Wolf by Wolf – by Ryan Graudin

“Her self-reflection was no reflection at all. It was a shattered mirror. Something she had to piece together, over and over again. Memory by memory. Loss by loss. Wolf by wolf.”

wolf by wolf

Synopsis from GoodreadsThe year is 1956, and the Axis powers of the Third Reich and Imperial Japan rule the world. To commemorate their Great Victory over Britain and Russia, Hitler and Emperor Hirohito host the Axis Tour: an annual motorcycle race across their conjoined continents. The victor is awarded an audience with the highly reclusive Adolf Hitler at the Victor’s ball. Yael, who escaped from a death camp, has one goal: Win the race and kill Hitler. A survivor of painful human experimentation, Yael has the power to skinshift and must complete her mission by impersonating last year’s only female victor, Adele Wolfe. This deception becomes more difficult when Felix, Adele twin’s brother, and Luka, her former love interest, enter the race and watch Yael’s every move. But as Yael begins to get closer to the other competitors, can she bring herself to be as ruthless as she needs to be to avoid discovery and complete her mission?

Feelings: Wow. Wow. Wow. This book was different from how I expected it to be. It wasn’t until I’d completely finished the book that I really understood it. I understood that it’s all about identity – how we shape our lives and our outlooks, and how we see others around us. Yael, as a skinshifter, had even forgotten what her real face looked like. This book follows her journey of self discovery and what her place is in the world.

The writing style was different from anything I’ve read in a while, so that was a breath of fresh air. Ryan Graudin has a unique voice; she has a beautiful way of describing a character’s feelings and fears. I felt with Yael and what she was going through, throughout the story. She writes with a heavy hands towards metaphors, which I know bothers some people, but I love it.

Issues: Sometimes the flashbacks took away from the action of the outside story. Historical fiction oftentimes has a number of flashbacks, helping build understanding and supporting character development. In this book, they were crucial to understanding who Yael was and what her motivations were, but sometimes they interrupted the flow of the story. The motorycle race was so action packed that when the flashbacks were over, it took me a minute to get back into the outside story. It felt kind of up and down.

Characters: Yael is a really complex character. Her motivations were so grounded in her past experiences, but then she starts to question herself. I thought that was very realistic and easy to relate to – you think you know what you’re doing and are confident that it’s the right path, but then life happens and you second guess everything. Yael quickly became one of my favorite fictional female characters ever. She’s a survivor and a she-wolf, intriguing and again…very complex.

I couldn’t figure Luka out and even after finishing the book I’m not sure how to feel about him. And Felix, I love. I’m all for those protective brother characters! The sequel comes out this November, so some of the things I’m looking for involve Felix’s involvement and hopefully nailing Luka’s character down.

Genre: What an intriguing twist on history! I really enjoyed reading the alternate to reality and the possibilities if the war had turned out differently. At the same time, this story was a little out of my comfort zone because this was a difficult future to want to imagine.

Comparisons: This book made me think of the Amazon show, The Man in the High Castle. It’s similar in the sense that the Germans have won the war and have peace with the Japanese, splitting the land between them.

Final thoughts: I really enjoyed this book, overall. It’s fast paced, has a lot of depth, and is set up nicely for a sequel! If you’re wanting to read something that’s truly unique and shakes up your reading palate a little bit, this is the book for you.

Pick this up if you liked:

Passenger by Alexandra Bracken

The Man in the High Castle series on Amazon Prime (or the book)

Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman

Goodreads rating: 4.33/5

Amazon.com rating: 4.5/5

My rating: 4.5/5

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

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Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

This review is spoiler-free!

outlander

I decided to read the book and watch the first season of the TV show at the same time. I’d read a few chapters, then watch an episode. Read a bit more, watch the next one. I did pretty well with staying away from spoilers because the book follows the show pretty closely. A lot of the dialogue is word-for-word from the book, which is kind of cool. Also, because of the page count, I was flipping back and forth between the audiobook and the print version. I highly recommend the audiobook!

This review will include both the first book of the series, as well as the first season of the show. But first…the book:

If you’re unfamiliar with the synopsis of this book, check out the synopsis from Goodreads.

Feelings: I’d heard a lot of people say something along the lines of “great writing, lots of rape”. From the first page of the book I completely agreed with the first part of that statement. I really enjoyed the writing style, the careful word choice, and the very descriptive images each sentence painted. About halfway through, second part of that statement slowly became more and more true. It wasn’t the action so much as the threat of it and the conversations about it. You have to consider the historical context, but also…it may have been a tiny bit much.

Issues: Whoa, sexy sexy. I knew that this was a romance novel, but I wasn’t expecting the trashy kind of romance novel. Description, thy name is Outlander. If you’re wary of romance novels that are super steamy, you want to steer clear of this book…and the show.

Sometimes there was a little TOO much detail, dragging out scenes that really could have been a lot shorter to keep the story moving.

I know a lot of people struggled with the relationship between a Scottish man and wife. I don’t know how historically accurate it was, but if you see it through a historical lens, it’s not nearly as shocking. If you’re able to separate modern views from what’s happening in the book, then you’ll be ok. (That doesn’t make the situation ok…you just have to consider the time.)

My last issue was how 90% of this book is storytelling. Meaning, so much of this book is about filling in the blanks and learning about past events from different character’s experiences. I’m hoping that this was just “world building” and setting the stage for the rest of the series to build upon. It was like character and plot development in reverse.

Characters: Claire travels through time to the 18th century, leaving behind a doting husband and a peaceful world. It kind of felt like she accepted her situation pretty quickly. What else could she do but go along with everything, but I mean…why was she not freaking out about TIME TRAVEL? Other than this one thing, the characters were all so real. They had honest arguments, felt complex emotions, and made rash decisions. Nothing fell into place neatly, every action had a price. Nothing was wrapped up in a pretty bow.

Jamie…Jamie, Jamie, Jamie. Yes please. He’s sensitive, proud, loving, protective, strong…and he’s rash, and he’s got a temper. What a complex lad. I loved him, then I was mad at him, then I forgave him, then I regretted it, and repeat. I was a little bit surprised by his transformation from sweet and shy-ish virgin boy to crazy, ravenous married man…but whatever. I ain’t a man. I’m not really sure where this series is going in regards to Jamie. We’ll see.

Final thoughts: This book is equal parts violent and romantic. It’s different in a lot of ways from anything else I’ve ever read, which is saying something. This story does not appeal to all, nor should it. If you’re willing to commit to all 500+ pages in a short amount of time (because it will CONSUME YOU) then dive in! There were so many really interesting elements throughout this storyline. I’m intrigued enough to continue on in the series!

My rating: 4.5/5  It was a ride. I read it in a fairly short amount of time. Beautiful writing, unique and captivating storyline, and characters that jumped off the pages and into my soul. I really enjoyed it, overall.


outlander show

Okay, now let’s talk about the STARZ adaptation of this book. Season 1 sticks to the first book really well, like I said before. I thought the actors chosen were spot on, the dialogue matched the tone of the book, and the scenery was breathtaking.

Visually, I’d give this show all of the stars. Acting-wise, I was really impressed. There was some seriously difficult scenes to get through and they all managed it in a believable, compelling way. They also managed to capture the depth of each character, allowing for future seasons and more growth.

There were a few small things that turned out differently in the show or came about in a surprising way, but I really think the integrity of the book is intact, which doesn’t always happen!

Happy reading and watching! – Caitlyn