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review 2014-04-16 18:29
Remembrance by Theresa Breslin
Remembrance (Dream Master) - Theresa Breslin

The year is 1915 and the war has already gone on longer than predicted. Two sets of siblings become friends in the unlikeliest circumstances just before the realities of the war begin to permeate their lives. Focusing on the fighting and life back home, the story follows the friends through the thick of it and the aftermath. 

 

Remembrance was stirring, thought-provoking, and heartbreaking. I rarely read anything about World War I - the last being The Last Summer by Judith Kinghorn - but this is definitely the most realistic and moving WWI novel I've come across. There's so much packed into it but it is all handled with such delicate sensitivity that you can't help but become absorbed.

 

I loved all of the characters. Each and every one of them just got to me. I loved Charlotte for her compassion and steadfastness; Maggie for her courage and fire; John Malcolm for his patriotism and bravery; Alex for his loyalty; and Francis for his heart. They all just seemed so real, which further enhanced the horrors they encountered.

 

Many themes were covered in Remembrance. The changing role of women in society was handled well, as seen through the eyes of Charlotte and Maggie as they threw themselves into work that previously would have been frowned upon. The breaking down of class boundaries was shown through the relationships - both romantic and platonic - between the friends and their families. Pacifism was handled extremely well through Francis's story and his thoughts on Just War theory (which I haven't encountered since my final year of university!). Patriotism and duty was explored through the actions of all characters, from Charlotte signing up to be a nurse, to John Malcolm and Alex's eagerness to enlist and defend their country. Also, poignantly, through the deaths of the soldiers nursed by Charlotte who wanted to know if they had fought the good fight. Finally, the shrinking world in terms of borders and other nationalities, with the diverse allied force comprised of soldiers from a number of countries - from India to Canada.

 

The pacing of the novel was beautifully executed, with each year of the war split off into different parts. This helped keep things as clear as possible because there was a great deal of information to digest and it might have been overwhelming without the parts. I loved the use of letters, particularly John Malcolm's letters home and Maggie's letters to Francis.

 

Overall, Remembrance was a wonderfully crafted novel. It is the perfect novel to read as a companion to this year's First World War Centenary programming and events.

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review 2014-02-27 17:52
Code Name Verity
Code Name Verity - Elizabeth Wein

I didn't even consider writing a synopsis for Code Name Verity because I'm petrified of dropping spoilers! Although, it would've taken a lot of explaining to truly give anything away because there are so many twists and turns, which is the book's greatest strength. Usually, I read two books a week - one YA and another general fiction or non-fiction. I'll read a few chapters of one in the morning or on the train and a few chapters of the other before bed. With Code Name Verity, I read at least half of it in one sitting because I just couldn't put it down. Absolutely brilliant.

 

The two main characters were refreshingly original. I don't know, maybe because I don't read too much set during WWII, but I haven't come across characters like these two very often. It's quite hard to talk about them without saying their names and giving away what they do. However, even though Elizabeth Wein states at the end that they are fictional, it is easy to imagine a story like this might have occured during WWII. She even mentions a Horrible Histories episode featuring a similar figure who faced a fate not unlike one of the Code Name Verity characters, which I recalled whilst reading too. If you have never come across Horrible Histories, I would definitely recommend having a look. I've read the books since I was a child (they make great stocking fillers!) and recently enjoyed the television series.

 

Given the cover illustration, I don't think I'll get shouted at too much for saying the book is about the role women played in WWII. I can't really think of many instances, that I've personally come across, where this viewpoint is portrayed, except maybe Land Girls or The Night Watch by Sarah Waters, which I read when it came out because it was featured in a display at my local bookshop. I haven't seen Enigma but I'm guessing that would be one to watch after reading this book, yes? No? Anyway, I liked learning about the roles these women played and I felt so much admiration for those who did the jobs described in Code Name Verity. I kept thinking, I'm not sure I could ever do what they did but I suppose you'll never know what you're capable of until you're tested.

 

I'll probably try and seek out some more books like Code Name Verity. It had everything you could ever want in a story - suspense, twists and turns, humour (one character had a delightfully dry wit), and of course, given it was part of the Valentine's Reading Mutiny Challenge, love. The love binding friendships that would not have come about under different circumstances and breaking down class and social barriers; romantic love (to anyone who has read the book, did you picture Jamie Bell for a certain character?!); love for what is right and true; and love for one's country. Code Name Verity is a song to the unnamed, faceless heroes who worked in the shadows of what was already our world's darkest time to restore peace and justice. Lest we forget.

Source: sophsophia.blogspot.com/2014/02/reading-mutiny-challenge-code-name_27.html
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url 2014-01-30 03:33
Between Shades of Gray film--is this really going to happen?
Between Shades of Gray - Ruta Sepetys

Because if so... Wow.

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review 2013-10-13 19:11
Review- Berlin Wolf by Mark Florida-James
Berlin Wolf - Mark Florida-James
 

Synopsis:  (from Amazon)

 The bond between a man and his dog is unique. For Peter, a boy of 15, it is so strong that he risks his own life to save that of his dog, Wolfi. It is 1942. Peter is Jewish, and with his parents he is escaping the Nazis. A decision to jump into the icy waters of the River Spree to rescue Wolfi ultimately saves his own life as well, for they have been betrayed and his parents are taken. Left to fend for himself, Peter hides out in the woods, foraging and hunting. Life is tough, but he and Wolfi are together. One day, a visitor stumbles into their den. Franz, also 15, has escaped from a labour camp. The three become close friends and have many adventures together. When they can no longer cope in the wild, they turn to a family friend, Aunt Berta. The wife of a wealthy industrialist, she takes them in. But their peace is short-lived; Kurt, Aunt Berta's adopted son and a fanatical Nazi, betrays them. With the help of new friends, the two boys not only save themselves from capture but are able to rescue others in hiding. Berlin Wolf is a story of friendship overcoming all the odds in a time of hatred for 9-15 year old children. Meticulously researched and written by a former academic with personal experience of Berlin, who has studied original documents from the period, the storylines in the book are based on different survivor accounts.

I thoroughly enjoyed this YA historical fiction romp through war-torn Berlin (complete with dangerous excursions to Switzerland).  Young Peter Stern was escaping the Nazis in the early days of the war, when his family on the run were sold out.  Peter and his dog, Wolfi, escaped and while his parents were sent to a concentration camp, Peter hid in the woods outside of Berlin.  During his time in hiding, he met up with a young man named Franz, an escapee from a camp and the tale follows Peter, Franz, Wolfi, and several other characters and their escapades in assisting other 'u-boats'- Jews hiding in Berlin, through the end of the war.

There were a few problems I encountered in the book.  It was marvelously researched, but there were times when I felt I was reading a history text rather than a YA historical fiction novel- while I enjoyed it, I am not sure that younger readers would.  There was also some repetitive phrasing, but it didn't detract too much from my enjoyment and would possibly not be noticed by younger readers.  The ending however, was a bit of a let down... not in the conclusion of Peter and Wolfi's experience, that was touching and I enjoyed, it was just too quick.  I felt let down.  Great build up and then *bam*, in two pages, it was done and no glimpse of what happened to Peter and Wolfi after. Perhaps this was done to leave way for a sequel.

I received a copy of Berlin Wolf through NetGalley.  I am not being payed for a review.

Rating:

I give Berlin Wolf by Mark Florida-James:

 
 
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review 2013-10-10 18:06
The Caged Graves by Dianne Salierni
The Caged Graves - Dianne K. Salerni

Review:

 

I absolutely loved this book.

 

It is a small story, one that doesn't take on the end of the world, or some monumentally epic adventure, or anything of the sort. It is about a girl - Verity Boone - who returns to her hometown of Catawissa, PA fifteen years after the death of her mother, Sarah Ann, in the late 1800's. Verity was raised by her aunt, and has been corresponding with a young man named Nathaniel, and they have fallen in love via their letters and agreed to marry after her return to Catawissa.

 

This is my third wonderful YA historical fiction book this year - the other two are Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys and In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters. In the deluge of YA paranormals/dystopians these three books have really stood out to me as being something special. Well-written, small in scope, but absorbing, well-written and very compelling.

 

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