Audiobook Review, Historical Fiction

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

A Thousand Splendid SunsA Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is utterly life changing and I’m:

1. Sad that it took me so long to read it, and;
2. Pleasantly surprised that it was written by a man.

In one of the book-oriented groups I participate in on Facebook, somebody asked if her teenage daughter should read The Nightingale or A Thousand Splendid Suns for one of their high school classes. As The Nightingale is my favorite book of all time and I had never read A Thousand Splendid Suns, I was quick to recommend the former. But after reading the recommendations of others, several people remarked that young adults are provided with a plethora of information about WWII, but rarely are they given an in depth look at the struggles in the Middle East. I thought that was an excellent point, and decided to read the book for myself to learn more.

Wow, was I pleasantly surprised. This book really details the struggles of the Afghani people over the 3 decades leaving up to the tragedy on September 11th, 2001. How the Soviet Union played a role in shaping the country. How the Taliban slowly took power and wreaked havoc on the people of Afghanistan. And mostly, how the women of the country were affected. This is probably my favorite part of the book… the deep dive into how women endured and survived through horrific oppression and abuse. And I could not believe that it was written by a man. Incredibly impressive writing from Khaled Hosseini.

The story tells of a young woman who was born out of wedlock and is therefore not claimed by her father. At the age of 15, a marriage is arranged with a much older man named Rasheed who is horrendously abusive and she is shipped off to the city of Kabul. Meanwhile, a baby girl is born down the street. 14 years later, as the fighting escalates in Kabul, the baby-girl-turned-young-woman also finds herself the victim of Rasheed’s tyranny. The story revolves around the two women, their relationship, and how they withstood their awful circumstances in Afghanistan.

This book really gave me a glimpse into how lucky I am to have been born in America. It gives me an incredible respect for people who live in countries that must endure oppressive governments, horrific violence and abuse, and years of injustice. I think those who commented on the Facebook post that prompted me to read this book were absolutely right; this is an important book for young adults to read and understand. Although I must warn that there are significant potential triggers in the book including: rape, domestic violence, abuse, etc.

I know I’m late to the party on this one, but if you haven’t already read it, I would highly recommend it. It’s absolutely eye opening.

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General Fiction (Adult), Historical Fiction

Bethlehem by Karen Kelly

BethlehemBethlehem by Karen Kelly

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Out July 9th! Pre-order from Amazon here!

Bravo to my fellow Vanderbilt graduate, Karen Kelly, on a beautifully written novel!

This one is a sweeping family drama that takes place over several generations. In this way, it reminded me of Kate Morton’s The Clockmaker’s Daughter or Sarah Blake’s The Guest Book, both of which I adored. So I’m happy to be able to add Bethlehem to these incredible titles.

A woman and her family move into her husband’s family home to watch over his mother and grandmother after his father passes away. And family secrets will be revealed as the past is uncovered. I’m hesitant to give any more of a synopsis because you need to read this one for yourself to appreciate Karen Kelly’s storytelling.

The one thing that was a tad difficult for me was getting all of the names and relationships straight for the first 20% or so of the book. But, there is a really nice family tree drawn in the front of the book that helped me get everything straight. Once I had a handle on the family relationships and dynamics, it was smooth sailing the rest of the book.

I would highly recommend if you tend to like sweeping family dramas!

-I received an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to NetGalley, Karen Kelly, and St. Martin’s Press for the opportunity to review.-

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Historical Fiction

The Long Flight Home by Alan Hlad

The Long Flight HomeThe Long Flight Home by Alan Hlad

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Out June 25th! Pre-order from Amazon here!

One of my favorite things about historical fiction is that virtually every time I read something in the genre, I learn something new. Alan Hlad’s The Long Flight Home is no exception. I was fascinated to learn that during WWII, the British dropped 200,000 homing pigeons into Nazi-occupied France in an attempt to get intelligence back to Britain from behind enemy lines. Although this story is fiction, I loved Hlad’s use of historical elements to enhance the fictional story line.

Ollie is an American who lives a (for lack of a better word) pitiful life. His parents passed away. He was robbed. He has no assets to his name. But as a pilot dusting crops on his father’s farm, he feels he can contribute to the fight in Britain. America hasn’t entered the war yet (we’re in the late 1930’s) so he travels overseas to lend a hand. But rather than flying, he ends up working with the National Pigeon Service, a less than glamorous assignment. That is until he meets the beautiful pigeon trainer, Susan.

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I just adored the characters in this book. I cannot imagine the horrific things the British people enduring during The Blitz. Relentless bombing. Countless civilian casualties. Unbelievable destruction. The resilience displayed in this book was heartwarming.

Hlad was also able to built quite a bit of suspense throughout the novel. Several of the characters found themselves in challenging situations that kept me flipping page after page. I couldn’t wait to discover the outcome for our protagonists.

Overall, I adored this book. It was wonderful to learn yet another little morsel about WWII that I hadn’t yet. And to be told in such a beautiful way. Bravo to Alan Hlad. You’ve got a new fan in me.

I won an advanced copy of this book. All opinions are my own. Thank you to Alan Hlad and Kensington Publishing for hosting the giveaway.

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Audiobook Review, Historical Fiction

The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer

The Things We Cannot SayThe Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I can’t even express how much I loved this book. I had seen the cover around and had heard good things here and there but I was caught off guard by how special the story turned out to be. It was completely unexpected.

The Things We Cannot Say is told in two parts, past and present. The present portion is the story of a young woman named Alice and her babcia (Polish for grandmother). This reference was particularly special for me because I’m Polish and I called my great grandmother Babcia. When Alice’s babcia suffers a debilitating stroke, she tries to communicate secrets of her past before her life comes to an end but is unable to put her thoughts into words. Alice finds herself on a journey of discovering family secrets in an attempt to decipher her babcia’s thoughts. The portion of the story told in the past is about a young girl named Alina who is trapped in Nazi-occupied Poland trying to survive along with her young love Tomasz. But their lives will take a turn they never imagined as was the case of many of those who lived through the horrors of WWII.

This book gave me all the same feels as Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale which is quite a compliment given that The Nightingale is my favorite book of all time. I also felt like the family drama (particularly in the present timeline) was reminiscent of Chanel Cleeton’s Next Year in Havana. With those powerhouse authors and books as comparison, I would consider this book quite impactful.

Kelly Rimmer has a way of creating connection between reader and character. I adored Alina and Tomasz and was rooting for them from the start. The daily struggles of Alice’s life set in the present timeline were completely relatable and I could understand where her character was coming from in her choices and thoughts. I must also say that I was impressed by how Kelly Rimmer was able to distinguish the two story lines in terms of her writing style. The writing of the past felt vintage. The writing of the present felt modern.

This one was expertly crafted. If you loved The Nightingale or Next Year in Havana, I have a feeling this one will not let you down. It comes highly recommended and I don’t think it will be leaving me any time soon.

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General Fiction (Adult), Historical Fiction

Montauk by Nicola Harrison

MontaukMontauk by Nicola Harrison

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Out June 4th! Pre-order from Amazon here!

The thing that drew me to this book was its cover! Admittedly, I am one of those judge-a-book-by-its-cover people. But the bright blue accents against the muted gray background caught my eye immediately.

Montauk is set in 1938. Beatrice and Harry are a married couple living in New York City. Harry is working his way up the business ladder and Beatrice is expected to be the trophy wife on his arm, keeping up appearances at social events. But behind closed doors, their marriage is anything but perfect. When all of the social elite descend on the tiny town of Montauk for the summer, the men will travel back to the city during the week to work while the women plan and engage in social events, waiting for the men to return every weekend. But Beatrice quickly learns that she finds herself more comfortable in the company of the Montauk locals than in her fancy social circles.

I adored this story. Nicola Harrison wrote a story that was extremely captivating. I fell in love with Beatrice right away and was rooting for her from start to finish. I felt like the story was completely authentic and the characters could have leaped off the pages.

At around 400 pages, this book was on the longer side. And let me tell you…. I’m not usually a fan of long books. But that’s because I feel like sometimes they are just long for the sake of being long even if the book would have been just as good if it were 100 pages shorter. Montauk is the exception. All 400 pages contributed to the overall story and added value. I adored how the story unfolded.

I was a tad surprised by the ending. It wasn’t what I was expecting and seemed a little rushed for how long the rest of the story was, but I appreciated that Nicola Harrison gave the reader an ending that wasn’t predictable.

I would highly recommend this one to anybody who enjoys historical fiction or is a fan of women’s fiction. It’s kind of a mixture of the two. I’m honestly a little sad it is over.

-I received an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to NetGalley, Nicola Harrison, and St. Martin’s Press for the opportunity to review.-

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