Tag Archives: WWII

Book Review, salt to the sea by Ruth Sepetys

Historical Fiction for All Ages

The brutality of war from the civilian refugee perspective comes to life in Ruth Sepetys’ historical fiction novel salt to sea, the story of refugees evacuating Germany during WWII.

by Ruth SepetysRussia’s invasion of Germany comes alive through four refugee’s perspectives. While they flee, the atrocities behind their struggles and the secrets they carry haunt them. Joanne struggles to protect her travel companions, while nursing everyone she can. Alfred, a german soldier stationed on a ship, writes letters in his head. His love back home destined not to receives them.  Emilia, a fifteen year old polish girl who lost her family, fights the demons trapped in her mind. And Floria, a German civilian who saved Emilia’s life, distrusts everyone, especially himself, as he runs from the country he once honored.

Written in first person point-of-view, Sepetys’ story focuses on  individual refugee’s perceptions and internal struggles.  Short dialogue sequences capture interactions between them.

It’s clear a lot of research went into Sepetys’ plot, but she manages to create a story that touches the cord of humanity so deeply that the historical components of the story support the characters, rather than the other way around. It would do us well, however, to remember this harrowing piece of history lost in common knowledge.

Ruth Sepetys Writes for Writers

Beyond the integration of history in Sepetys’ story she offers much to learn for any writer. She uses every means she can to develop character. Note the sparse language used to create settings and establish emotions, while still driving the story forward.

Instead of each chapter telling what that person did, Sepetys often choses to develop characters through others’ observations. An example from Emilia’s chapter follows. “The shoe poet woke early, rapping our feet with his walking stick.”

Another example from Joanne’s perspective: “I had woke in the middle of the night and imagined I saw the German standing above me in the dark. When I blinked he was gone and I realized it was a dream.” or was it?

The climax wraps around the converted cruise ship Wilhelmina Gustoff. For pictures and a history of the Cruise Liner Wilhelm Gustloff check out feldgrau.com

Book Review, salt to the sea by Ruth SepetysSalt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
Published by Philomel Books on February 2nd 2016
Genres: Adventure, Historical Fiction, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 393
Goodreads

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.

The Clearing by Heather Davis Book Review

True Love is Timeless,

The Clearing by Heather DavisRead Heather Davis’s love story for Valentine’s Day

Heather Davis enjoys writing romances with a paranormal twist. In The Clearing she creates intrigue when her heroine, Amy, discovers that a meadow near her aunt’s trailer is a portal back in time to 1944.

Amy meets Henry near the clearing. The timing is perfect.  Amy, who lives in our present time, moved to a new high school where her family hopes she makes friends, but her past still stings too much to reach out. Henry, however, has grown tired of the time-loop his family is trapped within during WWII.

The teens find solace in each other, but they realize it can’t go on forever. Both Amy and Henry fear repercussions from remaining in the other’s time period. Amy never expected to find friendship in Henry, but the pangs of love and isolation compel her to return to the clearing to find him. As each teen grapples with their emotional and physical isolation, Davis probes the effects of love on their lives and the pressures that arise from it.

The Clearing is written in 1st person through Amy’s eyes and 3rd person close through Henry’s eyes. Besides romance across the ages, Davis explores facets of family and friendship. While Amy builds a relationship with her aunt and negotiates living in a small town, Henry’s family prepares to return to 1944.

The last chapter of The Clearing provides an appropriate and interesting twist that left me satisfied as a reader.

Accolades for Heather Davis

Heather Davis’s paranormal  romances have gained recognision. HAUNT ME won the Golden Heart award for Best Young Adult Romance Manuscript in 2006, the year after that Davis’s novel Amber Hickenbottom made the finals list for the same award. Davis has a book trailer for The Clearing on Youtube.

Cozy Mystery List blog has a list of Valentine’s Day mysteries you may enjoy and Michelle Krys, author of the young adult paranormal romance Hexed, has a list of Valentine’s Day romance novels on her web site.

The Clearing by Heather Davis Book ReviewThe Clearing by Heather Davis
Published by HMH Books for Young Readers on April 12th 2010
Genres: Fantasy, Romance, Time Travel, Young Adult
Pages: 228
Goodreads

In this bittersweet romance, two teens living decades apart form a bond that will change their lives forever.
Amy is drawn to the misty, mysterious clearing behind her Aunt Mae’s place because it looks like the perfect place to hide from life. A place to block out the pain of her last relationship, to avoid the kids in her new town, to stop dwelling on what her future holds after high school.
Then, she meets a boy lurking in the mist—Henry. Henry is different from any other guy Amy has ever known. And after several meetings in the clearing, she’s starting to fall for him.
But Amy is stunned when she finds out just how different Henry really is. Because on his side of the clearing, it’s still 1944. By some miracle, Henry and his family are stuck in the past, staving off the tragedy that will strike them in the future. Amy’s crossing over to Henry’s side brings him more happiness than he’s ever known—but her presence also threatens to destroy his safe existence.
In The Clearing, author Heather Davis crafts a tender and poignant tale about falling in love, finding strength, and having the courage to make your own destiny—a perfect book to slip into and hide away for awhile.

The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende

Redd Becker Book Review

The Japanese Lover by Isabel AllendeIsabel Allende is a proven master of story telling.  Little dialogue or ‘traditional’ scene structure encumber Allende as she weaves her story with uncanny knowledge of human secrets and motivations. Historical events turned inside out provide unexpected characters and relationships.

Isabel Allende creates diversions that matter

Allende goes on tangents within scenes to create new characters before returning to the plot, where she ties it all together. This adds multi-dimensions the reader doesn’t expect. It can be difficult to maintain the intensity and momentum during the middle sections, but Allende does it with finesse. She delivers a heart wrenching climax by the end. Thank you Allende for documenting the most human sides of history with compassion.

A young woman, Alma, works in an old folks home where she befriends a wealthy resident. When the old woman disappears for short vacations Alma decides to discover the truth of the woman’s past. Readers moved forward and backward in time piecing together the effects of World War II on each of the character’s lives: the main character Alma’s, the grandmother, her grandson and the Japanese lover.

For those interested in writing:    Writers today are told to “Show, don’t tell”, but  Allende stands out as a wonderful example of someone who “tells” her story effectively. The lack of action scenes doesn’t draw away from the novel. She has a style that lets you walk along with her.

My Rating five-stars

The Japanese Lover by Isabel AllendeThe Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende, Nick Caistor, Amanda Hopkinson
Published by Atria Books on November 3rd 2015
Genres: Historical Fiction, Romance
Pages: 322
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
four-stars

In 1939, as Poland falls under the shadow of the Nazis, young Alma Belasco's parents send her away to live in safety with an aunt and uncle in their opulent mansion in San Francisco. There, as the rest of the world goes to war, she encounters Ichimei Fukuda, the quiet and gentle son of the family's Japanese gardener. Unnoticed by those around them, a tender love affair begins to blossom. Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the two are cruelly pulled apart as Ichimei and his family, like thousands of other Japanese Americans are declared enemies and forcibly relocated to internment camps run by the United States government. Throughout their lifetimes, Alma and Ichimei reunite again and again, but theirs is a love that they are forever forced to hide from the world.
Decades later, Alma is nearing the end of her long and eventful life. Irina Bazili, a care worker struggling to come to terms with her own troubled past, meets the elderly woman and her grandson, Seth, at San Francisco's charmingly eccentric Lark House nursing home. As Irina and Seth forge a friendship, they become intrigued by a series of mysterious gifts and letters sent to Alma, eventually learning about Ichimei and this extraordinary secret passion that has endured for nearly seventy years.