“City of Women” was a disappointment

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City of Women

author : david r. gillham

pages : [hardcover] 392

summary :

It is 1943—the height of the Second World War. With the men away at the front, Berlin has become a city of women.

On the surface, Sigrid Schröder is the model German soldier’s wife: She goes to work every day, does as much with her rations as she can, and dutifully cares for her meddling mother-in-law, all the while ignoring the horrific immoralities of the regime.

But behind this façade is an entirely different Sigrid, a woman of passion who dreams of her former Jewish lover, now lost in the chaos of the war. But Sigrid is not the only one with secrets—she soon finds herself caught between what is right and what is wrong, and what falls somewhere in the shadows between the two…

review :

I was really excited to read this book because I have a fascination with reading books that take place during the WWII time period. This was much different from most other books that I’ve read because it was set in Berlin and barely had any mention of any battles or fighting apart from the occasional bombing coming from English planes overhead. Instead, most of the action is fixated on those who have been left behind in the city as every able man has been sent to fight. Most are in Russia, either never coming back to their families or returning as broken men physically and/or mentally. Citizens are starving. The Gestapo is everywhere. Sigrid learns, repeatedly, that there is nothing else more important in this version of Berlin than being a good German woman.

The book’s characters are those apart from the war. The women and children, mostly, as well as men either too old or injured to fight. And, worse than those left behind are those that are hunted. Any Jewish person, as well as anyone who fights to protect them or who speaks against Germany or the Gestapo. Sigrid, in the very beginning of the novel, is only concerned with herself. Her life is very boring. She doesn’t seem to even mildly like her husband and now she’s forced to live alone with his cranky elderly mother. Still, I always felt detached from her, never very sympathetic. Perhaps it was because I never got an explanation as to why she decided to marry her husband. Social pressure? Real love? I had no inkling of what her true feelings were like throughout most of this book.

That was made even more complex when she constantly dreams for the passion and love she holds for the lover she had taken years before, who is Jewish and has disappeared from her life. The things he does and says makes him everything but romantic to me. I felt pity for Sigrid because of her romantic options. There were no good options. But she kept pining after this man who was more terrible to her than her actual husband was.

I feel like this book had some interesting concepts, but the meandering way in which it was told made it seem much longer than it is–and it’s already a huge book. There were some very interesting details about how people would smuggle their friends or even strangers who were on the run and trying to get out of Germany. I liked the intrigue there, the danger. But there was little build-up to the conclusion of this book, which seemed to come out of nowhere. All of a sudden Sigrid was a completely different character, whereas in the hundreds of pages beforehand her character development had been much slower.

I feel like fans of historical fiction will like this book, particularly if you like the historical period like me. I know this is a book that some others will enjoy much more than I did but, for me, it wasn’t good enough.

3/5 stars

 

“The Curse of Crow Hollow” | Wish I DNF’d

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The Curse of Crow Hollow

author : billy coffey

pages  : [paperback] 416

summary :

With the “profound sense of Southern spirituality” he is known for (Publishers Weekly), Billy Coffey draws us into a town where good and evil—and myth and reality—intertwine in unexpected ways.

Everyone in Crow Hollow knows of Alvaretta Graves, the old widow who lives in the mountain. Many call her a witch; others whisper she’s insane. Everyone agrees the vengeance Alvaretta swore at her husband’s death hovers over them all. That vengeance awakens when teenagers stumble upon Alvaretta’s cabin, incurring her curse. Now a sickness moves through the Hollow. Rumors swirl that Stu Graves has risen for revenge. And the people of Crow Hollow are left to confront not only the darkness that lives on the mountain, but the darkness that lives within themselves.

review :

The Curse of Crow Hollow was such an interesting concept. In the end, though, it just ended up being a disappointment that I wish I’d DNF’d halfway through. Although there are creepy parts to this story, a lot of it ended up being fairly predictable.

Crow Hollow is the kind of town where everyone knows everyone else. They all go to church, twice Sunday and usually every Wednesday too. Gossip is the best form of entertainment. Maybe the safest. Because everything starts to fall apart in Crow Hollow when four teens decide to spend a night camping by the abandoned mines. A witch lives out in those parts–one who curses them when they’re led to her land by a trail of strange, almost horseshoe like prints.

The book starts out like it’s going to be a spooky paranormal read. There are the tales about something terrible living in or around the mines, the witch, the curse. I was really excited to read more when the curse first struck at church the morning after the teens’ sleepover. But everything afterward was a little bit of a letdown. The book tries to do something cool, making everything believably a curse while simultaneously making you think that the town is just crazy and essentially under some mass delusion that is really why the curse is escalating. But once you need to think that everything that happens will also be within the general realm of possibility, it all gets to be so predictable. And the hints that the narrator drops throughout the book–like that death is coming or that certain characters “won’t live to see the next day”–doesn’t end up building suspense. It just made me wonder why they would mention such a thing hundreds of pages before it would eventually happen.

The conclusion to the book wasn’t as exciting as I’d hoped it would be, either. There was a little intrigue as the narrator to the book is finally revealed, because the book is set up like someone is telling an outsider to the town all that has happened there. Everything else was just . . . not satisfying enough because it was something you could see coming before the book was halfway over.

I really wanted to like this book. It seemed like it was going to have a lot of creepy, mysterious, and possibly horror-movie quality elements to it. I don’t think I’ll be recommending this one.

2/5 stars

Marvel-ous Mondays: Ms. Marvel Vol. 2: Generation Why

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Ms. Marvel Volume 2: Generation Why
Volume 1: No Normal

author : g. willow wilson

pages : [paperback] 136

favorite character : kamala

memorable quote :

A hero is just somebody who tries to do the right thing even when it’s hard.
There are more of us than you think.

summary :

Who is the Inventor, and what does he want with the all-new Ms. Marvel and all her friends? Maybe Wolverine can help! If Kamala can stop fan-girling out about meeting her favorite super hero, that is. Then, Kamala crosses paths with Inhumanity — by meeting the royal dog, Lockjaw! But why is Lockjaw really with Kamala? As Ms. Marvel discovers more about her past, the Inventor continues to threaten her future. Kamala bands together with some unlikely heroes to stop the maniacal villain before he does real damage, but has she taken on more than she can handle? And how much longer can Ms. Marvel’s life take over Kamala Khan’s? Kamala Khan continues to prove why she’s the best (and most adorable) new super hero there is!

Collecting Ms. Marvel(2014) #6-11.

review :

Can I just admit here and now that Ms. Marvel is the best? I seriously cannot get enough of her.

I picked up this volume nearly as soon as I finished volume one. Generation Why is even better because now although Kamala is not quite perfect at being a hero, she’s improving and has good intentions. We also learn more about her origins here and why the mysterious gas that appeared at the beginning of her origin story affected her and not the whole of Jersey City.

My favorite part of this volume, though, was the team-up with Wolverine. I LOVE how much of a superhero fan-girl Kamala is because it makes her seem so real. I bet any real teenager who has a passion for superhero comics or movies would be freaking out if they were able to work together with one of their heroes. Not only that, but now she’s able to talk real life (and career? is being a superhero a career?) advice with these people. She needs to learn to live the kind of life that they do and that can be more than daunting.

Kamala’s life is both hilarious and awesome. The detail in the artist’s style makes the comic seem more approachable. It isn’t as stark and vibrant as the older comic style. Instead, it feels more like a graphic novel, with so many jokes embedded in the background of the panels. Things that are never referenced in the dialogue. I love those little touches. Without a doubt in every scene in which there’s a crowd, something strange will be happening in it. If you read this volume, definitely take the time to look at and appreciate the art. It made me love this even more because I feel like just on reading it again I’d find so much more in it!

I can’t recommend this enough. I love Ms. Marvel. I love Kamala. SHE is the superhero I’d fangirl so hard over if I got to team up with her.

5/5 stars

 

Cathy’s Ring concludes the Cathy Vickers Trilogy

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Cathy’s Ring
Book 1: Cathy’s Book
Book 2: Cathy’s Key

author : sean stewart & jordan weissman

illustrator : cathy brigg

pages : [hardcover] 144

favorite character : cathy

summary :

Cathy cannot manage to find more than a few days to relax in her hectic (and mortal) life—she barely has time to put the mystery surrounding her father to rest before she finds herself targeted by a group of Ancestor Lu’s professional killers!Recognizing she is a serious threat to everyone in her life, Cathy makes plans to leave town. But her friends, Emma, Pete, Victor, and, surprisingly, Jun, unite to convince Cathy that they must finish Lu once and for all to have any chance at peace—mortal or immortal. In order to defeat Lu, the friends must come together in a way they never have before.

Meanwhile—unbeknownst to Cathy—Victor has made the ultimate sacrifice hoping it will bring him closer to a normal relationship with Cathy. But when Victor is seriously wounded and Cathy finds herself attracted to another mortal with similar feelings for her, Cathy’s world turns upside down and she is forced to make a decision about her future with Victor, while his life hangs by a thread. What will Cathy decide, and how will their epic battle with Lu play out? Find out in the newest adventure-packed installment of the Cathy story!

review :

I’m so sad to see this trilogy end. I mean, I know that the book has been out for a while, but it took me some time to finally get my hands on it. I loved the first two books of the Cathy Vickers trilogy so much that I wasn’t quite ready to get rid of this world or the characters in it.

Cathy’s Ring was a good end to it all. It wasn’t perfect, but it wasn’t exactly a total disappointment. I just felt like there could have been more action and intrigue for a book about immortals. Particularly because many powerful ones happen to want Cathy dead.

I loved how realistic she felt, though. She’s such a bad-ass character but obviously she didn’t know what she was getting herself into and having her life threatened is beginning to take its toll on her. Not only does she need to worry about her own life, she needs to worry about her family and friend. It’s beginning to break down her relationships with others–some of which weren’t so great to begin with–and Cathy needs to make some changes with herself in order to make sure that she won’t end up facing these threats alone.

This book is much shorter than the other two (which weren’t so long to start with) so maybe I’d have appreciated it a little more if there’d been more time for detail. And, y’know, more adventures. I did like that even though we’ll never quite know everything about the world of the immortals, because there’s a lot they don’t know about themselves, there was enough of a reveal to keep me intrigued.

I still want to recommend these books to people but I wish that I’d loved the conclusion more. It felt like a small step toward the ending I wanted, and there was enough left up in the air to make me feel like there could be another story told. Kind of a “where are they now” for these characters. I know I’m not going to get it, but some part of me wants to demand it anyway.

I love Cathy and her gang of unexpected allies. I love the interesting world that has been built up in these books. And I especially love the unique way in which they’re told, in journal entries soaked with the ink of Cathy’s doodles.

4/5 stars

 

 

Starfire Vol. 1: Welcome Home was AMAZING

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Starfire Vol. 1: Welcome Home

author : amanda conner

pages : [paperback] 160

favorite character : starfire

summary :

Starfire stars for the first time in her very own on-going series!

Florida is so nice this time of year…the warm weather…the beach…and Starfire beating the crud out of the bad guys! You should really try to get down there and see for yourself. Starfire picks up the pieces and finds her new home in the aftermath of the storm! But while our hero helps her community heal, a creature from the underworld emerges to threaten all she hopes to protect! What is this creature’s hidden motive? And why does it seem to get bigger every time Starfire punches it? From the minds behind HARLEY QUINN comes STARFIRE in her first ever solo series!

Collects STARFIRE #1-6.

review :

I did not expect to love Starfire as much as I did, and now I wish this volume had been twice as long.

I knew Starfire as a hero from Teen Titans (yes, the TV show, and yes, I used to love it) so was excited to see what new adventures she could go on in this different universe and when she’s not restricted by being a teen. Well, first of all, let’s get this out of the way: Literally every guy in the comic falls in love with her at first sight, because of her body. I mean, it seems like Star likes to show it off, but when she seems to be, uh, bursting out everywhere, it can get to be a little distracting. I think it would be fun to see her encounter some people in the next issue who aren’t interested in women, or who aren’t physically attracted..

Apart from that, this volume was a lot of fun. I loved Starfire’s thought bubbles as she constantly misconstrues typical phrases and saying we people of Earth have. Even though she has the ability to immediately understand and speak other languages, that doesn’t necessarily mean that all of those hidden meanings compute. That leads to some funny situations and mix-ups.

I also loved her team up and dynamic with Sheriff Gomez. Gomez just wants to help out Starfire, even if it is a little weird having an alien princess decide to hole up in Key West to start a “normal” life. I think we all know that things can’t remain normal around Starfire for long, no matter how much she might desire otherwise. Even when natural disasters occur, Star is there to try to save the day and keep these humans on her new planet safe.

I want to see more, though. I want her to have more confidence in herself and I want to have her face her past. I want her to find some balance between the easy, normal life she craves and the dangerous, potentially lethal danger that always seems to be tracking her. Welcome Home is just the first volume in what I’m sure is going to be an arc that I’m going to love. I just can’t wait to see what comes next.

5/5 stars

Marvel-ous Mondays: I finally read Captain America! All-New Captain America Volume 1

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All-New Captain America Vol.1: Hydra Ascendant 

author : rick remender

pages : [hardcover] 136

favorite character : steve

summary :

The spy-fi, high-flying adventures of Sam Wilson — the all-new Captain America — begin here! Hydra has infiltrated society completely, but why? Cap’s new partnership with Nomad is tested as they race to uncover the Sect of the Unknown, but Hydra gathers Steve Rogers’ old rogues’ gallery to take down the new heroes! The all-new Captain America battles Sin and Baron Blood, and uncovers the new Hydra’s ultimate goal — but is it too late? Millions of innocent souls hang in the balance — but broken and nearly dead from Hydra’s gauntlet, can Cap stop the Great Leveling? In the face of Zemo’s atrocities, Sam Wilson will earn his stripes — make the single greatest sacrifice of his life — and he will never be the same again. The stage is set for the Age of Hydra!

Collecting ALL-NEW CAPTAIN AMERICA #1-6.

review :

Captain America is currently my favorite superhero and because I’ve only experienced his story through the movies, I wanted to start reading the comics. Maybe it wasn’t the best decision to begin with a more recent story arc without much preamble because there was a lot in All-New Captain America that ended up confusing me. As in, who the heck is Nomad? Who are all of these villains? Why is Sam taking on Captain America’s mantle now? And a few of those questions were actually answered in the volume. The rest, I guess I’ll have to backtrack to find out a little more.

Sam is trying to prove himself as Cap, because everyone knows and loves Steve whereas Falcon was more of a sidekick. He never saved the world all on his own. Now that he’s Cap, he has a lot more responsibility. It was interesting to see how he held up against and responded to that kind of pressure. You have to have respect for someone who’s going up against such odds even before he gets to the bad guys.

I also LOVE that there’s such a full backstory for Sam here. We learn more about his motivations and dreams for the future, how they were shaped by the family he’s lost as well as the family he’s managed to keep with him. In the films, there isn’t as much time to develop his character. I loved and respected him already–new I’m DEFINITELY ready to see him take shape more fully.

Another thing I really loved (and hated) in this collection was the ending. I’m still new to comics, but so far a plot twist hasn’t gotten to me like the one at the end of this volume did. Maybe I should have expected it, but to me it seemed to come out of nowhere and I loved being surprised like that.

I’m really interested in seeing what else will happen with Sam, Steve, and the rest of the crew throughout this story arc. I’ll impatiently wait to get my hands on more.

5/5 stars

The Cresswell Plot by Eliza Wass: A Disappointing Read

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The Cresswell Plot

author : eliza wass

pages : [hardcover] 272

summary :

The woods were insane in the dark, terrifying and magical at the same time. But best of all were the stars, which trumpeted their light into the misty dark.

Castella Cresswell and her five siblings—Hannan, Caspar, Mortimer, Delvive, and Jerusalem—know what it’s like to be different. For years, their world has been confined to their ramshackle family home deep in the woods of upstate New York. They abide by the strict rule of God, whose messages come directly from their father.

Slowly, Castley and her siblings start to test the boundaries of the laws that bind them. But, at school, they’re still the freaks they’ve always been to the outside world. Marked by their plain clothing. Unexplained bruising. Utter isolation from their classmates. That is, until Castley is forced to partner with the totally irritating, totally normal George Gray, who offers her a glimpse of a life filled with freedom and choice.

Castley’s world rapidly expands beyond the woods she knows so well and the beliefs she once thought were the only truths. There is a future waiting for her if she can escape her father’s grasp, but Castley refuses to leave her siblings behind. Just as she begins to form a plan, her father makes a chilling announcement: the Cresswells will soon return to their home in heaven. With time running out on all of their lives, Castley must expose the depth of her father’s lies. The forest has buried the truth in darkness for far too long. Castley might be their last hope for salvation.

review :

Although I dove right into The Cresswell Plot and it kept me interested until the very end, I couldn’t help but feel like it was missing some spark that would have made me love it.

This book was very predictable. The plot revolves around a cult-ish family called the Cresswells, who live in the woods next to a small town who doesn’t seem to care whether or not they’d all drop off of the face of the earth. The patriarch of the family believes they’re all too good for the world, that they’re the only ones going to heaven, and that he’s a chosen prophet of God. All of the basic cult-ish elements are here, including a home environment of fear and abuse. Castella and her fellow siblings have only been attending public school for a few years, after they failed their homeschooling tests. This is basically the only contact they receive from the world outside of the woods and their father. Unfortunately most of the town is pretty hostile toward them because they consider all of the Cresswells freaks.

The plot seemed to meander toward the final, big scene which I’d known was coming from the very start. Little subplots would start up–small rebellions by the children, pushing the boundaries of their world–and seem to go nowhere. It was difficult to follow Castella’s narration at times, but I think some of that stemmed from the unhealthy mentality she had from her childhood and ongoing abuse. It was interesting to see how she and the rest of the family could make anything her father did seem rational, because that was how he’d taught his children. And, of course, there was the threat that if she disobeyed, it was really God that she was disobeying, and she’d be barred from heaven like the rest of the world. That’s a pretty heavy threat.

Unfortunately, I feel like even though the Cresswell household was pretty well fleshed out, none of the townspeople were very believable to me. They all seemed like empty stereotypes, there just to make Castella feel or act a certain way at parts of the book. None really felt like their own person.

Overall, I was just really disappointed with The Cresswell Plot. I feel like it had the chance to really be something interesting and unique, but the flat characters and predictable plot bored me.

3/5 stars