The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult

17571433My honest opinion when I finished this book was;

“What?! Is this gonna end here like THIS?”

With NO definite denouement, the story ends rather abruptly. It made me feel as though there were another 20 to 30 pages to wrap up this story, but there weren’t.
At first, I found it rather anticlimactic; I was a bit disappointed to say the least.
That said, however, it was because I was so invested in the story. I wanted to know MORE about it, I really, really liked it!

That being said though, I now look back on it and think it was a fitting end considering the underlining theme of this book, The Storyteller, and The story goes on.
I now assume that Jodi Picoult chose not to close the story with a clear-cut ending, she intentionally chose to leave the rest of the story to us readers’ imagination just like Minka did.
In regard to this, I think it’s clever. Some readers may not be in favor of such endings, but I think I could live with it. (Well, of course, I could be completely off the mark, though.)

The writing was very strong yet has got some calm, quiet quality to it. Even during Minka’s retrospective soliloquy reflecting back on her experience in the Auschwitz, her narration felt very calm and collected. It wasn’t at all over-dramatic, but incredibly intense and poignant at times, it literally cut through my heart. It was just brilliant.

As for the story, the subject matter this book deals with is quite heavy; there’s no doubt about that. What struck me the most in Josef’s narration was that how desensitized and numb a person can be under the pretext of orders and code of conduct. Josef seemed to have been a bit red-blooded, but didn’t used to be THAT brutal, but during his time in the Army, he turned himself into a monster who is capable of shooting people in the head for no particular reason, just like squashing insects with his shoes.
This was what sent chills down my spine while I was reading this book.

On a bit more positive note, I loved how Sage and Leo’s paths cross as the story unfolds and how they both develop their affinity toward each other. It’s a fainty, slow-burn type of love and I absolutely adored the budding romance between them.

In addition to that, the relationship between Franz and Minka also tugged at my heartstrings.
I loved how Franz starts to see Minka in a different light, not merely as a prisoner who doesn’t deserve to live, but as a storyteller. I absolutely enjoyed the scenes where he saves her from a predicament and puts her under his supervision, telling her to write the story 10 pages a night and reading it aloud to him. I adored Franz’s gentleness despite being a SS soldier, despite the fact he may have committed unspeakable atrocities, killing numerous people in his wake.

That was all the more reason why it broke my heart when I read what Franz did to Minka.
I was like, “Why, Franz, Why?!”
But I knew the reason; He had to. He had no other option left for him to save her at that point, at his brother’s presence.
And the blank notebook anonymously left to Minka as if to say,
Keep the story going on.
Live as a storyteller.
It literally shattered my heart; my heart felt so constricted. So sad. So poignant. Ugh…

The huge twist in the end completely took me by surprise; I didn’t see it coming at all.
Man, what a twist! What an unexpected turn of events!

Like I said, with no definite end, I wonder what future holds for Sage.
Having read the decision Sage has reached upon Josef’s supplication to aid his death, I’m now really itching to know how the story unfolds for Sage and Leo.

What will happen to THEM?
Will Sage divulge the secret to Leo? And what will happen from now onwards?
How is Sage going to live down what she has done to Josef?

So many question marks swirl around my head.
This, however, might be exactly how the author wanted us readers to be.
Well done, Jodi Picoult. You got me there hands-down. I’m completely sold.

A Lady of High Regard by Tracie Peterson

360019■Synopsis (Excerpt from Goodreads)

Born into affluence, Mia Stanley is a winsome socialite with a knack for matchmaking. She’s also a writer for Godey’s Lady’s Book magazine, much to the disdain of her family and their society friends. A proper young lady of her social standing isn’t meant to labor in such a way, but Mia has always had a way with words…

When her writing draws her into the world of downtrodden seamen’s wives on Philadelphia’s docks, Mia uncovers a scheme that puts her in harm’s way. But her heart ends up on the line as well…. Has her determination to always make a match driven away the one man whose esteem she covets?

 


I haven’t been able to process my feelings toward this book just yet. I don’t particularly adore this book but it’s not like I HATE it, either. I’m kind of being in the middle, if you like.

This is a typical romance story which sets somewhere in the 19th Century. The protagonist, Mia is born to a wealthy family,  she is a ‘Lady of High Regard. She loves acting as a matchmaker and tries to find his best friend, Garrett a suitable wife.

My first impression on this character setting was:
‘Well, that sounds pretty much like Emma by Jane Austen.’ 
I have never read the book. I have only watched the movie adaptation, but I thought Mia’s character setting is quite similar to the one of Emma from the first moment when I found out what kind of woman Mia is.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t relate to Mia as much. I know she is an amiable, compassionate woman yet she also comes across a feisty, headstrong young woman and her naivety and imprudence really put me off.
I do think it’s really nice and commendable of her to try to save seamen’s wives out of their plight despite knowing she is well out of bounds. Nevertheless, I was almost sick of her repeatedly (again, REPEATEDLY) making stupid, reckless, impetuous decisions.
One minute she pledges to her father that she would seek wise counsel and the next minute she acts recklessly in the heat of passion, blindly believing that she can only solve the problem.

As for the story where two old best friends growing up as a brother and a sister finally recognizes their feelings toward each other, I find it interesting yet a bit predictable and old. It was good that it’s got some suspenseful twists to it, but the pacing -as far as the romance goes – was incredibly slow and a bit irritating.
The number of interruptions really threw me off; whenever either of the main two characters tries to confess their love, the interruption comes. I could tolerate it if it were once or twice, but this many???  It does serve to make it more suspenseful and I did want to know how it would play out, but I was a bit frustrated and wanted to cry, “Come on, you two, forget the propriety and blurt it out already!”
On that point, I think it was successful.

Generally the characters didn’t leave much big of an impact on me, neither do the story line.
Oh, but I love Mia’s father a lot. He is an epitome of words of wisdom. I particularly liked the lesson he gives his reckless daughter Mia, such as:

I fear that if you do not learn moderation and learn to temper your responses, however, that you’ll find yourself sorely misused, if not dead.

Meanwhile she’ll stew and fret over what she’s said and done. It will serve her right.

Those remarks made me laugh out loud – what better sermon could there possibly be? He said exactly what I wanted to say to Mia. I love that man.

All in all, I enjoyed reading this. It didn’t grab me as strongly as I had hoped, but I did enjoy reading their slow budding love and I must admit the repetitive misunderstanding between Mia and Garrett hooked me.

As the setting suggest, the writing is rather formal which is reminiscent of Classic literature, but it’s not so arcane, it’s simple enough to get through.
If you are up for light-hearted, classic-ish romance book, you might enjoy this.

I’ll give this book 3 out of 5 stars.

Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay

3688715Another 5 out of 5 stars – although it’s the third time I’ve read this book, it never fails to make me cry in the end.

I don’t think I need to tell you what this book is about, given that it was made into a movie, but this is a historical fiction that touches on the Vel’d’ Hiv’ round-up took place in Paris in July, 1942. Early in the morning, the girl, Sarah Starzynski and her family were round-up and penned in a stadium called Vel’d’ Hiv’ where bicycle events used to be held. After spending a few days in an inhuman condition, they were squeezed onto a train and then subsequently sent to the Auschwitz.

Having read this book three times, I felt I noticed a lot of things that I think I missed in my previous reads. Prior to this re-read, I think my attention was only focused on the atrocity that the roundup had brought on Sarah and her family.
This time, however, I found it interesting and really well-done that the author shed some light on the difference in the attitudes and the perspectives towards the past between the American and the French.
While Julia wants to dig deeper into what actually happened during the roundup and how Sarah’s family ended up, her husband’s family members are indignant at Julia bringing back the past unnecessarily. I thought this contrast was very interesting and added a lot of depth to the story, making it much more compelling and engaging.

I sometimes wondered if it was a bit oversimplified display to depict Julia as an epitome of American people, implying they have a tendency of prying into others’ business and trying to find out the truth against all the backlash and protests from the other side.
I personally didn’t feel comfortable in this depiction, but I reckon the author tried to underscore the fact that there so many people, even in France, who don’t know about the Vel’d’ Hiv, who haven’t even heard of the fact that it was actually the French Police not the German Police that enforced the round-up. Through weaving this story, she must have tried to bring this incident to everyone’s knowledge – so as not to repeat the biggest mistake we humankind have ever made.

The ramification and the consequence what Julia’s conduct has brought to the entire family and Sarah’s son, William, are really well-described. The rejection, the initial rejection – oh, it broke my heart. I felt my heart constricted with pain.

The letter to her brother, Michael on which Sarah scribbled down her true emotions couldn’t be read without tears. I didn’t actually cry, but I was pretty close to. The pain and angst Sarah must have felt, Sarah must have bottled up inside her felt as though it were mine.

I love the writing. Although the wording is pretty simple, it is very atmospheric and has got some calm quality to it which I personally think highlights the cruelty and the pain stemming from the round-up.
I also like how the story develops; initially the story is told in two different time frames and perspectives. One with Julia in 2002 and the other with Sarah in 1942. The story goes back and forth for some time, but the two time frames slowly come together and eventually merge into one as the story develops. It was really well-done.

The author also did an excellent job in depicting how the 1942 roundup changes the lives of many people involving Sarah completely, how the past weighs on everyone not only Sarah, but also Julia and even Sarah’s son, William.
While the whole Sarah thing actually brings an unexpected surprise and delight to Julia, it also breaks her emotionally in many ways and she realizes that she cannot go back to her former self. She cannot go on living the way she used to.
I really felt for her. I felt the pains and sorrows are really well-written. Stunning.

The ending never fails to move me and make me cry;
“She was Sarah. My Sarah.”
These are what pull at my heartstrings, getting my waterworks and making me cry.
The ending never fails to stir my emotions and I just adore it.

This is nothing but a testament to being a good book. A good book can move you however many times you reread it.
This book kind of whetted my appetite for Historical Fiction. I’m totally up for reading many more of historical novels this year.
Highly recommended if you haven’t already, pick up this book and see how this book can move you and affect you. You might be surprised.

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

7824322I gave this book solid 4 stars. It could be 4.5 stars, yet I’ll be honest, and I will say it’s a 4 stars book for me.

I docked a star because it took me a while to get myself on track. For some reason, this book didn’t grab me at my first attempt. The first chapter was brilliant and strong, it actually sucked me in right off the bat, but from then onwards it kind of lost its momentum and I started feeling the words slipping away not fully sinking in on me.
When I was about halfway through the book, I decided that I couldn’t go on like that; I went right back to the beginning to read it again with a clear mindset.
The enormity of the atrocity dawned on me surprisingly well the second time. The book immediately reeled me in and kept me engaged the entire book.

Despite the chilling and upsetting inhumane conducts committed by the Soviet guards, I felt something calm running through the book; Lina’s narration is surprisingly calm and subdued. That said, I must say there were times when I held my breath. The writing is clear-cut and powerful, it adds a lot to the underlying tension and I kept reading with bated breath. It was so much and so hard to take all in; I just can’t imagine what it would have been like to survive with barely any food on their hands in a place like Siberia. It’s beyond my imagination.

The characters are all well-developed; I adore Lina for her feisty yet solid, independent and strong character while Jonas being so pure and adorable. Her mother, Elena is literally an epitome of goodness. She is so compassionate, warm-hearted and strong.

The latter part of the book, particularly close to the end is so poignant and strong; I was pretty close to tears.
However,  I also found it so therapeutic and purgatorial to find goodness even within someone who appears -or we think to be absolutely evil.

I must admit I was completely sold on the epilogue. It was stunning and utterly amazing.
I felt as though the time had stood still with the world around me grinding to a halt. The writing is so beautiful and descriptive; I could clearly visualize the scene. It was beyond reproach.
In addition to that, I was so happy to see the main two characters whose names I wouldn’t divulge here end up being together.

I adore the couple. It is a sole delight in the entire story; I breathed a sigh of delight and relief.
It was definitely worth a read not to mention a good historical lesson. I’m glad I read it.