Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Lina is just like any other fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl in 1941. She paints, she draws, she gets crushes on boys. Until one night when Soviet officers barge into her home, tearing her family from the comfortable life they’ve known. Separated from her father, forced onto a crowded and dirty train car, Lina, her mother, and her young brother slowly make their way north, crossing the Arctic Circle, to a work camp in the coldest reaches of Siberia. Here they are forced, under Stalin’s orders, to dig for beets and fight for their lives under the cruelest of conditions.

Lina finds solace in her art, meticulously – and at great risk – documenting events by drawing, hoping these messages will make their way to her father’s prison camp to let him know they are still alive. It is a long and harrowing journey, spanning years and covering 6,500 miles, but it is through incredible strength, love, and hope that Lina ultimately survives.Between Shades of Gray is a novel that will steal your breath and capture your heart. (From Goodreads)

What I liked the most about this book is although it focuses on World War II, it’s from a different perspective than what most readers are used to when reading something from this particular era in history. I think that although learning and reading about the Holocaust is important, let’s not forget other tragic incidents that also happened during this time frame as those victims should not be forgotten as well. Personally, I have not found many fictional accounts concerning this time frame (and geared towards younger readers) and I am hoping Between Shades of Gray will be the one that will open the doors to a lot of readers on this particular subject. For one thing, it’s good to know and good to let others be aware of this moment in history. Also, it’s good because it sets the stage for other writers to write about this subject.

This book has the most beautiful writing I have ever read so far. It’s beautiful, yet at the same time, it’s sad and the sense of loneliness, isolation, and helplessness is felt all throughout the book. It certainly does feel as if Lina and all the rest of the prisoners have indeed been forgotten by the world – considering they’re placed in a camp in literally what looks to be in the middle of nowhere. What’s ironic is they’re labeled as thieves and prostitutes, and some of the prisoners have actually become that way as a means of survival. Lina and her mother are major beacons of hope throughout the story and it’s through their unbelievable strength that they attempt to survive through this ordeal.

What I also liked about the book is the several flashbacks Lina has, to contrast between how she lived before she gets taken and arrested. They almost seem trivial compared to what she goes through in the camp. When Lina finds love in the camp, it’s what propels her to survive through this moment in her life. I thought Lina’s relationship with Andrius was the main reason why she kept hanging on. Although she had plenty of courage to show, she needed something else to cling on so she won’t lose hope.

It’s a bleak story, and gets worse later as the book progresses. The writing in this novel is excellent and makes the reader feel what Lina feels, the detail in the setting and atmosphere is well done and also adds to the feeling of the book. It’s not until literally, the last few pages of the book where Lina’s outcome is revealed, and leaves the reader with the feeling of hope, however with a melancholy feeling to it as well.

One of the best books I’ve read so far this year, I greatly recommend reading this. The writing is beautiful, and the story although tragic, focuses on Lina’s strength to survive and shows how courageous and hopeful one can be while enduring awful horrible events such as the one Lina went through herself.It’s definitely not a subject for everyone to read, however it’s not one to forget either.

I give it a 10 out of 10


Sapphique by Catherine Fisher

Sapphique It is recommended you read Incarceron before jumping into Sapphique. HEAVILY recommended. I’m not even sure if it’s possible to read this one before Incarceron. You’ll just end up being more confused.

Finn has escaped from the terrible living Prison of Incarceron, but its memory torments him, because his brother Keiro is still inside. Outside, Claudia insists he must be king, but Finn doubts even his own identity. Is he the lost prince Giles? Or are his memories no more than another construct of his imprisonment? And can you be free if your friends are still captive? Can you be free if your world is frozen in time? Can you be free if you don’t even know who you are? Inside Incarceron, has the crazy sorcerer Rix really found the Glove of Sapphique, the only man the Prison ever loved. Sapphique, whose image fires Incarceron with the desire to escape its own nature. If Keiro steals the glove, will he bring destruction to the world? Inside. Outside. All seeking freedom. Like Sapphique. (From Goodreads).

I’d have to say this book was a much better improvement than Incarceron. There was more action, the pace was quicker, and the intrigue was turned up a little higher to get the plot rolling. The action did make the novel go quicker although I preferred reading more about Keiro and Attia than Claudia and Finn. Although I used to like Claudia before, she seemed to morph into some sort of selfish spoiled brat who didn’t care much except her own needs. Finn also turned into a mopey brat that cared only for Keiro (which makes sense, but it was borderline obsessive.)

Despite the negative comments I see about Keiro (thoughout different websites reviewing Sapphique), I’d have to say he was my favorite character in this book. (Besides Jared). He had this undeniable charm and despite being a selfish, egotistical jerk, he wasn’t whiny and did not mope around like a twit. Although the majority of his actions were all to meet his own ends and he’s just as selfish as Claudia might be, there’s just something charming about Keiro that’s likable. I thought he was an excellent character despite his ‘supporting’ status. Finn may seem central to the plot, but he doesn’t shine as much as Keiro does.

There are different points of view in the story, unlike Incarceron where it switched from Claudia to Finn. Now, there a different points of view but this time it switches settings. (From being inside Incarceron, to being outside of it). It’s not so bad, although some readers may find it a bit confusing, and the flow of the plot does get bumpy once in a while. The ending of the book was interesting and does leave a lot of room for another installment. I wouldn’t mind a trilogy, as the story has taken a turn for the more exciting. I’d actually like to know what happens to Keiro next as he looks like he could be a catalyst for something big.

It was a great ending to the duology (although it looks like there might be a third?) and worth the read. The action helps the plot carry forward and makes the reading go faster. Some might be daunted by the task of reading another ‘chunky’ book. However with the fast pace, the action, and the bits of intrigue, reading this shouldn’t take long at all.

I give it an 8 out of 10.

Airel by Aaron Patterson and Chris White

Airel First I’d have to say, isn’t the cover of this book ABSOLUTELY LOVELY? one of the best covers I have seen so far!

All Airel ever wanted to be was normal, to disappear into the crowd. But bloodlines can produce surprises, like sudden mysterious illness. Then there’s Michael Alexander, the new guy in school, who is impossibly gorgeous…and captivated by her. Somewhere in the back of her mind she can hear the sound of pages turning, and another, older story being written. It is the story of an ancient family, of great warriors, of the Sword of Light, and the struggle against an evil so terrible, so far-reaching, that it threatens everything she hopes for even now. Airel knew change would be inevitable as life went on. But can she hold on when murder and darkness begin to close in and take away everything she loves? Will she have what it takes when the truth is finally revealed? (From Pump Up Your book tour page)

It was certainly a very interesting book, and had a lot of potential. I liked Airel. She had a very lively personality and seemed very likable from the start. Her comments and thoughts were at times, funny and witty. Plus the mystery behind the murder with Airel stuck in the middle was also quite interesting as well.

So, for me, the first third of the book was pretty good. Then we hit the parts taking place way back in ancient history in Arabia. Ok, I was able to read this. At first it was very awkward, but trying to find the connection was difficult as not many clues were given and you’re wondering what the heck does this have to do with Airel in the first place. I didn’t mind reading about Kreios. It certainly had a really good historical fantasy feel to it. There’s plenty of action in this part, but I can’t help but feel that sometimes it was a bit dry, and dragged through.

Then Airel meets Michael Alexander. They do seem to make a cute couple but their feelings between them just seem so artificial and you often stop and wonder if teens really act that way when they’re going out. From other young adult books I’ve read, Airel and Michael just don’t fit that mold. They just seem a little, well too perfect, and cliche. Although Michael does seem to be every girl’s dream come true for a boyfriend, there’s just something so robotic about him and you think to yourself; ‘wait a minute, guys don’t act like that!’ so even though it might have been nice to read about a couple that may act totally out of the norm, at least give it some realistic edges a bit, it just can’t be all rosy and lovey dovey all the time they’re together.

The ending took me by surprise, and thought it was a very interesting twist. However I just felt that to get to that great ending, I had to read through endless pages of plot that just did not sit well with me. It was a bit dry, and at times I thought, just a bit preachy when it came to learning where Airel was really from.

I think I’ll pass on this series. I felt bogged down by reading this and was forcing myself to finish. Although the ending felt like a great reward to putting up with the hundreds of pages of rather dry plot, I think although it had great ideas and plot elements, the whole putting it together could have been much better.

I give it a 4 out of 10.

Book Blogger Hop 7/22

Book Blogger Hop

Today’s Hop  question is:

What’s the ONE GENRE that you wish you could get into, but just can’t?

– That I wish to get into? hmmm…I have to stop and think about this for a moment. Ah! I got it!

Plain Ol’ contemporary/literary fiction. Things like the hombre likes to read; books by Irvine Welsh for example, or Camus. I tried. I’m talking about adult contemporary fiction not YA (which I can read just fine). There’s just something about it that I can’t seem to get into. If I do like some of them, they’re very few and far between. Why? I’m not sure but in the past the ones I’ve tried reading I found the writing very flowery, almost like poetry, dry and boring. It’s almost like reading a book that school is forcing you to read. It take a while to read, and by the end of it you’re brain dead and have to take a breather from reading because the brain hurts. I could give a real proper example but I seriously can’t think of one.

Today’s post comes with gazpacho for those hot summer days! feel free to grab some!! 🙂 thanks for stopping by!

Review of The Study Train by Kurt Frenier

The Study TrainFirst I’d like to say thanks to the author for providing me a copy of this book. It was my very first e-book that I got to read 😀 It certainly won’t be the last ebook I will read – and it doesn’t necessarily mean I’ll stop reading paper books (alas, this is a debate that I will stay away from. For now).

Sixteen-year-old Ethan is a lonely and beaten-up teenager, living in a small village in Switzerland. He is disconnected from his parents, hates his life, and escapes in his hidden dream world – the old ruins. One day, he gets a mysterious invitation to join what seems to be an educational train built to create ‘new world leaders’. Ethan reluctantly accepts.
From the moment he steps on the StudyTrain, something happens to him. He meets people he admired and likes, and that like him! Lord Althulos, guardian of the train and headmaster of the school, is the father figure Ethan never had. All seems peacefully and quietly going his way, as if the odds have turned. Pretty soon, Ethan discovers the wonders of the 500-year old train. The Delivery Room in particular, where all the knowledge of the world and of all the previous students-now-world-leaders is saved, opens Ethan’s eyes. He gradually transforms into a strong, knowledgeable but rather egocentric individual.  Krixit, rival of Lord Althulos and member of The Untouchables, helps him go through that transition, offering him power, energy and tricks he would never be exposed to otherwise.The pivotal point in the story is the recognition of Ethan as the long awaited leader of The Untouchables by Krixit. He get the symbol of that leadership, The Knights’ Grand Token, together with a difficult task: to fly the train to Shanghai –where Althulos’ powers are weakest – where The Untouchables want to reclaim the StudyTrain and reinstate their powers and status. (Blurb provided by the author).

I never realized it, but reading this book was fast. Really fast. I didn’t even realize I was close to the finish until I saw how many pages I had left to read. It was most definitely a story that can keep your attention and literally does take you for a ride.

What I found really interesting in this novel is Ethan (main character) has issues. A lot of issues. He’s been bullied, his family life at home isn’t so great, so he retreats to the old ruins for escape. Even with these sorts of issues you do feel sorry for him. Until he steps on the train. Although it’s nice to see him finally being liked and being able to be friends, he changes. He starts becoming more cocky, and more of a jerk and then I start to wonder why he was being bullied in the first place (perhaps because he’s been a jerk??). Now I’m not sure if this is done on purpose, but if it is, it’s a good job. He went from being a nobody to a somebody with a huge attitude problem. So I found him a little hard to like. There really isn’t much to say about the other characters. They’re secondary and don’t really play such a huge part in the novel. Lord Althulos is interesting and reminds me a bit of Dumbledore from Harry Potter (although both have very distinct and different characteristics).

The plot was good and interesting. However I’d like to know a bit more about the magic system and how it worked. It’s obvious Ethan is very well gifted in certain aspects and I wanted to know more about it. A little background information would have helped.

I also thought that although the story was very well done, and very good, and the pace just went really quick. Perhaps a little too quick? I felt as if I might have inadvertently skipped pages but it just happened to be that the pace was at almost breakneck speed that it did indeed feel as if the reader missed out on something.

Nevertheless, it was a good book and from what I hear there’s going to be more in the series lined up. It does look interesting and I will be looking forward to reading more about Ethan and his adventures.

I give it a 7 out of 10.

To learn more about the author, check out Kurt Frenier’s website and his Facebook!

Wondrous Strange by Lesley Livingston

Wondrous Strange 17 year-old Kelley Winslow doesn’t believe in Faeries. Not unless they’re the kind that you find in a theatre, spouting Shakespeare—the kind that Kelley so desperately wishes she could be: onstage, under lights, with a pair of sparkly wings strapped to her shoulders. But as the understudy in a two-bit, hopelessly off-off-Broadway production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, wishing is probably the closest she’s going to get to becoming a Faerie Queen. At least, that’s what she thinks… In this fun, urban fantasy, Kelley’s off-stage life suddenly becomes as complicated as one of Shakespeare’s plot twists when a nighttime trip to Central Park holds more than meets the mortal eye. (From Goodreads)

Normally I shy away from books about faeries. They’re the least favorite of the paranormal beings that I like to read about. I’m not sure why but I’m just not interested in them. Yet when I finished Wondrous Strange, suddenly my interest in faeries has skyrocketed all because of this single book.

What can I say, except that I absolutely LOVED this book. Everything about it was so fantastic! I loved the characters, the whole story, and the references to A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It might help if the reader is familiar with the play in the first place, but a simple read through in wikipedia might help to those not wanting to read any Shakespeare.

I’d have to say Kelley is a wonderful character to read. She might seem meek and mild in the beginning but when Sonny comes around to annoy her Kelley gets all riled up and shows her angry side. It was absolutely fun to read, she does have a certain spark and some chemistry between herself and Sonny. I like them both as characters. I also liked Auberon. Yes, he wasn’t the most nicest person and was a backstabbing bastage, but there was an aura of suave and calm collected coolness that just emanated from him whenever he came around. You just couldn’t help but feel some sort of attraction to him despite his aloof behavior. One can also not forget Lucky, even though it was a horse, it was still a wonderful silent sidekick. Bob was also unforgettable, who even though he was mischievous, he was an excellent supporting character too.

The story is also a great read, I liked the idea of Sonny and his gang being tasked with protecting the gate so the Otherworld faeries don’t come in to create mischief or run amok. When things do run amok, the descriptions of what was happening, of bad trickster faeries creating chaos all over the city was just an eye opening read. I just had to keep going I could not stop reading unless I absolutely had to. There were plenty of twists and turns throughout the novel and it provides for much of the excitement. Overall it provided some real interesting and fun reading.

I am definitely grabbing the second book of this series! I can’t want to see what happens! there’s so much Kelley has to look forward to (and has a lot to learn!) I’m so glad I picked this book up. I give it full credit for getting me back into the world of faeries and fully enjoying it. I definitely recommend this to other YA readers and those that love anything to do with faeries and A Midsummer Night’s Dream!

I give it a 10 out of 10!

Book Blogger Hop 7/15

Book Blogger Hop

Today’s question is: How/Where do you get your books? Do you buy them or go to the library? Is there a certain website you use like paperbackswap?

– OoooOooooo I like this question! I get my books from all sorts of places! besides getting them by request, I also get them via:

– library

– thrift store

– the indie book store at the mall closest to my place

– amazon when I can’t find it anywhere else.

It’s mostly the thrift store though, as sometimes I get lucky and find the books I had on my wishlist!

I don’t do paperbackswap as there’s barely a site that suites residents of Canada. Plus, well..shipping is expensive for this sort of thing …..

So what did you answer? here! have some gnocchi with spaghetti sauce. mmmmm… Thanks for stopping by!