Number the Stars is a children’s book you’ll never forget

number the stars cover

 

Number the Stars

author : lois lowry

pages : [paperback] 137

favorite character : annemarie

memorable quote :

She fell asleep, and it was a sleep as thin as the night clouds, dotted with dreams that came and went like the stars.

summary :

Ten-year-old Annemarie Johansen and her best friend Ellen Rosen often think of life before the war. It’s now 1943 and their life in Copenhagen is filled with school, food shortages, and the Nazi soldiers marching through town. When the Jews of Denmark are “relocated,” Ellen moves in with the Johansens and pretends to be one of the family. Soon Annemarie is asked to go on a dangerous mission to save Ellen’s life.

review :

I remember reading Number the Stars years ago, back in middle school, and being vaguely bored by it. Maybe because I preferred to read books with more magic, mystery, and general mayhem in them. Somehow a story about true historical accounts, things that could be much scarier than fiction, didn’t phase me. I’m thinking that’s because my teacher didn’t take full advantage of the chance to fully teach me about this book and time period.

This is a book great for students who are just beginning to learn about what happened during WWII, specifically in Denmark with the Jewish population. Although the main character herself isn’t Jewish, her best friend is, and through her Annemarie begins to realize that not only is not everyone the same, but that she can make a difference in preventing others from getting hurt because of the decisions of those in power.

I really think that this is a book that should be spread, to those who are old enough to comprehend the subject and if its handled delicately. It was a terrible time period, but it’s important history, and I think this book stands out as one of the best works to teach about it.

4/5 stars

10 Books I though I’d hate but didn’t

toptentuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

1. The Suffering by Rin Chupeco. I wanted to read this book and simultaneously dreaded it. I can read or watch horror without a problem if it’s a slasher film. Something dealing with the paranormal/vengeful spirits? Nope. Nope. Those things are much harder to kill. But The Suffering is like horror for people like me. Okiku, the main character, is honestly one of my favorite characters of all time. She’s a vengeful spirit, and terrifying to look at, but she kills murderers and rescues people, as well as the souls of the dead! How much more awesome can you get?

2. Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins. I honestly started reading this and thought that I would DNF it after the first few chapters because I really wasn’t enjoying myself. I’m so glad that I stuck with it! I thought that it was going to be a normal story about a Southern belle and, I’m sorry, that just doesn’t interest me. But this book was so much more!!

3. The Ring and the Crown by Melissa de la Cruz. I hadn’t read much historical fiction and had read another book by de la Cruz that I’d absolutely hated. Little did I know that this would quickly become a favorite of mine!

4. Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare. Okay, honestly I’m all about authors writing books set in the same world as their previous series–IF they still have original ideas and writing. I didn’t even enjoy the original City of Bones trilogy so I don’t understand the hype and masses of books that are coming out of that–but . . For some reason, I read the prequel trilogy, and while they aren’t favorite books of mine they were actually pretty good!

5. Crash Into You by Katie McGarry. This was in my stages of me thinking I was “too cool” for contemporary. And then Katie McGarry reminded me of how good a contemporary novel could be.

6. The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black. Again, this was an author I thought that I wouldn’t enjoy, and I was over vampires when I read this. It was SO. GOOD. I still can’t handle it.

What books have you read that have surprised you?

Top 10 Tuesday: Journey to the Past

 

toptentuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish!

Reading books, particularly historical fiction, gives you a glimpse at the world as it was–as it could have been in you’d been born in that time period. And, to be honest, I’m sure that most of them would be pretty terrible to live in. I mean, I love having indoor plumbing and all these social advances. But there are a few books that showcase societies I’d like to take a little visit in. Like, a day trip.

1. Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld. Maybe this one is a little bit of a cheat, because it’s set in WWI but is steampunk. I’m going to make it count, because it involves real history–still, I wouldn’t really want to visit and be in the middle of a war. The quick trip would be spent with the Darwinists, of course, getting to see all of their animal inventions/contraptions.

2. Curses and Smoke by Vicky Alvear Shecter. Again, SUPER QUICK VISIT. I do not want to get caught in Pompeii at the wrong place at the wrong time. But, ancient architecture, and art, and culture . . I’d love to see it all–for a few hours.

3. Percy Jackson’s Greek Heroes by Rick Riordan. Maybe I’m cheating a little for all of this list. I really want to see Ancient Greece in its glory days, just for a little while, and this book basically takes you on a tour of the whole place!

4. The Clockwork Scarab by Colleen Gleason. Also kind of steampunk-y. But the outfits are gorgeous and the setting very interesting, for a Victorian-esque place.

5. The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner. This book’s setting is loosely based on Greece, but with little twists. I think it would be another one that would be fun and gorgeous to explore.

 

 

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

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The Help

author : kathryn stockett

pages : [hardcover] 451

memorable quote :

You is kind. You is smart. You is important.

favorite character :

summary :

Three ordinary women are about to take one extraordinary step….

Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone.

Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken.

Minny, Aibileen’s best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody’s business, but she can’t mind her tongue, so she’s lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has secrets of her own.

Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed.

In pitch-perfect voices, Kathryn Stockett creates three extraordinary women whose determination to start a movement of their own forever changes a town, and the way women–mothers, daughters, caregivers, friends–view one another. A deeply moving novel filled with poignancy, humor, and hope,The Help is a timeless and universal story about the lines we abide by, and the ones we don’t.

review :

Okay, I have to admit–this is one book where I saw the movie before reading the original novel. I know, I know–but I also have to admit that I never thought I’d be interested enough in the story to actually read it. And it was on TV one day, alright? Don’t judge me.

The Help was everything and nothing like what I’d expected. The writing was much better than I’d anticipated and, even though I knew some of the plot twists because they happened to be in the movie, this book made the characters that much deeper and more interesting. (But I still enjoyed the film, so you should check that out, too. I actually want to watch it again now that I have the book read.) Obviously, the most interesting people ended up being the help themselves. These women went through so much every day just to make a living, and a terrible wage at that. And they were forced to be strong enough to pretend to be grateful to the white women who were single-handedly ensuring that they stayed beneath the poverty line.

But, interestingly, there are good moments in the book. Not every scene or chapter is dedicated to violence and racially-charged tension. There are also the quiet, tender moments between a woman paid to raise a child who isn’t her own–a child who loves the help more than she loves her own mother. Moments of hope, where women who’ve been down and out for so long are willing to risk it all just so someone else in the world might be able to read about their true experiences. I particularly loved Aibileen, who I think could have been a fantastic writer on her own (and, in my mind, went on to write whatever she wanted without Skeeter’s help after the book) but just needed a little nudge to get things rolling. She was such a great role model and a great friend.

I hope that more people will continue to pick up this book because it’s so interesting. It’s nothing like anything else I’ve had the chance to read lately. Maybe that’s because it’s so realistic; I read at the end of my edition that the author based some of the story on her own experiences with ‘the help’ growing up. That’s what’s most shocking, I think. Most people out there forget how recently these events all took place.

I had a friend recommend this book to me and I think that I’ll be recommending this one to others as well. Not only is it one that needs to be read, the writing is great, and I can’t wait to pick up something else by Kathryn Stockett.

5/5 stars

 

The Bronze Horseman by Paulina Simons

The Bronze Horseman

The Bronze Horseman #1

author : paulina simons

pages : [hardcover] 637

summary :

From the author of the international bestseller Tully comes an epic tale of passion, betrayal, and survival in World War II Russia. Leningrad, 1941: The European war seems far away in this city of fallen grandeur, where splendid palaces and stately boulevards speak of a different age, when the city was known as St. Petersburg. Now two sisters, Tatiana and Dasha Metanov, live in a cramped apartment, sharing one room with their brother and parents. Such are the harsh realities of Stalin’s Russia, but when Hitler invades the country, the siege of its cities makes the previous severe conditions seem luxurious.

Against this backdrop of danger and uncertainty, Tatiana meets Alexander, an officer in the Red Army whose self-confidence sets him apart from most Russian men and helps to conceal a mysterious and troubled past.

Once the relentless winter and the German army’s blockade take hold of the city, the Metanovs are forced into ever more desperate measures to survive. With bombs falling and food becoming scarce, Tatiana and Alexander are drawn to each other in an impossible love that threatens to tear her family apart and reveal his dangerous secret — a secret as destructive as the war itself. Caught between two deadly forces, the lovers find themselves swept up in a tide of history at a turning point in the century that made the modern world.

Mesmerizing from the very first page to the final, breathtaking end, The Bronze Horseman brings alive the story of two indomitable, heroic spirits and their great love that triumphs over the devastation of a country at war.

review :

The Bronze Horseman is something I was definitely hyped up about. The reviews on Goodreads are amazing; people kept telling me that it was their favorite book ever. And knowing how seriously I take my decisions about my own favorite books I knew I had to get my hands on this one. I was eventually able to get a used copy for a really great price and was amazed by how gigantic this book is. Over 600 pages! For something pitched as romance, that’s a lot to work with. Because I love reading about the WWII time period and there’s rarely anything I get that’s set in Russia, this seemed perfect. And then . . .

I never fell in love with this book. Probably because I never really came to like the love story. Dasha is Tatiana’s sister. Honestly, Tatiana’s entire family was terrible about her, and I loved that Alexander called them out on it, but family is family. It breaks a sacred girl code to not only date someone your relative (friend, whoever) has dated . . . But to fall in love with them while they’re still going out with your sister (and then some)? Nope. I just wasn’t feeling that. Setting that aside, the brief encounters that Tatiana and Alexander had managed to be so boring and not passionate. No, about a dozen times they went through the same conversation of fighting over what they should do with their relationship. At least sometimes it switched between who would suddenly decide (after an illicit comment or kiss) that this was all wrong and would shout/call/run after the other when they were offended by the thought that the relationship should be over. It was so predictable.

In these 600 pages, there were only a few hundred in the middle that went fast for me and were captivating–honestly, they probably had the least amount of the romance in them. I loved hearing about how the war was changing society–I loved reading about Russian society in general, though I’d never, ever want to live there. Even though the war made things utterly unlivable, I couldn’t look away as Tatiana fought to survive, as bombs fell around the city, as rations fell shorter. If war had been the forefront of the novel, not the romance, I’d have loved it. I can’t deny that Paulina Simons can write. I just didn’t enjoy her romance.

To top it all off, I finish this book and find out that there’s more. It’s a trilogy. I’m  happy enough to sit and pretend that it really all ended in this book because it all wraps up well enough at the end, though I suppose there is some plot twist that explains how there can be two more books after how this one ended. I don’t know, because I’ll never read them–but if someone wants to tell me what happens, that would be fine.

I honestly don’t understand the hype about this book or the love portrayed. These are the favored characters of so many people and I can’t get behind them at all. It just isn’t the book for me, unfortunately.

1/5 stars

The Deadliest Echo by Reese Hogan

The Deadliest Echo

author : reese hogan

pages : [paperback] 242

favorite character : echo

summary :

The year is 1928, and American mercenary Echo Maebius is seized while fleeing Russia after the disappearance of Joseph Stalin. Just when things can’t get any worse, Echo’s doppelganger walks into the room, offering him a way out—but with a terrible catch. Now, broken, damaged, and alone, Echo must find out why his closest comrade Jez has disappeared from his life—and why the failure of their mission in Moscow is responsible.

Told in alternating chapters between Echo’s past and present, The Deadliest Echo is a science fiction thriller about assassination, alternate paths, and the dangers of being a foreigner in a country newly raised from revolution. It is a powerful tale about the thin line between loneliness and friendship, and the intricate web of secrets that forces Echo to confront the one truth he most wants to escape…

Unless he can finish the mission he never completed in Moscow, the whole world will pay the price for his failure.

review :

I’ve been trying to get into reading more books involving history lately so when I had the chance to read The Deadliest Echo I jumped on it. It’s an interesting combination of historical fiction with a dash of sci-fi, a whole lot of action, and complex characters.

Echo was most interesting to me because at first I’d assumed he’d be . . . not exactly boring, but there’s a certain stereotype that comes with mercenary characters. But Echo is younger than expected and although he is certainly clever and calculating, he’s also lonely. Wiling to do a lot to keep others from realizing this, of course, but when he finally gets himself a friend he’s willing to lose everything to keep that friend safe. And that’s something that I can understand, that makes him human.

Action is all over this book, literally from page one. Told with each chapter giving a piece of Echo’s timeline, before and after a major event happens for him, there’s something intense happening in each portion of his life that’ll have you wanted to learn about the past when you’re reading the future and wanting the future when you have the past. This book was so intense that, yes, one night after finishing a chapter, I actually dreamed that Russian assassins were coming after me. If that doesn’t say something about how entranced and entrenched you’ll be in The Deadliest Echo then I don’t know what would.

I feel like this is a novel that can appeal to people who read a plethora of different genres, especially if you’re wanting to get a peek into a different genre to see if you’d enjoy reading it as well. Sci-fi, historical, action, thriller, and even fans of spy novels will all find something unique, captivating, and thought-provoking in The Deadliest Echo.

5/5 stars

Ancient Civilizations Brought to You Today

 I’m very interested in history and the different civilizations that thrived long before I was born. I know I’m not the only one fascinated by the idea of these people and places, yearning to know more about what a day in the life of a person living in ancient Greece, The Middle Ages, the Viking Age, or ancient Egypt was like.

I personally was most interested in ancient Greece, partly because I’ve read so much about the mythology there that I wanted to know how it applied to these people and their lives. Unfortunately in most history classes I’ve taken, there hasn’t been much time to focus on other parts of the world, let alone their ancient civilizations. I was also very, very excited to read about vikings. Who doesn’t want to know what it’d be like to live as one of them? Sure, they seem kind of rough and tough (and probably very, very cold) but what made them that way?

Fortunately, the series of “Everyday Life” books by Sterling Publishing don’t simply skim over dates and facts. The great thing about having one book focused on something I’m completely interested in is that I know I’m going to get a thorough understanding of these people.

In Ancient Greece: Everyday Life in the Birthplace of Western Civilization, not only are their sections about their gods and heroes but there are portions that talk about what the people typically ate, how their educational system worked, how their criminal trials proceeded, what happened with weddings . . I could go on and on about all of the separate detailed sections that addressed different aspects of Greek life that I never even thought to ask about!

Viking Age: Everyday Life During the Extraordinary Era of the Norsemen is set up similarly but of course has a plethora of unique information for you to learn so you can surprise your friends with fun facts about Vikings. Of course I enjoyed reading about the different types of ships they had, one of the things these people were most known for, but I also liked reading about what clothing they wore, how they fought battles, how their names were constructed, and what medicine they used.

Both texts are split into several chapters that are further split into sections that pertain to the subject of the chapter. The reading is anything but dense; I could read these books on my own time, for my own enjoyment, and I loved every minute of it.

I highly recommend the “Everyday Life” books and hope that you’ll check out at least one of them! What’s your favorite ancient civilization to learn about?