Review: Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum

22725443Title: Hausfrau

Author: Jill Alexander Essbaum

Publisher: Random House

Publication Date: 2015

ISBN: 9780812997538


Synopsis from Goodreads:
Anna Benz, an American in her late thirties, lives with her Swiss husband, Bruno—a banker—and their three young children in a postcard-perfect suburb of Zürich. Though she leads a comfortable, well-appointed life, Anna is falling apart inside. Adrift and increasingly unable to connect with the emotionally unavailable Bruno or even with her own thoughts and feelings, Anna tries to rouse herself with new experiences: German language classes, Jungian analysis, and a series of sexual affairs she enters with an ease that surprises even her.  But Anna can’t easily extract herself from these affairs. When she wants to end them, she finds it’s difficult. Tensions escalate, and her lies start to spin out of control. Having crossed a moral threshold, Anna will discover where a woman goes when there is no going back.

Essbaum’s Hausfrau is an exploration of womanhood, marriage, love, lust, and self. Anna is lost in her life. A mother and housewife, she doesn’t work and has two sons. Her marriage has lost it’s passion. Anna has no friends and can barely even speak the language of her husband. She knows no one beyond her husband and his family, and even they are still strangers to her even after years of marriage. In an attempt to find herself and to make a life for herself, she finds desperate passion in the lustful affairs she conducts with strange men. Anna experiences incredibles sexual awakening in her affairs, loosing herself in the pleasure that she cannot derive from her home life. She comes to understand herself, her needs, and her wants throughout the book, in a way that she doesn’t recognize in the first few pages.

Anna loses everything to her indiscretion. She is punished severely and receives no redemption. It is certainly not a happy ending. What’s worse is that as the reader, you can see it coming from a mile away, and yet, you can do nothing to help her. She remains on this self-destructive track in a way that makes you cringe and want to look away. But as the reader, I felt I wanted her to succeed. I wanted her to find happiness. She is in a period of exploration, trying to know herself and to build a life that has meaning in this place where she has nothing. But she becomes confident and careless in her exploits, making more daring decisions until she has nothing left.

What I loved about this book is how real and tangible Anna is. She makes bad decisions, life altering decisions, and she fails. Her decisions do not make her likeable, but they make her independent. She is seeking change and she desires to actually feel loved and wanted. She is only human. While I could not get on board with her lies and her deception, I felt like I could understand her in her unhappiness and her need to make a change.

This story questions what it means to be a housewife, a mother, a woman. What is expected of Anna in a marriage where there is no love left? What can she do if she cannot support herself? Where does one turn to when one has no one in the world? She has limited means, no connections, nearly nothing left in the world. Her actions question her moral character, but they also hint at her deep seeded unhappiness and discontent. Her actions also reflect her situation: trapped, lonely, and unsure.

I didn’t love it, but I didn’t hate it. This one has left me a bit indecisive because it has elements that I really appreciated, but also characterization and plot that I found incredibly sad.

Review: The End by Anna by Adam Zachary

32848923*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: The End by Anna

Author: Adam Zachary

Publisher: Metatron

Publication Date: November 1, 2016

ISBN: 9781988355023

The End, by Anna

Synopsis on Goodreads:
Anna’s greatest artwork would have also been her last: live-streaming her death of exposure on a remote stretch of tundra. Part love triangle, part meditation on performance art, and part archival document of a creative prodigy, this genre-bending short novel is an intelligent and emotionally resonant work from a bold and ambitious new literary voice.

This novel by Adam Zachary is a piece of art. Zachary is astounding. This story completely took my breathe away. It’s a story of Anna, an artist who’s last planned piece of art is to film her self in a live-stream as she dies of exposure. Told from the perspective of a close friend, this story gives us an intimate look into Anna’s world, her art, her sexuality, her life, and her genius. Death hangs over this whole story, infusing it with melancholy. Anna views her death with a sense of disconnect, viewing beauty in her demise rather than concern at her own thought of suicide. Her friends see her vision, but also push her to see reason. The story is wrought with emotion and a tension that lies just beneath the surface.

Zachary’s writing is clear, moving, and powerful. I could read this story again and again. I believe that I’d feel something new with each reading. The characters are raw and honest, confronting each other, questioning, accepting, loving, hurting. I fell in love with this story, and I hope you will too.

Review: The Sun is Also A Star by Nicola Yoon

28763485*I received this book in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: The Sun is also a Star

Author: Nicola Yoon

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Publication Date: November 1, 2016

ISBN: 9780553496680

The Sun Is Also a Star

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Natasha: I’m a girl who believes in science and facts. Not fate. Not destiny. Or dreams that will never come true. I’m definitely not the kind of girl who meets a cute boy on a crowded New York City street and falls in love with him. Not when my family is twelve hours away from being deported to Jamaica. Falling in love with him won’t be my story.
Daniel: I’ve always been the good son, the good student, living up to my parents’ high expectations. Never the poet. Or the dreamer. But when I see her, I forget about all that. Something about Natasha makes me think that fate has something much more extraordinary in store—for both of us.
The Universe: Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single moment. A million futures lie before us. Which one will come true?

Nicola Yoon is back with this wonderful and moving story of a single, but profound moment in time where two young people meet and fall in love. This is a story of epic passion and about believing in something against all odds. The timing isn’t ideal and that makes the feelings all the more desperate and full. It asks the question, if you only had one day to spend with that one person who you’re meant to be with, how would you spend it? I’m not one for believing in fate or that there is one special person on Earth for each of us to fall in love with. But Yoon presents a story that will have you believing in fate and the purest, truest love.

Natasha and Daniel meet on Natasha’s last day in the USA before her family is deported back to Jamaica. Natasha loves facts, but Daniel is a hopeless romantic. He bets Natasha that he can get her to fall in love with him using facts. Natasha is swayed into giving the experiment a try.

This book spans the course of one single day. It savours each moment exploring each second that Natasha and Daniel spend together. They develop an honesty with one another that some adults don’t have over the course of the lifetime, and the the reader is privy to each special moment. They accept each other’s faults and insecurities in this fleeting time together. They move from topics like music, to their families, immigration, deportation, the future, as they work through a series of questions that will supposedly make them fall in love. They are both incredibly beautiful people in a beautiful story that will tug at your heart strings.

I’m a huge fan of Yoon and I hope she keeps the novels coming because I haven’t been disappointed in the slightest!

Review: Scythe by Neal Schusterman

28954189*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: Scythe

Author: Neal Schusterman

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Publication Date: November 29, 2016

ISBN: 9781442472426

Scythe (Scythe, #1)

Synopsis from Goodreads:
In a world where disease has been eliminated, the only way to die is to be randomly killed (“gleaned”) by professional reapers (“scythes”). Citra and Rowan are teenagers who have been selected to be scythe’s apprentices, and—despite wanting nothing to do with the vocation—they must learn the art of killing and come to understand the necessity of what they do. Only one of them will be chosen as a scythe’s apprentice. And when it becomes clear that the winning apprentice’s first task will be to glean the loser, Citra and Rowan are pitted against one another in a fight for their lives.

OMG! OMG! OMG! I haven’t been this excited about a series in a long, long time. Schusterman has created such an interesting futuristic world where death of natural causes no longer exists. I received this book for review, not expecting much at all but I was completely BLOWN AWAY. You wouldn’t think this book is extraordinary when you look at it. The cover is nice, simple, but not mind blowing. But the story inside, I hope you’ll take a chance to read this one, because it seriously has the potential to be the next big thing.

Scythes are professional reapers who bring death to the immortal. They live by a code, some sticking to it more strictly than others. Citra and Rowan are chosen to apprentice to the great Scythe Faraday, but they are quickly pitted against each other. Their world is full of corruption and deceit. They must make a way for themselves as their lives evolve into something new and unknown.

Both Rowan and Citra are interesting and well rounded characters. They are unique and come to develop their new career path in completely different ways. Schusterman shifts points of view so we get to know the inner thoughts of each character, even when they seem to not know one another. It’s a great way for us to come to understand each of them individually and to know their motivations and desires. The author does try to inject some romance (forbidden of course) into the story, which is entirely unnecessary and does pretty much nothing in term of developing the plot, in this book at least. Perhaps he intends to unfold the romance further in the future, but it certainly isn’t a will-they-wont-they circumstance here. They spell it out pretty clearly that their into one another–verbally. There’s not much imagined spark or romantic flirtation between the two. But then again, they do kill people for a living, so perhaps that heart-fluttery excitement would be a stretch.

This world is incredibly well planned and I think that we’re going to continue to see it excitingly exposed in future novels. Citra and Rowan will hopefully explore this world more in depth as they bring the Scythedom into a new era. There’s a lot more to come and that anticipation is just bubbling under the surface. I hope Shusterman is able to keep momentum in subsequent books. I can’t wait to read more!

Review: Bad Feminist by Roxanne Gay

18813642Title: Bad Feminist

Author: Roxanne Gay

Publisher: Harper Perennial

Publication Date: August 2014

ISBN: 9780062282712

Bad Feminist

Synopsis from Goodreads:
In these funny and insightful essays, Roxane Gay takes us through the journey of her evolution as a woman of color while also taking readers on a ride through culture of the last few years and commenting on the state of feminism today. The portrait that emerges is not only one of an incredibly insightful woman continually growing to understand herself and our society, but also one of our culture.

Bad Feminist was a surprisingly funny and entertaining read. Gay’s voice is extremely readable and engaging, and she keeps her essays short and sharp-witted. She raises great points, begins strong arguments, and keeps her reader entertained form start to finish. However, I struggled quite a bit because I don’t believe her arguments are fully formed, and it takes away from the potential for strength that each essay has. Gay wants to talk about so many tough and controversial topics. I believe she has a lot to say and I believe she has some extremely valid points. I hate to see a great discussion weakened because not enough time was given for development. Gay includes quite a few reviews in this book–many, if not all, being previously published in various media sources. In the vast majority of cases, these reviews could have been completely eliminated. I have to say, I’m glad I borrowed this book from a friend, because I would have hated to pay for a novel with contents that I could have read online for free on any review site.  I hate to give a bad review, but I had high hopes for this collection, and I was left feeling very unsatisfied.

Review: The Diabolic by S. J. Kincaid

30542863*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: The Diabolic

Author: S. J. Kincaird

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young

Publication Date: November 1st 2016

ISBN: 9781481472678

The Diabolic

Synopsis from Goodreads:
A Diabolic is ruthless. A Diabolic is powerful. A Diabolic has a single task: Kill in order to protect the person you’ve been created for.  Nemesis is a Diabolic, a humanoid teenager created to protect a galactic senator’s daughter, Sidonia. The two have grown up side by side, but are in no way sisters. Nemesis is expected to give her life for Sidonia, and she would do so gladly. She would also take as many lives as necessary to keep Sidonia safe. When the power-mad Emperor learns Sidonia’s father is participating in a rebellion, he summons Sidonia to the Galactic court. She is to serve as a hostage. Now, there is only one way for Nemesis to protect Sidonia. She must become her. Nemesis travels to the court disguised as Sidonia—a killing machine masquerading in a world of corrupt politicians and two-faced senators’ children. It’s a nest of vipers with threats on every side, but Nemesis must keep her true abilities a secret or risk everything. As the Empire begins to fracture and rebellion looms closer, Nemesis learns there is something more to her than just deadly force. She finds a humanity truer than what she encounters from most humans. Amidst all the danger, action, and intrigue, her humanity just might be the thing that saves her life—and the empire.

It’s nice to see a new YA novel that can easily be the next big thing. In this futuristic world, wealthy humans have escaped the confines of planetary existence. They live in a dystopian regime with a blood thirty, vengeful emperor at its helm. Diabolics exist to serve and protect the aristocratic elite. They have been banned and destroyed…except for Nemesis. Nemesis is at the core of an unconventional coming of age story. She’s a weapon, bred to fight, not to experience humanity. Nemesis must fight to protect everything she’s ever known and cared about.

Nemesis is the most fully developed character and she’s quite interesting. She is learning and uncovering the world as we, the readers, are. I think that her story is fascinating. Nemesis is new to the world outside of the home where she grew up. She’s like a baby, processing new experiences and information as she moves forward. She experiences great tragedy and loss. These experience only serve to make her stronger.

I think that important characters like Sidonia, Nemesis’ charge, or Neveni, Nemesis’ ally, could have been more fleshed out. They both have strong foundations, but they both needed a lot of work to be brought to life. They’re both interesting characters, Neveni especially. She has strong political opinions and a strong drive to fight. But Sidonia in particular, is presented as a more major character and is quickly cut out of the story.

This story is packed full of action. It’s a very interesting, futuristic world that I hope is explored even further in possible future books. Kincaid is a strong world builder. The setting is vivid and expansive. I sense that there are huge portions of this world that are yet unexplored and I hope to read more. This novel is an exciting new sci-fi meets dystopian adventure and is worth the read!

Review: The German Girl by Armando Lucas Correa

29430755*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: The German Girl

Author: Armando Lucas Correa

Publisher: Atria Books

Publication Date: October 18, 2016

ISBN: 9781501121142

The German Girl: A Novel

Synopsis from Goodreads:
In 1939 before everything changed, Hannah Rosenthal lived a charmed life. Her family moved in Berlin’s highest social circles, admired by friends and neighbors. Now the streets of Berlin are draped with red, white, and black flags; their fine possessions are hauled away, and they are no longer welcome in the places that once felt like home. The two friends make a pact: come what may, they promise to have a future together. After a frantic search to obtain visas, the Rosenthals and the Martins depart from Hamburg on the luxurious passenger liner bound for Havana. Life aboard the ship is a welcome respite from the gloom of Berlin—filled with masquerade balls, dancing, and exquisite meals every night. But soon reports from the outside world began to filter in, and dark news overshadows the celebratory atmosphere on the ship; the governments of Cuba, the United States, and Canada are denying the passengers of the St. Louis admittance to their countries, forcing them to return to Europe as it descends into the Second World War. The ship that had seemed their salvation seems likely to become their death sentence. 

Decades later in New York City on her eleventh birthday, Anna Rosen receives a mysterious envelope from Hannah, a great-aunt she has never met but who raised her deceased father. In an attempt to piece together her father’s mysterious past, Anna and her mother travel to Havana to meet Hannah, who is turning eighty-seven years old. Hannah reveals old family ties, recounts her journey aboard the Saint Louis and, for the first time, reveals what happened to her father and Leo. Bringing together the pain of the past with the mysteries of the present, Hannah gives young Anna a sense of their shared histories, forever intertwining their lives, honoring those they loved and cruelly lost.

You can’t help but love the two girls, Hannah and Anna, whose stories are so closely linked, but are separated by decades and eras. They are family but their lives and upbringing are worlds apart. Hannah is a refugee who’s family fled from Nazi-occupied Germany. She lost her life, friends, family, and everything she’d every known about herself. Anna is her great-niece who lost her father before she was even born, who doesn’t know her past or her history, but as she blossoms into a woman, she comes to know her story.

Correa has a very smooth voice and writing style that makes this story flow quickly, but allows the reader to savour each word. He connects us to these two eras, 1930s Germany/20th-Century Cuba, and 21st Century America. His novel is the tale of a family that lost themselves, and years later, they discover once again who they are. A lost name becomes a name reclaimed with pride in the end. Fear gives way to hope for the future.

I thought that the young girls were the most realistic and well-rounded characters, which makes sense because the stories are told from their perspectives. The adults in the story take a backseat. We understand them through the eyes of the children in an honest, yet limited way. Their voices are full of the innocence of childhood but as they, especially Hannah, matures we see her grow into a more complex women, although when we see her from Anna’s perspective, that distance between child and adult is established once again.

I was quite please with this story. It fits right in with the historical fiction kick that I’ve been on lately. It was easy to read and takes a new perspective on World War Two–one that I hadn’t read before. I would definitely recommend! I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars.