Review: A Fire Sparkling by Julianne MacLean

I am a sucker for a good World War II historical novel. I love learning about any part of history but I’ve always found my biggest interests in WWII. So when I saw a new WWII based novel on NetGalley, I requested an ARC right away and they graciously provided me with one. Unfortunately I wasn’t in a huge historical fiction mood when I got it so I only just now got around to reading it (shame on me 😦 ).

But once I did sit down to read A Fire Sparkling by Julianne MacLean I ended up completing it in two sittings (probably would’ve been one if I hadn’t had to train someone at work). I think my favorite thing about historical fiction books are when they do capture your attention to the point of not wanting to put the book down. Many historical fiction books are dense and poetic and not that easy to get into at first but gradually pick up speed and intensity as it goes on.

Most of this review is going to contain spoilers because I don’t feel like I can adequately discuss my thoughts without spoiling the book… So I’ll do a quick nonspoiler review now before I dive further into my thoughts on this book.

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Here’s a quick summary:

A Fire Sparkling follow dual timelines during “present day” 2011 and Europe in World War II. Gillian returns home after heartbreak to spend time with her father and grandmother and discovers that her grandmother has been hiding a huge secret from her family for most of her life.

That’s a really bad summary but that’s essentially all the story is.

This book was a very easy read, it was not full of complicated prose or very poetic at all. So if you are new to the historical fiction genre, I would recommend this. If you are a fan of the trope where an old person reveals a huge life secret in their old age, I would recommend this. If you want a very (in my opinion) light historical fiction novel that is full of twists and turns, I recommend this.

If you have extensive knowledge of World War II and are well versed in historical fiction and want a really deep and realistic story… Don’t pick this up. This story just seemed so unrealistic and the twists and turns that the plot took made me dizzy. The characters all felt pretty flat to me as well and I wasn’t a fan of Gillian whatsoever and I rated the book 3/5 stars.

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You are about to enter a spoiler zone, leave now if you don’t want to get spoiled!!!

Y’all… I have no idea what to think of this book. It felt like the author had like a checklist of historical fiction World War novels and just checked off every item as she added them to the plot. Spies, lost loves, resistance infiltrating enemy forces, an old person revealing their entire lives in their old age… It was exhausting. There were so many twists that this book took that it straight up gave me whiplash!!

Now, I saw it coming that the Nazi was Gillian’s true grandfather. The author literally said that the earl that was the supposed grandfather had dark hair and eyes while Edward had blond hair and blue eyes (and look I know it was possible, but was highly unlikely, I do understand basic biology) and I just figured that Vivian had had another miscarriage and April gave up the baby due to one situation or another. I definitely didn’t see the twist coming that Vivian was April but in the end, okay, super dramatic but it works.

In terms of the actual historical story in this. It was decent, that was the part of the book that I actually liked. It gave me whiplash but it kept me interested and in the end, that’s what mattered. For the most part, it just felt very generic and typical of a World War II historical fiction novel. Pretty much all of the characters were flat and I wasn’t particularly attached to any of them. I would have loved more development with Jack especially considering he was the “great love” the grandmother’s life.

The “present day” timeline was annoying. I hated Gillian as a character. She clearly was supposed to have some big healing story arc by accepting her mother’s death from a decade before but I felt like she was an entirely pointless character and her story was atrocious? Like, okay, let’s have a character heal from a past trauma… But was it really necessary to this book? NOPE! Her story could have easily just been “oh, I’ve been through a breakup (or even been single this whole time) and just decided to come home and visit” and then BAM there’s grandma’s story. Her story with the cheating just added to the plot soup. Literally so many storylines and none of them were 100% developed. This could have been 3-4 books with the amount of stuff that was going on. Like I said earlier, I wasn’t attached to any of the characters and I felt absolutely no sympathy or empathy for Gillian which to me, clearly shows that these characters weren’t well written.

One little gripe before I get to my last point… OMG the amount of times the author described an emotion being felt in the belly. I should’ve kept a tally. It was like once a chapter. Drove me crazy. Use other descriptors, please and thank you.

There was one thing that really made me mad, like steaming mad, and that was the ending. I’m sorry but making the Nazi a part of the resistance? No. Just honestly why? That’s a total copout to make the guy look “good”. Sorry, no, I don’t care that he was part of the resistance. You don’t get that high up in the ranks without doing atrocious things. It’s unforgiving. The author really tried to redeem this guy and I absolutely hated that. I could probably rant for a good hour about how frustrated this made me feel but I’m just going to say that this was a poor choice and I would have preferred for it to have ended differently.

I went with 3 stars for my rating because while it was plot soup and had a bad ending and not so great writing, I did enjoy it overall. And maybe I could hyper analyze and change my rating but there’s not really a point. I think this would be a fine book for people who want to read historical fiction but can’t handle the super dense and heavy books that usually flood this genre.

Now, if you’ve stuck around this far, thanks for reading and I hope you all have a great weekend!

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Book Review: Filter This by Sophie White

Hey everyone! Today I’m going to be reviewing my first ARC from my whole list of September releases.

The book in question is Filter This by Sophie White and here is the blurb from Goodreads:

Ali Jones is hell-bent on achieving her #lifegoals: 10,000 Instagram followers and a win at the upcoming Glossie Influencer Awards. So when she inadvertently leads people to believe she is sporting a baby bump and immediately gains thousands of followers, she realises that the Mummy Influencer wave could be her ticket to Insta-success, even if off-screen it feels like her life is falling apart with what’s happening to her beloved dad.

But then Tinder Sam, Ali’s one-night-stand, resurfaces and seems determined to take his new role as baby daddy seriously. And falling for Sam is definitely not part of Ali’s plan.

Meanwhile, Ireland’s biggest influencer (and Ali’s idol) Shelly Divine has it all … at least on paper. But beneath the immaculately curated feed, cracks are appearing. Shelly harbours a secret from her followers and, more importantly, her husband – but who will be the first to discover what she’s been hiding?

As the Glossies approach, what will it take for the women realise what’s truly important before they lose what matters most?

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So when I requested this I knew what the plot was going into it… But like I must have really not been paying that much attention because honestly if I had realized that this whole thing revolved around a faked pregnancy I probably would have passed on it. I feel very conflicted with my rating on this solely because I cannot understand how anyone could possibly be okay with faking a pregnancy for social media clout but I’ll go more into detail with that later in my review.

In the end, I’ve settled on 3/5 stars.

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I guess I’ll preface the whole review by saying that I in no way support the plot that the author put together. The faked pregnancy is a really bad take on faking something for social media, I think the worst part was the fact that the main character, Ali, actually let her one night stand believe that he had knocked her up. That is so incredibly manipulative and gross and I hated that part of this book more than I can put into words.  FAKING A PREGNANCY ISN’T CUTE. LYING TO THE MAN THAT THINKS HE KNOCKED YOU UP IS MANIPULATIVE AS HELL.

In other terms of things that I didn’t like about this plot:

  • Ali’s drinking problem. There are so many pieces of media in which heavy drinking is portrayed as much less of a problem than it is. Binge drinking is a really toxic behavior and it shouldn’t be played off as a typical young person thing in the way that it is.
  • This book isn’t going to be timeless. It’s full of modern pop culture references and does nothing to mask that fact. I know that social media isn’t going anywhere anytime soon but I feel like it’s hard for all of these books that focus in so much on what is going on *right now* to be relevant in a few years time.
  • There were many chances to go in depth about losing a parent early due to illness and also to postpartum depression and yet NEITHER of these plot points were ever discussed beyond surface level. Both Ali and Shelley (the character that has the secondary viewpoint of the book) had the opportunity to go on big sprawling character developing arcs and yet I really don’t think either changed by the end of the book.
  • And with that there’s supposed to be a sequel. In which, obviously, Ali and Shelley are most likely going to try and redeem themselves. I just feel like that’s an excuse to leave this book underdeveloped and lacking in substance. None of the main characters meant anything to me and in fact, I really didn’t find myself invested in Ali or Shelley as people either. Very flat and surface level for the entire book.

Now the things that I liked about this book were:

  • It was funny. Like I snorted about some of the things that happened. It was outrageous some of the things the women in this book do for a simple “like”.
  • If you really think about it, this book portrays an outrageous story about women who do outrageous things in order to maintain clout on the internet. I feel like a book like this would be one that could be dissected and compared to real life in order to show just how far people will go to be popular. I find social media to be so toxic at times and I feel like if you’re reading this book in the right mindset then it illustrates exactly that. Like this book was messy… I mean in the first few chapters Ali literally put together a moldy bowl of oats in order to have a perfect breakfast shot and then promptly ate a cheesy croissant instead. I just know there are people out there that do this kind of stuff and it makes my stomach churn at the thought of needing to cultivate such a perfect life.

So is this the next great book? Oh by no means. But if you’re looking for something quick and funny to read, this could be up your alley. If you’d like to purchase a copy of your own you can get one at this link.

 

 

Review: 100 Days of Sunlight by Abbie Emmons

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I’m going to start off by saying that I am sad. Sad because of how good this book could have been… And I feel like that is just the entire theme of my reading this year. I swear I say this for at least one book every month: IT HAD THE POTENTIAL AND THEY SHOULD HAVE WORKED IT OUT A LOT LONGER BEFORE PUBLISHING IT.

So I got an ARC of this book from NetGalley and was super excited to read it. I mean look at that cover, one of the prettiest covers I’ve seen in a while. It started off really good but in the end I had to rate it 2/5 stars.

This book is about a girl named Tessa who got into a car accident with her grandma which resulted in her being temporarily blind for can you guess? 100 days.

Tessa is a poetry blogger and so in an attempt to help her feel a little bit more normal again, her grandparents try to run an ad in the newspaper to find someone who can help her type the poems and publish them onto her blog.

In comes Weston, an amputee. He’s decided that this is the perfect opportunity to be treated like a completely normal person for the first time since he lost his legs. He asks Tessa’s grandparents to not tell her what has happened to him and together they work together as Tessa slowly recovers from the accident.

I’ll start off with the things that I did enjoy about the book:

The story was very sweet at times. I appreciated how close Tessa was with her grandparents and that she had a close group of internet friends that she found through her blogging. I also really liked Weston’s family aspect and how close he was to his brothers.

The writing was really pleasant to read and it was so easy to read that I flew through multiple chapters at a time when I actually had a chance to sit down and read this. I also liked that it was a pretty straightforward story with really no dilly dallying around the plot. It was short and got right through it all.

Also these are very small issues but if you’re looking for a book about blogging, this isn’t it. They basically talk about Tessa’s blog a total of three times. And it’s an extreme case of insta love.

And now… We get to the really big issues I had.

Both Tessa and Weston had extremely traumatic things happen to them. Tessa was in an accident that caused her to lose her vision and Weston had to have both of his legs amputated after getting an infection. And they were both left to just deal with the aftermath of that by themselves… I mean yes, they had their families but they never went to therapy, they never talked about therapy, it just didn’t happen.

When something traumatic happens your entire brain chemistry can change. The mental consequences of events like these are horrifying and I’m absolutely appalled that you could clearly see that both of these characters were suffering with PTSD like symptoms and yet were not ever treated like it was something that should be taken care of or evaluated. I mean Tessa had the chance of never being able to see again and they just decided “okay she can just learn how to deal with that if she doesn’t get her vision back”.

I mean, what would have happened if she didn’t get her vision back (which also I found that her getting her vision back immediately on Day 100 was so trite and predictable, really didn’t like that). If she had been permanently blinded she would have lost all hope that she had at her chance of recovery. That would have been devastated and her already fragile mental health would have been destroyed. I just think that the entire aspect of mental health was poorly written in order to have this incredibly preachy underlying message about how we all need to suck it up and get over our issues.

Here’s more on that, first with a quote:

“Everyone’s always treating me like I need help- and, sometimes, it’s hard to resist giving in. It’s hard to resist accepting what the world says about you… That you’ve got a disadvantage, a flaw, a problem. Because these days we’re told that it’s okay to let our problems control us. It’s okay to be the victim. It’s okay… because you have every right to be miserable.” I shook my head slowly, sweeping the room with my gaze.

“But I want to tell you that it’s not okay. It’s not okay to let your problem stop you from doing anything you want to do. It’s not okay to be your problem… because you’re a person”

I mean like the line on the cover says… “When life knocks you down… Get up” it just breaks me knowing how many people out there want you to feel like you are not allowed to feel the way that you feel. No, you can’t live every single day of your life miserable but you can’t go around acting like everything is peachy keen, sometimes you are the victim. Sometimes you are completely broken down. Sometimes you feel like giving up. And you know what? I’m here telling you that that is okay. We can’t possibly have everything together all the time.

Sometimes, our handicaps, our hurts, our abuses… Sometimes they win. And no those problems are not who we are but they are a part of us and we can’t ignore them in order to make everyone else around us think better of us. Sometimes we get knocked down and we can’t get back up again for a while. And I really, really don’t appreciate how this book preaches to the fact that we shouldn’t feel bad for what is wrong with us. I’m sorry but I will never be fully strong. I will never fully win. And I am incredibly angry that this book is trying to tell me that I am pathetic, yes it makes me feel pathetic, for feeling the way that I do.

There’s another line very early on in the book that says something along the lines of “no one ever sees the light by being told that someone else is dealing with something darker” and THAT is what I wanted to see more of. I have been told time and time again in my life that there are people out there that have it worse than me and that I’m not allowed to feel the way that I do because of that. I don’t know if I’m just being overly sensitive but it really hurt me to have Weston talk the way that he did despite never doing anything for himself to get help about his mental health other than deciding that he needed to essentially “man up” and just do whatever he wanted no matter what anyone else thought.

I just don’t understand how this author can go from writing a beautiful line like that to preaching that we aren’t allowed to be miserable about what is wrong with us. Especially because right after that quote Weston basically plays the victim saying that he can’t possibly be with Tessa because he’s an amputee. It just made no sense to me. I mean if Weston doesn’t want people to treat him like his handicap then he can’t act like that when that finally comes up.

I just think the story overall was so immature and absolutely poorly told in both cases of disability. I really wish that I hadn’t read this book because I know I’m going to get angry every single time I think about it.

I think that this book puts out a really entitled message and I’m really disappointed. This is not a book that I would recommend. I really wish that this book had been different.

I also wanted to share a link to another review that touched on some things that I didn’t talk about here. You can find that here.

If you are interested in reading it yourself, you can pick up a copy at this affiliate link