Thursday, May 11, 2017

Young Adult Beauty and the Beast Retellings

So you've seen Disney's new live-action Beauty and the Beast, and you need more Belle and Beast in your life. Never fear, we've gathered ten YA adaptations of your current favorite fairy tale so that you can stave off the Beauty and the Beast withdrawal.

Hunted by Meagan Spooner
This brand new fairy tale retelling by one-half of the These Broken Stars author duo, is about a girl who longs for the quiet and solitude of the hunt and the forest. When her father falls into financial ruin, her desire is realized and it leads to her destiny.

Lost in a Book by Jennifer Donnelly
I hadn't read any of Disney's new novels inspired by their classic films, but this one seemed like a good place to start. I love Jennifer Donnelly's writing, and the Beast's library is one of my favorite parts of the story.

Roses by Rose Mannering
This is the classic story set in a rich world cloaked in political turmoil. In a kingdom where magic is feared, a young girl is born with pale skin and silver hair. Cruelly given the misnomer Beauty, the girl grows into a woman who is inseparably connected to the fate of her world.

Belle by Cameron Dokey
This retelling was first published in 2008, but it got a whole new package design just in time for the Beauty and the Beast fervor. Belle, feeling her name is a misnomer, devotes her time to wood carving. When she faces the Beast, this talent unlocks their future.

Beauty by Robin McKinley
Robin McKinley's book is the retelling classic of this bunch. First published in 1993, I feel like Beauty set the standard for fairy tale retellings over the several decades.

Of Beast and Beauty by Stacey Jay
This is the science fiction retelling of the bunch. Set on a futuristic, distant planet, Stacey Jay created a dark fairy tale about a dying world, the monsters that inhabit it, and the princess meant to save it.

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
Sarah J. Maas's Beauty and the Beast retelling is a fairy tale with feral faeries. Feyre is imprisoned by Tamlin, the High Lord of the Spring Court, when she kills a faerie. This dark faerie tale is hugely beloved by many YA readers.

Rose Daughter by Robin McKinley
Twenty years after she published Beauty, Robin McKinley returned to the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale in Rose Daughter. I love seeing what an author can do with a fairy tale, and Robin McKinley's ability to write two gorgeous retellings of this tale is remarkable.

Beastly by Alex Flinn
Alex Flinn is the queen of contemporary fairy tale retellings. Beastly is set in New York City and told from the Beast's perspective as he struggles to break the curse cast on him by a witch in his English class. 

Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge
Cruel Beauty is Beauty and the Beast meets Greek mythology. Set in the cursed kingdom of Arcadia, Nyx was raised knowing she must marry The Gentle Lord and then assassinate him and free the land. The Gentle Lord, however, is not what Nyx expected.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Long-Distance Book Club: The Whole Thing Together by Ann Brashares

This whole blog is kind of like a long-distance book club, but sometimes we like to take it a step further by reading the same book at the same time. This time we read Ann Brashares's newest novel, The Whole Thing Together.

Our review was developed from our discussion of The Whole Thing Together. Below the review,  we've provided a list of questions that you can use to discuss this book in your book club, long-distance or otherwise. And, let me tell you, this book is what book club dreams are made of.

Finally, before we get to the review, I want to issue a general spoiler alert for the discussion questions. A good book club, after all, involves people who have actually read the book.

The Whole Thing Together by Ann Brashares

Publisher / Year: Delacorte Press - April 2017

Genres: YA Contemporary - Family Drama

Source: Review copy from the publisher via NetGalley

Goodreads | Amazon

I read the publisher's summary for The Whole Thing Together several months ago and instantly knew I wanted to read this book. I don't do this too often, but I went into the book hoping for a certain type of thing in terms of both story and style. My very particular expectations could have led to a complete disaster, but, for the most part, this book was just what I wanted it to be.

Well, I couldn't keep my mouth shut about this glorious reading fortune, and so Paige said, "Hey, I want to read this book too." She read the book and then immediately read it again. This is how much we adored this book, folks. And so, it only seemed fitting to do a Long-Distance Book Club. Not only was I excited about talking with Paige about the book, but I really think that this book is book club gold. Paige and I clearly loved the book, but readers seem to be very divided over it, and, let's face it, don't strong feelings on both sides make for the best book club discussions?

The Whole Thing Together is about a complicated family. Sasha and Ray's parents used to be married. They had three daughters before a very messy divorce divided the family. Their parents remarried and Sasha and Ray were born. Although they've never met, Sasha and Ray have shared the same bedroom for all of their lives. It's a bedroom in the Long Island beach house that both Sasha's dad and Ray's mom refuse to give up. And so, despite all the bitter feelings and completely avoiding each other, the families have been sharing the beach house for all these years alternating weeks so that the parents would never have to see other. The three older sisters, Emma, Quinn, and Mattie are the bridge in all this mess, navigating between the two sides of their complicated family.

Paige and I really enjoyed the complicated family dynamics in this book. We really liked reading about a big family--one with a lot of kids and a lot of sisters. And we appreciated the sibling interaction.

We also loved the ensemble cast. No one character is really the star in this book. It's about the whole family, and the story floats from sibling to sibling. Also, this style of story telling is episodic in its nature, and we really enjoyed seeing how the various elements came together.

I think what I liked most about this book is the quiet atmosphere. It's a type of writing style that I really enjoy. It reminded me a bit of The Bone Gap or We Were Liars, and I know this style isn't to everyone's taste, but it just really works for me. I love a fast-paced story as much as anyone, but I really love to slow it down every once in awhile too.

Discussion Questions for The Whole Thing Together

Topic: The Ensemble Cast

Did you have a favorite sibling or one that you could most easily relate to? Whose story did you most enjoy? Did you enjoy the ensemble cast? If so, what about it worked for you, and if not, what did you dislike?

Topic: The Beach House

The beach house is the center of all the interactions between the two sides of this divided family. In what ways is the beach house a symbol of the family's life?

Topic: The Summer Jobs

All the siblings have summer jobs near the beach house. What is the significance of the summer jobs?
How do they kick off the big changes that are in store for this family?

Topic: The Second Marriages

Are Robert and Lila's second marriages any healthier than their first? Do you feel like Ray and Sasha's relationships with their parents are stunted because everyone is still so hung up on the first marriage?

Topic: The Parent-Child Relationships

How did the family dynamics get to this point? Discuss how Robert and Lila are passing their problems down to their children.

Topic: Race

Robert was a Bangladeshi orphan who was adopted by a Canadian couple. Lila is white. I have seen several reviewers who raise some good points about the way diversity was handled in this book. How did you feel about the way that race and diversity was handled in this book?

Topic: Ray and Sasha

How did you feel about Ray and Sasha's relationship? (We are divided on this topic. Lots of pros, but also some weirdness as well.)

Topic: Emma's Engagement

How did Emma's new relationship and the idea of adding another person into these already strained family dynamics bring this situation to a tipping point? What did you think about Jamie's relationship with his family? Why didn't Jamie prepare Emma better (or at all) for his family's dysfunction?

Topic: Mattie

Discuss Mattie's identity crisis and how it effects her relationship with her siblings, her mother, her father, and her co-worker, Matt.

Topic: Quinn

How was Quinn a healing force for her family? Did you have any premonitions about Quinn's destiny?

Topic: Healing and Hope

How do you think this family will do going forward? Is there hope and healing in their future?

Friday, April 21, 2017

The Story Continues: A Crown of Wishes, Wayfarer, and The Ship Beyond Time

So many excellent sequels have come out this year, and the three we have for you today are all just divine. Have you read any of the books in these series? What did you think of the sequels?

You can find our feature of the first book in these series here and here.

A Crown of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi

Publisher / Year: St. Martin's Griffin - March 2017

Genres: Young Adult Fantasy - Romance

Source: Review copy from the publisher via NetGalley

Goodreads | Amazon

The Star-Touched Queen was one of my favorite reads of 2016. The story was intricate, the setting rich, and prose beautiful.When I heard about the sequel, I was a little confused. Where was she going to take our characters now? But when I learned A Crown of Wishes was a companion novel that followed Gauri, that's when I got excited.

Gauri has enemies everywhere. The ruler of Bharata, her brother, wants her dead and so do the leaders of Ujijain, where she is imprisoned. When she is called for an audience with Vikram, the prince of Ujijain, however, things change. Together, Gauri and Vikram embark on an adventure to compete in the Tournament of Wishes and win the hearts of their people.

Once again, Roshani Chokshi captured me with the amazing places our characters encounter. The magical realms are rich, vast, and somewhat terrifying, as are the magical beings that inhabit them. I loved the way the stories of magic wove together and the unexpected twists they created in the end of the story.

Gauri and Vikram were both well-crafted, interesting characters. I loved Vikram's sense of humor and was simply delighted to see who Gauri became after losing her sister in the first book. We were introduced to many new characters in this book. The Lord of Wealth and Treasure keeps you on your toes. Aasha was my favorite new character. She was a true fighter.

This book had many themes that really resonated with me, including stories, hopes, dreams, desires, and wishes. A Crown of Wishes is as lovely a read as its predecessor.

Wayfarer by Alexandra Bracken

Publisher / Year: Disney-Hyperion - January 2017

Genres: Young Adult Fantasy - Time Travel

Source: Audible

Goodreads | Amazon

Wayfarer is the sequel to Alexandra Bracken's highly anticipated  Passenger of last year. I love time travel novels, so it was an easy sell for me.

In Passenger, Etta Spencer learns that she is a member of a time-traveling family and because of her genetics, capable of time travel. She and fellow time traveler Nicolas Carter are compelled to travel through time in order to find a stolen and powerful time-traveling artifact. 

I thought that Passenger was a lot of fun, but it definitely has a slow start. There is quite a bit of explanation and background that has to be established before Etta can even begin her time traveling adventures. After all, she didn't even know that time travelers exist. It also had a crazy anxiety-producing cliffhanger. 

Wayfarer begins not too long after the conclusion of Passenger, and the reader is thrown directly back into the world. I actually really loved Wayfarer. I liked it more than the first in the series. This second book is a bit more fast-paced because all the groundwork has already been laid. It does, however, see our two main characters split up for most of the book. I wondered if for certain readers who are very invested in Etta and Nicolas's romance the distance was too much. 

I love so many of the secondary characters that I didn't miss the interaction between Nicholas and Etta too much. Spending more time with Sophia was an absolute ball, and Julian Ironwood was an unexpected treat.

Another thing I liked about Wayfarer was the realization that Etta and Nicholas are up against a more insidious force than the Ironwood family. This upped the stakes in a much appreciated way. 

Much like the first book, Wayfarer takes our characters all over the world as they travel through time--from the Vatican catacomb of Old St. Peters, to a besieged Carthage, and a early 20th-century San Francisco. 

The Passenger series is not as mind-boggling as some other time travel series I've read. Personally, mind-boggling time-travel conundrums have never turned me off of a book, but, because this series is light on headache-inducing paradoxes, I'd recommend it even if you don't have a proclivity for time travel.

The Ship Beyond Time by Heidi Heilig

Publisher / Year: Greenwillow Books - February 2017

Genres: Young Adult Fantasy - Time Travel

Source: Review copy from the publisher through Edelweiss

Goodreads | Amazon

Last year we featured Passenger and Heidi Heilig's debut, The Girl from Everywhere in the same post. It seems only fitting to bring these two time travel tales together again.

I love the way time travel works in Ms. Heilig's series. To travel, the crew must obtain an original, hand-drawn map. Using that map to navigate allows the travelers to journey to the year the map was made. 

After their adventures and misfortunes in Hawaii in book one, Nix is ready to take the helm as a full-fledged Navigator. Until, that is, she learns that she is destine to lose the one she loves to the sea. Some strange run-ins during a stop in her father's native time in New York City, set Nix on a course that she hopes will change her fate.

In The Ship Beyond Time, the crew travels to a mythical island off the coast of Brittany. I absolutely love this element of Ms. Heilig's world--because time travel is done through maps, a Navigator can take his or her ship to a land of fantasy provided the original mapmaker believed that place existed.

I absolutely devoured The Ship Beyond Time, and, once again, I liked it better than the first book in the the series. I loved seeing how the myth and reality mingled and how the fairy tale story continually bubbled to the surface despite all attempts to thwart it. 

The Ship Beyond Time does have quite a bit of the mind-boggling time-travel paradoxes that I love, and it was so fun to see how the author brought history and mythology together. 

A Crown of Wishes reviewed by Paige.
Wayfarer and The Ship Beyond Time reviewed by JoLee.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Connections: Les Parisiennes by Anne Sebba

Les Parisiennes by Anne Sebba

Publisher / Year: St. Martin's Press - October 2016

Genre: Nonfiction/ History

Source: Review copy from NetGalley

Goodreads | Amazon

Anne Sebba explores what the life was life for Parisian women during World War II. The book is both narrow and broad in its scope. I really love when this is the case in nonfiction history books, and what I mean by this statement is this: Ms. Sebba selected a specific place and a specific time, but she does such a wonderful job detailing the connectivity of events that occurred. I think so often when we study history we come at it hoping to investigate a particular event, and it is easy to forget that in the past, as in the present, there are so many factors at play.

As such, Ms. Sebba discusses the life of the upper classes and the lower classes. She writes about women who fled Paris and women who stayed. The Vichy Government is infamous for its cooperation with and adoption of Nazi mandates, and Ms. Sebba writes of women who were involved with the Vichy government and the Nazis. I especially liked the chapters about women who defied Nazi rule and worked with the resistance as spies. And, as an art historian, I appreciated that Sebba wrote about the careful (and very dangerous) preservation of France's countless irreplaceable art works as well as the artists and patrons who were complicit with the Nazis. Sebba writes about women who were wives and lovers of political figures, women who were taken to concentration camps, women who worked for the Nazis, and women who resisted in any way they could. One running theme in the book is French fashion, and it was fascinating to learn about the different roles that fashion played in the war. I also appreciated that Ms. Sebba guides the readers through the postwar years as well, discussing the presence of the U.S. Servicemen and France's efforts to rebuild.

I've read a lot of fiction that is set in France during World War II, and reading Les Parisiennes made those books so much richer for me.

The Velvet Hours: Surprisingly, it was actually the Belle Epoque portions of this book that I found to be most enriched by Les Parisiennes. As Anne Sebba sets the stage for World War II, she contrasts it with the earlier era. (featured here)

The Nightingale: The story of two sisters who cope with the war in very different ways. One sister joins the Resistance and the other is forced to house Nazis in her home. This book is definitely enriched by the true tales in Anne Sebba's book.

Lilac Girls: This book was one of my favorite books of last year. One of the central figures is based on a real woman who worked with French orphans. I thought of this novel as I read the true stories of separated families. (featured here)

Code Name Verity: Anne Sebba writes about the transfer pilots in the Women's Auxiliary Air Force who flew in and out France during the war and the spies who sent information back to Britain from France--women who had jobs like Verity and Maddie. (featured here)

All the Light We Cannot See: A young French girl and her father flee Nazi-occupied Paris with the Museum of Natural History's famous jewel. The Nazis' insatiable appetite for famous art and artifacts and the Parisians' attempts to safeguard them were some of my favorite parts in Les Parisiennes.

Rose Under Fire: When Rose is imprisoned in Ravensbruck, one of the first friends she makes is a French woman. Anne Sebba writes about the many women who were sent to Ravensbruck and the brave things and terrible things they did there. (featured here)

P.S. More World War II Wednesdays.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Reading on a Theme: What the Dead Left Behind

We have five brand new books today that deal with grief and loss and the people and objects the dead left behind. This post is full of amazing books, and I mean that with full sincerity. One word of caution, make sure you have a box of tissues at hand.

P.S. More What the Dead Left Behind posts.

A Camera:
Letters to the Lost is the story of two teens who start a correspondence when Juliet leaves a letter to her dead mother on her grave and Declan writes back. At first Juliet is enraged that anyone would disturb her letters but soon she and Declan are bonding and relying on one another through their anonymous missives. Letters to the Lost is achingly good. It is full of heartache and hope and delivered so many emotions. The book is a cross between a more serious version of You've Got Mail and The Serpent King by Jeff Zenter--two things I love. Plus, Brigid Kemmerer is from Maryland, and I always love discovering local authors. Letters to the Lost is out April 4th, 2017. Review copy from NetGalley.

A Cigar Box:
Megan Brown is dealing with the pain of losing her brother, Tyler, but when new information about his death comes to light, it's like losing him all over again. She seeks comfort in his belongings, only to find herself having visions when she touches certain things of Tyler's. What are the objects trying to tell her and what can she do about it? The Hidden Memory of Objects is a glorious piece of magical realism. The details really brought it home for me. I loved that Megan was a collage artist who collected little things wherever she went. Danielle Amato also created some really memorable characters. I especially loved Eric (I think you will too). The Hidden Memory of Objects is out March 21st, 2017. Review copy from Edelweiss.

Secrets and Lies:
Bridge and Wil were once inseparable. Playground friendship turned to teenage romance until the night everything changed. A year later, they're practically strangers. Can their relationship be salvaged? Will tragedy bring them together? Bridge and Wil's story is laced with heart break and tragedy. Mistakes are made, hearts are broken, and lives are shattered. I found The End of Our Story both compelling and intense (too intense at times). I loved the way Meg Haston told the story from Bridge's perspective in the present and Wil's in the past. The dual narrative enhanced the mystery and allowed the story to unfold slowly. The End of Our Story is out April 4th, 2017. Review copy from Edelweiss.

The anniversary of Trixie's death is quickly approaching, but Lucy and Ben are still trying to pick up the pieces of their lives. They are forced to confront their feelings when they find themselves working together for the summer. In The Last Thing You Said, Sara Biren explores the different ways people deal with loss. The things Ben and Lucy do to cope aren't always the healthiest choices, but I appreciated how realistic they are and how well they fit the characters. My favorite thing about the book is the "Trixies"-- the stories Lucy tells to keep Trixie's memory alive. These stories are magical and so sweet. I absolutely loved this book. The Last Thing You Said is out April 4th, 2017. Review copy from NetGalley.

A Text Message:
After being completely blown away by Jeff Zenter's debut, The Serpent King, his next book, Goodbye Days, secured a spot near the top of my most anticipated books of the year list. Carver Briggs' three best friends all died in a car crash. The driver was replying to a text that Carver had just sent. Now Carver is dealing with loss and guilt and a possible criminal investigation. You guys, this book is an emotional read. I think I was crying within the first couple of pages, and then every few chapters the tears would start all over again. I loved so much about this book, but one of my very favorite things was the portrayal of a tight group of guy friends. Goodbye Days is out March 7th, 2017. Review copy from NetGalley.

Letters to the Lost and Goodbye Days reviewed by JoLee.
The Hidden Memory of Object, The End of Our Story, and The Last Thing You Said reviewed by Paige.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Reading on a Theme: Cemeteries and Funerals

I'm a little surprised how easy it was to put this Reading on a Theme together. All of the main characters in these books have a closer connection to the funeral business than most. Turns out growing up in a funeral home or cemetery or attending your own funeral makes for a very interesting novel.               

Life in the Funeral Home:
Growing up in a funeral home and being saddled with the nickname Graveyard Gabe has made it difficult for Gabe to make friends. Bree is her one true companion until she starts dating the very boy that gave Gabe her hated nickname. How can Gabe be a good friend when Bree is making decisions that Gabe is certain will have dangerous consequences? And why has Bree gone MIA just when Gabe needs her advice to navigate her first boy/girl relationship? Jolene Perry's novel about what true friendship means and how to confront death and keep on living is a story with plenty of quirk and lots of heart. All the Forever Things is out April 1st. Review copy from NetGalley.

An Agent of Death:
Leigh already felt like she was an agent of death before her father went and bought a cemetery. Now that she's working for the family business dealing with burials and grieving families everyday that whole agent-of-death-thing is feeling truer than ever. Six Feet Over It is equally tragic and poignant. Leigh, in dealing with her past and the death around her, must come to accept death's place in life. It's not an easy lesson, and at times I felt like I was wading through Leigh's depression with her. Dario is the little piece of light, but you worry that Leigh's feelings for him might end up crushing her even more. Jennifer Longo's book is very character driven. As a reader you ache for Leigh to pull it together and reach out. In the end, I think Leigh will be okay.

Attending Your Own Funeral:
Denton has always know what day he would die. Everyone knows their deathdate. And, although Denton will die when he's only 17, he's done his best to have a normal life. Denton Little's Deathdate begins in the early morning hours on the day before Denton will die. Denton thought he was prepared for death, but it turns out that giving your own eulogy at your own funeral and attending your own sit-in is pretty weird and kind of uncomfortable. And, as the hours tick closer to the close of the Denton's deathdate, the carefully crafted threads of Denton's life begin to completely unravel in ways that are both hilarious and painful. Lance Rubin's book is so crazy and awfully funny.

Murder in the Cemetery:
Lily Graves lives in a funeral home with her mom, aunt, and oma. She fully intends to take over the family business someday. Lily is one spoke of a love triangle that includes Matt, a popular jock, and Erin of high-school royalty. Erin is murdered and all the evidence seems to point to Lily and Matt. So Lily and her best friend and true crimes lover, Sara, set out to clear Lily's name.
The Secrets of Lily Graves is a book that you can't say too much about because it's best to avoid all possible spoilers. I will say that Lily is a great character. Her quirks make her interesting, but she's also incredibly likeable and a fantastic narrator. Sarah Strohmeyer's mystery is nice and twisty. I thought I had it all figured out early on, but I was wrong.

Raised by Ghosts:
This is the story of Nobody Owens. Although he is human, he is raised in a graveyard by his adoptive parents who are ghosts.
With his parents and guardian Silas watching over him, Bod meets lots of ghosts, discovers the secrets of the graveyard, and is learns to Fade and Haunt. The Graveyard Book is like a book of short stories about Bod's life, the crazy characters he meets in the graveyard, and growing up among the dead. These short stories are woven together by the end of the novel as we see characters and situations come back to play a major role in Bod's escape from the man Jack. I love Neil Gaiman. His books are so creative and just the right amount of weird.

All books review by JoLee. 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The Story Continues: Blood for Blood and Silver Stars

Last year, during our first World War II Week, we did a Reading a Theme featuring five books that take the World War II era into the realm of speculative fiction. In the last few months sequels came out for two of our favorite books from that post. Here we share our thoughts on Blood for Blood, the sequel to Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin and Silver Stars, the sequel to Front Lines by Michael Grant.

Blood for Blood by Ryan Graudin

Publisher / Year: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers - November 2016

Genres: Young Adult Historical Fantasy

Source: My local library

Goodreads | Amazon


Ryan Graudin's Wolf by Wolf series imagines what the world would be like if Hitler and the Axis Powers had won the war. I really enjoyed Wolf by Wolf. In fact, I liked it so much that I passed the book along to several of my friends and then selected it as my book club pick last June. (Good discussion, by the way. It turned out to be a excellent book club choice.) When I read Wolf by Wolf, I found myself absolutely fascinated by Adele. She's not really in the book, and yet, she is so very present. I wanted to know why Adele would have entered the Axis Tour, disguised as her twin brother, how she got away with it, and what exactly went down between her and Luka. So, I read the e-novella Iron to Iron as I not-so patiently waited for Blood For Blood. I never read e-novella (seriously, never), so the fact that I made an exception here says a lot about how much I liked the Wolf by Wolf (and how curious I was about Adele).

With Wolf by Wolf and Iron to Iron under my belt, I was all geared up for Blood For Blood. The second in the series opens just seconds after the final moments in Wolf by Wolf. Yael has successfully killed the faux-Hitler and in the process discovered that he is, in fact, a faux-Hitler. When Yael flees the scene, Luka follows her, and because of him the two get captured. Meanwhile, Felix has been dragged into the investigation and agrees to cooperate if the SS will spare his family.

So... my feelings about this sequel were kind of mixed. On the one hand, I was really impressed with how Ryan Graudin worked things so that she could keep the three main characters together. I also liked the reintroduction of a figure from Yael's past. For the most part, the way that the plot proceeded and the twists and turns, and the way that Project 85 had become central to the Reich's all really worked for me. I especially liked the climax where Luka puts all the pieces together.

However, I felt that this book suffered from a growing pain that I see a lot in dystopia and fantasy series. Many of those books start out with a first book that is focused on a single character and a singular mission. Consider The Hunger Games. Book One is all about Katniss getting through those games. In this series, book one was centered on Yael and the Axis Tour. In many of these series, once that first mission is accomplished, the focus of the next book (or two) is overthrowing the whole empire. (Consider Mockingjay as an example.) And, it seems to me, that such a large jump is really hard to do. I could really feel the big jump in this sequel.

Silver Stars by Michael Grant

Publisher / Year: Katherine Tegen Books - January 2017

Genres: Young Adult Historical Fiction / Alternate History

Source: Review copy from publisher via Edelweiss

Goodreads | Amazon

In his Front Lines series, Michael Grant imagines what the war would have been like if women had been eligible for the draft and fought on the front. His series follows three girls serving in the armed forces. Rio is in the army. She is a tough and a very good soldier. Frangie is a medic. She is also African-America and serves in an all-Black unit. Rainy is in intelligence. She knows several languages and goes undercover behind enemy lines. She is also Jewish, which adds an extra layer of danger to her missions.

One thing I love about this series is how Grant confronts the attitudes and prejudices experienced by his soldier girls. The issues of gender, race, and religion are navigated in a way that feels so truthful and really makes the reader consider how all of this would have gone down if it really happened.

In book one the characters spent a lot of time gearing up for war, and now, in book two, they are all seasoned soldiers. Silver Stars is dedicated to war and all its brutality, heroism, fear, and boredom. Personally, I often get a little bogged down by books with battle scene after battle scene, and I did feel that a little in this book. There is a lot of fighting. Also, in some ways this book is hard to read because the characters are put through such traumatic situations. Rainy's story line, especially, was absolutely terrifying both because of the ineptitude of her superiors and the physical danger she was in.

We see a lot of growth in the characters in this book. Rio, especially, is something of a symbol of how war changes a person. It's not necessary for better or for worse, she's just changed, and some characters are less okay with that than others. Rio has also grown up a lot over the last few months. She was underage when she enlisted and didn't really have a sense of who she was. Now she's having to figure that out on the battlefield.
I really like all of the characters, but Frangie just might be my favorite of the three. I'd love to spend more time with her. The narration moves between the three main characters, but my favorite parts are when the characters' story lines intersect.

Blood for Blood and Silver Stars reviewed by JoLee.

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