Genre: Social Issues

ARC Review & Giveaway: Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke (2015) by Anne Blankman

ARC Review & Giveaway: Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke (2015) by Anne BlankmanConspiracy of Blood and Smoke by Anne Blankman
Published by Harper Collins on April 21st 2015
Genres: Death & Dying, Europe, Historical Fiction, Holocaust, People & Places, Social Issues, Young Adult
Pages: 416
Goodreads
five-stars

Acclaimed author Anne Blankman returns to the shadowy and dangerous world of 1930s Germany in this thrilling sequel to Prisoner of Night and Fog, perfect for fans of Code Name Verity.The girl known as Gretchen Whitestone has a secret: She used to be part of Adolf Hitler's inner circle. More than a year after she made an enemy of her old family friend and fled Munich, she lives in England, posing as an ordinary German immigrant, and is preparing to graduate from high school. Her love, Daniel, is a reporter in town. For the first time in her life, Gretchen is content.But then Daniel gets a telegram that sends him back to Germany, and Gretchen's world turns upside down. When she receives word that Daniel is wanted for murder, she has to face the danger she thought she'd escaped—and return to her homeland. Gretchen must do everything she can to avoid capture, even though saving Daniel will mean consorting with her former friends, the Nazi elite. And as they work to clear Daniel's name, Gretchen and Daniel discover a deadly conspiracy stretching from the slums of Berlin to the Reichstag itself. Can they dig up the explosive truth and get out in time—or will Hitler discover them first?

“Life is so short and so precious, and I don’t want to waste another second of it wondering how you feel about me or what’s going to become of us. I love you. If anything happened to you, the world would stop for me. I would want it to stop because I can’t go on without you.” (259-260)

What I Loved:

The History: Like Prisoner, Blankman researched A LOT for this sequel set in 1933. One thing I love about historical fiction is the history lesson that the reader receives while reading the book. This story was no exception, and though I read a lot of WWII-era books, this story is unique in that it is set in the 30s and is told from the perspective of a German who grew up in Hitler’s inner circle. That alone provides a fascinating dimension to the story, and I knew almost nothing about the real-life murder/conspiracy that Hitler’s thugs were involved with in Munich. The fact that I learned so much more about Hitler and this mysterious fire that actually happened drew me further into the book.

You don’t want to miss Blankman’s imagining of this “conspiracy” from Gretchen and Daniel’s perspectives. I also really enjoyed the inclusion of Winston Churchill in the story. This was a welcome addition to the narrative that solidified the fact that many individuals leading up to the war and during it, chose to take a stand for justice, even in the face of danger and death. Many of these individuals were honored for their roles (and books like this one as well as Code Name Verity have led me to acquire some nonfiction titles about those who played a role in the resistance during the war).

I loved that Blankman included an extensive afterword and shared info about what was real and what wasn’t. Extensive biographies in the back of books are my friends! I get very excited when I see these biographies. In my ARC, the biography begins on page 402 and continues to page 405.

Gretchen’s Bravery: German in the 1930s is a scary place for certain groups of people, especially someone that has defied Hitler and shared information about him that he never wanted revealed. That’s Gretchen Whitestone for you! Does that keep her from returning to German to follow he one she loves? Of course not! Gretchen’s bravery is revealed again and again in the story, and though I loved her as a character in Prisoner, that sentiment was only strengthened in the sequel.

I also appreciated watching Gretchen’s further working through of the tension between what she grew up hearing from Hitler about the Jews and Communists and what she thinks as an older and more experienced young woman.

Gretchen & Daniel: I appreciated the deeper glimpse into Daniel and Gretchen’s relationship—including its complexities and challenges. Things don’t always go well for them, and they have their ups and downs, like any relationship. However, they are brave enough to work through them, and as I mentioned earlier, Gretchen and Daniel will both go to great lengths for each other.

The Suspense: Just like Prisoner, Conspiracy featured several nail biting moments of suspense! This is one aspect of the book that kept me reading—there are definitely some moments in the book when you wonder, are these characters going to make it out of this? Though some readers might think it’s a little too providential that certain characters are saved, etc., the fact is that these kinds of providential situations did occur before, during, and after the war!

Who Should Read This Book:

If you read Prisoner of Night and Fog, you must make sure you’re in line to read the sequel. You won’t want to miss a moment of Gretchen and Daniels’ journey. By the end of Prisoner of Night and Fog, you assume everything will be fine—Gretchen and Daniel are together, and life can go on. But, you quickly realize that not all is as it should be in the beginning of Conspiracy, and once you start reading the book, be warned. You might not put it down until you discover how this new predicament of Gretchen and Daniel will work itself out.

Blankman provides flashbacks to remind readers of the first book, but I strongly recommend you read Prisoner first.

You know that I’m a great fan of historical fiction, especially Middle Grade, YA, and Adult fiction set during WWII. This is one of my new favorite YA series, and you’ll remember in my review of Prisoner of Night and Fog, that I read the first book in one afternoon for Dewey’s 24 Hour Read-a-thon. I remember being so excited about the release of Prisoner, so when I finally had my hands on a copy, I wanted to dive right in. Needless to say, Prisoner of Night and Fog was one of my favorite YA releases last year, and one of my favorite debuts.

When Danielle at Love at First Page offered to loan me her ARC, I was beyond excited and thankful! Later on, I received my own ARC of the book, which I so appreciated as this will be one I hang onto for a long time (Thank you, Heather Doss, of Harper!).

A Spiritual Illumination:

A clear desire for justice burns within Daniel—he makes it clear from the beginning of the book that he is willing to do almost anything to see justice win. Gretchen’s compassion and love for him also drives her to help him with this task of exonerating himself. To me, this was a clear spiritual aspect of the book—the desire for justice that is reflected in both Daniel and Gretchen. But also, there’s this idea of making sacrifices for love, and this is another spiritual aspect that stuck out to me in the book.

I loved the sequel to Prisoner of Night and Fog! What about you? Have you read it or are you planning to read it?

If you don’t have it yet, you can enter my giveaway to win a copy (US Only)!

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five-stars
What Katie Read

Mini Review: Bone Gap (2015) by Laura Ruby

Mini Review: Bone Gap (2015) by Laura RubyBone Gap by Laura Ruby
Published by Harper Collins on March 3rd 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Love & Romance, Magical Realism, Mysteries & Detective Stories, Social Issues, Young Adult
Pages: 368
Goodreads
four-stars

"Bone Gap marks Laura Ruby as one of fiction's most original voices. She is capable of moving you to tears, terrifying you on deep and dreamlike levels, and making your heart shout with happiness. This book is magic realism at its most magical."—E. Lockhart, author of We Were Liars

Bone Gap is the story of Roza, a beautiful girl who is taken from a quiet midwestern town and imprisoned by a mysterious man, and Finn, the only witness, who cannot forgive himself for being unable to identify her kidnapper. As we follow them through their melancholy pasts, their terrifying presents, their uncertain futures, acclaimed author Laura Ruby weaves a heartbreaking tale of love and loss, magic and mystery, regret and forgiveness—a story about how the face the world sees is never the sum of who we are.

Illuminations:

Get ready….this book is a bit difficult to talk about—only because it’s hard to fit it into a particular category. It features a mystery, unique friendships, changing family relationships, romance, some scary bits…and it’s technically fantasy because it’s magical realism. The MC is eighteen so I think this is also a good crossover book into Adult. All that being said, this is certainly an excellent book club book because I think it’s one that should be discussed.

Bone Gap is one of those unique books that I was thinking about for a long time after I turned the last page. It’s also the kind of book I could see myself re-reading.

I have to admit I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from this book—I knew it was about a girl who had disappeared from the town of Bone Gap (which is a real place, by the way) and I knew that the main character thought he had seen someone kidnap her, in spite of much of the rest of the town thinking she had just decided to leave.

The story switches between Finn’s (MC) and Rosa’s perspective, and several other voices are featured as well. The narrative shifts between characters smoothly—I didn’t feel jarred by the change in voices, but rather, I appreciated getting a glimpse into the minds of secondary characters like Sean and Petey.

Roza and Petey (Priscilla) are whom I would consider the two heroines of the story. Though Roza’s story features more prominently, I think Petey (a beekeeper) is just as important a character. You’ll love the development of the relationship between Petey and Finn. It’s a unique connection, and one aspect I loved in this book is the portrayal of multiple relationships that aren’t your typical unions.

“Funny how you notice how beautiful things are just when you’re about to leave them.”

Why I Think You Should Read This Book:

Having recently read Nova Ren Suma’s The Walls Around Us, I couldn’t help but think of this book after I read Bone Gap, even though both stories are quite different. At the same time, the magical realism aspect is something they share. I haven’t read a large number of stories in this genre, but the two YA novels I have read recently have both been impressive to me.

You know what else this reminded me of in some ways? The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman.

This book is hard to categorize though—there’s nothing else that is quite like it. Because of its magical realism, it’s not as straightforward or clear, so if you’re wanting a book where everything is neatly tied up and makes sense, Bone Gap might not be the book for you. But if you’re willing to let go, and be swept away by a beautifully written and mysterious story featuring unforgettable characters, first love, and strong female voices, then by all means, make sure you take a trip to Bone Gap!

four-stars
What Katie Read

Mini Review: I’ll Meet You There (2015) by Heather Demetrios

Mini Review: I’ll Meet You There (2015) by Heather DemetriosI'll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios
Published by Macmillan on February 3rd 2015
Genres: Adolescence, Contemporary, Family, Love & Romance, Parents, Social Issues, Young Adult
Pages: 400
Goodreads
four-stars

If seventeen-year-old Skylar Evans were a typical Creek View girl, her future would involve a double-wide trailer, a baby on her hip, and the graveyard shift at Taco Bell. But after graduation, the only thing standing between straightedge Skylar and art school are three minimum-wage months of summer. Skylar can taste the freedom--that is, until her mother loses her job and everything starts coming apart. Torn between her dreams and the people she loves, Skylar realizes everything she's ever worked for is on the line.Nineteen-year-old Josh Mitchell had a different ticket out of Creek View: the Marines. But after his leg is blown off in Afghanistan, he returns home, a shell of the cocksure boy he used to be. What brings Skylar and Josh together is working at the Paradise--a quirky motel off California's dusty Highway 99. Despite their differences, their shared isolation turns into an unexpected friendship and soon, something deeper.

Likes:

-Demetrios highlights the effects of PTSD on a soldier, his friends, and the community he returns to, and she doesn’t sugarcoat it. This is a very real and significant condition for many soldiers returning from the Middle East, and I like that the book points out how important it is to support these returning soldiers—male and female. In that sense, this book has a call to action, and I love that. When books motivate the reader to think differently about an issue or to act differently or to do something, I’d say that is a powerful book. And I’ll Meet You There is in that category, in my opinion.

-Sky and Josh! I love the way their friendship develops and evolves into something more. Both of them have their own brokenness, but they are aware that the connection between them is important. Though there are bumps along the way, I think they both understand that some relationships are worth fighting for.

“It felt so good to be full, but there were parts of me that still felt empty and hungry, and I could tell it was the same with Josh.”

-Sky and her art! I like that Sky turns to collage at many points in the story—when she’s happy, and when she’s sad. Art is therapeutic for her, and I can relate to this. Collage is one of my outlets, and I’m always clipping images and words out of magazines for a new creation.

“The mess of my life, of Creek View, of the summer, had been transformed into something beautiful.”

-California references. Since I grew up in California and actually had family living in Fresno, our family took road trips often to the central part of the state. It was cool to read about these places and be able to visualize them easily—in fact, when I started this book I was actually driving on Highway 99 the very next day!

Why I Think You Should Read This Book:

-Heather Demetrios is another author I’m going to watch closely because I think her Contemporary YA is excellent—I recently posted my review of Emery Lord’s The Start of Me and You and I admitted that I don’t read a lot of Contemporary YA. I feel like I’ve lucked out recently because both of these books were beautiful and though they both took me a little longer to read (due to other reading obligations, etc.), I absolutely applauded their conclusions, and I would definitely recommend them.

This book is heartbreaking in parts and raw, but it’s worth it. Her story doesn’t make the world out to be a cheery place all the time, but there is hope embedded in the narrative.

**Be aware that there is quite a bit strong language in this one—if that’s something you’re concerned about, you might want to preview the book first. Of course, I understand why she included the language in the story—it reflects the way Josh and Sky talk and express frustration, etc. But there is quite a bit of it, just to warn you.

I’ll Meet You There is wonderful! It may be difficult to read in parts, because of its content, but you won’t forget these characters soon, and you’ll close the book recognizing that hope and love can win in the end.

Today is the Monthly Classic Middle Grade Discussion at The Midnight Garden for The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I’m excited, and I’ll be heading over there as soon as I finish my reading. Look for a special post from me tomorrow!

four-stars
What Katie Read
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