Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Review: Child of the River by Irma Joubert

Child of the River by Irma Joubert

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Genres: Historical Fiction; Coming of Age; Christian

Pages: 400

Persomi’s dreams are much bigger than the world of poverty and deprivation that surround her in the Bushveld of the 1940s and 1950s in South Africa.

Persomi is young, white and poor, born the middle child of illiterate sharecroppers on the prosperous Fourie farm. Persomi’s world is extraordinarily small. She has never been to the local village and spends her days absorbed in the rhythms of the natural world around her. Her older brother, Gerbrand, is her lifeline and her connection to the outside world. When he leaves the farm to seek work in Johannesburg, Persomi’s isolated world is blown wide open. But as her very small world falls apart, bigger dreams become open to her—dreams of an education, a profession, and of love. As Persomi navigates the changing world around her—the tragedies of WWII and the devastating racial strife of her homeland—she finally discovers who she truly is and where she belongs.

A compelling coming of age story with an unlikely and utterly memorable heroine, Persomi’s English language publication solidifies Irma Joubert’s important place in the canon of inspirational historical fiction.

You know you've finished a good book when you come the end and your first thought is "but I don't want it to end!" That was me reading Child of the River. This was a really compelling read, rich in history and character development.

For those of you who aren't really readers of Christian Fiction, don't let those reservations keep you from reading this book, because this is the best kind of Christian Fiction. No sermons here. Rather than hitting us over the head with her message, the author lets her faith naturally seep into her writing, but you will notice themes of justice and doing what is right throughout this novel.

The writing was a little choppy in the beginning, but it started to flow better and become easier to read a few chapters in. Just like the protagonist, Persomi, this story really came into itself as Persomi grew older. The many characters were confusing in the beginning, and I felt a little detached from Persomi and the rest, but by the end it was the characters I most appreciated.

Persomi's growth as a character was amazing, and her story was never uninteresting. Her growth from a poor bywoner's daughter to a successful lawyer was something to see. I love a story that makes me really feel things, and this book had me smiling and worried and excited and confused. There were some slow parts, however, and those who are interested in a fast paced novel with lots of action should probably look elsewhere.

I loved the setting of South Africa during World War II, but I did feel like some elements of the setting and story could have been better explained. As I'm not familiar with this part of history in South Africa, it took me awhile to understand everything that was going on.

This book was translated from the author's native Afrikaans, which may have been why the writing felt just little "off" sometimes. That, and I read an ARC. But overall, it was very well written.

I love coming of age stories, especially ones that continue into the character's adulthood. This book shouldn't have surprised me so much, but it did. I highly recommend it.

Content: This book deals with prejudice and racism. It is absolutely clean.

**I received a copy of the book from the publisher, via Netgalley, in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: My Favorite Standalone Novels

Today's "Top Ten" topic is to choose a past topic you missed out on. I chose Top Ten Standalone Novels!

Confession: I don't even know if this was a past topic, but if not, it totally should have been and I'm going to do it anyway. So here we go.

I hear a lot of complaints around the blogosphere about how many series and trilogies and duologies, etc. there are, and how little standalones we see getting published. When books that stand alone are such wonderful things! Series are too, of course, but it's nice to sit down with a book and know that you're going to get the full story, with a proper ending and everything--without having to wait for the next book. And the next, and possibly the next one, and so on.

SO. If you're looking for your next great read, but don't want to commit to a series, I highly recommend these titles. :D

My Top Ten Standalone Books

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater (fantasy) 

This one was so compelling and beautiful. The writing and the characters will stick with you for a long time.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (fantasy)

Complex. Magical. Mysterious. Enchanting. This book's strongest points are its lyrical writing and beautiful imagery.

Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson (fantasy)

 If this book doesn't touch your heart, you're probably not even human. This is a spin on Peter Pan, but don't expect a typical fairy tale retelling (and ending). This one's unique.

The Distance Between Us by Kasie West (contemporary)

So, I recently binge read all of Kasie's books that I could my hands on.... and this one is by far my favorite. So. Much. Sarcasm. And a cute romance. :)

The Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia A. McKillip (fantasy)

It's been a looong time since I've read this one, but I just know I would still love it if I read it again. Which I will. Someday!

Made You Up by Francesca Zappia (contemporary)

Another recent read that just blew me away. The pages flew by for me in this book about a girl with schizophrenia, and I was so caught up in Alex's story. I loved how everything came together.

Summers at Castle Auburn by Sharon Shinn (fantasy-ish, coming of age)

This story was definitely character-driven. It was mostly about Coriel's journey as a person, and I
loved it. A light-hearted comfort read!

Whistling Past the Graveyard by Susan Crandall (historical)

This was fun, yet deeply moving. And 9-year-old Starla was a hilarious and likeable narrator.

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini (historical)

Again, it's been awhile since I've read this. But this is a story that stays with you.

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys (historical)

During World War II, a girl is forced, under Stalin's orders, to work in a camp in Siberia and suffers from cruel conditions. Beautiful and heartbreaking.

Have you read any of these? What is your favorite standalone novel? Do you prefer standalones or series? Also, leave me a link to your TTT!

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Review: Iron Cast by Destiny Soria

Iron Cast by Destiny Soria

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Genres: Historical Fiction; YA; Fantasy

Pages: 384

It’s Boston, 1919, and the Cast Iron club is packed. On stage, hemopaths—whose "afflicted" blood gives them the ability to create illusions through art—captivate their audience. Corinne and Ada have been best friends ever since infamous gangster Johnny Dervish recruited them into his circle. By night they perform for Johnny’s crowds, and by day they con Boston’s elite. When a job goes wrong and Ada is imprisoned, they realize how precarious their position is. After she escapes, two of the Cast Iron’s hires are shot, and Johnny disappears. With the law closing in, Corinne and Ada are forced to hunt for answers, even as betrayal faces them at every turn

Well, I loved this book.

It took me a little while for me to get into it and care about the characters, but once I did there was no turning back. And once I was halfway through I couldn't stop reading.

There were a lot of things to enjoy in this novel.

I mean, the friendship! Corinne and Ada had an awesome friendship. They were there for each other. They sassed each other. They had their ups and downs. They were definitely some strong female characters and I loved their sisterly bond.

And the budding of romance. I admit, Corinne and Gabriel seemed weird to me at first, but they had something cute and I was rooting for them in the end. And Ada and Charlie were adorable. The romance was well written, but it didn't overtake the story (or the friendship. Cuz that is what's important). Seriously, props to the author for this.

The Characterization. These were some well-written and complex characters. I wanted to share quotes with y'all so I could showcase just how awesome Ada and Corinne are, but the Kindle app deleted my highlights.... :( So, you'll just have to take my word for it.

ALSO. I love what the author said about her characters.

When I started Iron Cast, I decided to write about the women I knew to be real, not the one-dimensional caricatures to which we are frequently reduced. It was also important to me that Ada and Corinne have a friendship that wasn't riddled with the jealousy and competitiveness seen so often in popular media. I wanted to write something that reflected the friendships I have in my own life.

I just appreciate that. Thank you Destiny Soria!

So overall, great characters, great friendships, great romance.

As for the plot, it could have been faster moving, but it was enjoyable and there twists I didn't see coming. The magic system ("Hemopathy," it's called) was really interesting and, I thought, unique.

One thing did bother me, however. Now, maybe I was just completely blind, but I don't think the author threw in enough details leading up to the big reveal in the end. There was one fact she just kind of threw in there at the end, and I just wish I could have traced all the elements that made the plot come together throughout the ENTIRE story, but it mostly all came at the end. Not a huge complaint; I just thought it would have made for a tighter, more interesting plot.

To summarize, though, I thought Iron Cast was excellent. Definitely keep your eye out for this one in October!

Content: There might be some mild language. I would label it a clean read.

*I received an ARC of this book from the publisher, via Netgalley, in exchange for my honest review.