Book Talk: These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly

Book Talk: These Shallow Graves by Jennifer DonnellyThese Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly
Published by Delacorte Books For Young Readers on October 2015
Genres: YA Mystery
Format: Hardcover
Source: For Review
Amazon
Goodreads

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”

 

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Jo is part of NYC’s high society in the 1890’s and knows she’ll soon be done with finishing school and married off — even though she aspires to follow in the footsteps of a trailblazing female reporter hero of hers. And then her dad dies — it’s ruled an accident while cleaning a gun but Jo knows her dad would never have had an accident like that. When she hears something that confirms her hunch, she sets off with the help of a reporter named Eddie to find out the truth of her father’s death and sets off on a twisty path that will forever change her world.

a2tumblr_mdhuvuEo3q1r4bgkv[Keep Reading]

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
Amazon
Goodreads

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”

 

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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]

Book Talk: Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman

Book Talk: Vengeance Road by Erin BowmanVengeance Road by Erin Bowman
Published by HMH Books For Young Readers on September 1, 2015
Genres: YA Historical Fiction
Format: ARC
Source: For Review
Amazon/Twitter
Goodreads

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”

 

 

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When Kate’s father is murdered by a notorious gang, she finds out that it was all because he had a map leading to a hidden gold mine and perhaps there were things her father kept from her. She sets out on a dangerous trek, disguised as a boy, across unforgiving terrain and elements to follow the gang and get revenge for her father’s murder. Along the way she hits danger head on, plus learns the greed that gold can breed, but also meets some people who help her along her quest.

a2I WANT TO WATCH SOME WESTERNS WITH MY GRANDPA LIKE I USED TO WHEN I WAS LITTLE.

a4I have been loving the branching out that historical YA has been doing lately — I’m so here for all the Wild West and Gold Rush novels! Vengeance Road was all the adventure I had hoped it would be but I wish I would have felt more for the characters.

What I liked:

The setting — Wild West, y’all: Erin Bowman really knew how to give this gritty feel of life during this time. I could imagine them riding their horses through the plains and along the river. I could see the rocky terrain through the mountains. The small town main streets from the Western movies.  The effects of the gold rush. The saloons. The lawlessness that abounded. The danger of life in this time. I love being plopped in this time period even though I’d never want to live it. Also, I really kind of loved that you got that rough vernacular with how the characters spoke. It took a little bit to get used to but it added to that Wild West scene in my head.

The action & adventure: I *LOVE* a good adventure novel. I love fantasy obviously but sometimes I just want an adventure novel that IS set in this world. Kate’s quest definitely fit the bill there. This was definitely a page-turner as Kate sets out on this mission for revenge in a blaze of fury. There are shoot-outs, perilous escapes, dangerous gangs and also shocking moments that I didn’t expect. Lots of hold-your-breath moments! I was so happy to find such an action-packed adventure that surges forward into more and more dangerous situations until the OMG explosive conclusion to Kate’s quest for revenge.

The actual high stakes: Sometimes I read books that I think will have high stakes because of the nature of the book and I feel like they don’t really live up to them…this was not one of those. I could FEEL the high stakes of this book. Kate is propelled forward with intensity to exact revenge on this awful gang members who killed her father and you can FEEL how reckless she will be to make sure that happens….no matter if she dies or not. She was going out guns a-blazing and she didn’t really care what the outcome was as long as she avenged her father’s death. When the characters were in danger, I believed it. The ruthlessness I expected? Totally there. Erin Bowman created a world of grit and danger and it lived up to what it was set up to be.

[Keep Reading]

Book Talk: A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller

Book Talk: A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs WallerA Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller by Sharon Biggs Waller
Published by Viking Juvenile on January 2014
Genres: YA Historical Fiction
Format: Hardcover
Source: Gifted
Amazon/Twitter
Goodreads

 

 

 

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

 

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When Vicky gets kicked out of her French finishing school when someone finds out she has posed nude for her art class she’s sent home to face her parents who are outraged at how she’s disgraced the family and they are trying to marrying her off to save the family name and her social status. While she tries to pretend to play nice with her parents rules and plans for her life, she really is applying to the Royal College of Art behind their backs, finding a growing interest in the suffragette movement and spending time with a man her parents and their social circles wouldn’t approve of. She dreams of being an artist but at what cost?

a2HELL YEAH SUFFRAGETTES

a4

Historical fiction used to be my one true love, friends. In the past couple years I haven’t read as much of it but this book reminds me why I LOVE it so much. The truly excellent historical novels, like this one, transport me so flawlessly into this sliver of the past and leave me with this insatiable thirst to research that time period or event or find more fiction set in that time.

So what was so great about A Mad, Wicked Folly?

1. The setting: London in 1909 = Edwardian era goodness! The height of the suffragette movement there! Plus Vicky’s world is high society and balls and pretty dresses. I was just so immersed as Sharon just so perfectly and with detail painted the setting for the reader to feel instantly transported to that time. I could feel the tension in the social structure and in the women’s rights movement as well.

2. Vicky is such a dynamic character: Girl is FEISTY and incredibly passionate about her art and I loved it. She’s not a perfect character and that’s what I loved about her. She only really seems to be interested in the suffragette’s works at first because it can further her dreams of going to art school. She has her prejudices, due to her upbringing, that will make you cringe. But it all felt so realistic. How her eyes were opened to the things that the suffragette’s were fighting for. How she looked differently at the social constructs after the things she experienced. I loved watching her growth SO MUCH as she fights to be able to create the art she so desires, asks the hard questions and questions

3. It made me just feel so thankful for these suffragettes: Reading this book and watching what the suffragette’s are doing in this time just made me so grateful for all these women who did so much to give me all the right’s I have. They were laughed at and jailed and treated AWFULLY and still they fought. It was so incredibly inspiring and I just love reading about strong, passionate women. Made me not want to take forget how far we’ve come but also so sad for the ways that as women we still are not looked at as equal to men.

 

a6RATING-loved-it

factors+plot, characters, romance, setting, writing
Nada.

Re-readability: Yes!
Would I buy a copy for my collection? Already have one thanks to Jen!

a5historical fiction lovers, people who like reading about strong women, people who like reading about women’s rights subjects, people who are new to historical fiction (bc this one is SO great!).

a8A Mad, Wicked Folly was just one of those books that reminds me why I love historical fiction — I felt so transported to the setting, found myself immersed in the characters ad plot and it gave me this fierce need to LEARN afterwards. I loved Vicky’s journey as she fights to pursue her art when society is positioned against her and then having her eyes opened to the injustices of the time which make her question everything she was ever told.

review-on-post-itA Mad, Wicked Folly

 

a8j* Have you read this one? What did you think? Similar or different from me? I would LOVE to hear regardless!
*If you haven’t read it, does it feel like something you’d be into?

 

 


The Perpetual Page-Turner

 

Book Talk: Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley

Book Talk: Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin TalleyLies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley
Published by Harlequin Teen on September 2014
Genres: YA Historical Fiction
Also by this author: Results May Vary, As I Descended
Format: ARC
Source: ALA
Amazon/Twitter
Goodreads

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”

 

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It’s 1959 and a high school in Virginia is integrating. It’s told from the perspective of two teenage girls — one white and one black — who are in this middle of this fight for integration/segregation. Sarah is a senior and should be enjoying her last year of high school in choir and with her friends but she’s now part of the small group of students that are the first to integrate into the white high school where it’s clear she’s not welcome by all the protests, the assaults and the nasty words being thrown. Linda is also senior and her dad is one of the biggest voices against the integration. The two get paired together for a school project everything they have ever known about themselves and the world feels uncertain.
.

a2My heart. And also, MAN I love historical fiction and want to see even more of it in YA.

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1. When I studied history in high school I always wondered what the teens were doing & this book explored that for me: You always are talking mostly about adults in history class but I would always wonder things like, “I wonder what the teens were doing during civil rights or what was it like for them during these wars.” Lies We Tell Ourselves gives me exactly that. Yes, they were being teens and worrying about the dance and relationships and school but they also were very affected and influenced by the current events of the day. We got to see the prejudices they learned from their parents and the media and just how the decisions made by the adults affected them so intensely. I mean, the decision to integrate schools was something that affected the kids more than it did anyone else. They were at the epicenter of that and I loved that we saw just how quizzical teens were and how they explored their own opinions — just as teens do about anything.

2. It broke my heart in a lot of ways and was so hard to read because I knew, while this was fiction, this was a reality: Reading what the black teens who integrated into the white school had to endure just made my stomach hurt and also made me want to hug them all and tell them how brave they were. It’s always hard for me to read about any sort of oppression or injustices in fiction but to read about that 1) REALLY DID HAPPEN and 2) was in recent-ish history and not like hundreds of years ago just killed me. You realize how far we’ve come but also, when I see current events of today, how far we still have to go. Reading the scenes of being mobbed in the halls, having things thrown at them and knowing people wanted you to die shook me up physically. Robin Talley wrote it in such a way where it just reverberated off the pages — the hatred boiling, the fear, the yells echoing. SO real.

3. I really loved watching both characters interact with each other because it felt pretty realistic: You can’t hate Linda — even when she does the wrong thing over and over again and is cruel and obviously racist. At least I couldn’t. So much of coming of age is also figuring out stuff for yourself vs. what you’ve always been told. When your parents believe certain things, they are easily rubbed off on you and that’s what we see with Linda. I loved watching her and Sarah interact and the curiosity that was there in both girls and started crumbling the walls that had been erected by society. Truthfully I thought this was just going to be a novel about two girls navigating a friendship when they weren’t supposed to so I was a little thrown for a loop when I realized it was more of a romantic thing. I think it was a lot to explore in one book considering both prejudices but Robin Talley did it well.

 

a6RATING-reallyliked

factors+ story, writing, FEELINGS
No real criticism just maybe didn’t feel as head over heels as others despite really liking it.

Re-readability: Probably wouldn’t.
Would I buy a copy for my collection? Maybe not for myself because I wouldn’t re-read/it wasn’t a favorite but I want this to be on the shelves of every high school and YA section in the library.

a5fans of historical YA fiction, people looking for fiction dealing with civil rights, readers looking for LGBTQ stories, anyone looking for a powerful story

a8Lies We Tell Ourselves is a powerful story that really reminded me how brave people are and that’s how change happens — standing up for what is right, figuring out WHAT you think is right for yourself and not being afraid to have a voice. Sarah and Linda were two brave characters navigating this battle of civil rights and it really made me wonder about all the real, unknown acts of bravery during this time that helped change happen. I really enjoyed this book and definitely recommend it!

review-on-post-it

Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley

a8j* Have you read this one? What did you think? Similar or different from me? I would LOVE to hear regardless!
*If you haven’t read it, does it feel like something you’d be into?
Have you read any books set in this time period you could recommend me?
*

 


The Perpetual Page-Turner

 

Book Talk: Brazen by Katherine Longshore

Book Talk: Brazen by Katherine LongshoreBrazen by Katherine Longshore
Published by Viking Juvenile on June 2014
Genres: YA Historical Fiction
Format: Hardcover
Source: For Review
Amazon/Twitter
Goodreads

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”

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Brazen is set in England during Henry VIII’s reign during the time when Anne Boleyn was Queen. It follows Lady Mary Howard, wife of King Henry VIII’s illegitimate son Henry Fitzroy, through her marriage to Fitzroy and her time at court as she navigates friendships, romances, the scandals of the court and more.

a2Must get my hands on Gilt and Tarnish. ALSO, historical fiction how I have missed THEE.

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1. It’s a perfect blend of history and fun: SERIOUSLY it reminded me of one of my current obsessions — The CW’s Reign. There’s the historical facts there but some great fictional speculation and storytelling that just brings it to life. I loved seeing the lives of characters like Anne Boleyn and more obscure characters, like the main character Mary Howard, just feel like people rather than these names on paper. It was definitely more of a “fun” historical fiction kind of novel rather than something more serious set in that time period or something that makes you feel like OH HISTORY CLASS. It has that vibe of all my favorite CW shows (a la Gossip Girl) in the way the drama and the romance and the scandal is so addictive but the research and the history is THERE. I knew the story of Anne Boleyn and what happened to her as a wife of Henry but Katherine Longshore made me see it in a new way and really FEEL it.

2. Being in King Henry VIII’s court is SO ADDICTIVE: Henry VIII’s history is one I remember decently from history classes and I know there is tons of drama and, well, Katherine Longshore definitely makes use of the history there to weave her story of Mary Howard, who is married to Henry’s bastard son Henry Fitzroy, and show all the happenings in the court during the time in which she is there. I mean, Henry VIII’s court is just so scandalous and crazy that it just has a lot of story to be told. PAGE TURNING I TELL YOU.

3. It was so engaging it had me wanting to find out more: I found myself looking up things to see if it really happened or if this person existed or what happened to so and so. I just wanted to learn MORE about this slice of history. I love a historical fiction book that makes me want to LEARN just because it was so engaging.

4. I loved the romance: Mary Howard and Henry Fitzroy’s marriage was arranged and with that comes much more about responsibility and duty than romance but Mary wants to LOVE him — even though sometimes he’s distant, that court life takes him away a lot and that Henry VIII won’t let them consummate her marriage which makes her feel like a pawn. I loved the slow-burn longing and questioning to figure out if there is something there over the years. The awkwardness at times. The way they explore their relationship. It captivated me the whole time!

a6RATING-reallyliked

factors+ fun, addictive, perfect blend of fact and fictional liberties, loved the time period
little slow/dragging at times

Re-readability: Probably not but I would definitely pick up the other two books in the “series” which are also set in King Henry VIII’s court in Tudor England.
Would I buy a copy for my collection? I already own it! It’s so pretty!

a5fans of the CW show Reign or even The Tudors though I’d say it’s more like Reign to me, readers who maybe aren’t SUPER into historical fiction because it’s a little bit more accessible than other historical fiction I’ve read (not super daunting), historical fiction readers who like books set in Tudor England,

a8Brazen was an addictive romp through King Henry VIII’s court that re-acquainted me with historical figures I’m familiar with and introduced me to new ones I’d never heard about. As someone who loves history, I found it to be the perfect balance of fun while using the historical facts to weave together a story that makes it all just come alive. Can’t wait to read Gilt and Tarnish to get my scandalous and drama-filled historical fix — especially while my current tv obsession, Reign, is on break!

 

review-on-post-itBrazen Katherine Longshore review - for fans of Reign

 

a8j* Have you read this one? What did you think? Similar or different from me? I would LOVE to hear regardless!
* If you haven’t read it, is it something on your radar or that you think you will read?
* What are some other books you’ve read and recommend set during this time period?
* TELL ME YOUR FEELS ABOUT MARY AND FITZROY’S ENDING!!


The Perpetual Page-Turner

 

Review: Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys

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

Amazon| Goodreads | Twitter |

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

out-of-the-easy

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!

four-stars

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 😛 ) **

five-stars

Review: Purple Daze by Sherry Shahan

Title/Author: Purple Daze by Sherry Shahan
Publisher/Date: Perseus Books  – March 22nd 2011
How I Got This Book: Accepted pitch from author

Set in one of the most politically charged eras in America, Purple Daze lets us see 1965 through the eyes of six young adults as they wade through the typical high school experience while in the midst of some serious social and political revolutions. Told in verse, these six teens share a glimpse of the issues of the time–riots, anti-Vietnam war sentiments, sex, drugs, feminism–and really help to paint a picture of the undertones that propelled the counterculture movement.

One thing you should know about me: At heart, I’m a Bob Dylan singing, peace sign throwing, groovy little hippie. So this book, along with its gorgeous cover, had me ready to start donning some flowers in my hair and burning all my bras….ok, I kid on that last one. But seriously..I find myself so drawn to the 60’s for some reason so this book was definitely something I wanted to check out because I haven’t really ever seen any YA books set in the 60’s.

The only novel in verse I’ve read is Crank by Ellen Hopkins. For whatever reason, that one was a lot easier for me to keep up with because it was a fluid storyline. I thought the free verse style was PERFECT for this book  because I think it really reflected the freedom of the era but at some points I just felt my mind wandering. That could have just been my own issue as a reader but reading a novel in verse really is quite a different experience. That being said, the author did a phenomenal job incorporating all of these different perspectives in the form of letters, journal entries, and thoughts with tidbits of history. I was so interested in learning a little bit more of some major events that happened in 1965 through speeches and news clippings, etc.

I found it interesting to see how these teens were interacting with some of the social and political issues of the time and seeing a snapshot of how the counterculture reform really started stirring in this time period. These teens were questioning the traditions of their parents and their political decisions especially when it came to the Vietnam war and the Civil Rights movement. You could really get the sense of just how real the consequences of some of their parents decisions were to these teens especially when there friends and boyfriends were going off to war.  There were some really really powerful lines in this book and I thought the author really captured what I would think it would be like to be a teen during this time period.

I think the one aspect of the book that was hard for me was that I didn’t feel connected to any of the characters aside from Cheryl and Phil. I felt like I got a sense of who they were and really cared to know what happened to them. I wanted to care about the others but I just didn’t. I was more interested in learning about the time period through most of the novel. I felt like it was really hard to feel something for the rest of the characters because there were so many different perspectives and the writing isn’t as dense because it IS in verse so it was difficult. I wanted to keep the story going and find out more about them..but I understand that the author was just providing a snapshot of that year and how it shaped the teens.

My Final Thought: While I thought that the writing and concept was really great and that the balance of story and history was done well, I really had a hard time feeling something for the characters and at times found myself wanting something more that I can’t quite figure out. If you really love history and are looking for something that delves into the Sixties in an accessible way for young adults–this is for you. It’s wholly unique and well-written but may be hard for readers who are looking for a whole lot of movement. I personally enjoyed being in the characters heads and jumping around 1965 in that way… so much that I think I would have enjoyed an even longer novel.

A few of my favorite songs to get you in the 60’s spirit:

Light My Fire — The Doors
Like A Rolling Stone — Bob Dylan
Paint It Black — The Rolling Stones
Turn! Turn! Turn! — The Byrds
White Rabbit — Jefferson Airplane
And obviously..Purple Haze — Jimi Hendrix Experience

And you can’t go wrong with some Beatles or Joan Baez.

Have you read any other good books set in the 60’s? (YA or adult)

three-stars

Review: Vixen by Jillian Larkin

Let’s just start out with– hello, my name is Jamie and I am obsessed with the 1920’s and flappers and I will read anything related to said obsessions. Seriously. I once was a flapper for Halloween. I just love the flapper fashion, the literature that arose from the 1920’s, the jazz, the transition into the modern culture, the progress in woman’s suffrage movement, the mobsters, the speakeasys..it is all just so exciting to me! I just love reading and watching movies set during this time. Anyways, once I saw this book I just KNEW I had to pick it up.

Vixen tells the story of three girls who are in their late teens during the Roaring Twenties in the exciting city of Chicago. Each chapter alternates between Gloria, Clara and Lorraine. Gloria, engaged to a powerful man and comes from a family that is very much against the underground world of the speakeasys and flappers, is enthralled with the life she can’t have and begins to explore the seemingly glamorous lives of the flappers but discovers that it isn’t always what it seems. Clara, Gloria’s cousin who is from the country and who has come to live with Clara’s family, seems like a clueless girl from the country but she has secret past that she is trying to hide that is in danger of being brought into the open. Lorraine, Clara’s best friend, is sick of being second to Clara–in beauty, attention and with the boys– and she is ready to have all eyes on her– no matter what the cost is and nobody will get in her way.

Vixen has it all — romance, glitz and glamour, catty girls, mobsters, secrets, and suspense,  — and is set in one of those most interesting and alluring time periods in America. There is an attempt to delve into more substantial issues like friendship, loyalty, the suppression of women, racial and societal expectations but it’s overall just a fun-ish kind of read.  This reminded me of Gossip Girl set in the 1920’s with the high society, secrets, backstabbing and shocking public revelations. And I totally was picturing the episode of Gossip Girl where Chuck opened the speakeasy and they were all in flapper-like costumes. Larkin nailed it.  At some points I felt like if I closed my eyes, I’d be transported into some dark speakeasy, filled with smoke and booze, dancing with glamorous flappers and gangsters with pin-striped suits. I could hear that jazz music playing and feel the excitement of being rebellious and sexy in my fringed dress, headband and bobbed hair cut.

There were some interesting characters in this book. Clara was my favorite — she was smart, despite some obvious bad choices in her past, and I thought she was interesting and was the shining star for me. I did appreciate some of the dimensions we started to see in Gloria and I started to really appreciate her.  At some times I felt like Gloria and Lorraine were a bit cliched and predictable but the storyline and the setting made up for what they were sometimes lacking for me. The storyline was well crafted and I kept wanting to find out what happened. This a pretty plot-driven novel.

My one gripe with this book is that I felt like the author went a little bit overboard with the lingo of the time period and she didn’t need to because she really had me convinced of the time period with how she built their world. All these phrases and slang were dropped into the story and it felt like a like a kid who learned a set of vocabulary words and tried to keep impressing people with packing them into sentences. It just didn’t flow all the time and seemed awkward. The overuse of all the lingo was distracting and it was really unfortunate because she already set such an authentic scene for the reader.

I will note that this might be inappropriate for some younger readers — lots of booze, smoking and it’s pretty sexy. I thought it was tasteful but definitely a little more mature than some YA lit geared for younger readers. 

My Final Thought: Vixen is a sexy and intriguing debut that captures the excitement of an era and an underground lifestyle that is full of glamour, grit and danger. It is edgy and provocative without being trashy. It is a promising primer, for older teens (and YA lovers of all ages), into a period of time that should be explored more in YA historical fiction. Is it very thought-provoking? Nah, not really, but it was such a quick and fun read.  I cannot WAIT for the second book to come out as the ending was quite exciting and ends with quite the bang..literally.  In the meantime, I’ll be trying Bright Young Things which is also set in the 20’s and seems to be about flappers.

This short trailer is amazing and I think you’ll be intrigued if I haven’t convinced you:

Disclosure: I won this from the publisher.

four-stars
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