Published by Philomel (2.2.2016)
Genres: Young Adult, Historical Fiction
Format: Audiobook, 391 pages
Length: 8 hours, 47 minutes
Narrator: Jorjeana Marie, Will Damron, Cassandra Morris, Michael Crouch
While the Titanic and Lusitania are both well-documented disasters, the single greatest tragedy in maritime history is the little-known January 30, 1945 sinking in the Baltic Sea by a Soviet submarine of the Wilhelm Gustloff, a German cruise liner that was supposed to ferry wartime personnel and refugees to safety from the advancing Red Army. The ship was overcrowded with more than 10,500 passengers — the intended capacity was approximately 1,800 — and more than 9,000 people, including 5,000 children, lost their lives.
Sepetys (writer of 'Between Shades of Gray') crafts four fictionalized but historically accurate voices to convey the real-life tragedy. Joana, a Lithuanian with nursing experience; Florian, a Prussian soldier fleeing the Nazis with stolen treasure; and Emilia, a Polish girl close to the end of her pregnancy, converge on their escape journeys as Russian troops advance; each will eventually meet Albert, a Nazi peon with delusions of grandeur, assigned to the Gustloff decks.
This is not typically something I would actively choose to pick up, as I am not a big fan of Historical Fiction; but the reviews are so good and everyone raves about it, so I thought I’d give it a try.
I wanted so badly to love this one like everyone else did. However, despite the heartbreaking content of this book, the emotion was just not there for me. And it absolutely should have been. I found the writing and characters to be rather bland and didn’t care for Sepetys’ writing style. Which resulted in me being bored for most of this novel. Another thing I didn’t care for was the multiple points of view – sometimes it works for me, sometimes it doesn’t; and unfortunately this is one that didn’t. It jumps around between characters a lot, and despite having different narrators for each person, I had trouble differentiating them from one another because they all felt the same. I also felt like I never spent enough time with each character to forge much of an emotional attachment to them, which in turn means that I forged zero connection the story as a whole. My feelings while reading this were mostly boredom and detachment, which is quite bad for such an important subject.
Writing style: 3/5
Overall rating: 2.5/5
Published by Feiwel and Friends (1.10.2023)
Genres: Young Adult, Magical Realism, Contemporary Fantasy
Format: Audiobook, 304 pages
Length: 3 hours, 45 minutes
Narrator: Amber McBride
Whimsy is back in the hospital for treatment of clinical depression. When she meets a boy named Faerry, she recognizes they both have magic in the marrow of their bones. And when Faerry and his family move to the same street, the two start to realize that their lifelines may have twined and untwined many times before.
They are both terrified of the forest at the end of Marsh Creek Lane.
The Forest whispers to Whimsy. The Forest might hold the answers to the part of Faerry he feels is missing. They discover the Forest holds monsters, fairy tales, and pain that they have both been running from for 11 years.
This is labeled as poetry, but as I was listening instead of physically reading I may have missed out on the format. What I wasn’t expecting was for it to be Magical Realism, which is not really my cup of tea. I was still recovering from a pretty heavy depression when I picked this up, so I was expecting to hit a lot harder than it did. Like I said above, Magical Realism is not my thing, and this one was whimsical to the point of being weird at times (like most Magical Realism). I found the abstract story and flowery writing to be distracting from whatever deep message the author was trying to portray.
I also feel like this book was very ambitious about being a fantasy, but didn’t quite make it. The fantasy side of the book wasn’t fleshed out enough to really make sense (which of course can be waved away by Magical Realism because it’s not supposed to make sense).
I guess overall I just wanted more from this book.
Writing style: 2.5/5
Overall rating: 2/5
Published by Simon & Schuster (9.8.2020)
Genres: Adult, Contemporary
Format: Audiobook, 336 pages
Length: 9 hours, 53 minutes
Narrator: Marin Ireland
Viewing an apartment normally doesn’t turn into a life-or-death situation, but this particular open house becomes just that when a failed bank robber bursts in and takes everyone in the apartment hostage. As the pressure mounts, the eight strangers begin slowly opening up to one another and reveal long-hidden truths.
First is Zara, a wealthy bank director who has been too busy to care about anyone else until tragedy changed her life. Now, she’s obsessed with visiting open houses to see how ordinary people live—and, perhaps, to set an old wrong to right. Then there’s Roger and Anna-Lena, an Ikea-addicted retired couple who are on a never-ending hunt for fixer-uppers to hide the fact that they don’t know how to fix their own failing marriage. Julia and Ro are a young lesbian couple and soon-to-be parents who are nervous about their chances for a successful life together since they can’t agree on anything. And there’s Estelle, an eighty-year-old woman who has lived long enough to be unimpressed by a masked bank robber waving a gun in her face. And despite the story she tells them all, Estelle hasn’t really come to the apartment to view it for her daughter, and her husband really isn’t outside parking the car.
As police surround the premises and television channels broadcast the hostage situation live, the tension mounts and even deeper secrets are slowly revealed. Before long, the robber must decide which is the more terrifying prospect: going out to face the police, or staying in the apartment with this group of impossible people.
I loved A Man Called Ove, so maybe my expectations were a bit too high going in, but this one fell short for me. It wasn’t bad, and I enjoyed it while I was reading it, but it just didn’t have the impact that A Man Called Ove did. I liked the message – sometimes good people do bad things out of desperation, or out of circumstance; it doesn’t mean they’re a bad person. People are complicated and make mistakes.
But, that’s about all I got out of this novel. It started out pretty rough, because the narration is rather obnoxious and the characters were extra annoying the way they were narrated. It did get better as it went along, but I never really connected to the characters the way I should have.
Writing style: 3.5/5
Overall rating: 3/5