Salt to the Sea

Salt to the Sea Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

**This review is based on an ARC from Netgalley, release date 2/2/16.

Summary from Goodreads:
“In 1945, World War II is drawing to a close in East Prussia, and thousands of refugees are on a desperate trek toward freedom, almost all of them with something to hide. Among them are  Joana, Emilia, and Florian, whose paths converge en route to the ship that promises salvation, the Wilhelm Gustloff. Forced by circumstance to unite, the three find their strength, courage, and trust in each other tested with each step closer toward safety.
Just when it seems freedom is within their grasp, tragedy strikes. Not country, nor culture, nor status matter as all ten thousand people aboard must fight for the same thing: survival.”

My thoughts:

I do sometimes get tired of reading WWII stories, but this was a different take on the whole thing–one of those stories you never hear about. Most of the story takes place leading up to boarding the ship that will take them away from the war, but I’m not sure I could’ve read a lot more about the main tragedy that happens toward the end. It was devastating to say the least. Ruta Sepetys is able to write historical fiction in a way that is still easily readable and easy to understand for teens, she always keeps it interesting. I am glad she focuses on lesser known events that have occurred in history. Her last two titles have been on the Missouri Gateway Award list and I have a feeling this one will be too. I will be purchasing for my high school library.

My rating: 4/5

Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray

16060716 Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray

**This review is based on an ARC from Netgalley, release date is 8/25/15.

I was absolutely obsessed with The Diviners when it came out and have been waiting and waiting and waiting on this second book, it took soooo long! Anyway, Let me give you a little summary and then I will share my thoughts.

The second installment in The Diviners series is based around the dreamworld. We meet a new character, Ling, that is a dream walker like a character from the first book, Henry. Together, they can enter dreams and manipulate things to their liking. We also have some of our favorite characters from the first book–Evie (can read objects), Sam (can put people in a daze), Theta (who doesn’t want people to know about her ability), Memphis (who has been known as the Harlem Healer), Jericho, Mabel, and so on. Sam is focused on trying to find out what his mother was involved in with a government program called Project Buffalo and he enlists the help of Evie while working at her uncle’s museum trying to find clues that may lead him to the answers he seeks. There is also a sleeping sickness spreading quickly through Chinatown that is a mystery to everyone, no one knows the cause or cure. Henry and Ling are doing more and more dreamwalking in order to see those that they have become close with in the dreamworld, which is causing them to become less functional in the real world. Ling eventually discovers what is really going on with the people they are spending time with in their dreams and it is far from what they thought was happening. This team of friends set out to find what/who is causing the sleeping sickness and to eliminate the problem, while putting their own lives in danger.

So, this book had a LOT going on….my summary is just a tiny snippet of it all. While I adored the first book, I only loved this one. Still good! I felt like it had much less of a creepy factor for some reason, though there were still some definite creepy moments. I will always adore the 1920s era, so I love how much research Libba Bray has put into making her characters and settings authentic. They use all the right lingo and I find myself trying to throw some of it into my daily convo while reading these books. 🙂 It seemed like there were several sections that I could have just skipped right over and still wouldn’t have been confused towards the end. It also took a long time to get to the action and suspense. I do appreciate the detail that this author goes into and, again, love all the research she puts into making her story seem genuine. I also love the characters and character building. I loved all the characters in their own way and they each had their own flaws. They seemed like real people as you read through the story. I will still definitely recommend this book to others and I will await anxiously for the next installment.

My rating: 5/5

If you haven’t read either book yet, check out this trailer, it will give you the chills. Amazing!

At the Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen

23209927 At the Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen

**This review is based on an ARC from Netgalley, it releases on 3/31/15.

I didn’t know quite what to expect with this book, but I remembered liking Water for Elephants pretty well, so I wanted to try it out when I saw it on Netgalley. It is historical fiction, which I am not usually all that excited about, but Sara Gruen is able to write in a modern voice that doesn’t make it difficult to read. Maddie and Ellis are a married, high-society type couple in the 1940s; attending lavish parties and getting into trouble. During one such party, Ellis manages to embarrass his father to the point of getting him (and Maddie) kicked out and cut off. Trying to redeem himself with his father, he sets off to Scotland to try to hunt down the Loch Ness Monster, a passion of his father’s. He brings Maddie and their best friend, Hank, along for the ride. The obsession (and alcohol) consumes Ellis and Hank as they leave Maddie behind at the inn/tavern most days, so she makes friends of her own in the process and discovers that she can be an independent woman. Ellis tries to use threats to keep her around, but she sees through his lies, as does everyone else eventually. While all of this is going on, there is also the matter of World War II, which is causing constant fear and dread among the characters. Overall, I really enjoyed this story and was able to finish it fairly quickly.  Though it wasn’t high drama or intensity (in my opinion), I found it very well-written and it kept my attention throughout. I will be recommending this to family and friends and have already purchased for my library.

My rating: 4/5

Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee

22501055 (1) Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee

**This review is based on an ARC from Netgalley, release date is 3/17/15.

I will start this post by saying I am not usually much of a fan of Historical Fiction, but this book was able to hold my interest all the way through.  Though it was a serious topic, there were many funny moments and I could picture the characters as people I would want to be friends with.  Sammy and Andy are 2 girls disguised as boys trying to escape their own lives in Missouri by following the Oregon Trail. Sammy is trying to outrun a “crime” that she committed, which Andy is trying to outrun slavery. Shortly after beginning their journey, they meet 3 young men and join them for travels. They must survive, avoid the law, and navigate relationships…all while maintaining their status as male instead of the females they actually are. As you can imagine, this leads to some funny and awkward situations. The story gets very intense towards the end so it is a good read all the way through.  The characters are also well-developed, extremely relatable, and diverse—there are white characters, Chinese characters, black characters, and Mexican characters.  I will be purchasing for my high school library and recommending to students.

My rating: 4/5

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

download The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

**This review is based on an ARC from Netgalley, it was released on 2/3/15.

Okay, so I am a definite fan of Kristin Hannah and NOT a definite fan of historical fiction…although I have liked some in my day. However, I will start by saying this was not a book I expected when requesting it for advanced reading.  Here is my summarized adaptation:

The Nightingale is the story of two sisters, Vianne and Isabelle, from France and is set during the time of the Nazi occupation during World War II. Vianne is just trying to stay alive (and keep her family alive) in her small town when it is taken over by German troops, including some who move into her own house, which she refuses to leave. During the years of the year, she is forced to starve, loses her job, tries to help care for the children of Jewish people in her community, and endures more than any one person should ever have to handle.  Isabelle, on the other hand, is a rebel that is fighting for her country in the best way she knows how…by helping British, American, and Canadian airmen get back to their countries so they can help continue to fight the war against the Germans.  She leads the airmen to freedom by climbing through the Pyrenees Mountains and is known as The Nightingale (hence the title of the book). For much of the war, she is being hunted by the Germans because they know someone is helping free the airmen, but would never expect a young lady to be the culprit. Any association with the allied forces in France is punishable by death, so her only goal is not to get caught. Throughout the story, we also see glimpses of their father and the struggle they have had as a family.

Now, let me give you my reaction, here goes:

I felt that the first half of the book could have been much more exciting and/or condensed, as I found myself wanting to give up a few times. However, I got on Goodreads and read the reactions of others who had finished the book and decided I needed to keep going.  I am a fan of Kristin Hannah’s writing, but again, this wasn’t one of her typical books (in my opinion). Once I got past the halfway point, the story got more intense and, unfortunately, more emotional.  Even though I know all of these horrible things happened during WWII, it is tough reading about them, especially from the viewpoint of the families that were just trying to survive. There were a few audible gasps that might have slipped out of me. I planned on being done with this much sooner to write a review before it’s release date, but it took me awhile to get through.  I did end up enjoying the story, but felt pretty depressed from the whole thing.  I will purchase for my high school library, because we have a lot of students interested in this historical period and it is an important story; but, I am also excited to read something light-hearted next (I hope!)

My rating: 3/5

Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley

15828079 Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley

**This review is based on an ARC from Netgalley.  This title is releasing today, 9/30/14.

Wow, what a tough subject to read about (and write about, I imagine)! I knew that this was a story about a student who was part of the integration process, but had no idea what all that meant for me as a reader. As someone who was not alive during this time, I do feel a sort of detachment from the events, but have always been interested in the topic of Civil Rights. I learned so much, and felt so much, while reading this book.  Lies We Tell Ourselves is the story of Sarah Dunbar, a black high school student, who is integrated with just a few others into a school that has protested, and even shut its doors, in order to keep black students from attending.  From the get go, we are shown just how horrible the black students are treated–white students are protesting and blocking their entry, calling them horrible names, throwing things at them, and acting like they smell terrible. It doesn’t get much better once they get inside….the teachers are almost as bad as the students in the fact that they just ignore what is going on and keep on as if things are normal. Every time Sarah sits down in a classroom, everyone around her gets up and moves away.  She can’t walk down the hall without people surrounding and taunting her.  The whole time she is also worried about her younger sister, Ruth, who is living the same experiences in other hallways. Some of the story is also told from the viewpoint of Linda, a white student that is one of the most outspoken against integration, writing editorials for the school newspaper stating why the black students should not be allowed in their school. Linda soon comes to realize just how wrong her viewpoints may be. All of the black students are placed in remedial classes at the new school, even though they were on the college track and in honors courses in their previous school, because it is assumed that all black people are “dumb”. Not only are we dealing with major racism issues in this story, there is also an LGBTQ twist thrown in, with Sarah constantly questioning and trying to figure out who she should be attracted to without feeling like she is wrong. I really enjoyed reading this book…at times I did feel it dragged a bit, but I know the author was only emphasizing just how horrible the students were being treated by repeating these horrific scenes over and over.  I found the LGBTQ aspect to be an interesting part of the story as well…as if Sarah’s life wasn’t already difficult enough at that point.  Through this story, we can all learn (even if just a tiny bit) what it must’ve been like to be one of those black students that was at the forefront of integration and just how brave they had to be. I will definitely be purchasing this title for my high school library and promoting it among my students.

My rating: 4/5

Who would I recommend it to?  Any of my students!

Sex: Nothing more than kissing and even that is sort of looked down upon.

Language:  There is a lot of race-based language, but the story would not be complete if those words were censored.

Violence: There is some violence mentioned, not much more than fighting.

Drugs/Alcohol: Not an issue.