Category Archives: ARC

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

salt-to-the-seaI couldn’t believe how shocked I was when I read Sepetys’ Between Shades of Gray.  I mean, I had taken a world history class with “in depth” unit about WWII and didn’t really know much of anything about what Stalin had done — nor had I even heard of the [Soviet] Holodomor (roughly translated to “death by hunger”) that rivaled the well-known [German] Holocaust.  After reading Between Shades of Gray, though, I felt like I had a much better grasp of WWII history…  And then I read this book.  How is it that there is yet another major piece of WWII history that has flown under the radar for so long?!?

Before reading Salt to the Sea, I had never even heard of the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff.  I was stupefied to learn that OVER NINE THOUSAND people died in this tragedy.  Prior to reading this book, I would have been willing to bet that the Titanic and the Lusitania were the two largest maritime tragedies of all time.  Even when you combine the death tolls of those two ships, nevertheless, they only account for about a third of the losses of the Gustloff.  I wish American ethnocentrism didn’t extend to history classrooms in which *world* history is being taught, but it seems pretty evident to me that the anti-Germany sentiment surrounding WWII and the lack of American passengers aboard the ship have both contributed to a lack of American attention.  People from all walks of life [civilians, refugees, and soldiers] and of all ages [from babies to senior citizens] were aboard that ship.  It was a tragedy of unbelievable proportions.

Thank goodness Ruta Sepetys!  With her well-developed characters and gripping plots, Sepetys is providing readers with compelling stories that will also spread awareness of these previously unknown tragedies.  Who knows?  Maybe her books will even lead to better coverage in future history textbooks and classes.  I can only hope that the multiple points of view provided by this particular story will resonate with readers and finally bring much-deserved American attention to the great number of lives that were lost in the Baltic Sea [almost exactly] 71 years ago.

Happy Reading!

Trouble is a Friend of Mine by Stephanie Tromly

23354047[1]It’s really hard to put a label on this story.  On one hand, this is a quirky story about a girl who is new to town and trying to figure out how she might fit in.  On the other hand, it’s a mystery/crime novel in which a teenager thinks he might be able to prove a link between the kidnapping of a local girl and his own sister’s disappearance almost a decade ago. When the girl [Zoe] first meets the boy [Digby], it seems they might never get along.  After all, Zoe is just kinda bored and trying to take everything in, while Digby’s a bit manic and often acts without thinking things all the way through.  Digby frequently speaks his mind, to the extent that some people might find him rude, but I think Zoe found it rather endearing.  After all, she didn’t *have* to join him in all of his crazy adventures… but she just couldn’t quite find a reason to say no.

Some people might think this book is a little too cliche, but I really enjoyed it.  The fast-paced action and laugh-out-loud dialogue simply worked for me.  Though the plot is nowhere near the same, I thought this book read a lot like Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick.  Maybe it’s because it starts off in the middle of the insanity and then brings you back to the beginning to show how it all started?  Maybe it’s because one character is just so over-the-top and the other is so straight-laced it’s hard to believe they could end up working together?  I can’t say for sure exactly what it was, but I am happy to report that I absolutely LOVED it!  This would be a really fun book to read during the school break next week.  Last minute Christmas gift, anyone?!?

Happy Reading!

How to Be Brave by E. Katherine Kottaras

how-to-be-braveIf you look back over my reviews through the years, you will notice quite a bit of doom and gloom — dystopian fiction, post-apocalyptic/survival stories, and realistic/depressing novels tend to be my bread and butter.  I have found that reading and/or listening to too many depressing stories in a row can actually affect my mood, though, so it’s nice to throw a story like this into the mix.  While it had enough to satisfy my strange cravings for doom and gloom, this book left me with an overall feeling of hope.  Georgia was a great example of the fact that, while we can’t control what happens to us, we absolutely have control over the way we react to our circumstances.

Though Georgia was reeling from the loss of her mother, she was also determined to follow her mother’s final advice to “be brave.”  For Georgia, that meant creating a list of fifteen things she wanted to accomplish — like approaching the boy she had secretly been crushing on.  In the context of her mother’s recent passing, one could easily call it a bucket list.  I preferred Georgia’s take, nevertheless, that this was not a list of things to do before she died so much as a list of things to do so that she could truly live.  And while I certainly don’t wish my mother had died while I was in high school, I do wish that I had had the epiphany to stop caring so much what other people thought and to simply focus on living life to the fullest before I reached my 30s.  Granted, I wouldn’t be where I am today if I had come out of my shell sooner… but I lament the time I wasted on caring what everyone else thought when my choices would only, ultimately, effect me.

Happy Reading!

Need by Joelle Charbonneau

Oh. My. Goodness!  Y’all have GOT to read this book when it comes out!  Sadly, people who are not members of a site like NetGalley might have to wait until the November 3rd release date to get their hands on Need — but, even then, it will be worth the wait.  I’d especially recommend this book to fans of thrillers like Lauren Oliver’s Panic.  I also think this would be a good book to present to your child when s/he asks for permission to start a Facebook (or other social media site) account.  Even though it’s a bit hyperbolic, this story does an excellent job showing just how easily social media brings out the worst in people and could be a great conversation starter about both bullying and personal accountability.

With the anonymity available through some sites, and the simple fact that confrontations aren’t happening face-to-face, cyberbullying has become a huge  problem.  Teens are known for being impulsive and self-centered; those traits are part and parcel of the whole adolescent experience.  So, imagine how easy it would be to convince teens to complete simple tasks in exchange for rewards.  Especially if they were able to name the rewards they wanted AND were able to complete those tasks anonymously.  Let alone the fact that they often had little-to-no information about how their task fit into the big picture.  I kept thinking to myself, “OMG!  Something like this could totally happen!”  Everything started out so simply and innocently but then quickly escalated to get completely out of hand — a bit like Janne Teller’s Nothing.  Do yourself a favor and don’t pick this book up until you have a few hours to read it uninterrupted.  Trust me!  ;-)

Happy Reading!

This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp

this-is-where-it-endsI still cannot get over this cover! Even though I have way too much going on and don’t really have much time for reading lately, I saw the cover of this ARC and *knew* that I had to find the time to read it if my request got approved. (Thanks for the approval on NetGalley, Sourcebooks Fire!) Much like I am drawn to stories about serial killers, I am captivated by the stories of school shooters. Don’t get me wrong… I don’t worship mass murders or anything. I’m just so curious about how they could think like they do. I mean, I’ve gotten depressed and angry plenty of times in my life — but I just can’t conceive of ever getting to the point where taking the lives of other people would become an option, let alone seem like the right idea.

Imagine being dismissed from a normal/boring school assembly only to find that the doors to the auditorium were locked and someone who was hiding up on the stage has come out shooting. This story is told from the varying perspectives of several students affected by the shooting, both inside and outside the auditorium, for the duration of the terrifying 54 minute ordeal. I especially appreciated the perspective of the shooter’s sister. Though it took me three sittings to finish [because I was just too busy/tired and couldn’t find the time to read it straight through], this book begs to be read in a single sitting. People who enjoyed Nineteen Minutes and/or Give a Boy a Gun should check this one out. (Release date = 1/5/16.)

Happy Reading!

A Million Miles Away by Lara Avery

million-miles-awayIt was hard enough for Kelsey to deal with the death of her identical twin sister, Michelle, but that was only the beginning of her heartache.  Michelle’s most recent boyfriend, Peter, had just deployed to Afghanistan before Michelle’s tragic accident and Kelsey didn’t know how to get in touch with him.  She thought Peter deserved to know what had happened, but she didn’t even know his last name — and he was one of those guys who didn’t have a Facebook page, so she couldn’t just stalk him down via her sister’s page.  When she finally ended up talking to him, via Skype, things got out of hand very quickly.  Between the glitchy connection and the fact that she was Michelle’s identical twin, Peter mistakenly thought he was talking to Michelle.  Before Kelsey could correct him, though, an attack on his base made him cut the call short.  She kept meaning to set the record straight, but pretending to be Michelle made it feel almost like Michelle wasn’t actually gone — plus she worried what might happen to Peter if the news distracted him from his mission in Afghanistan.

When I initially read the description for this book, I had no sympathy for Kelsey’s predicament.  I was horrified to think that she would even consider impersonating her dead twin.  But, as I read the story, I couldn’t help but feel bad for her.  It was very easy once I saw how it actually played out.  I mean, she never intended to hurt anyone, but she just kept digging herself deeper.  The compounding lies ate her up inside, but she was worried even more about how Peter would take the news.  And then, of course, there is the fact that she started to fall in love with him.  Talk about drama!  Fans of Sarah Dessen and Sara Zarr should definitely give this book a try.

Happy Reading!

Undertow by Michael Buckley

undertowI really enjoyed the fact that book didn’t fit neatly into a single category.  I could probably book talk this a few different ways, depending on the reader seeking a recommendation!  Readers who enjoyed the fantastic, blood-thirsty mermaids in Lies Beneath will likely be enthralled by the different races of the Alphas and their various body types, weapons, and powers.  Fans of The Hunger Games are sure to appreciate the various layers of societal resistance, government involvement, and fighting for survival.  And, of course, readers who prefer their dystopias with a side of angsty/forbidden love, like in the Delirium series, will not be disappointed! Continue reading