Monthly Archives: March 2021

We Were the Lucky Ones

I’ve had this book sitting on my shelf for at least a year, if not longer. I’ve always enjoyed historical fiction, but so often anymore it’s hit or miss whether it’s a good story or if it falls flat. So maybe that’s why it took me a while to get to Georgia Hunter’s We Were the Lucky Ones.

Based on her own family history, Hunter’s story follows the Kurc family during World War II. The Polish-Jewish family can’t fathom what awaits them as anti-Jewish pogroms and Nazi mentality spreads throughout Poland and Eastern Europe. As their freedom and very humanity is slowly stripped away, the Kurc family continues fighting and hoping for one thing–to be reunited in a safe place, away from the hate and the war.

Scattered across Europe and even across the sea into South America, the Kurc family endures hardship after hardship, including the aching unknowing of the fates of beloved brothers, sisters, parents, and other family members. But somehow, defying all probability, the Kurc family is one of the lucky families, and from the darkness they emerge with hope and light.

Unlike many World War II stories, We Were the Lucky Ones has a happy ending–one that would seem unbelievable, if it weren’t based on the author’s own family experiences. From escaping what seemed to be certain death to reuniting after years of separation, the family’s hope and resilience shines inspirational.

Hunter writes each member’s experiences from their perspectives, which does make it a little more challenging to sink into the story, as it lacks a certain degree of connection due to the family’s separation and loss of contact for the duration of the war.

But Hunter does a great job of capturing the thoughts and feelings of her family, in ways that are relatable, even to readers far removed from the traumas of war and persecution. Taking her family history and sharing it in novel form breathes a degree of life into her story that is missing from others, and that life makes it compelling and powerful.

A Court of Thorns and Roses

At long last, I finally gave in and picked up Sarah J. Maas’ young adult series to try. It’s gained such a huge following and people I know and share book love with have sung its praises. So even though YA isn’t my thing, I gave A Court of Thorns and Roses a shot.

In the years following her family’s societal downfall, Feyre has become the family provider, despite being the youngest daughter. Having taught herself to hunt, Feyre has managed to just barely keep her father and two sisters alive, always dreaming of a life of enough. Fortune seems to smile on her when she bags not only a deer to feed them but also a giant wolf, whose pelt she can sell.

Everything gets turned upside down when Feyre finds out the wolf she killed was a faerie, and now she has to make an impossible choice: die, or live out her life as the captive of the creatures who once enslaved humanity. It is for Feyre to choose whether faeries and humans can learn to live in harmony– and both their worlds hang in balance.

This story is, primarily, a Stockholm-syndrome romance, where Feyre fights so hard at first to stay angry and aloof, but can’t manage to keep from falling for the perfect non-human specimen who has a dark secret. Tamlin, her captor, is portrayed as the typical beast, dark and brooding and mean because, why not be?

I tried to go into this story with an open mind, because I did rather want to like it. But it just fell into too many of the traps that turn me off from stories–resistance turned true love, a tough character trying to preserve herself while also ignoring her instincts, an abusive family that actually loves her, and needing to have a different adjective before every color mention.

Though I didn’t love the story, I can say that Maas is a good writer. She hints at mysteries and intrigue throughout the story, some of it resolved with the book, some of it stretching beyond into the rest of the series. And for that alone, I’m not able to say that I won’t keep reading. There are a few things I just really want to know. So, we’ll see whether they remain burning questions or whether they fade with the reading of other authors and books.

Vicious

V.E. Schwab is one of my favorite authors. From her high fantasy Darker Shades of Magic series to The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, she writes stories that resonate with readers and capture humanity instead of having all good or bad characters.

Vicious follows Victor Vale and Eli Cardale, college roommates who give their very lives for the sake of science. But instead of dying and staying dead, Victor and Eli succeed in their experiment, turning themselves into ExtraOrdinaries, people who have beaten death and returned with special abilities.

Ten years later, Victor is getting out of prison and is bent on getting revenge against Eli, who has dedicated his life to heroics, making the world a safer place, removing one villain at a time. As they circle each other, closing in on their defining clash, only one can walk away with freedom. But do either of them truly deserve another chance?

Filled with questionable motives and characters, Vicious is a story that isn’t super surprising, but one that makes you consider morality and convictions. As always, Schwab’s writing is engaging and fun to read. She draws readers in by weaving the past and present together, slowly revealing the things that make each character tick.

I love Schwab’s writing style, and I think part of it is that she goes so in-depth into the characters and their thoughts. She easily gives readers a look inside the mind of each character, and they are all written individually, carefully crafted to move each story forward. And, perhaps best of all, readers can see snippets of themselves in everyone, even in the villains. In Schwab’s worlds, it isn’t a matter of being a good person or a bad person, it’s a matter of each choice leading to the next, until the character has revealed the truth of who they are.

I’m definitely feeling the urge to go on a binge reading spree and read everything Schwab has written, the ones I haven’t read and the ones that I have read. For now, I’ll just focus on reading the sequel.

Marsbound

Though the order of my reviews doesn’t always show it, I’ve been on a bit of a space kick again lately. (Because I get advanced copies still, but I don’t publish the reviews until the book releases, my blog posts aren’t always in the exact order that I’ve read the books.) So after pulling it from my shelf a couple times, I finally buckled down and read Marsbound by Joe Haldeman, and it was such a fun read.

Carmen Dula and her family won the lottery and are blasting off to Mars– well, sort of. First they take the space elevator into orbit, then get onto the ship that will take them to Mars. When they arrive, Carmen finds that it’s mostly the same as Earth, difficult authority figures, life routines and schedules to balance. In a fit of exasperation, Carmen leaves the compound on her own, and despite her foolish decisions accomplishes the one thing the colony hasn’t done yet–contact with Martians.

But these Martians aren’t natives, and though they seem amiable to humans, the humans still want to know where they really come from, and who the mysterious creators of this race are. The ultimate question is: are they friends or foes?

Haldeman writes a quick and fun sci-fi read. In first-person from Carmen’s perspective, it’s the right amount of science and young adult devil-may-care attitude. With splashes of romance, intrigue, and ethical dilemmas, it’s a little bit of everything wrapped up in an engaging package. Plus, of course, it’s space, so I’m sold already.

Though the first in a series, Haldeman writes it so that if you don’t choose to continue, you still have closure. However, I also get the sense that the continuations won’t feel forced or thin (I guess we’ll find out when I get around to them. Hooray for having libraries back!).

All in all, it’s a non-technical sci-fi story to devour.