Follow Us @burtonreview

Oct 8, 2019

The Words Between Us by Erin Bartels

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

The Words Between Us: A Novel by Erin Bartels
Revell Baker Publishing, September 3 2019
Women's Fiction, Christian Fiction
Review copy from the publisher, thank you!

Robin Windsor has spent most of her life under an assumed name, running from her family's ignominious past. She thought she'd finally found sanctuary in her rather unremarkable used bookstore just up the street from the marina in River City, Michigan. But the store is struggling and the past is hot on her heels. When she receives an eerily familiar book in the mail on the morning of her father's scheduled execution, Robin is thrown back to the long-lost summer she met Peter Flynt, the perfect boy who ruined everything. That book--a first edition Catcher in the Rye--is soon followed by the other books she shared with Peter nearly twenty years ago, with one arriving in the mail each day. But why would Peter be making contact after all these years? And why does she have a sinking feeling that she's about to be exposed all over again? With evocative prose that recalls the classic novels we love, Erin Bartels pens a story that shows that words--the ones we say, the ones we read, and the ones we write--have more power than we imagine. 

The Words Between Us is one of those stories that grabs you more and more the further you go and then you are sorry when it is over. The multiple timelines of Robin's story blend easily together as the story unfolds and Robin finally comes to terms with the events that changed her life as a teenager. Losing her parents to a life of crime, Robin attempts to start over with a new name in a new town at a new high school but nothing comes easy to Robin. She is a lovable character, her teenaged dramas and immature views even as an adult helping to make this an endearing novel. The bonus and most unique aspect of the novel is the way books are a very important part of the plot.

This is a character driven novel, but it also includes the classic books as a character as well. They evoke the nostalgia of us all, reminding us how the written word can help form relationships in our real world. I enjoyed the romance, the intriguing mobster plot, the old man Dave DeWitt proving humanity is not a lost art. The Professor also a fantastic character -- so many great things to this novel! Well done for a sophomore novelist, now it is time for me to read Erin Bartels' first novel We Hope For Better Things.

Favorite quote: "The end of a friendship - a true and soul-stirring friendship - is a terrible thing."

I turned off commenting long ago on the blog but I welcome comments at the Facebook page here.

Oct 7, 2019

The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott

Monday, October 07, 2019

The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott
Knopf Publishing, September 3 2019
Historical Russian Fiction
Personal purchase

A thrilling tale of secretaries turned spies, of love and duty, and of sacrifice—inspired by the true story of the CIA plot to infiltrate the hearts and minds of Soviet Russia, not with propaganda, but with the greatest love story of the twentieth century: Doctor Zhivago.

At the height of the Cold War, two secretaries are pulled out of the typing pool at the CIA and given the assignment of a lifetime. Their mission: to smuggle Doctor Zhivago out of the USSR, where no one dare publish it, and help Pasternak's magnum opus make its way into print around the world. Glamorous and sophisticated Sally Forrester is a seasoned spy who has honed her gift for deceit all over the world--using her magnetism and charm to pry secrets out of powerful men. Irina is a complete novice, and under Sally's tutelage quickly learns how to blend in, make drops, and invisibly ferry classified documents.

The Secrets We Kept combines a legendary literary love story—the decades-long affair between Pasternak and his mistress and muse, Olga Ivinskaya, who was sent to the Gulag and inspired Zhivago's heroine, Lara—with a narrative about two women empowered to lead lives of extraordinary intrigue and risk. From Pasternak's country estate outside Moscow to the brutalities of the Gulag, from Washington, D.C. to Paris and Milan, The Secrets We Kept captures a watershed moment in the history of literature—told with soaring emotional intensity and captivating historical detail. And at the center of this unforgettable debut is the powerful belief that a piece of art can change the world.
The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott was not an easy to get swallowed up in type of read. We selected it for book club and pretty quickly it was obvious that there were some of us who were just not going to finish it, let alone even try. But a few of us stuck with it and were better for it. I didn't have any idea the significance of Doctor Zhivago before reading this story, never mind ever having the desire to read it or even watch the movie. But now I am slightly more interested. “This book will take us down a spiral from which there will be no return.”

The novel is told from many different viewpoints which becomes a stumbling block for some readers. For me, it meant that it was more of a story within a story within a story within a story. And I do have to say that the story between Russian author Pasternak and mistress Olga was my favorite. There were other storylines narrated by typists of the CIA "Sometimes they’d refer to us not by name but by hair color or body type: Blondie, Red, Tits. We had our secret names for them, too: Grabber, Coffee Breath, Teeth." (and yes, that was the narrator in plural) and another narrator from Irina and Sally and a certain little thrown in twist "Unlike some of the men, we could keep our secrets" that really is a sort of make-it or break-it plot point, but Olga's story is the most heart wrenching: “Don’t you realize?” I cried, ripping the pages up and tossing them into the bin. “It’s a loaded pistol. You’re the one who bought the bullets. You placed him above our family.”

I gave this book four stars on Goodreads. It was Reese's book club pick for September 2019, Amazon Best Book for September 2019 and I am so glad I was able to see the heart in this story and keep going. Just have to kinda feel bad for those that marked it DNF. 

I turned off commenting long ago on the blog but I welcome comments at the Facebook page here.

Oct 6, 2019

Gravemaidens by Kelly Coon

Sunday, October 06, 2019

Gravemaidens by Kelly Coon
October 29 2019 from Delacorte Press/Random House
416 pages
eGalley provided via NetGalley, thank you!

The start of a fierce fantasy duology about three maidens who are chosen for their land's greatest honor...and one girl determined to save her sister from the grave.
In the walled city-state of Alu, Kammani wants nothing more than to become the accomplished healer her father used to be before her family was cast out of their privileged life in shame.

When Alu's ruler falls deathly ill, Kammani’s beautiful little sister, Nanaea, is chosen as one of three sacred maidens to join him in the afterlife. It’s an honor. A tradition. And Nanaea believes it is her chance to live an even grander life than the one that was stolen from her.

But Kammani sees the selection for what it really is—a death sentence.

Desperate to save her sister, Kammani schemes her way into the palace to heal the ruler. There she discovers more danger lurking in the sand-stone corridors than she could have ever imagined and that her own life—and heart—are at stake. But Kammani will stop at nothing to dig up the palace’s buried secrets even if it means sacrificing everything…including herself.

This is a YA fantasy romance read with a bit of a suspense factor thrown in. The essence of the story is to have Kammani save her sister from a fate worse than death: death via poison to fulfill a sacrifice so the old ruler can go to his grave with a fair maiden. Seen as an honor, Kammani's sister does not appreciate all the work Kammani is trying to do to save her sister from this fate. Kammani is a great character to root for, where I was ready to have her sister sacrificed and be done with it. Instead, we follow Kammani's tireless journey to the palace to save the ailing ruler and her own family at the same time. There are several characters to help build the story with plenty of no-gooders to throw a wrench in the best laid plans. There is a small romance plot that takes a sad back burner to the problem on hand.

Not my typical read but I am enjoying the recent YA fantasy style reads that I have been choosing lately. I am glad to have read this one as it is an authentically told story that held my attention throughout. But seeing as this is a duology I am not sure that is really necessary, though I will find out when that one comes out.

I turned off commenting long ago on the blog but I welcome comments at the Facebook page here.