[734]: Orphan Monster Spy by Matt Killeen

Monsters in human form. Courage from desperation.


Orphan Monster Spy
by Matt Killeen

This book will have you engrossed from the get go. From the time you realize that Ursula is more than your average teen, she’s already outwitted Nazi soldiers and have found herself working as a spy for the British government. All these at a tender age of 15. And considering her life hasn’t been the easiest and was only going to get worse, Sarah/Ursula is indeed a remarkable young woman.

I supposed a true mark of a legendary spy in the making is one’s ability to quickly overcome emotions to avoid certain death or just even to survive. Ursula passed every single test that came her way. She used her freshman acting abilities to get away from a strange man soon after witnessing her mother’s murder. She then followed her instinct to saved the same man from the soldiers by playing as his daughter.

Captain Floyd easily saw exactly how intelligent, multi-talented, and useful she could be to their cause. And he didn’t hesitate to take advantage of her. Ursula was only too willing to be used as life has left her an orphan without a choice or a future. And that’s how she found herself in a nightmare disguised as a boarding school. It is a boarding school that knows no kindness, just cruelty; gives no education, just Aryan ideology.

But nothing could diminish Ursula’s courage and strenght. Not the tortorous hands of teachers and students alike; not a music teacher whose admiration left her cold. Not even a fellow student’s father who used his own daughter to lure girls like Ursula to drug them and rape them. And not especially when she found out that Captain Floyd knew beforehand just what kind of monsters she had to deal with on her first mission.

This book was difficult to read most of the time. But oh, it’s so good. I couldn’t stop reading. My stomach churned at every turn. But I was glued to the pages because I was wholly vested in what happens to Ursula. I was happy for her when she met Captain Floyd. I thought she was saved. But like Ursula, I was duped. This novel is indeed about monsters. The obvious ones whose cruel intentions are visible, and the ones whose inhumanity is hidden in the facade of kindness.

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[712]: Scythe by Neal Shusterman

A futuristic nightmare that challenges a reader’s view on immortality.


Scythe
by Neal Shusterman

Neal Shusterman’s brand new series depicts a future where immortality is now a reality. There’s no cancer, no communicable diseases or otherwise.  The body is healed using nano technology. You can die, sure. You can even kill yourself many times over. But in this world, humans have the ability to bring you back to life. Not in a zombie form, and no life-altering side effects of any kind. You’ll be resuscitated to exactly how you were before you died. The downside to this world is overpopulation. Since people can reinvent themselves in all sense of the word, many can live for hundreds of years.

This is where Scythes come in. They are in charge of culling the population (permanently, that is). They are harbingers of death, harvesters of the living. Some decide how you die and some compassionate ones let you pick your own poison, so to speak. They are feared and revered in equal measure. How they decide who to die is a gray area, however.  To some, the selection is based purely upon the wiles of the administering Scythe.

Scythe Faraday has his own method; in a way that’s almost scientific and based on statistics.   He might be detached from the task but he took the time to render compassionate death.

Becoming one is, of course, not that easy. The first rule of being a candidate is that you must not want to be Scythe. When the thought of being one repulses you. Unfortunate for Citra and Rowan, really. Because they both share the same revulsion. Under Faraday’s tutelage, they’ll learn to develop killing with empathy and compassion (if such a thing exists). They’ll also learn how to distance themselves from the task that each and every culling doesn’t make them want to turn the blade unto themselves.

Predictably, this kind of power elicits a voracious hunger for more. And in this installment, you’ll meet a group who enjoys mass killing/killing a little too much. The bloodier, the better.  So not all Scythes are like Faraday. Citra and Rowan will also find out exactly how competitive apprentices are during their first conclave attendance. The differing ideologies and politics create the kind of dangerous division that can only mean even more disastrous and bloody deaths for humankind.

As a Shusterman newbie, it’s easy to see why his Unwind series has such a cult following.  Unfortunately, I can’t say much about the world he conceptualized here because I felt it was the barest minimum as far as world-building goes.  But the ingenious plotting won me over. His characters are memorable; strong-willed and full of conviction.  They are thrust into the world where people’s lives rest unto their hands – quite literally. And whether they like it or not, they had to heed the call. However, I had a problem with how easily they performed the tasks considering how extreme their aversion was for killing people.

Scythe explores the subject of humanity in a way that asks if we’re still humans if we’re unable to die. Suicide had become an extreme sport of sorts for the adventurous bearing no repercussions whatsoever. This is a brutal, dark world where people are held hostage by their fears, waiting for the swing of the scythe to strike. It’s quiet, with bursts of action and gallows humor in its midst. A great intro to what promises to be an addictive series.

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[707]: Seven Days of You by Cecilia Vinesse

Mildly enjoyable; helplessly forgettable.


Seven Days of You
by Cecilia Vinesse

Sophia is no stranger to uprooting her life and moving to another country. Her family has done it at least twice in her short lifetime. She’s an American in Japan who’s spent summers in France with her father and his new family.

This move, however, will be different. This time, New Jersey will be their home base for good.

She didn’t anticipate a week of sharing the same continent with Jamie Foster-Collins, however. If she has any choice, leaving Japan without seeing Jamie’s shadow will be a welcomed blessing. But Jamie seemed determined to fix whatever went wrong two years ago. Once upon a time, he was a part of their small crew along with David, the flirty Australian ambassador’s son, and Mika, her best friend. They were friends who lost touch after his move to North Carolina. Conflating the issue was a painful episode that rendered their friendship close to obsolete. So hearing about his return a week before she leaves did not sit well with Sophia. And if she’s being honest, the hurt that cuts deep goes way beyond some angry words accidentally sent by a text message, and deeper still than the words she threw on his face.

She’s got a week to say her goodbyes to the life she’s known, the people in her life, and the country that she’s only ever known as home.

Sophia’s emotions over everything was all over the place. Notably, her feelings towards the two boys who occupied her mind for most of her post-pubescent life. Worry not, you love triangle allergy sufferers. She’ll only waffle for a second or two. After that, you’re golden. I do feel for the girl, though. The adjustment that looms ahead for her as she will try to acclimate to another life will be tough. And the truth bombs that come her way in a span of 7 days can’t be her idea of a good time. So yeah, she was in a tailspin. I suppose I don’t blame her for having her moment of insanity. She’ll grow up a lot. She’ll realize the truth about her hero-worship for the father that decided he needed a new family. She’ll try to repair the crevasse that was slowly widening between her and her sister. And most importantly, she’ll face the reality that Jamie meant more to her than just a boy in her past she’d rather soon forget.

Regardless, this was a cute, fast read. Nothing earth-shattering or life-changing. It was just a story about a girl leaving her life to start over again in her home country. There will be reminiscing; there will be crying. There will be drama and plenty of karaoke. There will be parent-less kids who will rule the night and kids who will drink way too much. In a span of 7 days, Sophia sheds all the half-truths about her family, accept some real truths about Jamie, and tries to look forward to a life in another continent even if she knows how difficult it will be.

 

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[703]: The Edge of Everything by Jeff Giles

Good versus evil and star-crossed romance: the perfect recipe for a good YA fantasy.


The Edge of Everything
by Jeff Giles

I haven’t read too many YA novels lately. But when I started seeing reviews for this Jeff Giles offering, I was instantly curious. It had allusions to fallen angels, grim reapers, and demons. But when most mentioned about a forbidden romance between a human and a godly creature, I was sunk.

Zoe’s year hasn’t been the best, to be honest. After the sudden disappearance of her father, she’s left trying to keep her family somewhat in a normal state. With her brother’s bouts of anxiety brought on by the knowledge that their father’s body could still be in the cave where he last went, things at home are a little precarious. When she lost him in a snowstorm, frostbite wouldn’t be the only thing that could put both their lives in danger. They found themselves at the mercy of a deranged criminal. Just when she’s about to lose hope, a vision in fire and light came to their rescue.

Their rescuer came in the form of X; a boy who looked to be in bad shape himself. His assignment was to retrieve the soul of one Stan Manggold, a hardened criminal who rightfully belonged in the Lowlands. Lowlands, for lack of a better word, is what you would call as hell. X is one of the bounty hunters who has lived in the Lowlands for eternity, it seems. There is no way out for the likes of him. But a deal with one of the generals could give X a chance to escape and live the rest of his life on Earth. It will not be easy, though, as his freedom come at a cost.

This book is gripping. I didn’t think I would enjoy yet another YA supernatural fantasy, but here I am. Honestly, if I hadn’t been distracted by so many books on my shelves, I could just as easily finished reading this in one sitting. As I mentioned, I’m a huge fan of star-crossed romances. It just so happens that X and Zoe were in one. The only downside to this is the speed with which they fell for each other. I feel like there wasn’t much chance of getting to know X. But I get it. Since X didn’t know much about himself either, I can forgive the underdevelopment of his character.

Zoe, on the other hand, is a girl whose life upended when her dad died. Granted that their dad wasn’t a “conventional parent” by any standards, they still had a camaraderie like that of any father and daughter relationship. He was presumed dead, but they never retrieve his body in the cave. Their mom is present in their lives, sure but she’s also distracted by trying to raise her kids. Mostly, she tried her best to keep what’s left of her family together.

I enjoyed this book. It had funny moments, surreal moments, and instances where I choked up a little. I especially enjoyed Zoe relationships with her close friends and her brother. She took care of him the only way she knew how. I could’ve sworn Jeff Giles is an experienced author. I didn’t realize this was only his second book. The Edge of Everything is exactly the YA paranormal fantasy that teens and adults alike would enjoy. The contemporary elements balance out the supernatural that makes reading it such a breeze.

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[699]: The Dark Days Pact by Alison Goodman

A promising start that slowly degressed into a Victorian doldrum.


The Dark Days Pact
by Alison Goodman

I started reading this book with a vague awareness of everything that happened beforehand. And considering that The Dark Days Club proved to be a laborious read in itself, I found myself temporarily relieved by how easy it was to acclimate myself back into this world. It didn’t take long before the events of what had happened started flooding back. So I was pretty optimistic that I will truly have a better time with The Dark Days Pact.

Unfortunately, it just wasn’t in the cards.

The Dark Days Pact picks up where the first book left off. Lady Helen Wrexhall is now a card-carrying member of the demon hunters that belong in The Dark Days Club. Having been cast aside by her only living family, she now resides with the Hammond siblings. She’s fully accepted her role as a Reclaimer under the tutelage of Lord Carlseton who, by the way, did his very best impression of a surly jerk. *snorts*. This guy is a piece of work and if one doesn’t know his background, one could easily lump him with the rest of the jackasses of the 18th century (along with Mr. Darcy. Probably.). It took a bit of time for me to warm up to his character in the first book. Back then, I could appreciate his enigmatic, mysterious character. He was unbearable in this installment, however. But you’ll have to forgive him. He’s under a lot of pressure. Besides the fact that Lord Carlseton was so obviously fighting off an exhausting attraction towards Helen (hence, the jerky attitude), he’s also suffering from a malady that comes from years of reaping demon souls.

Reclaimers aren’t supposed to be in a relationship with other Reclaimers so sparks flew whenever Lady Helen and Lord Carlseton were within each other’s vicinity. Sadly, the chemistry more often off the mark. In some ways, their relationship reminded me of Will and Tessa’s from The Infernal Devices from when they were just starting out. But alas, while Will and Tessa’s push and pull romance was convincing, Helen and Carlseton’s couldn’t begin to compare. Milquetoast is the word that comes to mind.

The love triangle in this book comes into more focus towards the ending – which, admittedly, added to the annoyance that I was already feeling throughout. Thankfully, Helen’s feelings were very clear whom she favors – which relieved the irritation some. Duke Selburn wouldn’t take no for an answer under the guise of keeping the word he gave to Helen’s brother to protect her. And even though he bore witness to Helen’s kickassery at one point, he still insisted that a fine woman such as her should be protected by a man like him. *eye roll*

We finally get to know a bit more about Lord Carleston’s history; the event that led him to believe that his wife perished through the hands of the Deceivers and ultimately, to his incarceration. Driven by a sense of duty to The Dark Days Club, his unrelenting need to rid the word of demons accelerated his descent to Cray Town (madness is a direct side effect to consuming demon souls). The only thing that could help him now was what was in the book.

Speaking of, the bulk of the plot deals with a book that Benchley has created. It contained information about Helen’s parents, history of Deceivers and Reclaimers; the cure for whatever’s ailing Lord Carlseton, and how to open the gate to Hellmouth, so to speak. So you can say this book is very much in high demand. The higher ups in the club suspected Lord Carleston of knowing more than he’s led them to believe. That he had a hand in creating the book.

I don’t know how you guys do it. But the Victorian period is not my favourite. I can’t sit back and not scream at the amount of mansplaining and hapless women whose daily existence is governed by the dictates of what society deemed as proper.  I can’t do it. I can’t do it without wanting to face punch the nearest cravat-wearing douche within my sights. But if this is your type of thing, I’m not judging. I just get so mad!

THAT. ENDING. THOUGH.

What the freaking heck was that? Grrrrr.

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[697]: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Strange, imaginative and intricately plotted.


The Night Circus
by Erin Morgenstern

One of the hazards of reading and reviewing a book such as The Night Circus is it renders one’s reviewing ability virtually useless. It’s a good thing and a bad thing. For one, piecing together a coherent take on the book is an arduous task. For another, it’s a shot at your already frail capacity to write a review in the first place. To top it off, The Night Circus was very vague in a lot of aspects. So the chances drawing blanks while writing the review is considerably high.

Still, I can say in all honesty, that this book is highly imaginative, however strange. Though it’s tough to follow sometimes because the timeline jumps sporadically. And the fact that the train arrives without warning at the most random places adds to that confusion. The train itself is magical, obviously. It carries the performers who possessed some otherworldly abilities recruited by the mysterious founder.

At the core of this novel is a love story between two protégés caught in between two competing magicians. But the romance lacks intensity so it takes a backseat throughout the novel. The two magicians seem immortal, pitting one protege against the other over the years. The mechanics of the game wasn’t clear, which is frustrating for the most part. The object was to beat each other, of course. As to the genesis and end game, Ms. Morgenstern was not very forthcoming.

The world of The Night Circus is magical in the literal sense. Besides the fact that the train travels like the wind (swift as the speed of sound), Celia and Marco have the strangest ability to manipulate thoughts, stop time, and even dabble in telekinesis. You have a fortune teller whose accuracy is uncanny, and kids who speak to animals. But is there anything more magical than love? Ms. Morgenstern explores the dark relationships between the children and their minders. Most of them were taken when they were young then cared for by their guardians. But it is love? Like that of a parent to their child? Celia’s relationship with her father was tenuous at best, volatile for the most part. Marco didn’t fare any better. In the end, it was hard to decipher who was manipulating whom.

There is a star-crossed element to the romance between Marco and Celia. Besides the fact that their masters are mortal enemies, the result of the competition ends in the loser’s death.  Quitting the game is no easy task. It’s almost as if the contest is set up so the competing magicians fall in love, so to win the game also means it’s at the expense of the person they love. That should be enough to titillate the most ardent romance readers, but sadly, the thrill just wasn’t there.

Morgenstern’s writing is very polished but because it’s set in the 1800s, I can’t help but feel that the emotions were restricted. It’s formal, regimented, and unfortunately, very cold at times. I would like to read more of her other works, though. But I would like to wait and see something other than this historical/magical realism/fantasy hybrid.

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[684]: Metaltown by Kristen Simmons

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Metaltown by Kristen Simmons
Tor Teen | September 20th, 2016
Source: Publisher, Finished Copy
Young Adult Fiction | Steampunk
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars


Metaltown, where factories rule, food is scarce, and hope is in short supply.

The rules of Metaltown are simple: Work hard, keep your head down, and watch your back. You look out for number one, and no one knows that better than Ty. She’s been surviving on the factory line as long as she can remember. But now Ty has Colin. She’s no longer alone; it’s the two of them against the world. That’s something even a town this brutal can’t take away from her. Until it does.

Lena’s future depends on her family’s factory, a beast that demands a ruthless master, and Lena is prepared to be as ruthless as it takes if it means finally proving herself to her father. But when a chance encounter with Colin, a dreamer despite his circumstances, exposes Lena to the consequences of her actions, she’ll risk everything to do what’s right.

In Lena, Ty sees an heiress with a chip on her shoulder. Colin sees something more. In a world of disease and war, tragedy and betrayal, allies and enemies, all three of them must learn that challenging what they thought was true can change all the rules.

An enthralling story of friendship and rebellion, Metaltown will have you believing in the power of hope.


I have not had the most successful reading experiences with Kristen’s books in the past. Because I’m a romance reader first and foremost, I often found the lack of romance a detriment. Colour me surprised when Metaltown changed all that.

As what you’ve probably already know, this book is a brutal take on a world of absolute desolation. With a metal industry in the background, and a ruling caste intent on enslaving the poor, it was not the easiest book to get through. What it has an abudance of, however, are stories of survival and determination from the cast of characters. There’s something to be said about the torturous struggle the characters go through. I, as a reader, was able to feel a deeper appreciation for their successes – no matter how big or small. And because the world is not especially pleasant, you can say the characters have strong hearts and even stronger stomachs.

Kristen Simmons knows how to create a world out of the deepest despair you can imagine. There was never a doubt about that going into Metaltown. In fact, I braced myself for what was to come. This time around though, I savoured every single sliver of glittering metal shavings. It’s so effectively visceral that you can almost smell and taste the iron in the air.

Metaltown took me by surprise. It may  have started a bit slow at first, but once you get past that hurdle, it’s smooth sailing from there. If you like to read about underdogs exacting due justice to those who’ve wronged them, this book might give you a bit of satisfaction. I enjoyed the gritty world – no matter how difficult it was at times. I especially love Ty. She’s a spunky girl with a big heart even if the person who was supposed to watch her back treated her unfairly on more than one occasion.

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[668]: Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare

25494343 Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare
Series: The Dark Artifices, #1
Margaret K. McElderry Books | March 8th, 2016
Young Adult | Fantasy | Romance
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars


In a kingdom by the sea…

In a secret world where half-angel warriors are sworn to fight demons, parabatai is a sacred word.

A parabatai is your partner in battle. A parabatai is your best friend. Parabatai can be everything to each other—but they can never fall in love.

Emma Carstairs is a warrior, a Shadowhunter, and the best in her generation. She lives for battle. Shoulder to shoulder with her parabatai, Julian Blackthorn, she patrols the streets of Los Angeles, where vampires party on the Sunset Strip, and faeries—the most powerful of supernatural creatures—teeter on the edge of open war with Shadowhunters. When the bodies of humans and faeries turn up murdered in the same way Emma’s parents were when she was a child, an uneasy alliance is formed. This is Emma’s chance for revenge—and Julian’s chance to get back his brother Mark, who is being held prisoner by the faerie Courts. All Emma, Mark, and Julian have to do is solve the murders within two weeks…and before the murderer targets them.

Their search takes Emma from sea caves full of sorcery to a dark lottery where death is dispensed. And each clue she unravels uncovers more secrets. What has Julian been hiding from her all these years? Why does Shadowhunter Law forbid parabatai to fall in love? Who really killed her parents—and can she bear to know the truth?


We first met Julian and Emma as kids in the last book of The Mortal Instruments. Barely escaping death, the kids were shell-shocked by what they witnessed as they fled the Los Angeles Institute. What’s more, a couple of their siblings were taken: one by the hunt, and the other – exiled. These kids grew up pretty fast.  Since the Blackthorns were killed during the Dark Days, Julian has had to play the role of the father figure to the rest of his siblings. On top of that, they had to hide the fact that their uncle barely has the capacity to look after himself, let alone run an institute. So Julian and Emma  hid this fact to the Clave to ensure that the rest of the Blackthorns will never be separated. But now something bigger is at stake

When the bodies of murdered humans and faeries alike turned up in a way Emma’s dead parents were found, Emma and Julian found themselves consorting with the fairies to solve the murders. Part of the agreement was to hide the uneasy alliance from the Clave; because to align themselves with the fairy folk is a direct violation of the Accord. The kids may not have a choice, though. In fact, this may be their only chance to get their brother back. As they piece together the mystery of the murders, they unearth a tragic love story that could very well end in more tragedy.

My Thoughts

Cassandra Clare’s novels always leave me floundering for words. For someone who is infinitely against fantasy, she sure has a way of making me forget this fact. But then again, one could argue that this is not fantasy per se.

The story of Lady Midnight is a tragic one. Even more tragic? The developing love story between Emma and Julian. If there is one thing that I know with all certainty that will drive me up the wall about this new series is how CClare is going to tackle this slowly surging train wreck. I’m equally excited and terrified of it, to be honest. I remember when I first read City of Ashes many years ago and throwing it on the floor soon after finishing. I thought she was cruel when she took Jace and Clary’s relationship right in that shocking direction. But we all know how that turned out, so that gives me a little comfort. One thing’s for sure, the road to HEA will be paved with hapless agony.

Now, the haters out there are convinced that this is yet another attempt of Clare to beat a money-making cash cow. Those people are what I would call, WRONG. This was not an attempt to regurgitate a tired story line. We’re introduced to new adventures, new legends, and characters that will incite feelings of fealty and hatred on some. Hate it or love it, I know many of us will be on tenterhooks for the books to come. This exciting new series is the perfect panacea to those who are missing the TMI characters something fierce. We get glimpses of the characters we’ve adored over the years. And as a bonus Magnus and Alec’s adopted a blue baby. Like, literally blue. Love. Love.

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[664]: Girl Against the Universe by Paula Stokes

22297294 Girl Against the Universe by Paula Stokes
HarperTeen | May 17th, 2016
Young Adult | Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars


Maguire is bad luck.

No matter how many charms she buys off the internet or good luck rituals she performs each morning, horrible things happen when Maguire is around. Like that time the roller coaster jumped off its tracks. Or the time the house next door caught on fire. Or that time her brother, father, and uncle were all killed in a car crash—and Maguire walked away with barely a scratch.

It’s safest for Maguire to hide out in her room, where she can cause less damage and avoid new people who she could hurt. But then she meets Jordy, an aspiring tennis star. Jordy is confident, talented, and lucky, and he’s convinced he can help Maguire break her unlucky streak. Maguire knows that the best thing she can do for Jordy is to stay away. But it turns out staying away may be harder than she thought.


Imagine being overcome with fear at the thought of being in public; or going through the motions of making sure there are no hazards before starting any tasks – even menial ones. Imagine believing in every superstition that would prevent any possible disasters that could happen to those around you. Imagine such a life.

Maguire Kelly lives that life day in and day out. The accident that took the lives of her father, brother and uncle was only the beginning of all the bad things that made her believe she was cursed. There was also the roller coaster incident, the sleep-over incident, and the neighbour’s house burning down incident. Ever since then, she isolated herself from people; convinced she’s the harbinger of bad fortune. She walks around with a journal chronicling every single incident that she blames herself for.

Maguire lives a sad, lonely life.

During her therapy session, she meets a boy who would help her with some of the challenges she’d set out to do. And as she learns to deal with her fear, she’ll learn that courage comes from accepting things that she can’t control.

My Thoughts

I used to be so terrified of sleeping when I have a headache. I always think –  what if I have a brain aneurysm? What if I don’t wake up? I would fight it off and refused to take any aspirins. I would lay there wide awake, thinking of what would happen should I die. What would my husband do? Would he get married right away? What would happen to our kids? Will they forget about me? My thoughts processes would just snowball from there. So I can relate to Maguire (to some extent). I know what it’s like to be overcome with fear – irrational, though as they may be. I can’t even begin to imagine what she goes through every day. The amounts of checks and double checks she must do to placate and silence her fears. And to live a very lonely life because you think you’re doing the world a favour. My heart went out to her.

Thankfully, Maguire had herself a very good support system. The people around her understood her, love her, and made sure she was comfortable with whatever she was doing. I especially love her family – her mother whom, although would seem a little out of touch with her daughter’s needs at first, was there for her anytime she needs it. Her adorable half-sister who adores her unconditionally. Her step-father who only ever wanted to be a part of her life. And of course, her small circle of friends.

Paula Stokes’ portrayal of a girl suffering from a number of mental illness was very well done. Maguire realistically showed us what it would be like to live with that kind of trauma that led to her obsessive compulsion. I easily identified myself suffering the same kind of irrational fear from time to time. Sometimes, I get this feeling that I left my boy in the car, so I would check to make sure even though I know for sure I didn’t.

Maguire is also a positive role model even though she’s a little broken. She’s got a great attitude despite everything. She showed great courage and faced every single challenge head on. And the presence of a supportive family structure is wonderful and almost rare in YA.

Overall, I’m so glad I finally read this book. The thought of missing out on this great story is unthinkable. I love the tentative and gradual romance between Maguire and Jordy. They both had issues to work through so I’m glad they both realized how important it was to resolve those first before anything. Girl Against the Universe is wonderful, tender and very sweet. It’s about a girl’s courageous attempt to live a fearless life. Triumph is the sum of small braveries and Maguire is the perfect example of why we should never quit.

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[637]: Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

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Salt to the Sea

by Ruta Sepetys


Books about wars from any period tend to leave a lasting effect on me. Stories about the struggle, the hunger, the pain, and anger stay longer than I’d care to admit. Mostly, I’m overcome with admiration to the characters; it had me thinking about how I could never have survived  had I lived in that era. I’m particularly drawn to stories about World War II. Two years ago, I was completely enamored with Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life and Michael Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See. Then, last year, I discovered Anthony Marra’s A Constellation of Vital Phenomena; it’s not set in the same time period, but just as affecting regardless. It was a book set during the Chechen war. But these books have one thing in common: they were written by authors who has an uncanny ability to transform horrific tales into something beautiful. Salt to the Sea was no different.

Book Description

Winter, 1945. Four teenagers. Four secrets. Each one born of a different homeland; each one haunted by tragedy, lies…and war. As thousands of desperate refugees flock to the coast in the midst of a Soviet advance, four paths converge, vying for passage aboard the Wilhelm Gustloff, a ship that promises safety and freedom. Yet not all promises can be kept.

One of the reasons that I enjoy reading books in this genre is that it affords me  the opportunity to learn something. Before starting this, I knew nothing about Wilhelm Gustloff or the “Amber Room”. After I wiped the snot dripping off my nose, I took to the trusty Wikipedia and did a bit of side reading.  It did indeed happen. For a moment or two, I felt the same indignance Ms. Sepetys felt for the way we’ve dismissed this disaster. We certainly haven’t given it the same reverence as we do the Titanic. And I know it’s tough considering who were on the ship to begin with. But we need to remember that they were mostly refugees and victims of war and that they, too, deserve to be remembered.

Reading historical fiction is not always going to be an easy read. More often, they tend to be heavy on the narrative and dry. Salt to the Sea is not the kind of historical fiction, however. Sepetys’ writing has a one-sitting type of reading quality. The pacing was swift and not at all inundated by the four-person points of view.  She set up the novel in such a way that readers would have a heavy weight on their chests, ominously waiting for that looming heartbreak.  There was sporadic humor that felt out of place, but I felt was necessary. It made the story even more endearing.

And of course, the characters. Oh, these lovely characters! They were full of life, and love. Despite the hopelessness of their situation, this motley crew was one of the most compelling band of characters I’ve read in a long time. They looked out for each other, bonded by the will to survive.  There were romance and stories of their lives before the war.  They were heartbreaking, poignant and gorgeous – but mostly, sad. Box of tissues required.

 

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