Code Name Verity

Rating: .5
Author: Elizabeth E. Wein
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pub date: Feb. 2012 (read Dec. 2018)

I have mixed feelings about Code Name Verity. I’ve heard so many great things about this book and I really expected to love it, but I was really surprised when I actually started reading it.

This book is SLOW. I don’t mind slow books and I often really like slow burn dramas, but I’m not sure this worked for me and I’m surprised that it worked for so many other people. I’m kind of wondering if there’s something wrong with me or if people are just rating this so high based on emotional response to the ending of the book versus the book as a whole.

Code Name Verity tells the story of two friends during World War 2. Maddie is a pilot and got her license before the war started. At the start of the war she is forced off to the sidelines in favour of male pilots and works as a radio operator, where she meets her best friend. I don’t want to name her friend because she takes several names throughout the course of the novel and I don’t want to give away any spoilers. But the book opens with Maddie’s friend having been caught by the Germans in France as an English spy. She is imprisoned by the Germans and tortured for information. She agrees to pass information to them and starts writing her account of the war and her exposure to the British air forces.

I think it’s best to go into this book blind. All you really need to know is that this is a story about two friends and the lesser known roles that some women played in world war 2. The author initially set out to write a story about female pilots in WW2, because she is a pilot herself, and it developed into this book.

I have to give the author props, the book is clever. We view the story from two points of view, with the second half of the book essentially giving us an entirely new viewpoint on the first half. I really liked the narrator in that she was funny and clever even while being interrogated by the Nazi’s. Her personality really shines through, as does her love for her friend. What I liked most about this book was definitely the friendship and the way Wein played around with perspective. From the start of the book it seems like this is ultimately going to be a story about Maddie. Maddie is the focus of the intel that our narrator provides to the Nazi’s and they are particularly interested in Maddie because she is a pilot. But in the second half of the book it becomes very obvious that the story is not just about Maddie. It is about both friends and how each woman is the hero of the other’s story. They both made considerable contributions to the war effort and neither is more important than the other. It’s ultimately a story about friendship and I did think Wein created a very authentic and beautiful friendship.

So I can definitely understand why people love this book, I’m just surprised it has been as widely and well received as it has been. It is well loved among the YA community and I can’t help but wonder if that might have something to do with it’s success. I’ve never seen this one on the historical fiction circuit. I’ve only ever seen this book on the YA circuit and I really don’t want to be a snob about it, but as someone who’s read a lot of historical fiction, I kind of wonder if maybe this was many reader’s first, or only, foray into the genre. It was a very educational book and I definitely appreciate that it exists, but I just can’t get beyond the fact that for about 70% of this book, I was bored. I was interested in the interrogation and prison aspect because when we talk about WW2, we tend to get the camp perspective and this was definitely different than that. But most of the book was about aviation and after a while, it just got really boring and repetitive.

I am struggling to write this review because objectively, I do believe this is an important novel and it did make me think a lot, but it just never captivated me. And you know what, that’s okay. It’s obviously a beloved book to many people and it offers a perspective of WW2 that I haven’t seen before. The ending is heartbreaking. I knew this was going to be a sad book, so I was well prepared, but the ending definitely caught me off guard. Overall, I enjoyed the second half of the book better than the first. I understand now why the first half of the book was written the way it was, but I still think it was a bit overdone. I did love the ending though. I thought it was just the perfect amount of trauma – it was heartbreaking, but meaningful and not done for the sake of emotionally manipulating your readers.

So overall I think I will give this a 3.5 stars. I doubt I’ll be picking this book again, but overall, it was memorable and I don’t regret having read it. It just read a little bit more like history than historical fiction.

Aristotle and Dante Discovers the Secrets of the Universe

Rating: 
Author: Benjamin Alire Sàenz
Genres: Young Adult
Pub date: Feb. 2012 (read Apr. 2018)

Yay! I loved this!

I’ve been having a lot of success with YA lately. For awhile I thought I’d maybe finally outgrown the genre, but there’s still some really great contemporaries out there! This was the second book in my monthly challenge to read 3 award winning books. This was one of the soft spoken books that isn’t very plot driven, but develops some really beautiful characters.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is set in 1987 in El Paso, Texas. It’s summer and Ari, who has never been very good at making friends, is trying to pass away the time on his own when he meets Dante at the local pool. Dante seems to get a long with everyone and is well liked, but he’s never really been great at having friends either and the two boys strike up a friendship. Ari struggles to connect with people and is frustrated by his parents refusal to talk about his older brother who has been in prison for most of his life. Dante has a close relationship with his parents, but he struggles with his identity – who he is, what he loves, and what it means to be Mexican.

Like I said, it’s not a plot driven novel, although it does have some shocking plot elements that push the story forward. But ultimately it’s a coming of age story about friends, family, and identity. I love YA books that have a strong family element, especially one that built around understanding and love, rather than conflict and rebellion, which I’d say is probably more popular in YA. I love Ari and Dante’s parents in this book and the relationships that they all built with one another, how they developed and grew over the course of the book. In some ways it felt like a slow-build kind of book, but at the same time I found it hard to put down.

I don’t want to give any of the story away, I think it’s a good book to go into blind. I did and I really enjoyed the experience.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

 

 

 

 

 

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐.5
Author: Gail Honeyman
Genres: Fiction
Read: Feb. 2018

I think I have a bit of an unpopular opinion on this one. I appreciate what Gail Honeyman did with this book and I actually do think it’s a really good story, but I was just so bored for a lot of this book.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine reminded me in parts of The Rosie Project (but better) and A Man Called Ove (but not quite as good). Eleanor is seemingly fine; she gets up every day and goes to work, she talks to her mum every Wednesday, and every Friday she purchases a bottle of vodka and spends the weekend alone in her flat. She likes routine, she dislikes emotion, and she believes she is completely fine.

Her routine is disrupted when she meets Raymond, the IT guy from her office, and together they witness an old man, Sammy, have a heart attack in the middle of the street. They take care of him until EMS arrives and check in on him as he recovers in hospital. For the first time in her life, Eleanor finds herself enjoying time with other people – building relationships and miking plans outside of her normal routine.

This is definitely a good book. I don’t want to say any spoilers, so I’ll try and talk in general terms, but I really like Eleanor’s evolution throughout this novel. The changes in her do feel very natural and believable and I didn’t think any of the interactions were forced. The novel climaxes at a very odd spot, about the 70% mark, but I did like watching Eleanor grow and heal throughout the last 30%. I liked that it wasn’t rushed or that she’s not just suddenly better, because that is not believable.

I absolutely loved Raymond. He was so down to earth and accepting. The thing I didn’t like about The Rosie Project was that I didn’t ever really buy into Rose and Don’s relationship, but I had no problem believing Eleanor and Raymond’s. Eleanor is a bit of a social outcast, but she’s also pretty likable and funny and I liked that Raymond was able to laugh with her and accept her little quirks and idiosyncrasies.

Taking the time to write this review and reflect on the book is actually improving my opinion of it (and I still have a book club meeting coming up, which might lower or increase my rating). I do think this is a good story, hence why I’m still giving it 3.5 stars, and it did make me think a lot afterwards. But I just can’t ignore that I was bored for a lot of the reading of the novel.

I know this book is narrated the way Eleanor thinks, which is mostly without emotion, but I am a very emotional person, so I found it really hard to engage in the story and I never felt anything tugging at me to pick this book up again once I put it down. And that’s totally fine. These are still important stories that should be told, it’s just not necessarily for me. It still helped me appreciate the way that some other people experience and move about in the world and I don’t regret reading it. Just not going to be a favourite.