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Book Review: Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

GreystatsThis is a story that is best left until you read it for yourself. I choose to review this book during winter because, well, that way you’ll have at least maybe an eighth of feeling of what it was like for Lina. This is a shocking story of the Stalinist repressions of Lithuanians. It’s a story that is written in fiction, but was born from fact and needs to be known.

Sepetys language is brilliant and heartbreaking and frighteningly real. You feel the emotions of the characters, you gasp in breathe at the destitution of their situation. You cry when their heart breaks because your heart is breaking too.

When I was home in America, I had become close to a Lithuanian family. The shocking reality of what these people attempted to survive is…there are no words for how they lived and were taught to never mention a word. This is history, although it’s written in fiction, it is still history that desperately needs to be known.

In a starkly honest view, Sepetys paints how life would have been life for a Lithuanian family that was highly educated with opinions. Their stories need to be heard, and this book is the one that tells it with grace and civility. Sepetys’ words are hollow, but strong and angering all at the same time. Her book is powerful and it needs to be read. This is a sliver of World War II that grossly goes under the radar.

For those that are sensitive, this might not be the best book, but I can’t back down in how I feel that this novel, although it is fiction, is a fantastic and a frightening depiction of what life was like for Lithuanians during WWII. It’s time their voices be heard. It’s time their stories be known. They are still afraid and that is the powerful message at the end of the story that proves true. For American’s, this is history relatively unknown or understood. That needs to change.

Between Shades of Gray opens up the world during a time when the world was a terrible place. Sepetys does an amazing job making it clear that once the war was over, not everyone won.

This book is not just for teens, but adults would do well to understand the difficulties of those not from this land. This is the eye-opener. This story makes you appreciate what you have. Stop ignoring the past. Between Shades of Gray gives evidence to our future. How will we roll the dice? Let’s be accepting of everyone this time.

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Book Review: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Liars

Screen shot 2014-10-12 at 21.01.27A wealthy family. A summer of traditions. Three months of secrets. Can you discover what they’re trying to hide?

We Were Liars is one of those books were it’s best that the reader doesn’t know much about the book. It’s best to just dive in and don’t come up for air until you’ve finished. This mysterious tale will keep you ripping through the short and sweet chapters, wondering who is behind the current situations that the characters are in. 

This is an emotional book. Readers will fall into either one of two categories, those that understand and those that don’t. It’s as simple as that. If you understand, then you’ll love this book. If you don’t, well, this book won’t be for you. How can you tell? You can’t, but because it’s so short, it’s seriously worth a read. It’s quick with a punch to the gut. E. Lockhart has outdone herself with this haunting tale of a family and what happened one fateful summer. Are you brave enough to find out?

 

 

Book Review: Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige

Dororthy

 

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If you’re looking for a shocking, in your face retelling of The Wizard of Oz, look no further than Dorothy Must Die. There is a reason this book has been trolling through social media. Yes. It is that good!

Alternative Amy Gumm is struggling to get through high school, but she’s used to that. With a druggie mother, Amy’s used to taking care of herself. That is, until the storm arrives. Amy is whisked away to the merry old land of Oz. Except, life here isn’t so merry anymore. The citizens are suffering, a war is brewing and magic is being sucked out of the land. Who could would do such a thing to this amazing place?

Dorothy. And she must die. 

Forget all you once knew about Oz. Amy definitely isn’t in Kansas anymore, but she’s not in the Oz she remembers either. With stark wit and a blend of political violence that’s wrapped up in a magical red bow, Dorothy Must Die will change the way you recall the Emerald City. It will still make you reach for the book again and again, wondering what is going to happen next. This debut in the series sets the world, characters and goal beautifully. You’ll see the glittering bricks, smell the toxic poppies and will be blinded by what Dorothy has become. Which side will you take? Are you with Dorothy or against her? For Amy, it’s clear where she belongs, and she’s not afraid of Dorothy. 

Many thanks to HarperCollins for providing me this book in exchange for a honest review. 

Book Review: Dollhouse by Anya Allyn

Dollhouse   Screen shot 2014-10-16 at 20.19.04Fresh off the boat and trying to acclimate to Australian life, Cassie has found herself in quite the predicament: the only girl that has befriended her, Aisha, has disappeared. Now she’s on the hunt with Aisha’s boyfriend and best friend Lacey. Let’s put it out there that Cassie has a major crush on Aisha’s boyfriend. Out in the bush, they stumble upon a decrepit old house. Curiosity gets the better of the teens and before they know it, they’ve found a spoken carousel that leads them to an underground hell run by a dollhouse keeper. 

Yes, it is just as it sounds, and the story keeps getting creepier. Once they’ve entered this dollhouse, they can’t leave. As Cassie tries to solve the mystery of how this porcelain prison came to be, the deeper their fates are stuck into this timeless terror. Round and round like a carousel. Can Cassie find Aisha and a way for them to escape?

I loved the dark and ominous feeling of this book. Allyn knows how create suspense. For most of the story I was wondering just what was going on. There is so much bizarre and strange occurrences, but they’re painted beautifully, with a language that keep you guessing. Information is giving at leisure. I loved that. It kept me engaged. My only criticism is that pacing was a bit slow. I know it may have helped with the overall feeling of the tale, but I just wish things had moved a tiny bit faster. For such an explosive ending, I feel there could have been better use of some aspects of the story to keep it at a swifter pace. Nevertheless, this book has stuck with me. I want to know what happens next. I am excited to read more from Allyn!  Many thanks to Paper Lantern Press for providing this book in exchange for an honest review. 

Book Review: The Body in the Woods by April Henry

The Body in the Woods
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(Please note this book was given in exchange for an honest review)

Alexis, Nick, and Ruby have very different backgrounds: Alexis has spent her life covering for her mom’s mental illness, Nick’s bravado hides his fear of not being good enough, and Ruby just wants to pursue her eccentric interests in a world that doesn’t understand her. When the three teens join Portland County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue, they are teamed up to search for a autistic man lost in the woods. What they find instead is a dead body. In a friendship that will be forged in danger, fear, and courage, the three team up to find the girl’s killer—before he can strike one of their own.”

I struggled. I wanted to like this book, but what it comes down to is the writing style. The subject matter, the tone, the mystery, the thrill, it all had potential. It gets lost with the fact that the writing is for middle grade readers. As the story deals with murder, and explains a lot about a dead body and has a killer snatching another girl, I feel the writing doesn’t fit the subject?  With some work, I feel the writing can get there. 

Good things: I loved Alexis. Her profile, her strength and her determination is fantastic. Out of all the characters, Alexis was the only one that I felt nearly reached passed the middle school reading age writing. Her story arc is troubling, but she tries to push forward no matter what happens. She’s admirable and she gives a lot to the story. All of her chapters were my favorite. 

I loved the mystery aspect. The who-dunnit that kept you guessing until the end. Although the reader finds out before the characters, I didn’t see the killer coming (I guess I need to read more mysteries) and I loved how the author used the reveal of the killer to add more thrill with her main characters.

Also a fan of the premise – Search and Rescue in Oregon. Awesome idea. It’s new and interesting. The series has the ability to go places. 

In the end I wish there had been a better pairing. The writing is great for eight-year olds (think Goosebumps), but I wouldn’t want eight-year-olds reading about people killing teenage homeless girls. A bit much. I give much praise for Alexis, and I hope the author can improve Ruby and Nick up to her level. All three teens had excellent backgrounds, it’s just that for their ages Ruby and Nick need to be more mature, they act and sound like they’re ten. 

Don’t agree with me? Want to decide about this book for yourself? The Body in the Woods is out on Tuesday! June 17th! Pre-order now and tell me how you found it! I love a good book discussion. Even better – April Henry is running a special promotion with the amazing Powell’s bookstore in Portland, OR next week:

During the first week The Body in the Woods is on sale, for every copy purchased in person at Powells or online at Powells.com, I will donate $1.69  to MSCO SAR”

Many thanks to NetGalley and Henry’s publisher, Henry Holt and Co for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review. 

Book Review: Faking Normal by Courtney C. Stevens

Faking Normal Cover

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Steven’s contemporary and captivating story of Alexi Littrell and Bodee Lennox is a cross between a who-dunnit mystery and coming of age story.

Something terrible has happened to Alexi over the summer. She is unable to even say the word that haunts her dreams and causes her to scratch the back of neck into a bloody mess. I adore that Alexi isn’t seen as the ‘leader’ of her group of friends, she is in fact the opposite; a third to a pair that have been best friends for ages. I feel this is a more realistic side of teenage friendships. Teenage girls aren’t always worried about their boyfriends; their girlfriends matter just as much and can be lost just as easily. The story becomes more genuine and relatable. 

Bodee comes with his own heartbreaking story. The wallflower, brought into Alexi’ home because his father murdered his mother. What little he can express is his hair color choice through the use of Kool-Aid. He leans on Alexi for support in ignoring the next step in his future. Together they engage on a routine of comfort and safety, but also of ignoring the resolution for their conflicts. 

Alexi and Bodee need to each other to faking being normal. Their relationship is crafted in a subtle yet truthful way of how teens can become close and yet then change their minds about how they feel about someone.

Stevens weaves a web for Alexi and Bodee as the year carries on, each with a deadline, romance and conflict in order to see the light to stop hiding from their secrets. The final chapters will have you on edge, staying up late into the evening wondering who has hurt Alexi. Faking Normal is executed with a spot on message and with grace for her characters. This stand-alone is not to be missed.

Book Review: Rage by Jackie Kessler

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*Note -This is the second book in the Riders of the Apocalypse series and may contain spoilers
For my review for Book 1: Hunger

“Missy didn’t mean to cut so deep. But after the party where she was humiliated in front of practically everyone in school, who could blame her for wanting some comfort? Sure, most people don’t find comfort in the touch of a razor blade, but Missy always was . . . different. That’s why she was chosen to become one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: War. Now Missy wields a new kind of blade—a big, brutal sword that can cut down anyone and anything in her path. But it’s with this weapon in her hand that Missy learns something that could help her triumph over her own pain: control. A unique approach to the topic of self-mutilation, Rage is the story of a young woman who discovers her own power and refuses to be defeated by the world.”

This follow up to the first, is very different but just as interesting and intense. Since I felt a personal connection to Hunger, I was interested to see how different the next book would be. I don’t have first hand experience in self harm. However I did know people in my life that did, and perhaps it’s because of that that I still felt a powerful connection to the story. 

Actually, it’s probably because of the sister’s bit. That hits close to home. 

Moving on. Missy is a perfect War, so much better than the first one we met. I enjoyed that Missy had a personality, no matter how conflicted it is. It makes her human, and that’s what makes this series a standout. Her characters are human (until their not), and they’re teenagers. They are going through that transition in life that no one has a guide book for. 

Missy takes to War much easier than Famine, and as a reader you are right along with her. Yet there still beats a human heart and as Missy begins to learn to control her new power, she can see she has the power to control her self harm. A fantastic message. 

Plus the romance bit with death is weird, interesting and odd. It’s like the chance to date Kurt Cobain. Even if it isn’t him, who wouldn’t want that opportunity? 

The ending to Rage is more of my taste as well. The connection between the horseman within the books is subtle -making me crave more, but nevertheless this second book doesn’t disappoint.