really didn’t read much this month but I did enjoy everything I read! Let’s get into it~

Shelter by Jung Yun

My rating: 4.5/5

Shelter deals with family dynamics over multiple generations. Kyung is Korean-American and his parents are Koreans who immigrated to America. This book was quite a page-turner. I flew through it! The style of writing was right up alley. Everything flowed really well and the prose was nice, but not too flower-y. It was just right. I really liked it.

Full Review

 

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

My rating: 5/5

This book is adapted from Adichie’s TED Talk on Feminism. I really enjoyed it. If I was a book-tabber, I would have tabbed the many great quotes in it. I think it’s a very approachable take on feminism while also being direct and clear, which I appreciated. It’s super short, so I think everyone should give it a read!

 

Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes

My rating: 4/5

I listened to this on audiobook, which I also suggest you do! I think it is much better in audio form. It was very fun to listen to and I personally found Shonda to be really relatable. The only thing I’d say is that I’m not sure if someone who doesn’t know her or her shows would be interested in this book. If you’re a fan, recommend!

Full Review

 

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

My rating: 5/5

This book is really important, especially now with all the horrible police brutality going on. Between the World and Me is written as a letter from Coates to his teenage son about what it means to be a black man in America. While this book is extremely relatable to black people, I think there is much that can be learned from this book by others if they have an open mind. I will definitely be picking up a copy of this one.

 

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

My rating: 4/5

My Brilliant Friend is the story of the friendship of two girls living in Naples in the 1950s. The entire series (4 books) goes from their childhood until they are old women, but in this particular book we get up until they are around 17~18. The story is extremely layered. It’s the kind of story that comes together more and more everytime you read it. I did enjoy it, but I’m not dying to get to the next one. This book isn’t very plot-driven, it’s more about the characters so keep that in mind when deciding whether to read this one!

 

Those are my brief thoughts on all the books I read this month. Have you read any of them? What did you think?