historical fiction

The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

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Title: The Light Between Oceans

Author: M.L. Stedman

Genre: Adult, Historical Fiction

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Summary:

After four harrowing years on the Western Front, Tom Sherbourne returns to Australia and takes a job as the lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, nearly half a day’s journey from the coast. To this isolated island, where the supply boat comes once a season and shore leaves are granted every other year at best, Tom brings a young, bold, and loving wife, Isabel. Years later, after two miscarriages and one stillbirth, the grieving Isabel hears a baby’s cries on the wind. A boat has washed up onshore carrying a dead man and a living baby.

Tom, whose records as a lighthouse keeper are meticulous and whose moral principles have withstood a horrific war, wants to report the man and infant immediately. But Isabel has taken the tiny baby to her breast. Against Tom’s judgment, they claim her as their own and name her Lucy. When she is two, Tom and Isabel return to the mainland and are reminded that there are other people in the world. Their choice has devastated one of them.

M. L. Stedman’s mesmerizing, beautifully written novel seduces us into accommodating Isabel’s decision to keep this “gift from God.” And we are swept into a story about extraordinarily compelling characters seeking to find their North Star in a world where there is no right answer, where justice for one person is another’s tragic loss.

The Light Between Oceans is exquisite and unforgettable, a deeply moving novel.

3.5 stars.

It was a slow start and I almost gave up a few times, but it’s a great story once you get into it.

Tom is the lighthouse keeper on Janus Island. It’s a lonely existence, really. He has only his wife, Isabel, for company. A ship visits them every few months to replenish their supplies, and they only visit the outside world every couple of years.

Tom and Isabel are quite happy on their little island. It would probably be perfect, except Isabel suffers through 3 miscarriages, which takes a toll on them both.

One day, Tom discovers a boat with a dead man in it…and a living infant. Isabel, who has just lost her third child, assumes the child is an orphan, and convinces Tom to pretend the child is theirs, because who would ever know the truth? How could anyone ever find out?

It sounds so simple, really. Until they find out the consequences of keeping the child. Because her real mother, Hannah, is alive and lives in Partageuse–the same town Isabel comes from, the same town they visit every few years when Tom reports for official business.

The emotional turmoil of knowing both the happiness of having a child and the ache of losing one haunts them, particularly Tom. Do you give up something that gives you so much happiness because you know it is the cause of someone else’s suffering? Or do you turn your back on that suffering, because you know how much it will destroy you if you give it up?

The book captures all these conflicting emotions very well. Isabel’s selfishness, Tom’s struggle because he’s always wanted to do what is right, Hannah’s agony of struggling through life without the closure of knowing exactly what happened to her child… I struggled along with them all throughout.

My only complaint is that the alternating usage of verbs (past tense to present and back to past tense again) kinda jarred me throughout the whole book. It bothered me so much I’d lose the feel of the story sometimes, haha. But I really liked the writing and the characters.

The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons

83142Title: The Bronze Horseman

Author: Paullina Simons

Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance, Adult

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Summary:

During the summer of 1941 the Metanov family are living a hard life in Leningrad. As the German armies advance their future looks bleak. For Tatiana, love arrives in the guise of Alexander, who harbours a deadly and extraordinary secret.

The Bronze Horseman was a book I really, really wanted to like. A good friend of mine recommended it to me and sang praises about it, which convinced me to grab a copy as soon as I saw it at a secondhand bookstore.

I suppose the premise itself is interesting enough, although the formula is nothing new: star-crossed lovers in the midst of a war, will they ever get together??

The one thing I appreciated about this book was how it was set in Russia just as World War II was starting. The book encompasses the span of the war and you get to see how people struggled to live during this time. There’s a ton of books set in WWII but most of the books I’ve read are set in the UK or countries occupied by the Nazis, etc. Russia is an interesting setting, considering their Communist government. It’s quite different from other countries.

That being said, I didn’t like much more about the book. I thought it was unnecessarily long, and watching Tatiana and Alexander dance around each other while trying to hide their feelings from being discovered by other people got old fast enough.

I also think, if you took away the historical setting, this would be just another typical romance. Girl meets boy, boy is attached to another (in this case, Tatiana’s sister), they fall in love anyway, they meet in secret, basically it’s all you-and-me-against-the-world stuff. >_<

I thought Tatiana was an annoying heroine, and her development from naive, idiotic girl to Mary Sue loved by all just didn’t amuse me at all. I just don’t understand how anyone can like her. She starts off as a selfish brat, then becomes a martyr who endures all her family’s abuse, then ends up being a Mary Sue who is ~perfect and smart and has everyone falling for her. She’s also a damsel in distress who always has to end up being saved by Alexander or someone else.

Idk

Alexander is a more interesting character, given his ~secret past, but I ended up not liking him either in the long run. Probably because he gives in way too much to Tatiana’s whims, it’s kinda annoying. Oop.

Honestly? I think the one part I thoroughly enjoyed was when Alexander finally couldn’t take it anymore and started yelling at Tatiana for causing all the heartache they had to go through. (Which was totally justified, imo.)

I’d yell myself for wasting my time too, but I’m too busy congratulating myself for actually finishing this long, long book despite the many urges I had to just throw it at the wall.

The book ends in a cliffhanger of sorts (sigh) and I guess I’ll try to read the next book (even though I’m not invested in the characters AT ALL) in the hopes that the sequel is better.

cDkyomW

Please let it be better, book gods.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

9361589Title: The Night Circus

Author: Erin Morgenstern

Genre: Fantasy, Romance, Historical Fiction, Magic

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Summary:

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called “Le Cirque des Reves,” and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.

True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus performers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.

The night circus, Le Cirque des Reves, is beautiful. I’d like to spend days just lying down and imagining it in my head. Better yet, I’d like it if the circus was real and I could spend nights wandering around, discovering all the wonders it has to offer. I’d be one of the reveurs, always following wherever the circus goes.

But as enchanting as the circus is, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed. At the very start, a challenge between two magicians is issued. I waited for this moment, when they would reveal themselves to each other and the competition would commence. The circus tried to distract me, to enchant me with its own magic, but the competition was always in the back of my mind, and I couldn’t help but think, “When is it starting? When will they compete?”

I belatedly realized that it was already underway, I hadn’t even realized it started. It felt so silly, because I had waited and waited only to be told it was already happening. I felt slightly cheated because, although I admire and like the subtlety of the magic weaved through the circus and the story itself, it couldn’t make the disappointment go away. I felt somewhat cheated because the summary promised a “fierce” competition–it didn’t feel fierce at all. How the competition was resolved seemed a bit anti-climatic too because I was expecting too much.

Nevertheless, the circus itself was enough for me to enjoy the book, even though I felt all my waiting for something to happen was wasted. 😄

Mini-review spree: Shine, Trese, The False Prince, and Zombies vs. Unicorns

I’ve already read 5 books so far this year and I’m feeling slightly panicky because  something tells me that if I don’t blog about them soon, my lazy ass is gonna just shrug it off and I’ll ignore them forever…and I don’t really want that to happen. Lol.

So to counter my laziness, I figured I’ll do mini-reviews for each book I’ve devoured so far because I figured that if I attempt to blog about them one by one, they might end up as drafts that never see the light of day. (Ugh, I’m sorry I’m so lazy T_T)

These books deserve recognition. Plus, they’re part of my reading challenges. Yes, challenges with an “s” because I am a masochist who wasn’t content with just one challenge. Guess who’s going to be crying at the end of the year as she struggles to complete them all. 😄

The first challenge is the one I posted here, and the second one is a personal goal I decided on not so long ago: read 20 books by Filipino authors this year. I really, definitely need (and want) to be more aware and discover the gems of my own country’s literature.

Anyway, TL;DR: here are the reviews (which are short and probably don’t make much sense because I scribbled them down during lunch, hah)!

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The House At Riverton by Kate Morton

The House At RivertonTitle: The House At Riverton

Author: Kate Morton

Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

From Goodreads:

Summer 1924

On the eve of a glittering society party, by the lake of a grand English country house, a young poet takes his life. The only witnesses, sisters Hannah and Emmeline Hartford, will never speak to each other again.

Winter 1999

Grace Bradley, ninety-eight, one-time housemaid of Riverton Manor, is visited by a young director making a film about the poet’s suicide. Ghosts awaken and old memories – long consigned to the dark reaches of Grace’s mind – begin to sneak back through the cracks. A shocking secret threatens to emerge, something history has forgotten but Grace never could.

Set as the war-shattered Edwardian summer surrenders to the decadent twenties, The House at Riverton is a thrilling mystery and a compelling love story.

If I could sum up this book in one gif, it would be this:

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I carried this book around for several weeks and complained a lot because it was so thick and heavy and took me forever to finish. But I REGRET NOTHING. NOTHIIIIING.

Reading this book was like going on a long, long car trip to your favorite place in the world. At first you’re so excited that you kinda ignore everything else and irritably wish you could just get to your destination already, because you know how fulfilled you’ll be when you finally get over this arduous trip.

Towards the middle, you start to get interested in the sights and scenes you’re passing by. Curiosities pop up and hold your attention, and you slightly forget about your destination. Something on the road holds your interest more at the moment.

Eventually, the things you pass by seem familiar, and you recognize that these are all signs that point out you’re getting closer and closer to the end of your journey, and this fills you with so much anticipation because finally, you’re so close..but at the same time you dread the end because the trip wasn’t as arduous as it had seemed at first, and now you’re reluctant to let go of the things that held your interest on your way here.

When you finally get to your destination, your favorite place in the world, you’re elated because the trip was so worth it, no matter how long it took and what you had to go through to get here. Yet, at the same time, you glance wistfully down the road you just traveled on, because while there were times when it was tiring and things seemed to move quite slowly, the journey was just as great as getting to the end of it.