Saturday, October 29, 2016

Review: Salt to the Sea

Title: Salt to the Sea
Author: Ruta Sepetys
Published: 2016 by Philomel Books
Version: Hardcover
Obtained: Library

Winter, 1945. Four teenagers. Four secrets.
Each one born of a different homeland; each one hunted, and 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.
Inspired by the single greatest tragedy in maritime history, bestselling and award-winning author Ruta Sepetys (Between Shades of Gray) lifts the veil on a shockingly little-known casualty of World War II. An illuminating and life-affirming tale of heart and hope.

First Sentences
Guilt is a hunter. My conscience mocked me, picking fights like a petulant child.”

Ruta has done it again. Every time I read one of her books, I am emotionally transported into a breathtaking story that breaks my heart and opens my eyes. I’m not trying to sound dramatic either. From Between Shades of Gray, with its tragic truth that many do not realize about WWII, to Out of the Easy, with its tale of redemption and ambition in a seemingly dead-end life, Ruta always manages to scare me into reality, but remind me of the joy, hope, and love there is in life, no matter the circumstances.

Therefore, I knew going into Salt to the Sea that I would adore it, and I did. This review will in no way, shape, or form do any good at describing how wonderful of a book this is. Therefore, take my words of advice and the knowledge that I have decent taste in books, and go find yourself a copy!

This is the story of four teenagers who end up on the same path in life, heading towards assumed salvation from the Soviets during WWII. Many refugees are fleeing through the Nazi-controlled countryside near the end of WWII, attempting to get to the coast and freedom from the Soviets. Several large ships are waiting to take the refugees to safety. The story is told from all four perspectives, which at first I thought would be highly annoying. However, the chapters are short and it cycles from one point of view to the next quickly enough so that you never get too used to one person. Each of the four main characters have mysterious pasts that are slowly revealed throughout the novel. They are all running from something and towards something better, at least in their minds. The story takes them from their beginning journeys all the way to the tragedy on the ship. I do not want to say much about the plot, because that will take away from the excitement of seeing the story play out.

Going into this story, I had no idea about this disaster during the war. I did a little bit of research afterwards to know more about it, and it is truly the worst. I cannot believe the biggest boat disaster I knew about was the Titanic. Maybe because this happened during wartime, it is more overlooked. Anyways, I would recommend not looking up too much about the event before reading the book, just so the story is still a bit of a surprise.

I absolutely loved how Ruta introduces the reader to each character throughout the book. With the changing perspectives, first person narratives, and interwoven stories, each spoke into each other’s lives and interacted together to create beautiful growth of character. I felt like I knew each of them as well as they wanted me to know them, and that I learned much from their stories. I love how in each book of hers, Ruta does not shy away from the harsh realities of life, but shows how those hard moments can still have glimmers of truth and victory.

I will never stop reading what Ruta Sepetys writes because she has yet to write a book that does not deeply draw me in and teach me about history and life. She writes with such talent and beauty, that you soak up every word on the page as you read, and that is the mark of a good writer and a good storyteller.

Content Warnings: Nothing to worry about except maybe mild language.


5 Pigs


I am going to YALLFest in November in Charleston, SC, and I am SO EXCITED because Ruta Sepetys is going to be there, and I am going to get to meet her!! (Unless something crazy happens!)
Look for an upcoming YALLFest post in a few weeks!!

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Thursday, June 2, 2016

Review: Me Before You

Me Before You
Author: Jojo Moyes
Series: Me Before You #1
Published: 2012 by Penguin Books
Version: Paperback
Obtained: Purchased

Lou Clark knows lots of things. She knows how many footsteps there are between the bus stop and home. She knows she likes working in The Buttered Bun tea shop and she knows she might not love her boyfriend Patrick.

What Lou doesn't know is she's about to lose her job or that knowing what's coming is what keeps her sane.

Will Traynor knows his motorcycle accident took away his desire to live. He knows everything feels very small and rather joyless now and he knows exactly how he's going to put a stop to that.

What Will doesn't know is that Lou is about to burst into his world in a riot of colour. And neither of them knows they're going to change the other for all time.

First Sentence:
”There are 158 footsteps between the bus stop and home, but it can stretch to 180 if you aren’t in a hurry, like maybe if you’re wearing platform shoes.”

All right, so here I am, absent from blogging for so long, only to make a comeback beginning with the currently most popular book-to-movie adaptation. I know, I know, I am so predictable. However, I did genuinely love this book. It is worth all of the hype and all of the “feels.” Remember when The Fault in Our Stars came out and everyone was talking about how it explored cancer from a different perspective, with a different voice, and was new in the world of “cancer books”? This is sort of how I feel about Me Before You (only it’s better). While Me Before You doesn’t deal with cancer, it does take the sappy “injured person and healthy person romance” to a different level. Let me begin.

I will TRY my hardest to not spoil anything! It won’t be perfect, so if you are really worried, go read the book instead!

This novel is essentially a story about one man’s attempt to take control of his life after a debilitating accident, and also a story about one woman’s attempt to find purpose, joy, and meaning in her life. Thankfully, these accounts are really just one story about their relationship. We first see Louisa (or Lou) as she is getting let go from a job she loved. She has a bit of a crazy family, a steady boyfriend, and a unique sense of style. While job hunting, she comes across the opportunity to be a caregiver to a disabled man. SURPRISE! The disabled man is Will Traynor who is younger and more attractive than she expected, but also more mean and bitter. A bit of information is leaked to her that causes her to begin project Improve Will’s Life Now (my title of it). Through mishaps, deep conversations, and quality time, they begin to form a strong relationship. However, as you might have guessed from all the people crying after reading this book (I actually did not), the ending is unique, and quite emotional.

Now maybe this is my lack of experience in the Disabled Hero Fiction section of literature, but I thought the points brought up in the book were very real and very conflicting. As I read, I had to assess what I thought was right, but then also what I thought was good for the characters, which was not always the same thing. I love when a book makes me think about an actual issue and come to terms with my opinions on it. When an ethical dilemma doesn’t actually concern you or your family or friends, it is easy to just not dwell on it for long. However, it becomes different when you are invested in the characters and you feel like you know them enough to get involved in what affects them. I was concerned about so many things as I read, and the issues were realistic, so those concerns translated over into real life concerns for disabled people. If there is one crowning jewel on this book for becoming so mainstream, it is that it really tries to show how life is for a disabled person, and how those close are affected.

Another great aspect of this book was the overall message that Will wants Lou to really get. LIVE. He just wants her to get out of her bubble of a town and go see the world, experience things, and boldly live her life. She is already unique and decently confident on the outside, but the mental and emotional development of her character throughout the book is wonderful. Both Will and Lou overcome some of their burdens and struggles with the help of the other. Any book with the message of LIVE BOLDLY is one that I will support. Obviously, live boldly with a healthy dose of realistic caution is my caveat.

Bookish related aspects, I think the characters were very well done. I got connected to each one of them, and felt like they were all very multidimensional, even if some were static for plot reasons. Lou’s dedication to bringing in money to support her family was very sweet. She had many great qualities. The setting was this little town in England with a castle that is a tourist destination in the summer months. The small scale setting helped establish the overall feel that Lou needed to see more than just this town. It also contributed to understanding how Will felt so trapped being back there. The pacing of the book was pretty solid. At times in the beginning it moved slowly, but all the character-building and story background in the beginning added up to a better book in the end.

Over all, I really enjoyed reading Me Before You! Going in, I thought it would be just another tear-jerker love story, and I was not particularly pumped. However, I love the points it makes, the fun characters, the English charm, and the beautiful story of two people finding solace in each other. It is worth the potential tears to read this! (Also you still have some time before the movie comes out this weekend!)
There is also a sequel out, which I have not read yet, but I am sure it is wonderful too!

Go read it!

Content Warning: Some strong language and brief, PG-13 sex


5 Pigs


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