Sunday, April 5, 2020

#BookReview: Across the Winding River by Aimie K. Runyan

Genre
War Era Historical

Buy Links
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Amazon CA

Social Media
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DESCRIPTION: 
A woman unlocks the mystery of her father’s wartime past in a moving novel about secrets, sacrifice, and the power of love by the bestselling author of Daughters of the Night Sky.

Beth Cohen wants to make the most of the months she has left with her elderly father, Max. His only request of his daughter is to go through the long-forgotten box of memorabilia from his days as a medic on the western front. Then, among his wartime souvenirs, Beth finds a photograph of her father with an adoring and beautiful stranger—a photograph worth a thousand questions.

It was 1944 when Max was drawn into the underground resistance by the fearless German wife of a Nazi officer. Together, she and Max were willing to risk everything for what they believed was right. Ahead of them lay a dangerous romance, a dream of escape, and a destiny over which neither had control.

But Max isn’t alone in his haunting remembrances of war. In a nearby private care home is a fragile German-born woman with her own past to share. Only when the two women meet does Beth realize how much more to her father there is to know, all the ways in which his heart still breaks, and the closure he needs to heal it.

REVIEW: 
I can’t remember what I expected going into Aimie K. Runyan’s Across the Winding River, but the novel surpassed my expectations and surprised me in a variety of ways.

I am a historical fiction reader and usually appreciate the historical storylines of dual narratives more than the modern ones. Across the Winding River, however, proved an exception thanks to the emotional arc Runyan gifted Beth. The vulnerability she exudes pulls on the heartstrings and resonates with an authenticity I’ve rarely seen in my reading. The thought and care Runyan crafted in this story gave it something special, a fact which balanced my natural appreciation for the war era elements of the narrative.

Johanna also captured my attention. She is a strong and engaging character in her own right, but what impressed me was Runyan’s ability to avoid repetition. The author tackled women in wartime aviation in her 2018 release, Daughters of the Night Sky. Runyan’s admiration for this groundbreaking generation is obvious, but her ability to channel her esteem into another facet of their accomplishments so completely protected the individuality of both Johanna and Katya, even in the eyes of those familiar with her earlier work.

I’d be remiss in my commentary if I failed to mention Max. Some might overlook his arc alongside Beth and Johanna, but the resilience he exhibits despite circumstance and his natural affability is truly extraordinary. There is a sort of innocence lost element to his experiences, and I liked how Runyan chose to illustrate a man who was forever marked by his journey but refused to be broken by it.

Finally, I want to note Metta’s contribution to the narrative. Her story plays out in the background of the novel, and while I liked what she represents for each of the narrators, I can’t deny falling in love with what she symbolizes on the larger scale. The intangibility of her voice is a beautiful ode the stories the war obscured, and I found Runyan’s acknowledgment of that reality heart-wrenchingly beautiful.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Obtained from: Netgalley
Read: February 17, 2020
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#BookReview: Undertaker: The Gold Eater by Script by Xavier Dorison, Ralph Meyer, & Caroline Delabie

Genre
Historical Graphic Novel

Series
Undertaker #1

Buy Links
Amazon US
Amazon UK
Amazon CA

DESCRIPTION:  
Undertaker Jonas Crow is charged with transporting the coffin of an ex-miner become millionaire back to the mining vein that made his fortune. The funeral should have been a calm affair, but there's an unexpected turn of events: on the eve of his death, Joe Cusco swallowed all his gold, so as to carry it with him for all eternity. Unfortunately, the secret was leaked, provoking the fury of all the miners of Anoki City. They can't just leave such a fortune to be buried while they're sweating their souls away in the mining shafts! As Jonas says, "death never comes alone..."

REVIEW: 
As with most graphic novels, I picked up Xavier Dorison’s Undertaker: The Gold Eater on a whim. I’d not read him before, but the story looked vaguely interesting, and I figured it wouldn’t require much time to read, so I took the plunge (Am I a cheap date or what?).

I don’t want to get too far into the details of this piece as it’s short, and any real discussion would give the good bits away. That said, I found the story well-paced and engaging. It’s a little violent, but no more so than most westerns, and Dorison’s wit tickled me. The Gold Eater is not a comedy by any means, but Undertaker Jonas Crow’s propensity for dark-humored cheek brought a smile to my face.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my admiration for Ralph Meyer’s wonderful renderings. The panels have just the right amount of edge, and I liked the movement he was able to capture, especially once the story took off.

I will definitely be on the lookout for the rest of the series. Highly recommended.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Obtained from: Netgalley
Read: March 15, 2020
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#BookReview: Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Genre
Gothic Historical

Buy Links
Amazon US
Amazon UK
Amazon CA

Social Media
 Official Website
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DESCRIPTION: 
From the author of Gods of Jade and Shadow comes a reimagining of the classic gothic suspense novel, a story about an isolated mansion in 1950s Mexico—and the brave socialite drawn to its treacherous secrets.

He is trying to poison me. You must come for me, Noemí. You have to save me.

After receiving a frantic letter from her newly-wed cousin begging for someone to save her from a mysterious doom, Noemí Taboada heads to High Place, a distant house in the Mexican countryside. She’s not sure what she will find—her cousin’s husband, a handsome Englishman, is a stranger, and Noemí knows little about the region. 

Noemí is also an unlikely rescuer: She’s a glamorous debutante, and her chic gowns and perfect red lipstick are more suited for cocktail parties than amateur sleuthing. But she’s also tough and smart, with an indomitable will, and she is not afraid: Not of her cousin’s new husband, who is both menacing and alluring; not of his father, the ancient patriarch who seems to be fascinated by Noemí; and not even of the house itself, which begins to invade Noemi’s dreams with visions of blood and doom.

Her only ally in this inhospitable abode is the family’s youngest son. Shy and gentle, he seems to want to help Noemí, but might also be hiding dark knowledge of his family’s past. For there are many secrets behind the walls of High Place. The family’s once colossal wealth and faded mining empire kept them from prying eyes, but as Noemí digs deeper she unearths stories of violence and madness.

And Noemí, mesmerized by the terrifying yet seductive world of High Place, may soon find it impossible to ever leave this enigmatic house behind.

REVIEW: 
Can I start by gushing over the cover of Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Mexican Gothic? Is that allowed? I know a jacket has nothing to do with the content, but this design is gorgeous and played no small role in my decision to read the backside description… #CoverSlut

That said, I can’t deny falling for Moreno-Garcia’s story. The dark descriptions and grotesque imagery gave the novel a deliciously sinister vibe and lent a beautiful level of suspense to the narrative. Those with weaker constitutions might not appreciate the content, but I couldn’t turn the pages quickly enough.

I will admit to calling the ending, that I found the characters thinly developed, and that I’d have liked more cultural detail in the fabric of the story, but these notes didn’t hinder my enjoyment of the novel, and I’d have no trouble recommending it to fellow readers.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Obtained from: Netgalley
Read: March 11, 2020
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