Monday, January 25, 2016

What I Read in May 2015 Part VI

What I Read in May 2015 Part VI ...

For Freedom by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley--Young Adult Historical Fiction

For Freedom: The Story of a French SpyThirteen-year old Suzanne David of Cherbourg, France is concerned mainly with her music studies. She wants to be an opera singer as soon as she is old enough. Her best friend Yvette may tease her about music but Yvette understands Suzanne like no one else. They're only vaguely aware that France and England are at war with Germany. Then one terrible day, Suzanne's life changes forever. Suzanne must have the courage to deal with what comes and stay strong through the long years that follow. She then finds a way to use her gifts for a good cause.

The dedication is kind of a spoiler but even so, I couldn't put the book down. I could have sworn I had read this before, but nothing seemed familiar. The plot is a little slow at first but then moves into heart-stopping territory. The author doesn't hold back from the gritty details of what war was actually like. This book made me realize what a friend's grandfather must have gone through living in Nazi occupied France. The story made me mad and sad at the same time. I felt every emotion with Suzanne. This is a good book for anyone 13+ to learn about WWII and some of the terrible atrocities committed and some of the heroes that turned tragedy into triumph.

Of Noble Family (Glamourist Histories, #5)Of Noble Family by Mary Robinette Kowal--Historical Fantasy

Jane and Vincent have spent a happy winter in Vienna with Jane's family. The arrival of Melody's baby, Tom, has brought joy to all their hearts. Then Vincent receives some surprising news which leads Jane and Vincent to the West Indian island of Antigua. Upon their arrival, the learn a shocking secret which will upend their whole lives if they don't stay alert. With a growing sense of foreboding and Vincent not behaving like himself, Jane knows that only she can intervene and manipulate and master manipulator into letting them have their way.

Where do I even start with this review? I don't even know how many stars to give the book because I experienced so many emotions through it. At first everything was going well and it was so nice to see Vincent relaxed and happy. It was a refreshing change from his depression in the previous book. Then once they arrive in Antigua everything changes. The book takes a serious look at slavery and race and issues. Obviously, property in the West Indies means slavery and slavery means encountering gruesome facts and learning to navigate the bizarre world where one's half sibling can be a slave. Jane and Vincent's attitudes reflect our modern values more than the typical opinions of the time. The neighboring planters are more in line with the status quo. Vincent's past, of course, makes him more empathetic to the slaves but as he readily admits, he can't really know what they're going through. I took a graduate seminar on slavery and the discussion about low birth rates sounded familiar and the author acknowledges in her note on history than she fictionalized the reasons for that statistic. Other than one fictionalized element, the rest sounds pretty accurate and it's not for the squeamish. The story isn't all that violent, comparatively speaking, at least reading it. If it was a movie, it would probably be rough to watch. Jane and Vincent's modern attitudes left me conflicted. While I agree with them, I'm not certain they're behaving entirely 19th century.

The second most discussed subject in this novel, also not for the squeamish, is childbirth. I learned way more than I never wanted to know about childbirth practices in the early 19th century. 

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