Saturday, April 30, 2016

Hurricane Kiss

Author: Deborah Blumenthal
Release Date: May 1, 2016
Publisher: Albert Whitman & Company
Pages: 241
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance

*I received this book as a NetGalley ARC in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Summary


For sixteen-year-old Jillian McKay, the threat of Hurricane Danielle means a long car ride with her neighbors--including River Daughtry, the former star quarterback of Harrison High. The guy who was headed to glory until suddenly he disappeared to a West Texas juvenile detention center. Once cocky and flirtatious, he's now silent and angry. When their evacuation route is gridlocked, River is the first to recognize the danger they're in. Together he and Jillian set out to seek shelter in their abandoned high school. As they wait out the storm, they confront the past and realize survival is about more than just staying alive--it's about fighting for yourself. -Goodreads Description

The Rundown

     Oh boy. I usually love a good contemporary romance. Characters you fall in love with who you want to be your best friends falling for each other against the odds and figuring out who they are in the world as individuals and together...it's totally my thing. But this book was totally not my thing. 

     Now the setting is great: Houston, Texas with the threat of a category five hurricane headed its way. In nearly landlocked Indiana (hey we've got some Lake Michigan coast) hurricanes are not a weather threat I'm well versed in. However, I was a senior in high school when Hurricane Katrina forever changed New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. Nearly a year later, the summer after graduation and before college, I went to Louisiana with a church group to muck and repair roofs on homes. I had never experienced devastation of that magnitude. Whole neighborhoods abandoned like ghost towns. Trash (which really wasn't trash, but remnants of entire lives) everywhere. Even a shrimp boat resting in the middle of a residential street. Maybe it was remembering my time there working after the storm that piqued my interest in this title. Maybe I wanted a good story of two teens surviving and finding love in the process. In this case, what I wanted and what I got were very different, and unpleasantly so.

     I just didn't like River or Jillian. Sure, they both had endured hardships that could have made them reliable: loss of parents, pressures from coaches, being wrongfully accused...but they just felt flat to me. I found River to be more creepy than romantic (creepiness had nothing to do with his PTSD from being in juvie). I mean the spring before the hurricane, he hid a field to catch her off guard when they were playing Frisbee because he, "wanted to kiss her before she could think about what was happening." WHAT?! And he knew she had a boyfriend but didn't care because "she was hot and I wanted her." SERIOUSLY??? EW!! That's not romantic. It's stalker-ish and rude and disrespectful.

     Not that Jillian is any better. When they seek refuge together in their high school to ride out the storm, she's still with her boyfriend, yet makes out with River. Like a lot. Okay, maybe I'll cut her some slack that she was realizing that she didn't feel the same way for Aiden as he did about her and she and River had that "we could die at any second" mentality, but still. My yuck factor with Jillian was why she started dating Aiden in the first place. She let him cheat off of her in math class because, "It wasn't like he was studying to be a brain surgeon." (p. 139) Girl. No. Cheating is bad, mmmkay? And helping a boy cheat because he's not particularly bright but is a cute basketball player? Double and triple no! How does that help him? Or her? 

     This book has some redemption in more of the broad topics it hit even if the main characters weren't the best. Blumenthal hits on the corruption in our criminal justice system in relation to private prisons, PTSD, learning to rebuild and trust after live hands you a whole mess lemons, and giving faces to natural disaster survivors and victims. I feel like this book could have been a lot better if the characters had been more developed. 

     For me, this was less "love at category five" (p. 241) and more love at category what just happened here? If you're looking for a great contemporary romance where life throws a mess of things at the characters and they still come out on top, check out anything by Katie McGarry or Sarah Dessen. 

Rating: 2 Stars. Meh, not for me. 

     

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Wild Swans

Author: Jessica Spotswood
Release Date: May 1, 2016
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Pages: 304
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance

*I received this book as a NetGalley ARC in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Summary

The summer before Ivy’s senior year is going to be golden; all bonfires, barbeques, and spending time with her best friends. For once, she will just get to be. No summer classes, none of Granddad’s intense expectations to live up to the family name. For generations, the Milbourn women have lead extraordinary lives—and died young and tragically. Granddad calls it a legacy, but Ivy considers it a curse. Why else would her mother have run off and abandoned her as a child?

But when her mother unexpectedly returns home with two young daughters in tow, all of the stories Ivy wove to protect her heart start to unravel. The very people she once trusted now speak in lies. And all of Ivy’s ambition and determination cannot defend her against the secrets of the Milbourn past…. -Goodreads Description


The Rundown

     Ivy has a good life. Loyal best friends. A beautiful home. A grandfather who dotes on her. The summer before senior year is supposed to be nothing but fun with parties at the cove, swimming, and enjoying her friends. And all it takes is a phone call to have all of those plans for the perfect summer come crashing down. 

     The reason why she's close to her grandfather is that he's all she has after her mom ran away and left Ivy with him when she was two. Now her estranged mother is coming home...with Ivy's two younger half sisters. This might be just another warped family reunion if the family name wasn't Milbourn.

     Ivy is fifth generation Milbourn, a family that produces talented and tragically flawed women. Most in their small town believe it is a curse, and so does Ivy. She actually feels lucky that she doesn't have a gift. She's smart and a good swimmer, but not the valedictorian and not someone headed to the Olympics. Still, she struggles with the fear that she'll never be enough. She wasn't enough for her mother to stay. She isn't enough for her grandfather to be proud of her, to not expect more. Though it takes her a while to realize it, that feeling is strangling her.

     One of the things I really liked in this story was that there were so many supporting characters encouraging Ivy to use her voice, something I think we need more of in YA literature. I loved her friend Claire, who speaks openly and honestly about sexuality, gender identity (their other best friend has a young brother who identifies as female), and consent. Connor, Ivy's very likable love interest, tells Ivy that it's by no means selfish to want to figure out who you are away from your family and to not be so worried about pleasing everyone all of the time. Another prop to Connor's character is their dialogue during a pretty intense make out scene where he asks Ivy if what they're doing is okay. I think it's important for teens to see healthy conversations between partners engaging in sexual behavior. Again, just something I like seeing more of: it's okay to say no without feeling guilt, and it's also okay to say yes with enthusiasm and not feel ashamed. 

     I also appreciated how illnesses like depression, eating disorders, and alcoholism are portrayed. Ivy's mom, Erica, suffers from all three, and it's likely that some, if not all, of their extraordinary mothers before them suffered from depression too. As Ivy points out to Erica in one gripping scene, her lack of acknowledging and getting help for her problems will catch up to her in how her other daughters view her and live their lives. 

    On a lighter note, this story is very much about Ivy coming into her own as she nears the end of high school and begins to think about a new chapter in her life. As much as she's attached to and feels comfortable in her small town, she admits that home isn't without flaws and by the end, begins to explore the idea of life away from what she has known with the freedom to be whoever she chooses. 

     Readers will take away a great message: families are often flawed, but one truly can make their own path in the world. Your family's legacy doesn't have to be your own. Or you can put your own spin on it. Or do something totally different. And it's absolutely okay to do so! They'll love how things end with Ivy and Connor, the peace she finds with the conflicting views of her grandfather and mother and the roles each have and may yet to play in her life, and most importantly, that Ivy realizes she is enough to be loved. 

Rating: 4 Stars! A great book and enjoyable read! 

Monday, April 25, 2016

The Dark Days Club

Author: Alison Goodman
Release Date: January 26, 2016
Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
Pages: 482
Genre: Fantasy, Historical Fiction, YA

Summary

London, April 1812. On the eve of eighteen-year-old Lady Helen Wrexhall’s presentation to the queen, one of her family’s housemaids disappears-and Helen is drawn into the shadows of Regency London. There, she meets Lord Carlston, one of the few who can stop the perpetrators: a cabal of demons infiltrating every level of society. Dare she ask for his help, when his reputation is almost as black as his lingering eyes? And will her intelligence and headstrong curiosity wind up leading them into a death trap? -Goodreads Summary 

The Rundown

     Now let me just say I will never trash an author's book. That's like the social equivalent of seeing a mom pushing her baby in the stroller and loudly yelling, "OMG! That's the ugliest kid ever!" Moreover on this blog you'll see me giving positive and constructive reviews because I choose what I read! I grab books off of my library's shelf or accept ARCs that sound entertaining to me, that I think my teens would really enjoy, or that comes highly recommended from a friend or other librarian. Basically, you'll see that most of my reviews range from "good" to "OMG read this now!" because I read books I have a gut feeling that I'm going to like.

     That said, I wanted to like this book. Like really really really wanted to like this book. It had everything I usually love: history, a strong female protagonist, mystery, good vs. evil...why couldn't I get into it? The size of the book was a little daunting. But starting it I was like, "I've flown through big books before. No worries!" The pace just set me back. Example: I love descriptions of clothing and social gatherings from other eras, but when it felt like the same things were being described in detail each chapter it was like "Enough already! Can something happen?" 

     After throwing in the towel at page 200 I blame the slow pace and detail overkill, because the characters were super interesting. Here you have Helen, a high society girl orphaned with many rumors surrounding the death of her parents a decade. She's now being raised by her aunt and uncle and expected to do all of the things expected of a girl of her age and class: make her formal debut, enjoy the summer season, and marry well. As she's preparing to be presented to the queen, strange and terrifying things are happening in and around London. Strange things are beginning to happen to Helen too. Then she meets Lord Carleston and her introduces her to the Dark Days Club and explains what her gifts mean to stopping dark forces at work within London. Carleston comes with a dark past of his own that I was curious about, but my curiosity couldn't trump the slllloooooowwwww pace of the story. 

     All that said, there's a reason Goodman is a bestselling author. This book got great reviews in Kirkus, VOYA, SLJ, PW, and Goodreads. Why couldn't I get into it? Why?! I'll confess something: I didn't like The Fault in Our Stars by John Green the first time I read it either. True story. Maybe I'll pick this book up in the future, finish it, and go "What was I thinking?! I love this book!" Isn't that the beauty of books, though? There's so many different books and authors that not everything has to be for everyone, and that's a good thing! 

     Will I book talk this to someone who likes historical fiction or fantasy? Absolutely! I'm hoping someone else's thoughts will convince me to give this one another go. For a book in a similar genre that I loved, check out The Diviners by Libba Bray.

Rating: 2 Stars. Meh, not for me. 


Friday, April 22, 2016

Top Five Favorite Non-Fiction Books

At the ILF Annual Conference last year I sat in a session about the Eliot Rosewater Indiana High School Book Award and the topic came up on how to book talk non-fiction to teens. One librarian (and I'm sorry I forgot who said this, but you're brilliant!) suggested telling teens to think of non-fiction as "reality fiction." Yes!!! I still contemplate renaming the non-fiction section in my library to this day. Seriously, good non-fiction presents the real stuff in a way that pulls you in like a novel! Here are my top five favorites that I've read recently!





The ultimate rags to riches story of an underdog US rowing team that took the world by surprise at the 1936 Berlin games. History fans will love this story with the backdrop of Depression-era America and pre WWII Europe.

2) The V-Word edited by Amber J. Keyser


 I laughed. I cried. I learned. What a powerful book for teens, especially young women!

Check out my review here!

3) Unbroken by Lauren Hillenbrand


Because I'm a WWII addict! And this story is just inspiring. 

4) The Family Romanov by Candace Flemming


My college had such a great history program! One of my favorite upper level classes I took was on Russian history. There's more to Russian than Ivan the Terrible and the legend of Anastasia! This book about Russia's last royal family and life in Imperial Russia during the early 20th century reads like a great drama!



A book that combines history and music? Literally two of my favorite things! Before college, my knowledge of the Siege of Leningrad was the movie Enemy at the Gates (still a great movie if somewhat inaccurate haha studied history sometimes ruins Hollywood...but hey, Jude Law!) but this book was just wow! This is the story of a three year long battle over a city that left a more than a million civilians dead and a composer's piece that became both rally cry and memorial. 






Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The V-Word

Authors: Amber J. Keyser, Carrie Mesrobian, Sidney Joaquin-Vetromile, Kiersi Burkhart, Karen Jensen, Christa Desir, Laurel Isaac, Sarah Mirk, Molly Bloom, Sara Ryan, Alex Meeks, Chelsey Clammer, Erica Lorraine Scheidt, Kate Gray, Justina Ireland, Jamia Wilson, & Kelly Jensen
Release Date: February 2, 2016
Publisher: Simon Pulse/Beyond Words
Genre: Young Adult, Non-Fiction, Contemporary, GLBT, Feminism, Sexuality

Summary

An honest and poignant collection of essays by women about losing their virginity in their teens. The V-Word captures the complexity of this important life-decision and reflects diverse real-world experiences. Includes helpful resources for parents and teens.

Losing it. Popping your cherry. Handing in your V-card.

First time sex is a big unknown. Will it be candlelight and rose petals or quick and uncomfortable? Is it about love or about lust? Deciding to have sex for the first time is a choice that’s often fraught with anxiety and joy. But do you have anyone telling you what sex is really like?

In The V-Word seventeen writers (including Christa Desir, Justina Ireland, Sara Ryan, Carrie Mesrobian, Erica Lorraine Scheidt, and Jamia Wilson) pull back the sheets and tell all, covering everything from straight sex to queer sex, diving-in versus waiting, and even the exhilaration and disappointment that blankets it all. Some of their experiences happened too soon, some at just the right time, but all paint a broad picture of what first-time sex is really like.

Funny, hot, meaningful, cringe-worthy, gross, forgettable, magnificent, empowering, and transformative, the stories in The V-Word are never preachy, but provide a map for teens to chart their own course through the steamy waters of sex. With The V-Word girls can finally take control, learn what’s on the horizon, and eliminate the fear and mystery surrounding this important milestone.
 -Goodreads Description


The Rundown

WHERE WAS THIS BOOK WHEN I WAS A TEENAGER?!?!



     This is a really great resource for teens and parents alike. The short stories are very real, honest, and really challenges readers to think about how we view virginity as a society, and women's virginity in particular. 

    While the short stories had me feeling everything from laughter to tears, it was the Beyond the Stories section filled with great information for teens on a variety of topics relating to their sexuality such as health, education, sexual assault, the dangers of sexting in our social media age, conversation points for parents, and so much more! 

     The conversation between Keyser and Kelly Jensen (a teen librarian) that concludes the book is just wow! I can't tell you how many times I said "YES! Exactly!" while reading their dialogue. They talk about everything from language to rape culture to how sex is represented in YA literature.  I liked that Jensen was able to list several titles that I have in the YA collection at my library where female characters are shown taking charge of their sexuality by saying yes, saying no, having conversations with their partners, and not feeling shame in enjoying sex...or not feeling shame in not having sex.

     There's even a great note for parents who pick this up that both reassures and encourages parents to establish positive conversation about sex and sexuality with their children early. Wait, WHAT? Yes. We have to talk with our kids. Openly and honestly. Hey, I'm a mom (right now to a wild child toddler, but I know I'll blink and she'll be a teenager) and in my head I'm like, "Oh God how will I ever talk about this?" But I will. My daughter has a voice (right now it's very loud...like ridiculously loud) and I want her to always use it. I want her and all young women to know and embrace theirsexuality without fear or shame. I want to see change in our school's dress codes by stopping making young ladies feel like they have to apologize for their bodies or that they are little more than distractions for young men. I couldn't have agreed more with Jensen when she said we need to stop teaching girls how to not be rape victims and start raising boys to be gentlemen who would never sexually assault anyone. This book made me cheer for change! 

Rating: 5 Stars! You totally must read this book!

**Note to public librarians: I highly recommend this as a great addition to your collection! In an age where school sex education programs focus primarily on abstinence, teens are typically turning to less informed sources (the Internet, friends, movies, and pornography) to get their info. Unless a teen is lucky enough to have a healthy dialogue about sex with a parent or another trusted adult, what better place for them to seek accurate information than the library?!

     

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The Last Boy and Girl in the World

Author: Siobhan Vivian
Release Date: April 26, 2016
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance

*I received this book as a NetGalley ARC in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.*

Summary

What if your town was sliding underwater and everyone was ordered to pack up and leave? How would you and your friends spend your last days together?

While the adults plan for the future, box up their possessions, and find new places to live, Keeley Hewitt and her friends decide to go out with a bang. There are parties in abandoned houses. Canoe races down Main Street. The goal is to make the most of every minute they still have together.

And for Keeley, that means taking one last shot at the boy she’s loved forever.

There’s a weird sort of bravery that comes from knowing there’s nothing left to lose. You might do things you normally wouldn’t. Or say things you shouldn’t. The reward almost always outweighs the risk.

Almost.


It’s the end of Aberdeen, but the beginning of Keeley’s first love story. It just might not turn out the way she thought. Because it’s not always clear what’s worth fighting for and what you should let become a memory. -Goodreads Summary


The Rundown

     What an emotional roller coaster (in the best way possible)! As if facing your senior year and feeling so many last moments before everyone starts their next chapters isn't scary enough, what if you had no home base to come back to? What if your hometown was just...gone?

     I grew up in a small town much like Aberdeen. Many of my classmates and I had been in school together since kindergarten (just like our parents...and our grandparents...and our great-grandparents). And the end of high school wasn't so long ago that I can't remember all the feelings of "This is the last time I'll do_______." Some friends you stay in touch with. Some friendships fade. Some high school sweethearts made it, others didn't. A few relationships actually grow with all of the changes and stick for the long haul. There was always a comfort that no matter where life took us, home would always be home. We'd all have the same place to come back to. 

     Keeley and her friends are losing that sense of security as fast as the rain falls. Though she's always been fun-loving and a joker, the end of her town is really the beginning of her story of finding out who she is and who is most important in her life after Aberdeen.

     Readers will root for Keeley through the whole story! They'll be thrilled when she gets the courage to go for Jesse, the boy she's admired from afar since middle school. I mean, how many of us actually got kiss the boy whose initials we doodled in our notebooks? Go Keeley! They'll applaud her when she realizes that everything you thought you wanted might not be what you need, even if it hurts to say it. And what you really need may have been hidden in plain sight all along. 

     Keeley's friendships with Morgan and Elise may be a struggle for adult readers who have forgotten the ups and downs and drama of teenagers, girls in particular, and their ways of relating to one another. Just remember that you're dealing with teenagers who are still growing and figuring out who they are while all they've ever known is slipping away. Vivian created a cast of delightfully flawed teen characters that are real and who you genuinely want happy endings for after Aberdeen. 

     I also loved the way the author wrote Keeley's changing and evolving relationship with her parents. It's typically in the teen years that we realize that our parents aren't superheros and often mess things up just like everyone else. Keeley's parents love and care for her and their town, but they're human. They fight and cry and make mistakes, but they also forgive and move forward. 

     The story had great action and pace for the most part, but dragged quite a bit in the middle for me. However, I read an ARC and not the final copy so I'm anxious to browse the book when it gets added to my library's YA collection! I really enjoyed the characters and watching them grow through the loss of their hometown.

Rating: 4/5 Stars. A really great book & enjoyable read!




Friday, April 8, 2016

Top Five Favorite TV Shows to Binge Watch

I love vegging out and binge watching TV (thanks Netflix!), especially on sweat pants Saturdays when my daughter takes her morning nap. Here are my top five go to shows when I get the TV all to myself! 

What are yours??




1) That 70s Show

Though it's been off the air for a decade now (we can talk about how old that makes me feel another time) I'll never get tired of this show! It was one of the few sitcoms I could get my dad to enjoy with me when I was a teenager...probably because it reminded him of being a teen!



2) Parks and Rec

Ron Swanson is my hero. And I swear the creators came to my hometown and based Pawnee, Indiana off of Lebanon, Indiana. I was unsure what I was supposed to laugh at when it ended.



3) Sons of Anarchy

I've watched the series through twice and will probably do it again and again and again. I got hooked on the pilot episode my junior year of college after seeing sever commercials for the show's debut (I mean sure it was plugged as a show about a gritty motorcycle club, but all I saw were hot, bearded, tattooed boys on Harley's...which are literally all of my favorite things!). It became another show I watched with my dad, which made season premiers all the more fun! And let's be real for a second, while most girls were Team Jax I was all about Opie! That beard. Sigh. (PS Searching for a cast photo was super distracting. Opie and Jax...if I ever met them and they called me "darlin" I'd probably pass out.)



4) Peaky Blinders

Birmingham, England. 1920s. Family street gang. Cillian Murphy. And Tom Hardy (sadly, only in season two). I fall hard for historical fiction even on TV! This show restored my hope in good dramas after Sons of Anarchy ended!



5) The Ranch

Kelso & Hyde (That 70s Show) reunited? What? Ashton Kutcher and Danny Masterson team up again, this time as brothers working on the family ranch. And it's hilarious! 

Monday, April 4, 2016

Salt to the Sea

Author: Ruta Sepetys
Info: Philomel Books, copyright 2016, 391 pages

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. -Goodreads Description


The Rundown

     This book is everything YA historical fiction should be. It informs. It moves. It stirs something within about humanity, love, fear, heroism, and friendship. Mostly, it's a reminder to never forget the stories of those who survived, and who were lost, during the most devastating war in world history. I have to confess that my background with being a history major in college makes me feel like I'm well informed with this era. While I can regurgitate facts and dates like a pro, I'm guilty of forgetting the experience of the average European civilian. 

    The novel follows four teenagers: Joana, Emilia, Florian, and Alfred as they try to flee west from Eastern Europe ahead of the advancing Red Army of Russia. This was known as Operation Hannibal, when Germany began mass evacuations of its people near the end of World War Two. 

     Though told in multiple view points, the chapters are short (between a few pages to a few sentences) so that you really get to connect with each character without losing them from going too long into the story with another's view. You get pulled into each character, as well as the others on their journey, quickly. The pace of the story will leave you going "Okay just one more chapter!" till all hours of the night. 

     Joana was allowed to relocate to Germany from her home in Lithuania because she's half German on her mother's side. She spent much of the war working as a surgical assistant in a hospital. Joana was my favorite character! She has the heart and soul of a healer. That she never lost her desire to save others despite all she had been through on her journey is so very admirable. She cares for others in her group that most would have let fall behind: a blind teenager, an young orphaned boy, and an old shoemaker. When Emilia and Florian join their group, she takes Emilia under her wing and feels something even stronger for Florian. 

     Emilia. If your heart doesn't break and mend and break and mend for her throughout this book, you may be a robot. I try not to give spoilers away in my reviews and if I told you too much about Emilia's journey during the war I fear it would give away key points of the story. I can say that readers will weep for Emilia's native Poland right along with her. The injustice Poles endured during World War Two at the hands of both Germany and Russia is beyond words. 

     I didn't know what to make of Florian when he's introduced. Is he cold or is he a hero? He's just wise beyond his years and had an extremely hard exterior because of his experiences during the war. He was saved from active duty because of his ability to restore art. In particular, art that Hitler was "rescuing" for Germany (aka stealing). Now he's on another mission, one that could mean death if he's caught by either Germany or Russia. Young Emilia calls him her knight and sees infinite good shining from him. Her judgement is well placed as Florian grows from insisting he goes at his journey alone to feeling a bond with Joana, Emilia, and their group of refugees. It's a bond that will change his life forever and make him see that there are things more rewarding than revenge.

     We come to Alfred. Oh Alfred. He was a recent addition to the German Navy, having avoided the early years of the war for being deemed too sickly. I wanted to like Alfred, so what I'm about to say borders in spoiler territory, but it's my review so I'm going to say it: it never happened. I never liked Alfred. The most I felt was sorry for him. When he was first introduced, I had hopes. Hopes that he would grow out of his immaturity, stop being so naive and self-centered, and see the Nazi propaganda for what it really was. I wanted his character to have some epiphany, some defining moment where he has the opportunity to become the hero he's convinced himself he is in his mind, but it never happened. There's a point when Florian, who relied on Alfred's desires to be the hero to help him, realizes that Alfred isn't just a delusional hero, but a sociopath. And he's not wrong.

     Even in my years of studying history, I feel like I only knew the cold facts of Operation Hannibal. I think I remember maybe once or twice coming across the name of the ship Wilhem Gustloff in a college textbook. I knew it was one of many German refugee ships sunk by the Russians at the end of the war. For some reason the enormous loss of life, the families ripped apart, and the multitude of stories at the bottom of the sea never made a real impression on me until I read this book. 

     Over 9,000 people, more than half of them children, perished the night three torpedoes hit the Wilhelm Gustloff. If you added up the death tolls of more famous shipwrecks including the RMS Titanic, the RMS Lusitania, the HMHS Britannic, the SS Andrea Doria, the RMS Empress of Ireland, and the USS Indianapolis it would still be around half of the lives lost on the Wilhelm Gustloff. Combined. And yet how many of us had never heard of it, or knew very little? 

     For those who survived, their journey was far from over. At the end of the war much of Eastern Europe, including part of Germany, all of Poland, and all of the Baltic countries fell under the Iron Curtain drawn by the Soviet Union. Some refugees would wait nearly 50 years to return home. Many more never did. 

    I am so grateful that Ruta Sepetys took the time and did the marvelous research to tell the stories of so many in this powerful novel. I would encourage anyone to read this book, but if you're a fan of historical fiction please don't pass this one up! And grab the tissues because the end...so many tears. 

    I'll end my review with a quote that brought me to tears, spoken by the kind old shoe poet: " 'There's a saying, 'Death hath a thousand doors to let out life; I shall find one.' But the children. That's what I struggle with.' He shook his head. 'Why the children?' "

Rating: 5/5 Stars. You totally must read this book!!!

Friday, April 1, 2016

Top Five Favorite YA Books When I Was a Teen

I work in the same library I grew up in. Sometimes someone on staff in our Heritage Center will come up to me with an old newspaper clipping in a scrapbook of a younger me at a library program. American Girl doll themed teas, Chalk the Walk for SRP kickoff, even a fashion show with the first Teen Advisory Group in 1997 (I think I was going for the Blossom look judging by the hat I was rocking). 

When I was in high school, before our library added on a huge addition and created an actual teen space, YA lit was housed on a few shelves just outside of the heritage room. I'm so jealous of my teens now! Rows upon rows of YA books, graphic novels, periodicals, and an awesome activity room. Little shelf space aside, I found novels as a teen in the late 90s and early 2000s that I still carry in my heart!

What were some of your favorite books as a teenager?



I basically grew up right along with Harry, Ron, and Hermione. Is it YA? Is it children's? Is it just all around awesome? Yes to all! I loved this whole series so much. I went to midnight book and movie releases. When I should have been doing homework in study hall I was reading The Half Blood Prince. I even (semi jokingly) suggested a Yule Ball theme when I was on the prom decorating committee in high school. Calling these books modern classics is no stretch!


The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

The first time I read this was in my 7th grade English class. I've since reread it countless times. This book always makes for great discussion and is applicable way beyond its 1960s setting. And the movie? 80s heartthrob heaven! A young Rob Lowe? Yes please!




I adore this book! I have a deeply loved (aka falling apart) copy of this book I've had since 2002. It's definitely a desert island book! It's one of the most timeless coming of age books I've ever read.


Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan

Because what rocker girl doesn't dream of meeting a guy like Nick? Not to mention the movie is one of my all time favorite sweat pants and popcorn movies!


Shadowland by Meg Cabot

The first book in The Mediator series that I was hooked on in high school. Suze is just like any other teenage girl except she's a mediator. That's right. She can see dead people. I thought for sure it'd be super cheesy when my best friend handed it off to me in one day, but boy was I wrong! Personally, I was always super disappointing that this series never got picked up for a movie the way the Princess Diaries did. 









Roar (Stormheart 1)

Author: Cora Carmack Release Date: June 13, 2017 Publisher: Tor Teen Pages: 352 Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy *I received this bo...