Tag Archive | hardship

review: The Winter Sea

The Winter Sea -by- Susanna Kearsley
(Published by Sourcebooks Landmark) 

My grade: 4 stars

GoodReads Blurb:  History has all but forgotten…

In the spring of 1708, an invading Jacobite fleet of French and Scottish soldiers nearly succeeded in landing the exiled James Stewart in Scotland to reclaim his crown.

Now, Carrie McClelland hopes to turn that story into her next bestselling novel.

***

THIS BOOK HAS A LOT OF MY FAVOURITE INGREDIENTS: Scottish history mixed with the present day and it is told from first person’s pov. At least part of it. The author has done her research very, very thoroughly and I could definitely see very clearly all the details from both the past and the present day surroundings.

Carrie is a successful author. She is Canadian of Scottish/Irish heritage currently residing in France and writing a book set in the time of the first Jacobite uprising in 1708. But she has writer’s block.
During a visit to her agent in the north of Scotland (she is the godmother of her agent’s baby boy), she gets fascinated by the castle of Slains, is drawn to it so much that she nearly gets lost and misses the christening. She meets a man who – despite it being a very quick meeting where he points her in the right direction – makes a lasting impression on her.

She gets inspired to continue writing in Scotland, packs up her stuff in France and rents a little cottage near the castle of Slains.
While she is writing her book, featuring her ancestor Sophia, she discovers that she has inherited – there is no other explanation – Sophias memories. And Sophia’s story and her part in the failed expedition in 1708 unfolds while in present day Carrie meets the the sons of her landlord who both take an interest in her.

I found the switching back and forth in time a bit irritating – just as I was getting involved in Sophia’s life we switch back to Carrie and so forth. Sophia’s episodes gets longer and longer, though.
She is a bit pale and quiet in the beginning and we find out why this is so. But she grows and fills out and becomes more and more interesting. Carrie, however, I can’t get a grip on. Maybe I missed something (I read too quickly at times), but I cannot tell you what she looks like. Unfortunately (for me) she started looking a bit like Diana Bishop from “A Discovery of Witches” in my head. I guess I felt that they were equally disinterested in their looks and clothes.

If you are into history and liked Outlander, this is a book for you. Be prepared to miss out on the detailed sex, however, you have to use your own imagination!.

(read in April 2011)

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review: Angelfall

Angelfall (Penryn & the End of Days #1) -by- Susan Ee
(Published by Ace) 

My grade: 5 stars

GoodReads Blurb:  It’s been six weeks since angels of the apocalypse descended to demolish the modern world. Street gangs rule the day while fear and superstition rule the night. When warrior angels fly away with a helpless little girl, her seventeen-year-old sister Penryn will do anything to get her back.
Anything, including making a deal with an enemy angel. 

ABSOLUTELY RIVETING READ, I lay awake until 03.15 in the morning to finish this one. It was worth it.

In northern California, Silicon Valley, we find Penryn and her family; her wheelchair bound younger sister and her schizophrenic mother, as they are leaving their flat where they have camped out following the attacks on earth by angels not long previously. Hardly any modern conveniences work – electricity and hot water are sporadic, cars are abandoned in big pile-ups on the streets; shops are looted, and gangs roam the neighbourhoods.  Penryn, who is basically the head of the family, has decided that they stand a better chance at surviving if they try and make it into  the forested hills. However, it is hard to be sneaky when your sister is in a wheelchair, and your mother is pulling a shopping trolley that she refuses to part with.

Why did the angels attack? We are not sure. A lot of the background details as well as Penryn’s personal history is revealed as the story unfolds. No infodumping here, it all feels natural in Penryn’s strong and clear voice. I have so much admiration for her, as she soldiers on during really tough circumstances. She doesn’t pretend that she is a hero, or that she wants to save the world. Her interest is keeping her family -such as it is- together and safe. She does not come across as bitter, but matter-of-factly states the things she has missed out on:

 “I am, of course, rooting for the humans. But I already have more responsibilities than I can handle. I just want be an ordinary girl living an ordinary life. My biggest concern in life should be what dress to wear to the prom, not how to escape a paramilitary camp to rescue my sister from cruel angels, and certainly not joining a resistance army to beat back an invasion to save humanity. I know my limits and that goes way beyond them.”

This book is not about sweet angels. They are as cruel and twisted and selfish and ambitious as us humans can be. There are also  some pretty gruesome scenes, they brought to my mind the sometimes extremely graphic details of the horrors that Kate Daniels comes face-to-face with in Ilona Andrews’s books. These scenes give the book a depth I often miss in YA where the challenges facing the main character are not believably difficult for me. There are no invincible warriors here (though the angels are certainly made of stern stuff and are able to heal much faster than a human) and no one – not even the angels – has the answers to everything.

So Penryn’s little sister has been kidnapped, and she keeps moving, determined to get to the angel head camp in San Francisco. On the way, she is detained with a group of people organizing a  resistance against the angel occupation. This book is filled with wry and sometimes dark humour and in this camp, she comes across a pair of twin brothers, who illustrate this:

I’m Tweedledee,” says one.
“I’m Tweedledum,” says the other. “Most people call us Dee-Dum for short since they can’t tell us apart.”
“Why would you call yourselves that?”
Dee shrugs. “New world, new names. We were going to be Gog and Magog”
“Those were our online names,” says Dum.
“But why go all doom and gloom?” asks Dee.
“Used to be fun being Gog and Magog when the world was Tiffany-twisted and suburban-simple,” says Dum. “But now…”
“Not so much,” says Dee.
“Death and destruction are so blasé.”

“So mainstream.”

This journey that she has undertaken, with her crazy mother hovering nearby (leaving clues to let Penryn know), is done in the company of the angel Raffe. Penryn realizes reluctantly that she needs to try and save him so that he can tell her how to get her sister back. Their attitude to each other is suspicious at first, but a mutual respect develops during the course of their travels.

If you are looking for a fast-paced, dark and sinister but yet funny and extremely entertaining “angel dystopia”, Angelfall is definitely for you. Sturdier than Divergent and funnier that The Hunger Games. It is one of my favourite reads of 2011.

(read in December 2011)

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(currently only available from Amazon and Kobo)