BOOK REVIEW: Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

32148570Title: Before We Were Yours

Author: Lisa Wingate

Book Length (Audiobook): 14 hours 34 mins

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction

Read Start Date: March 5, 2019

Read Finish Date: March 27, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: “Memphis, 1939. Twelve-year-old Rill Foss and her four younger siblings live a magical life aboard their family’s Mississippi River shantyboat. But when their father must rush their mother to the hospital one stormy night, Rill is left in charge—until strangers arrive in force. Wrenched from all that is familiar and thrown into a Tennessee Children’s Home Society orphanage, the Foss children are assured that they will soon be returned to their parents—but they quickly realize the dark truth. At the mercy of the facility’s cruel director, Rill fights to keep her sisters and brother together in a world of danger and uncertainty.

Aiken, South Carolina, present day. Born into wealth and privilege, Avery Stafford seems to have it all: a successful career as a federal prosecutor, a handsome fiancé, and a lavish wedding on the horizon. But when Avery returns home to help her father weather a health crisis, a chance encounter leaves her with uncomfortable questions and compels her to take a journey through her family’s long-hidden history, on a path that will ultimately lead either to devastation or to redemption.”

My Review: Before I read this book, I had no idea that it was based upon a true story – the afterward gives a short summary of the real life events. Georgia Tann, was a real person in the early 1900s, who more or less stole children from poor people and gave them up for adoption to rich people. At the time she was heralded as the savior of children, but it eventually came out that these children where essentially kidnapped, and often were mistreated and abused (sometimes sexually) in the orphanages.

I was really surprised that something like that could happen in America, and at times I felt myself overwhelmed with emotion. It reminded me also of all those stories that recently came to light of the orphanages in the UK, where many children were mistreated, and sometimes died, only to be buried in mass graves. Children are supposed to be protected, not bought and sold like commodities.

Even though the book jumped back and forth between the past and the present (the two perspectives of Rill and Avery), it was done in a brilliant way, which made me yearn to keep turning the pages to find out what was going to happen next. The characters were great — I really liked the perseverance and strength of little Rill, and the dedication of Avery to find out the mystery behind her family. There was even a little romance thrown in to the story line, which supported, rather than detracted from, the story.

I read this book as an audiobook that I rented from the library. About 2/3 of the way through the book, my loan expired and I had to wait a few weeks to get it again. It.was.torture.

Don’t do this to yourself. If you read this book (which I totally think you should), make sure that you have enough consecutive time to do so because you will not want to put it down.

 

 

BOOK REVIEW: The Madman’s Daughter by Megan Shepherd

12291438Title: The Madman’s Daughter

Author: Megan Shepherd

Book Length (Audiobook): 12 hours 50 mins

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Historical Fiction, Fiction, Horror, Fantasy, Mystery, Young Adult

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads : Sixteen-year-old Juliet Moreau has built a life for herself in London—working as a maid, attending church on Sundays, and trying not to think about the scandal that ruined her life. After all, no one ever proved the rumors about her father’s gruesome experiments. But when she learns he is alive and continuing his work on a remote tropical island, she is determined to find out if the accusations are true.

Accompanied by her father’s handsome young assistant, Montgomery, and an enigmatic castaway, Edward—both of whom she is deeply drawn to—Juliet travels to the island, only to discover the depths of her father’s madness: He has experimented on animals so that they resemble, speak, and behave as humans. And worse, one of the creatures has turned violent and is killing the island’s inhabitants. Torn between horror and scientific curiosity, Juliet knows she must end her father’s dangerous experiments and escape her jungle prison before it’s too late. Yet as the island falls into chaos, she discovers the extent of her father’s genius—and madness—in her own blood.

Inspired by H. G. Wells’s classic The Island of Dr. MoreauThe Madman’s Daughter is a dark and breathless Gothic thriller about the secrets we’ll do anything to know and the truths we’ll go to any lengths to protect.

My Review: After a horrifying scene in London, where Juliet walks in on some medical students performing vivisection of a live white rabbit, Juliet discovers that her father was in fact alive (although presumed dead for many years). The author describes the scene with the rabbit so vividly that it left me queasy for days. I still shudder when I think of the rabbit’s screaming. I know it is imaginary, but things like that really hit me hard. I cannot stand to think of animals suffering, even fake ones.

Similarly, that Dr. Moreau performed his operations on his creatures without any pain killers or anesthesia is just terrible, unthinkable even. I wanted to cry just thinking of the pain inflicted on these poor animals. What a sick and twisted character. What makes me more upset is thinking that maybe in real life back in those days scientists really did perform these types of “surgeries” on animals. Animal cruelty is just so not okay. I was bothered that no one tried to stop Dr. Moreau. Why didn’t Juliet or Montgomery just kill him? I felt like maybe they were a little brainwashed, or maybe this was supposed to be an indication that they had “morals”? That they were not killers like the mad doctor. I don’t think that I could have stood by and let that go on.

I read some reviews which pooh-poohed the love triangle between Juliet, Montgomery, and Edward, but I didn’t feel the same. I didn’t find it sappy, or unbelievable. Montgomery was Juliet’s childhood friend (even though he was their servant’s son), and as an adult her childhood affections had turned romantic. She had conflicting emotions, however, because he was helping Dr. Moreau torture animals to make his “creations”. With respect to Edward, there was something in him that Juliet was physically drawn to despite her mental reservations about it, although we don’t really find out what that physical draw was until the surprise ending.

The writing was very good, and the story was suspenseful. Although I liked this book, it left me unsettled — the same feeling I came away with after reading H. G. Wells’s The Island of Dr. Moreau. I cannot fathom why this book would be classified as “young adult”. I wouldn’t say this book was “scary”, but it certainly was very disturbing, and I think that the story will stay with me for a while.

 

BOOK REVIEW: The Daughter’s of Salem by Thomas Gilbert

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Title: The Daughter’s of Salem

Author: Thomas Gilbert

Book Length: 106 pages

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Graphic Novel

LinkGoodreads

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Colonial Massachusetts, early 1690’s. When a young girl in a Puritan town rejects a farmer boy’s gift and instead slips out into the forest to dance with a young man from the Abenaki tribe, it sets off a chain of events resulting in one of the worst cases of mass hysteria in U.S. history, as neighbor turns against neighbor and friends accuse friends of the most terrible things. A fictional re-imagining of the Salem Witch Trials, in which gender politics, religion, xenophobia, innocent games of fortune-telling, and one man’s sinful indiscretion are all factors that lead to the deadly witch hunt.

My review has major spoilers, so read on with caution.

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The Story of Us by Lana Kortchik

The Story of Us is a book about Nazi Germany’s occupation of the Ukraine city of Kiev.  “The only thing Natasha Smirnova knew for a fact on the 19th of September 1941 when Hitler invaded Kiev was that life as she knew it was over.”

The Story of Us: The sweeping historical debut of 2018 that you will never forget

Within a short period since the arrival of Hitler’s troops, Natasha was assaulted by a German officer, and her grandmother was shot in an attempt to save Natasha.  The would-be rapist soldier was killed by another solider, Mark, who was conscripted into the army in his native country of Hungary.  He helped Natasha bring her wounded grandmother home, and although he was the enemy, Natasha could not help but to find him attractive.So, when she runs into him again on the street, she strikes up a conversation with him, only to find that he may not be the enemy after all.  His philosophy was that “the issue is that [the Hungarians] are unwilling participants in a capitalist war none of [them] can identify with.  That [they] are dying for a principle [they] do not believe in.”  Hitler’s war is not Mark’s war.

Natasha and Mark start seeing each other on a regular basis, and she finds herself falling in love with him. Seeing each other in secret, they know the dangers of discovery, but are like moths to the flame.

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Paper Wife: A Novel by Laila Ibrahim

In 1923, Mei Ling’s older sister falls gravely ill a few days before her arranged marriage to a man she has never met.  Mei Ling is forced to take her’s sister place.  Leaving her family in China, Mei Ling travels to America.  In order to enter the country, Mei Ling must assume the identity of the man’s deceased wife, essentially using her immigration documents as her own (a “Paper Wife”).

the paper wife

When Mei Ling befriends a young orphan girl on the ship to America, little did she know that she was creating a bond for life.  When it is Mei Ling’s turn to leave Angel Island (the unfriendly place where immigrants were housed until their entry application was approved) she is forced to leave Siew behind.  Making good on her promise to see Siew again, Mei Ling searches for the child to ensure that she is safe, only to find that Siew’s Uncle wasn’t who he appeared to be, and that Siew herself was a paper child.  This dark revelation has a damaging impact on Mei Ling and her family, who must fight to overcome the reality of Siew’s situation.

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