The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

30555488Title: The Underground Railroad

Author: Colson Whitehead

Pub Date: August 2016

My Rating: ★★★★☆

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hellish for all the slaves but especially bad for Cora; an outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is coming into womanhood – where even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape. Matters do not go as planned and, though they manage to find a station and head north, they are being hunted.

In Whitehead’s ingenious conception, the Underground Railroad is no mere metaphor – engineers and conductors operate a secret network of tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil. Cora and Caesar’s first stop is South Carolina, in a city that initially seems like a haven – but the city’s placid surface masks an insidious scheme designed for its black denizens. Even worse: Ridgeway, the relentless slave catcher, is close on their heels. Forced to flee again, Cora embarks on a harrowing flight, state by state, seeking true freedom.

As Whitehead brilliantly re-creates the unique terrors for black people in the pre-Civil War era, his narrative seamlessly weaves the saga of America from the brutal importation of Africans to the unfulfilled promises of the present day. The Underground Railroad is at once a kinetic adventure tale of one woman’s ferocious will to escape the horrors of bondage and a shattering, powerful meditation on the history we all share.

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A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

Title: A Gentleman in Moscow

Author: Amot Towles

Pub Date: September 6th, 2016

My Rating: ★★☆☆☆

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Synopis from Goodreads:

On 21 June 1922 Count Alexander Rostov – recipient of the Order of Saint Andrew, member of the Jockey Club, Master of the Hunt – is escorted out of the Kremlin, across Red Square and through the elegant revolving doors of the Hotel Metropol.

But instead of being taken to his usual suite, he is led to an attic room with a window the size of a chessboard. Deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, the Count has been sentenced to house arrest indefinitely.

While Russia undergoes decades of tumultuous upheaval, the Count, stripped of the trappings that defined his life, is forced to question what makes us who we are. And with the assistance of a glamorous actress, a cantankerous chef and a very serious child, Rostov unexpectedly discovers a new understanding of both pleasure and purpose.

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Three-Martini Lunch by Suzanne Rindell

Title: Three-Martini Lunch

Author: Suzanne Rindell

Pub Date: 2016

My Rating: ★★★★★

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‘Back in those days My Old Man was king of what they called the three-martini lunch. This meant that in dimly lit steakhouses all over Manhattan my father made bold, impetuous deals over gin and oysters. That was how it was done.’
New York, 1958. Three young adults desperate to make their mark on the world of publishing – their choices, betrayals and passions will draw them together and change their lives for ever. Cliff Nelson, the privileged son of a New York publisher, is slumming it around Greenwich Village, enjoying booze, drugs and the idea that he’s the next Jack Kerouac. Fresh-faced Eden Katz arrives in the city with one burning ambition, but she is shocked at the stumbling blocks she encounters. Miles Tillman, a publisher’s messenger boy, is an aspiring writer who straddles various worlds and belongs to none.

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The Wonder by Emma Donoghue

Title: The Wonder

Author: Emma Donoghue

Pub Date: September 20th, 2016

My Rating: ★★★★☆

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In the latest masterpiece by Emma Donoghue, bestselling author of Room, an English nurse brought to a small Irish village to observe what appears to be a miracle-a girl said to have survived without food for months-soon finds herself fighting to save the child’s life.

Tourists flock to the cabin of eleven-year-old Anna O’Donnell, who believes herself to be living off manna from heaven, and a journalist is sent to cover the sensation. Lib Wright, a veteran of Florence Nightingale’s Crimean campaign, is hired to keep watch over the girl.

Written with all the propulsive tension that made Room a huge bestseller, THE WONDER works beautifully on many levels–a tale of two strangers who transform each other’s lives, a powerful psychological thriller, and a story of love pitted against evil.

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Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

81hch97ggglTitle: Code Name Verity

Author: Elizabeth Wein

Pub Date: February 6th, 2012

Format: Audiobook

Honors:    

My Rating: ★★★☆☆

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Captured British agent is held in France, tortured and forced to disclose the code she must know as a wireless operator. She has a deal with the Gestapo that got her two weeks to write down her account of British war effort that may be useful for Nazis. She is writing her story through the eyes of her friend Maggie. This was a bit irritating for me at points, especially the scene where she wrote of how Maggie met her. Maggie was the pilot that brought her to France, and who she believes is now dead after the plane crashed. The written accounts describe in detail how Maggie got her license and how she was working as a female pilot. There are also bits of the present events of being kept in prison. Those parts have a wit to them, but they don’t disclose how horrible the situation was for the Verity. And even the parts where she talks about being physically and forcefully restrained do little for me, they didn’t move me really. I didn’t care much for Verity throughout her story.

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The Muse by Jessie Burton

Title: The Muse

Author:  Jessie Burton

Pub Date: June 30th, 2016

Honors: 

My Rating: ★★★★☆

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 The Muse is a fantastic read with well-plotted twists. Odelle Bastien comes to London from Trinidad looking for better life, more chances for success. She’s hired by mysterious Majorie Quick to work as a typist in Skelton Institue. Odelle is a writer, and one of her poems is a starting point of her relationship with Lawrie Scott. Lawrie is an owner of a painting that as it turns out was painted by a very promising Spanish author that we don’t know much about. Lawrie brings the painting to the Skelton for examination – an event that shakes Quick and excites gallery’s owner. All this is happening in 1960s London. In parallel to how we follow Odelle’s steps to finding out what is Quick’s connection to the painting, we are taken back to 1930s Spain when the painting depicting Saint Rufina was created. It was painted in an uncertain time in Europe but in a somewhat happy time for the artist. Olive Schloss moved to small rural town Arazuelo with her parents, and there she meets Isaac and Teresa Robles. Isaac is a socialist that is passionate about helping workers; Teresa is his half-sister who is hired as a help in Schloss’s house. Robles change Schloss lives in many ways, leaving us wondering how the painting ended up in London thirty yeats later.

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And I Darken by Kiersten White book cover

And I Darken by Kiersten White

And I DarkenAuthor: Kiersten White

Title: And I Darken

Pub Date: June 28th, 2016

Honors:  

Rating: ★★★★☆


This book surprised me. I was expecting a fast-paced adventure filled with fights, wars and deaths. I got that, but it was not the core of the book, at least for me. It was more about the growing up and life with all the struggles of a sibling – Lada and Radu. They are total opposites; Lada says that she is ‘no woman’, she can and loves to fight. Radu is much more delicate, beautiful, loved by everyone, able to talk with everyone and be trusted by them. I love how this book explores the private lives of the characters. We are with them throughout the childhood and teenage years (that back then were considered adult years), and we get to see how they change. How they love each other changes.

The story is very realistic, all the decisions that are made by the characters are strongly backed by the previous life events, by this character’s personality and desires. There was not a single moment when I was thinking -‘Wait, why the hell are you doing this like that?’. It all made sense, and in a lot of books I read recently, the decisions characters made didn’t make sense for me.
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