Release Date: February 13, 2013
(Thanks to ATWT for allowing me to participate on this tour!)
Published by: Philomel
Known amongst locals as the daughter of a brothel prostitute, Josie wants more out of life than The Big Easy has to offer. She devises a plan to get out, but a mysterious death in the Quarter leaves Josie tangled in an investigation that will challenge her allegiance to her mother, her conscience, and Willie Woodley, the brusque madam on Conti Street. Caught between the dream of an elite college and a clandestine underworld, New Orleans lures Josie in her quest for truth, dangling temptation at every turn, and escalating to the ultimate test.
With characters as captivating as her international bestselling novel, "Between Shades of Gray," Ruta Sepetys skillfully creates a rich story of secrets, lies, and the haunting reminder that decisions can shape our destiny.
1. (+) Josie, the protagonist - Josie's smart, kind, and sometimes too naive even though she has plenty of street smarts. She knows how to defends herself and carries a gun for her own protection. She works in a prostitute house and a bookstore and reads one hundred and fifty books a year. She has a dry humor. This girl is my kind of protagonist - she's strong in the way you never expect until confronted with it. Also, her situation is incredibly easy to sympathize with. How many of us have wanted to get away from our pasts? Josie is always judged for the actions of her mother--she wants her own life and tries to take charge in her own way.
2. (+) World building - So I haven't read / don't know much about the time period, but Ruta Sepetys does a great job at making the setting come alive. I loved reading about the subtle interactions between the police, the mob, the prostitute house (and its influence), the way New Orleans functions around Mardi Gras... The way the rich, uptown people treat and judge the poor, though they're no better, and everyone's just trying to escape if only for a little while. I would've like a little more details about the 1950s beyond the hair part and lipstick, but I'm not sure that would've fit in with Josie's character.
3. (+) Romance - It's definitely a side plot to Josie's growth, but I love how Josie and her romantic interest take the time to become friends before anything happens. Josie needs someone truly solid in her life before she can commit and having that kind of trust build in their relationship first made it seem nice and realistic. It was a really sweet romance, nothing with lots and lots of passion but something that might make you smile days later when you're thinking of it.
4. (+) Character Cast - The best part of this whole book. That last paragraph of the summary? Completely true. And better yet that Ruta Sepetys doesn't give her characters the easy way out. Patrick, who's Josie's best friend (adorable friendship; they manage the bookstore together), Willie, the other prostitutes, Jesse (romantic interest), Charlie (Patrick's father), Cincinnati (oh, I'll leave you to find this one out), etc.--everyone has a hard situation and their own motives and struggles, and nothing brings that out more than death and how each of them handles the next hurdle.
5. (+) Villain - Not the villain of other books. More of an average villain who's in our lives every day but who we never confront until we're forced to -- that's the type in this book, and that's what made the villain so realistic, and the threat posed so much worse and heartbreaking. The villain creates both internal and external struggle in Josie's world.
6. (+) Secrecy - A good part of the plot forces Josie to come out of her naive shell. Someone says something nice about her and she holds onto that like it's a kernel of truth because that is the person she wants to be... and she lies to get there. With each lie comes more and more secrets until she no longer knows who exactly she can trust and who knows which secrets of hers. Jo lives in the constant fear that Willie knows what she did, and eventually, with a domino effect, everything comes toppling down.
7. (+/-) Plot - This plot is more skillful and subtle than fast-paced and full of action, so if you're looking for the latter, you're not going to find it here. That being said, I couldn't shake a lingering sense of disappointment at the end. I felt that everything kept building up, and yes it all came crashing down, and there was character development, but there was something else there that just felt a tad unsatisfying for me. Like I expected more out of Josie, or maybe I just hoped for more.
8. (+) The Writing - Skillful. I can't remember reading something and thinking it was out of place, or too modern, or long or cliched, etc. etc. It fit Jo's voice and the time period.
9. (+) Pacing - As I said before, it's not fast paced, but I never got the feeling that something wasn't happening--whether that be more secrets, Jo wondering/discovering more about the murder, or something to do with her friends, and what's happening in their lives. It was a constant build until the end.
10. (+) The Cover - What a great cover to give a historical feel and to portray that feeling of being trapped. Love it.
I don't generally read historical fiction, but this one grabbed my attention from the start. You won't regret checking it out. Great characters, great writing, great research for her world-building.