Review: “Across a Broken Shore” by Amy Trueblood

40024145Title: Across a Broken Shore
Author: Amy Trueblood
Publication Date: November 5, 2019
Publisher: Flux
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Get it: IndieBound | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Books-a-Million | Amazon | Apple Books

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39863498-the-gilded-wolves

ARC provided by the publisher through NetGalley. All opinions expressed in this review are my own.

 

Set in the latter years of the Great Depression in America, Amy Trueblood tells the story of a young woman divided between family and ambition in her latest YA historical.

The last thing eighteen-year-old Wilhelmina “Willa” MacCarthy wants is to be a nun. It’s 1936, and as the only daughter amongst four sons, her Irish-Catholic family is counting on her to take her vows – but Willa’s found another calling. Each day she sneaks away to help Doctor Katherine Winston in her medical clinic in San Francisco’s Richmond District.

Keeping secrets from her family only becomes more complicated when Willa agrees to help the doctor at a field hospital near the new bridge being built over the Golden Gate. Willa thinks she can handle her new chaotic life, but as she draws closer to a dashing young ironworker and risks grow at the bridge, she discovers that hiding from what she truly wants may be her biggest lie of all.

It’s been a handful of months since the last time I read a historical having favored SFF heavily for most of this year. It was a good run but, admittedly, I missed the cozy comfort that a good historical brings and, reader, I couldn’t be gladder to dip back into this genre with this book.

Across a Broken Shore quote 1

With the construction of San Francisco’s famed Golden Gate Bridge in its background, Across a Broken Shore will transport readers to late 1830s America – a time of great hardship for many, but also of hope. It was an enjoyable read, both touching and relatable in equal measures.

The story centers on eighteen-year-old Willa MacCarthy. Having finished high school, Willa’s all but bidding time, albeit with increasing dread, until she enters the convent. It was a fate her traditional Irish-Catholic parents had set for her ever since she was young and, burdened both by guilt and duty, Willa had consigned herself to it that was until she met Dr. Winston. 

Across a Broken Shore quote 2

Across a Broken Shore dealt with some complicated and tough topics: the often-limiting and disembodying weight of familial duty and expectations, the stifling rules of tradition and convention, the challenges and prejudices women had to weather and pretend to be immune from in a world built for men. I loved that Trueblood incorporated all these issues within her narrative. It made the story believable and relatable because even if this novel was set some 80+ years ago these are issues are still pretty much a problem for so many other people. 

Still, crucial though they may be, the heart of this novel is still Willa.

Willa, as a character, was relatable and readers will find themselves empathizing with her. She’s strong in her own way, smart, resourceful and capable. I couldn’t help feeling angry on her behalf for the way her whole family, with the exception of Paddy, treats her. They limited her, forcing her to conform to be this person they think she should be. 

Across a Broken Shore quote 3

Dr. Katherine Winston was another character I loved. She was a mentor and a friend to Willa, encouraging her to follow her heart’s desire and, in the end, giving her the means to do so. She along with Willa’s brother Paddy, Cara, Willa’s best friend, and Sam, her love interest, were bright lights in Willa’s life. They advocated for her and pushed her to assert her agency amidst the one-tracked fate her parents laid out for her.

Across a Broken Shore quote 4

Though perhaps the last 50 or so pages were a bit circular before finally coming to a final resolution, Across a Broken Shore was a solid coming-of-age novel. Readers will be inspired by Willa’s determination and will identify with her struggles. This is my first book from Amy Trueblood but it certainly will not be the last. I highly recommend this read, especially for those who love historical fiction.

about the author

amy-t.-bio-photoAMY TRUEBLOOD grew up in California only ten minutes from Disneyland which sparked an early interest in storytelling, As the youngest of five, she spent most of her time trying to find a quiet place to curl up with her favorite books. After graduating from the University of Arizona with a degree in journalism, she worked in entertainment in Los Angeles before returning to work in Arizona.

Fueled by good coffee and an awesome Spotify playlist, you can often find Amy blogging and writing. Nothing But Sky, a 2018 Junior Library Guild selection, is her first novel.

Website | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook | Tumblr

Review: “White as Silence, Red as Song” by Alessandro D’Avenia

36911793Title: White a Silence, Red as Song

Author: Alessandro D’Avenia

Translated by: Tabitha Sowden

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Publication Date: September 4, 2018

Rating: ⭐⭐

Get it: IndieBound | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Amazon | Books-a-Million | Powells

(ARC provided by the publisher through NetGalley)

A teen-aged boy’s self-discovery amidst illness and death is the focus of this translated coming-of-age novel by Alessandro D’Avenia.

Leo is an ordinary sixteen-year-old: he loves hanging out with his friends, playing soccer, and zipping around on his motorbike. The time he has to spend at school is a drag, and his teachers are “a protected species that you hope will become extinct,” so when a new history and philosophy teacher arrives, Leo greets him with his usual antipathy. But this young man turns out to be different. His eyes sparkle when he talks, and he encourages his students to live passionately, and follow their dreams.

Leo now feels like a lion, as his name suggests, but there is still one thing that terrifies him: the color white. White is absence; everything related to deprivation and loss in his life is white. Red, on the other hand, is the color of love, passion and blood; red is the color of Beatrice’s hair. Leo’s dream is a girl named Beatrice, the prettiest in school. Beatrice is irresistible – one look from her is enough to make Leo forget about everything else.

There is, however, a female presence much closer to Leo, which he finds harder to see because she’s right under his nose: the ever-dependable and serene Silvia. When he discovers that Beatrice has leukemia and that her disease is related to the white that scares him so much, Leo is forced to search within himself, to bleed and to be reborn. In the process, he comes to understand that dreams must never die, and he finds the strength to believe in something bigger than himself.

I cannot tell you how eager I was for this book. It was dubbed as The Fault of Our Stars of Italy, and that alone got my attention. Add to that a very enticing blurb, and it won me over, so I requested it.

Sadly, White as Silence, Red as Song didn’t quite measure up to its potential.

The story follows and is told by 16-year old Leo. He’s witty and sarcastic: a typical teen-aged boy who, by all means, does typical teen-aged boy stuff – school, soccer, dare contests with his friend Niko, music. Reading from his perspective was a quart amusing, and annoying and just plain tiring for the rest of the way. Leo is really immature though he pretends to be all-knowing. He throws around these big words like “love” a lot when he doesn’t even understand what they mean. Given, he does grow a bit by the end of the book, but not by much.

Another thing that bothered me was Leo’s obsession with Beatrice. He claims to be in love with her, but the most interaction the two has shared were just smiles as they pass each other in school hallways. He talks about her all the time, and not to discount how strong his feelings were, but Leo’s obsession with Beatrice was strange bordering on creepy. There was this one scene that really made me stop reading for a while. Leo, who was also confined at the same hospital as Beatrice after a scooter accident, goes to visit the girl. He just stayed in Beatrice’s room even if the girl was sleeping, and, more, he caresses her face, then proceeds to tell the nurse who sees him in the girl’s room that he is Beatrice’s boyfriend.

I’m not sure if, somewhere along the way, things were lost in translation but the writing felt patchy and disjointed. It actually made this short book seem longer. I almost put it down a number of times.

I just have to make it clear that I haven’t read the original, which was in Italian, so my review only applies to the English translation. I really wanted to like this book. It had potential, but that’s just it, potential.