Book Talk: Salt To The Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Book Talk: Salt To The Sea by Ruta SepetysSalt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
Published by Philomel Books on February 2, 2016
Genres: YA Historical Fiction
Also by this author: Between Shades of Gray, Out of the Easy
Format: ARC
Source: For Review

I received this book for review consideration from the publisher. This in no way swayed my opinion of the book. Pinky swear!




Want an “at a glance” look at what I thought? Check out my Review On A Post-It or my “Final Thought”



Joana, Florian and Emilia meet as they are making a dangerous trek towards freedom in East Prussia towards the end of the war when the Russians invaded and overtook. They have the common goals of freedom and survival but come from different countries and have different secrets they are carrying on this road to their future. Their future is in the form of a ship, one of many taking refugees to safety, called the Wilhelm Gustloff — a vessel that brings them hope of survival after their harrowing journey until they find themselves on it when it is hit by a torpedo and fighting to survive once again.

a2Screenshot at Jan 31 17-11-42

a4Oh man had I been waiting for this one! I loved both of her previous books — Between Shades of Grey and Out of the Easy. She is a tremendous writer and seriously writes some of the best historical fiction out there. It’s so easy to get lost in her books and I always find myself recommending her books the most when people want historical fiction or want to give it a try — with the caveat that Between Shades of Grey will destroy you (Out of the Easy made me emotional but in a different way).

Anyways, Salt to the Sea. INCREDIBLE. I love it when the historical fiction I read makes me want to crack open a textbook to learn more about the time or the events that are related to the novel. She gives you just enough with the historical setting and the details of the event to transport you there but still want to know more about it.

[Keep Reading]

Review: Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys

Out of the EasyBook Title/Author: Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys
: Philomel Books – February 2013
Genre: YA Historical Fiction
Series: NO!
Other Books From Author: Between Shades of Gray

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I received this from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way swayed my opinion. Pinky swear!




It’s New Orleans in the 1950’s and Josie desperately wants to get out of the Big Easy and away from the lingering black cloud of her mother’s reputation of being a prostitute at the local brothel that is run by the infamous Willie Woodley and has basically been a second home to Josie. As she works hard at the bookstore and cleaning up the brothel after nights of debauchery, she dreams and devises her plans to get out until a wealthy man, who makes an impression on Josie, is found murdered and foul play is suspected. Unable to let it go, Josie tries to figure out what happened to this man and  finds herself caught in the underbelly of the Big Easy and at risk of losing her dreams of going to college and hurting the ones she loves.

Ok. You know how much I rave about Between Shades of Grey by Ruta Sepetys but after reading Out of the Easy I can officially declare that she is one of my favorite historical fiction authors ever! I will read anything she writes. Out of the Easy, like Between Shades of Grey, had that easy and smooth transportable quality to it. I’ve never been to NOLA but Ruta so easily makes me feel like I’m ambling around the French Quarter in the 1950’s. I just love the way she is able pull back the curtain to allow me to peer into this life I’ve never experienced — whether I’m in Siberia starved to death or trying to grow up in the French Quarter with your mother’s reputation like a lingering cloud above your head.

The best thing about Out of the Easy,  obviously besides Ruta’s storytelling abilities, is the characters.  Gosh I just loved so many of them! I feel like  I haven’t read a book in a while where I felt like the majority of characters, upon closing the book, were just clamoring to get out and linger in my heart a while longer. She writes those kind of hearts-are-beating, blood-flowing-through-the-veins characters that are just so alive. And the baddies? Well they are of the blood boiling variety. You hate them with a fierce passion (her mom and Cincinnati mostly) and, I don’t know about you, but I got this intense desire to pistol whip them.  WHERE DID  THAT COME FROM? Those mobsters wore off on me apparently. I just loved Josie and her determination to get out of the French Quarter and not become like her  mother. She was noble and genuine, a little rough around the edges in all the right places, and so many things broke my heart in this story because of my complete love for her. I love Willie and her “nieces”, Cokie (oh that man!), Patrick and Charlie and sweet Jesse. Oh I just love all these characters so hard. They created this beautiful little family and I felt like I was apart of it when my heart would ache with the heartbreaking parts and soar during the heartwarming parts. My heart was basically on fire.

My only complaint was that at times the plot dawdled for me. This is definitely more of a character driven novel and I loved that but at certain points I just wasn’t really sure where the book was going and there were just a lot of threads of story there and some just seemed to sort of come undone for me — like a stray, wispy piece of hair coming out of my ponytail.  I will say that if you are looking for the emotional  gut punch of Between Shades of Grey, Out of Easy isn’t that. In Between Shades of Grey, I felt everything with intensity and felt like I learned about a heartbreaking history I never knew and I felt changed. It’s more subtle with Out of the Easy — I can’t say I really saw a piece of history that took me by surprise — but the characters and their stories just creep up on you until you find yourself choking back a surge of emotion at times.

Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys was a fantastic story that I’ve anticipated for a while — little bit of mystery, little bit of romance, mother-daughter issues and the struggle of a girl to reach for her dreams even if they might seem impossible. Don’t come looking for the sort of gut punching emotion you may have experienced in BSAG but be prepared to fall in love with some amazing characters and be immersed into their lives slowly but surely and emotions will make their way into your throat before you even realize your choking them back. It’s hard to talk about the plot because sometimes I felt like I was doing that stutter-step “which way are you walking” dance you do when people are walking towards you because I just felt the plot was meandering a bit but Ruta pulled it together nicely at the end to make me not care about that. And really, the characters drove this story for me.  It’s a great story and I’m so glad to have experienced it.


For Fans  Of: YA historical fiction for sure, character driven novels where you have to remind yourself that the characters are not real, a darn good story that isn’t always LOUD and action-y


Let’s Talk: Have you read this one?? Heard of it? If you’ve read it what did you think? How much did you LOVE THE CHARACTERS?? Who was your favorite? Did anyone else feel like the plot was going in a few different directions? Curious to if you prefer BSAG or Out of the Easy? They were just two totally different experiences for me as I said above!


Review: Between Shades Of Gray by Ruta Sepetys (Audiobook Version)

Yesterday we discussed books that get us out of reading slumps and I mentioned that my last read of 2011 just got me out of the most epically huge reading slump that I’ve had in a long time. This book right here is the one that got my mojo back… 🙂

Title/Author: Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
Publisher/Year: Philomel; March 2011
Genre: Young Adult Historical Fiction
How I Got It: Borrowed it via my library’s Overdrive program for audiobooks

I was asking for suggestions from Twitter about good audiobooks to listen to since over the holidays I would be traveling in the car for a total of 8 hours by myself to get to my dad’s house. Miss Remmer’s suggested Between Shades of Gray and I decided that would be the one since it’s one I had really wanted to read since it came out and I saw great reviews for it. As I mentioned in my top ten books of 2011 post, this ended up being one of my favorite reads this year and it was really a great pick for my travels — albeit a little sad and I ended up crying at some parts in the car.

Between Shades of Gray takes place in Lithuania in 1939 and chronicles the moment that 16 year old Lina’s life changes when Stalin’s Russia invades their country and forces her family, among many others, into labor camps. Lina and her family fight to keep hope and survive throughout their deportation and life in the labor camps in the most deplorable of conditions where they are treated as though they are animals — all the while hoping to reunite with their father again and live to see their home again.

Between Shades of Gray is a book that cannot be ignored. This novel was heartwrenching and I mean that in the most literal way I possibly can. It hurts my heart in that this REALLY happened to people and Sepetys was able to capture the stories of many who had to live through this and really embody their fight through the story of Lina and her family. I felt the same way reading this that I did reading Night by Elie Wiesel or The Diary of Anne Frank. Though this book is fictional, I felt the same sort of anguish knowing that human beings had to suffer in this way. It was eye opening to me. I consider myself a lover of history and I can honestly say I really didn’t know this had happened. I think most learn of Hitler and the concentration camps but the brutality of the Soviets and the labor camps in Siberia seem to never come up as much. Or maybe I wasn’t paying enough attention in history class?

Not only was the history heartwrenching to me but the way Ruta Sepetys wrote this story really impacted me. I cared deeply and connected to these characters. I wanted them to survive. I felt their fear, their anger and their will to live. The scenes were vivid, the people were alive and I would find myself physically tensing up and feeling very emotional during certain scenes. These is one of the most emotional reads I have ever encountered and it was done so perfectly. It wasn’t contrived. The real stories of real people spoke through this novel and you could feel the weight of it all.

It might seem like from my review that this novel is just super depressing. That’s the thing — it’s not. There is so much hope, love and resilience within these pages and for every moment I felt sickened by humanity, I also felt invigorated by our will to fight, to live, to maintain our dignity and to love. There was hope and it was really beautiful. I love the idea of the title of this novel and the notion of “between shades of gray”…that’s how this novel was. For all the darkness, there was little slivers of beauty and hope. This was one powerful story and I know it is one that will stick with me for a very long time. There are so many memorable characters and relationships in this book. I love the relationship between Lina and Andrus, Lina’s mother and her children and Lina’s mother and pretty much everyone…especially the one officer. That touching scene between Lina and the officer towards the end (when she is trying to steal firewood) just was so beautiful and complicated and broke me down.

Parts of this are really hard to read/listen to but I personally didn’t find it to be excessively violent or descriptive. I mean, it’s really hard to read about these atrocities and brutality but I don’t think it’s told in a way that makes it too hard to handle. It will be emotional and really hard to think about people enduring but I think there is balance in the way it is told. But I’m not someone who easily shies away from difficult subject matter.

The only thing I wish would have been better about this book was about how it ended. When the epilogue happened (as I was listening to it) I couldn’t believe it was over! I don’t know if I would have been as surprised had I been reading it  but even so…I wanted to know HOW everything was resolved though the epilogue did a nice job of giving us the details we wanted to know (like about Andrus!). Maybe it’s I cared too much that I wanted to see the whole story through. I’m not sure.

As An Audiobook:

I thought this was really well done on audiobook and the story worked really well in this format. It captured my attention in the fullest while navigating the highways and I never had to go back to clear up any confusions. The narrator did the voices pretty well and it was easy to distinguish between the many casts of characters. Her pace was perfect for me. The only thing I found to be a bit difficult sometimes was that the story would switch to memories of the past and it would, in some cases, take a minute or two to figure out that it was a past memory. This mostly happened in the beginning as in the end it was easier to distinguish between the scenes as they were drastically different.

The Bottom Line: Between Shades of Gray makes my top ten books of 2011 for a reason and is high up there in a best books EVER list. It is powerful in both the historical foundation for the story and in the storyline itself. I loved the characters and cried my little heart out all along the way — tears of anger, of sadness and of joy in some places. It’s one of those books that I just sat there soaking it all in after finishing it. This will stick with me for a long time. It’s raw, poignantly told and will capture your attention and leave you wanting to learn more about this slice of history. This is a book I think teens and adults will both find special. I am so thankful I read this because this story is one that needs to be heard. Highly recommended on audiobook.

You’ll like it if….

  • You like historical fiction — especially that during World War II or any thing relating to concentration camps or labor camps
  • powerful stories that will stick with you for a long time. I assure you that I will be thinking on this book for a long time to come.
  • stories that deal with some heavy emotions but also show human triumph, beauty and hope.

** Review On A Post-It  to come…I’m at work 😛 ) **

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