Audiobook Review, Historical Fiction, Romance

Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton

Next Year in HavanaNext Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Havana, oh-na-na! Half of my heart is in Havana, oh-na-na.

Ok, I’ll stop.

But seriously, this book oozed Cuba! I could see the colorful building and old antique cars. But, I could also feel the heartbreak and struggle of the Cuban people at the hands of an oppressive government.

This book is about the past and the present. It’s 1958 and Elisa Perez, the daughter of a sugar baron, lives the life of a debutante. Her family has money and her father’s business is supported by Batista, the US-backed Cuban president who suspended the 1940 Constitution and turned the country into anything but a democracy. When Elisa falls in love with Pablo, a Castro supporter and rebel, her life is about to get very complicated. Meanwhile, Miami 2017. Elisa Perez passes away and her granddaughter, Marisol, is tasked with spreading her ashes in Cuba. It will be Marisol’s first trip to Cuba, the land of her ancestors and her heritage. But, will she dig up some skeletons from the past?

First of all, I feel like I didn’t get a thorough history lesson in Cuba and the Cold War in high school. This book was pretty eye opening. For a fictional book, I learned a ton about Fidel Castro’s rise to power, and the promises that were made the Cuban people that never materialized. Let me tell you something, if there is ever a time when you’re questioning your life in America, you need to read this book. The worst day in America sounds better than the best day in Cuba. Freedom is something that we take for granted.

Chanel Cleeton’s writing was beautiful. I loved the character development. I felt a connection to both the people and the place. There was good tension throughout the book that kept me engaged and wanting to know more. In fact, I can’t wait for the sequel, When We Left Cuba, which is expected to be out in April 2019.

It should also be mentioned that this book was one of Reese Witherspoon’s book club picks, which are always fantastic.

Finally, this audiobook was done extremely well. Loved the multiple narrators that were part of the story. They had a little hint of a Cuban accent that just took me there. Loved it.

Can’t recommend this book enough. I think it’s such an important piece of history to understand that isn’t talked about enough.

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Audiobook Review, Historical Fiction

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Salt to the SeaSalt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If you’re looking for your next great WWII historical fiction, here it is. This book was recommended to me by a friend based on how much I loved Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale and it did not disappoint.

I honestly don’t want to give away what this book is about because it will completely ruin the ending, but suffice it to say that there is a piece of WWII history that I’m guaranteeing most people have never heard which is represented by this book. Told through the perspectives of four fictional characters, this book is based on true events.

I loved the ultra-short chapters because it made for an extremely quick listen. And from an audiobook perspective, having each of the four characters portrayed by a different narrator made the experience feel more authentic and real.

I don’t pretend to be a WWII history buff, and this book definitely had elements which I found somewhat confusing just because I didn’t have the appropriate background knowledge. There was a lot of discussion of various countries and their ties to the war (Lithuania, Poland, Prussia, Yugoslavia, etc.) and prior to this book I didn’t have a good knowledge of how the people of those countries were affected. But, the author did a good job of explaining enough that I could follow. (Also, there is an Author’s Note at the end that helps clear some things up so just stick around for that).

Overall, the characters were done very well. I felt a connection with each of them and understood the motivation behind their actions. I found myself rooting for (most of) them along the way.

If you’re looking for a good historical fiction that is on the shorter side and isn’t too bogged down with historical detail, this is a superb read. Highly recommended.

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Historical Fiction, Mystery, Romance

The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton

The Clockmaker's DaughterThe Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was my first time reading a book by Kate Morton. My Lord is her writing good. Her vocabulary alone astonished me and the eloquence with which she strings thoughts together was impeccable.

One quick note before I review the content of the book. That cover! It’s stunning and I have no doubt it will be an eye catcher. In fact, it’s what struck my fancy when I was browsing through NetGalley looking for my next great read.

This book is hard to describe as it’s so complex, with layers upon layers. But essentially it is the story of how people are interconnected in both place and time. The story spans over a century from 1862 to 2017, with multiple “mini-stories” that weave their way into one. There is a “mystery” element but I didn’t feel that the mystery was what carried the book. Honestly, I would say the romantic elements were stronger and the mystery was a subplot.

I enjoyed each character’s individual journey and felt that all the characters stood on their own with appropriate complexity and differentiation. There were times when the story bounced back and forth through time that I found myself forgetting who somebody was or how they were connected to the overall story, but after a quick refresher I was able to right myself. I will say that it was probably 100 pages too long and could have benefited from some significant editing. Because of it’s length, it did take me a bit longer to read than normal which didn’t help my memory and retention with regards to the story.

This book truly does transport you to another place and time entirely. I felt as if I was sitting in the garden outside Birchwood Manor enjoying a summer day with the river babbling and butterflies floating amidst the breeze. Kate Morton has a true talent

Lastly, I will say the chapter formatting was unique and clever. The story told by the Clockmaker’s Daughter was numbered in Roman numerals I through XII, a nod to the overall theme of time engrained in this book, while the stories told from the other characters were simply numerical in nature. Chapter XII concluded the book like a clock striking midnight.

-This book was gifted to me in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to NetGalley, Kate Morton, and Atria Books for the opportunity to review.-

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Audiobook Review, General Fiction (Adult), Historical Fiction

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

The Great AloneThe Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

All right, ladies and gentlemen! I think I have officially discovered my new favorite author! I thought it could be true after reading The Nightingale recently, and it has been confirmed with the conclusion of The Great Alone.

Kristin Hannah… That gal can write! Everything she writes is extremely real, complex, multi-faceted and layered. She captures the essence of her characters so perfectly and tells fictional stories that in no way feel like fiction. I feel like her characters could leap off the page at any moment.

I waited literally MONTHS to get to the top of the wait list at my local library for this audiobook and I’m so happy I finally got to experience this gem.

The Great Alone is a story about a young girl who is whisked to Alaska by her PTSD-stricken Vietnam-veteran father and her dutiful, complacent mother to live in the wilderness and survive off the land. What follows is a beautiful story of resilience in the face of hardship, friendships, love, survival, and conquering strength. It is absolutely beautiful.

It reminded me slightly of the movie Legends of the Fall. Although the story was in no way similar, it just had that heartbreaking yet satisfying storytelling that sucked me right in. I listened to this one on audiobook and I would highly recommend it. I was so engrossed that I spent 5 hours one day walking around my house with headphones on because I didn’t want it to stop.

Anybody who has not read Kristin Hannah really needs to. She is a true artist and utterly magnificent author. I cannot wait to read more of her previous work.

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Audiobook Review, Historical Fiction

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

The NightingaleThe Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

*Ugly cryinggggg*

Okay guys. I’m about to make a bold statement here. This is my favorite book of 2018 (so far). It is magnificent. It is heartbreaking but speaks to the power and strength women had through WWII. What a story Kristin Hannah created!

The book is about two sisters living in German-occupied France during World War II. Isabelle is rebellious, strong-willed, and insists on helping the Nazi resistance. Vienne is the rule follower and tries to stay in line for the sake of protecting her daughter. The book follows their journey from the start of the war through to the end, the two very different paths to survival they find themselves on, and ultimately how they find peace and love amidst miserable conditions.

From the first chapter, I was captured. The audiobook was 17+ hours and despite being long, I didn’t want it to end. The narrator was one of the most spectacular I’ve ever heard. Her use of French, German, and American accents transported me right into the story. I honestly felt like I was listening to a movie rather than an audiobook which is something that is not easy to do.

Speaking of movies, I thought through the whole thing how wonderful it would be for this book to be produced for the big screen. And imagine my delight when I found that a movie rendition is expected in January! I cannot wait to see it!

I seriously could not recommend this book more. It is so important to remember our history, particularly some of the most horrific and dark times in recent centuries. This book demonstrates vividly some of the most disgusting and horrific things that were done by human beings to other human beings all at the hands of hate and evil. And those stories are so important to tell (even if fictitious) so we don’t relive the mistakes of our past.

I’ve been raving to friends and family and telling them they have to read it, and I will keep raving about it for some time. It’s truly unforgettable!

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