Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

7824322Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Published March 22nd 2011 by Philomel Books

344 Pages

Goodreads Summary: Lina is just like any other fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl in 1941. She paints, she draws, she gets crushes on boys. Until one night when Soviet officers barge into her home, tearing her family from the comfortable life they’ve known. Separated from her father, forced onto a crowded and dirty train car, Lina, her mother, and her young brother slowly make their way north, crossing the Arctic Circle, to a work camp in the coldest reaches of Siberia. Here they are forced, under Stalin’s orders, to dig for beets and fight for their lives under the cruelest of conditions.

Lina finds solace in her art, meticulously–and at great risk–documenting events by drawing, hoping these messages will make their way to her father’s prison camp to let him know they are still alive. It is a long and harrowing journey, spanning years and covering 6,500 miles, but it is through incredible strength, love, and hope that Lina ultimately survives. Between Shades of Gray is a novel that will steal your breath and capture your heart.

Review:  Wow… I just finished this book and immediately felt moved to write a review.  Something I haven’t felt in a very long time.  It was such a powerful read. I’ve read numerous World War II books and Holocaust books but I’ve never read anything about Stalin’s reign of terror over the Baltic people. I can’t even possibly imagine what it must have been like to have been ripped from your home and transported to Siberia. They were forced to live off of bread rations and whatever they could scavenge from the Soviets trash. They had live tightly packed into huts built of sticks and mud while their fellow prisoners were suffering from everything from dysentery to scurvy. I’m going to have to remember that the next time I complain about Minnesota’s cold winters and realize just how much worse things could be. I think this book will really open up people to learn more about what the Lithuanian, Latvian, and Estonians went through during this tragic time.

The main character, Lina, was a little off putting to me at first because she seemed overly naive and selfish. However, she gradually grew on me as she learned from her fellow people just what it was to survive and help each other out. I was totally pulling for her and Andrius to have some sort of happy ending. They both suffered so much throughout the course of the novel.

One thing I thought that was really interesting was that Lina’s cousin and best friend, Joana, was also from Lithuania but her family escaped to Germany. I had already read the authors latest book, Salt to the Sea, and remembered that one of the main characters in that book is named Joana and she was from Lithuania…. I’m thinking they must be the same person. I really like that Sepetys decided to tie these two books together like that.

I think it’s also really important that readers of this book read the author’s note. One of my favorite quotes was actually from this section.
“They chose hope over hate and showed the world that even through the darkest night, there is light.”

I don’t want to say I enjoyed this book for obvious reasons, but I will say that it really spoke to me taught me some valuable things. I think this is a really important book that people of any age should read.

5 Stars

2018 When Are You Reading Challenge

when-are-you-reading-2018Click on the image above to be taken to this year’s post!

Hey guys! I came across this awesome reading challenge yesterday on Yvo @ It’s All About Books blog.  She had just posted her wrap up for the 2017 edition of the challenge.  I’ve been looking for ways to add more variety to what I read this year since last year was fully dominated by fantasy and this seems like the perfect way to do it.  The challenge is hosted annually by Sam @ Taking on a World of Words. Basically the goal is to read one book that takes place in each time section by the end of the year.  I was originally going to participate unofficially because my main goal for the year is to read my unread owned books (there are a LOT) but when I did some digging around, I found at least one book that will fulfill each section so I decided to just go for it officially.  As I complete books for each category, I will update this post with title, author, and year.


2018 When Are You Reading Challenge

The complete challenge will include 12 books from the following eras:

  • Pre 1500
    • The Red Queen by Philippa Gregory (1450s-1485)
  • 1500-1599
    • Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness (1591)
  • 1600-1699
  • 1700-1799
  • 1800-1899
    • Captain Wentworth’s Diary by Amanda Grange (1806-1816)
    • Mr. Knightley’s Diary by Amanda Grange
  • 1900-1919
  • 1920-1939
    • The Diviners by Libba Bray (1926)
  • 1940-1959
    • Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys (1941)
  • 1960-1979
    • The Smell of Other People’s Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock (1977)
  • 1980-1999
    • It by Stephen King (1984-1985)
  • 2000-Present
    • The Opportunist by Tarryn Fisher (2011)
    • Dirty Red by Tarryn Fisher (2012)
    • Thief by Tarryn Fisher (2013)
    • Without Merit by Colleen Hoover (2017)
    • Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli (2018)
  • The Future

Are you participating in this challenge?  What are some of your favorite historical fiction novels?

The English Wife by Lauren Willig

35486046The English Wife by Lauren Willig

Expected publication: January 9th 2018 by St. Martin’s Press

384 Pages

Goodreads Summary: From the New York Times bestselling author, Lauren Willig, comes this scandalous New York Gilded Age novel full of family secrets, affairs, and even murder.

Annabelle and Bayard Van Duyvil live a charmed life: he’s the scion of an old Knickerbocker family, she grew up in a Tudor manor in England, they had a whirlwind romance in London, they have three year old twins on whom they dote, and he’s recreated her family home on the banks of the Hudson and renamed it Illyria. Yes, there are rumors that she’s having an affair with the architect, but rumors are rumors and people will gossip. But then Bayard is found dead with a knife in his chest on the night of their Twelfth Night Ball, Annabelle goes missing, presumed drowned, and the papers go mad. Bay’s sister, Janie, forms an unlikely alliance with a reporter to uncover the truth, convinced that Bay would never have killed his wife, that it must be a third party, but the more she learns about her brother and his wife, the more everything she thought she knew about them starts to unravel. Who were her brother and his wife, really? And why did her brother die with the name George on his lips?

Review:  I was really looking forward to reading this historical fiction set in New York’s Gilded Age when I first found out about it.  I had put off reading it for awhile during my reading slump and I’m so glad I waited until I was out of it.  The book starts off rather slowly and jumps around the timeline a bit so it was a little confusing until I got the characters in order and the timeline.  Janie at first seems really mousy and timid, but she gradually comes out of her shell and becomes a really interesting character.  I found myself rooting for her to be successful in uncovering the truth about Bay and Annabelle with Mr. Burke, the reporter.  As with any mystery novel, I had my own suspicions about what the truth was but the twists were revealed to be quite different than my original ideas.  I really enjoyed that because it adds more to the mystery when the reveal leaves you shocked.  And there were many twists in this story!  What I really loved was that each little twist ended up being woven into what the BIG reveal was about what had happened to Bay and Annabelle.  This whole story ended up being an intricately woven piece of tapestry and the final image was fantastic and shocking.  While I struggled a bit with the book in the beginning, it was well worth the read.  I will be looking at reading more from this author.

4 Stars

I received an advanced copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Top Ten Books I Want To Read Right Now

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  Each week there is a new topic and this week’s topic is:FREEBIE! So today I decided to go with the top ten books that I want to read right now.  June has been a hard reading month for me because I haven’t had a lot of time to devote to reading.  I’ve spent a lot of time sorting through my books in my big purge project so I have a pretty specific list of what books I am in the mood for at this moment in time.  Hopefully I will get to these books in July, although July will be my busiest month of this year so far.  In no particular order, these are the books I am really wanting to read right now. (Titles link to Goodreads)

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  • Hopeless by Colleen Hoover – I want to get in one last CoHo book before the release of It Ends With Us!  I just love her books so much!
  • Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness – It has been almost a year since I read book 1, A Discovery of Witches, so I must get to this one this summer.  I’ve missed Diana and Matthew!
  • The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon – I have heard amazing things about this book and have really been in the mood for something different than fantasy lately so I think this will be the perfect read for me this summer.
  • The Heart of Betrayal by Mary E. Pearson – I absolutely LOVED The Kiss of Deception!  It completely blew me away!  I wanted to wait to read The Heart of Betrayal until closer to the release date of book 3 so I wouldn’t be left with a massive book hangover.  I can’t wait to read more of this series!
  • Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys – Again, another book that I have heard amazing things about.  I’m getting more in the mood for historical fiction again so I’m looking forward to reading this one this summer.

Have you read any of these books?  What books are on your immediate TBR?

Top Ten Books Every History Lover Should Read

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  Each week there is a new topic and this week’s topic is: Top Ten Books For Every X To Read.  Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres, second only to Fantasy so it only made sense for me to choose historical fiction for this week’s TTT.  In no particular order, here we go…

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  • Outlander by Diana Gabaldon – Really the entire series works well for any history lover because there is so much history involved in the series.  The first book revolves around 1743 in the Scottish Highlands.  Such a great series.
  • Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden – This book is a great read for anyone interested in what life was like for a geisha before, during, and after WWII.
  • A Desperate Fortune by Susanna Kearsley – This book had a really fascinating story with flashbacks to the past through the journal of an exiled Jacobite, Mary Dundas.  I thoroughly enjoyed this story.
  • Girl With A Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier – Almost any book written by Tracy Chevalier would be great for history lovers.  I have only read this one and Lady and the Unicorn but both are really fascinating imaginings of the story behind these works of art and the artists who created them.
  • The Outlander by Gil Adamson – An exciting journey of a young widow escaping from her two brother-in-laws who are pursuing her for the murder of her abusive husband.  It takes place in 1903 in Alberta, Canada.

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  • The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory – Any book by Philippa Gregory is a great choice, especially if you love the history of Tudor England.  I have a big collection of her books because that is one of my favorite history subjects so it is fun to read historical fiction to go along with it.
  • Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell – A no brainer for the Civil War and reconstruction history buff.  This will forever be one of my favorite books.
  • The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver – It’s been years since I have read this book but it is a great one.  A missionary family travels to the Congo in 1959 and go through many struggles and build themselves back up over the course of three decades.
  • The Reader by Bernhard Schlink – This is the story of a teenage German boy who meets a German woman and they have an affair.  Later in the boy’s life he is a law student witnessing the woman being on trial for a horrid crime.  He struggles to watch her refuse to release the one piece of fact that could clear her because it is a secret she regards more shameful than murder.  Such a good book.
  • Atonement by Ian McEwan – This is a bit of a tough one to describe but it starts out in the 1930s in England and moves forward through to WWII, revolving around the lives of sisters Briony and Cecelia, and their friend Robbie Turner.  Beautiful prose as well as an interesting story and setting make this a great book.

Are you a history lover?  What are some of your favorite historical fiction books?