Early #Review: Wordwings by Pearl Sydelle

Apologies for the gap in posting, I had a number of posts scheduled for over the long weekend here in Alberta, but it seems that none of them posted! So, today I’m taking a look at Pearl Sydelle’s YA historical fiction novel Wordwings. Set in the Warsaw Ghetto during WWII this unique blend of fact and fictions offers new perspectives and a wonderful alternative to the established (and occasionally overdone) canon of YA Holocaust literature.


wordwingsTitle: Wordwings

Author: Pearl Sydelle

Publisher: Guernica Editions

Expected Publication Date: October 1, 2017

Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Teens & YA

Themes: Family, Holocaust, Warsaw Ghettos, WWII

Features: Selected Bibliography


My Rating: 3.5/ 5


Synopsis

From Goodreads…

In 1941, twelve-year-old Rivke Rosenfeld lives in the Warsaw Ghetto where she witnesses German soldiers slashing her grandfather’s beard from his face. Her anger compels her to secretly write her stories and her memories in the margins of a book of fairytales by Hans Christian Andersen. When Dr. Emanuel Ringelblum, historian and founder of the Underground Archive–a written compilation of Jewish life experiences in the Ghetto–hears Rivke tell one of her stories, he is so impressed that he asks her to contribute her diary to this Archive and Rivke agrees, imagining her words rising up from the ground on wings.

 


My Review

Set in the Warsaw Ghetto in 1941 and seen through the eyes of 12 year old Rivke, this book brings both hope and tears. Filled with folktales, fairytales, and interwoven with snippets of history Wordwings is a unique and interesting reading experience.

The concept behind this book is beautiful and interesting, but I walked away from it feeling as though I may have missed something. There is so much about this book that I loved – the folk tales, expertly crafted storytelling embedded throughout, the constant references to Hans Christian Anderson’s fairytales, and the flawless inclusion of actual historical figures. And yet, I found myself unable to connect with Rivke’s stories and character. This however, I will have to chalk entirely up to personal preference as I rarely enjoy a first person point of view, and generally don’t gravitate towards texts that are heavy on the use of ‘I’.

This is very much a stream of consciousness type of story, and I anticipate that many will feel that it falls flat or fails to develop other characters fully. Even I fell prey to such thoughts and I had to keep reminding myself that this is shaped to be a diary, and most 12 year old girls writing forbidden diaries in cold cellars in the middle of a war rarely take time to fully develop the backstories and perspectives of those they capture in their thoughts. I wondered, though, if this would be a problem for younger readers as the language and view point was very much geared at a middle grade audience. The same goes with my desire to have more detail about the treatment of those who lived in the Ghettos and specific actions. But, as this book is for younger readers, the details and depravity that typically accompany WWII stories need not apply as they may not be appropriate. Needless to say, reading this book as an adult was an exercise in letting go of preferences and actively trying to see the book through the eyes of the intended audience.

I was, however, constantly struck at how children can find magic and beauty in the most unexpected places. The power the story, the act of storytelling, and how these elements work in communities was a shining light throughout this novel. I was constantly reminded of the unusual ways in which children’s minds work, and their ability to tell tales that are bound to bring a smile to your face.

Would I recommend this book? Sure! While I struggled as an adult reader, I would love to hear how readers from the intended audience felt about it. Wordwings is touching, emotional, and offers a unique perspective that falls outside the norm. I can see it as the type of book that should be included to library YA collections, and also in school collections for those looking for something other that The Diary of Anne Frank but are shorter than The Book Thief.

 


Many thanks to Pearl Sydelle and Guernica Editions for providing an advanced copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

#LiebsterAwards Q&A #NominatedBlogs

I was nominated by Abby @annebonnybook of annebonnybookreviews.com
Here: https://annebonnybookreviews.com/2017/08/02/liebsteraward-qa-nominatedblogs/

So, this is my first stab at anything like this. While I know the whole personal sharing thing is kind of key to the whole social media world I have always been super hesitant to share details. But all you bloggers seem rather lovely, so I’m not going to pass this one by.

I started blogging just a few months ago after I finished my MLIS, and this whole gig came about from a reading journal project I had done for my YA Collection Development course. My instructor pushed me to go public and now here I am. Everything is still a work in progress, but I couldn’t be more thrilled to be a part of such a wonderful community!

And so, below I have the answers to Abby’s questions, 11 of my own, and 11 nominees to carry the Liebster Award on!

The Rules

  • Thank the person who nominated you and link their blog
  • Answer the 11 questions the person asked you
  • Nominate 11 people (comment on their blog to let them know)
  • Ask the people you have nominated 11 questions.

Abby’s 11 questions:

Name 11 novels you love? Bahahaha! You’re in for a mixed bag. My reading tastes are eclectic at best.

  1. Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice – cliche, so sue me. Fitzwilliam Darcy has me by the heart strings and I want him to fail at proposing to me soooo bad.
  2. David Small, Stitches – Graphic Novels count, right?
  3. Jan-Philipp Sendker, The Art of Hearing Heartbeats
  4. Anthony Doerr, All the Light We Cannot See
  5. J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter – ALL of them (but we’ll only count them as one)
  6. J. R. R. Tolkien, Lord of the Rings (the whole series, including the hobbit – I have worn two sets out and had to replace them…)
  7. Sherman Alexie, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
  8. Patrick Ness, A Monster Calls
  9. Marjane Satrapi, Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood & The Story of a Return
  10. Markus Zusak, The Book Thief
  11. Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things

Favourite genre?

Comics Journalism/ Graphics Journalism – Probably my favourite way to read current events and conflict history. I’d say anything graphic novel/ comics related, but that’s far too broad and is really a medium more than anything.

Favourite place to read?

IMG_0701

On the deck, at my barn, overlooking the river valley. Or, on the top of a mountain. Or maybe anywhere outside would be a better description. I am a sun worshipper, beach reader, garden lounging book-devourer when I can turn the to-do side to my brain off.

<– Look! See, isn’t this a lovely reading view?

 

Favourite non-fiction read?

Joe Sacco, Footnotes in Gaza (2009), Safe Area Gorazde (2000)  – I know, I know, right back to the comics journalism thing. But seriously, Joe’s inquiry into conflicts that mainstream media shies away from covering is gut-wrenching, insightful, and offers a multitude of perspectives that fall outside the typical polarized and politicized accepted norms.

3 favourite publishers?

  1. FirstSecond
  2. Little Brown and Company
  3. Candlewick Press
  4. BONUS: Alfred A. Knopf – I can’t pick just three, four was bad enough, this is like asking me to pick a favourite child (or in my case dog, but seriously).

What is your worst distraction from reading?

IMG_1970

TV documentaries. I am a sad, sad, addict. Think Last Chance U, anything true crime or crime related investigation, Oh! and inside prison series. I wish I could say it weren’t so, but it is, ugh.

And I can’t forget Mr. Loki. This little doodle only has to give me those big browns and he’s got me conned into an hour-long walk. Everything falls to the wayside when this little wiggle-bum decides to get snuggly!

 

The novel that has really helped, in a time of need?

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince – so shoot me. Harry and I had some matching teen angst. Okay, so my god-father didn’t die before my eyes, but I was dealing with my future crumbling around my 16 year old self after rupturing both my achilles and having to come to terms with the fact that I would never regain full mobility, never be an olympic gymnast, and would certain not be joining Cirque du Soleil. Being angsty and angry together was extremely cathartic.

Favourite location in a novel?

Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland. Amaze-balls. Get me there right now.

The novel you are a super fan of?

The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. I almost answered Rivendell in the last question, but decided that repeating would have been a cop-out. I still live and breath LOTR, but have reined it back a little in recent years so as to not scare off my partner. He’s supportive of my book habit but tends to look a little sideways at the collectibles such as a one-ring, an elvish crown, and miniature ‘sting’ letter opener. I may even live my life by the mantra of ‘All that is gold does not glitter/ Not all those who wander are lost’…

The last book that made you cry?

Dick Lehr, Trell – I bawled, like a baby. After feeling the rage all the way up to the climax, that ending caught me right in the feels and the water works turned themselves on and I couldn’t locate the shut-off valve. But,  I’m going to tell you a secret – I cry at a great many things! Happy tears, sad tears, angry tears, etc. I can look at a butterfly on the wrong day and cry. So… yeah.

The last book that made you laugh out loud?

G. S. Prendergast, Zero Repeat Forever – August made me laugh so hard! Plus, there were a few key one-liners that had me cracking right up. But, if we’re going with books that had me tied up in stitches the whole way through I am going to have to go with 36 Questions that Changed My Mind About You.

My 11 Questions

  1. How long did you think about your blog before starting it?
  2. What is your favourite book to movie conversion? Why?
  3. What’s your favourite childhood book? Why?
  4. When you aren’t reading/ blogging, what hobbies and activities take up your time?
  5. If you could hang one famous painting in your living room, what would it be?
  6. If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?
  7. Describe yourself in three words.
  8. If you could give new bloggers a tip, what would it be?
  9. What is the most memorable book you’ve ever read and what made it so memorable?
  10. If you could bring any fictional character to dinner who would it be and why?
  11. What’s the best comment you have ever received on your blog?

I nominate:

  1. Sarah’s Vignettes @Sarah_Swan2
  2. Novel Gossip @NovelGossip1
  3. Books Teacup and Reviews @BooksTnReviews
  4. Darque Dreamer @DarqueDreamer
  5. Book Escapade @thebookescapade
  6. Birdie Bookworm @Birdie_Bookworm
  7. Panic at the Bookstore @Panic_Bookstore
  8. Keeper of Pages @keeperofpages
  9. Angie Dokos @AngieDokos
  10. Dees Rad Reads and Reviews @DeesRadReads
  11. Book Inspector @Book_Inspector

 

I am going to follow Abby’s lead and tag everyone on twitter as well 🙂

#ARC #Review: Ink In Water by Lacy J. Davis

Every now and then you come across a book that is so needed, so poignant, and yet so incredibly difficult to respond to in words rather than tears. For me, that was this book. Ink In Water is not for the faint of heart, but it’s most definitely a book that ought to be read.


Ink.jpgTitle: Ink In Water

Author: Lacy J. Davis

Illustrator: Jim Kettner

Publisher: New Harbinger Publications

Expected Publication Date: October 1, 2017

Genre: Biography, Memoir, Graphic-Memoir

Themes: Relationships, Eating Disorders, Addiction, Body Positivity

Features: N/A


My Rating: 4.5/ 5


Synopsis

From Goodreads…

“Compelling, funny, occasionally heartbreaking, and full of genuine hope in ways that most graphic memoirs never achieve artistically. … Don’t miss this one.”
Library Journal Starred Review

At once punk rock and poignant, Ink in Water is the visceral and groundbreaking graphic memoir of a young woman’s devastating struggle with negative body image and eating disorders, and how she rose above her own destructive behaviors and feelings of inadequacy to live a life of strength and empowerment.

As a young artist living in Portland, Lacy Davis’ eating disorder began with the germ of an idea: a seed of a thought that told her she just wasn’t good enough. And like ink in water, that idea spread until it reached every corner of her being. This is the true story of Lacy’s journey into the self-destructive world of multiple eating disorders. It starts with a young and positive Lacy, trying to grapple with our culture’s body-image obsession and stay true to her riot grrrl roots. And while she initially succeeds in overcoming a nagging rumination about her body, a break up with a recovering addict starts her on a collision course with anorexia, health food obsession, and compulsive exercise addiction. At the request of her last real friend, she starts going to a twelve-step Overeaters Anonymous course, only to find that it conflicts with her punk feminist ideology.

Blending bold humor, a healthy dose of self-deprecation, vulnerability, literary storytelling, and dynamic and provocative artwork by illustrator Jim Kettner, Ink in Water is an unflinching, brutally honest look into the author’s mind: how she learned to take control of her damaging thoughts, redirect her perfectionism from self-destructive behaviors into writing and art, and how she committed herself to a life of health, strength, and nourishment.


My Review

I can’t imagine this memoir in any other format than as a graphic novel. The simple act of sharing so publicly a personal battle is incredibly brave. And, considering the strength of the messages throughout, I will avoid completely my usual discussion on the fundamental issues with autobiography. I wouldn’t care if this were a complete work of fiction – it’s haunting, it’s beautiful, and it feels so raw and so real that I don’t give a flying hoot. It’s absolutely amazing!

The artwork was so insanely expressive and it did an incredible job of conveying the inner turmoil of Lacy’s dark thoughts. The choice to print in greyscale was particularly metaphoric as recovery from eating disorders is rarely black and white. A lot of the imagery was uncomfortable to look at, but this was never meant to be an easy read. But with that being said, those parts depicting happiness, love, and genuine recovery were beautifully rendered and uplifting. However, the element that I found most striking was the artistic usage of almost complete darkness the convey the gravity of certain situations. The panels are busy, the gutters mentally engaging, ultimately there’s very little ‘action’, and it all works beautifully to covey a candid and ultimately empowering story.

Finally, it was interesting to see the social aspect of Lacy’s journey. From Henry’s comments, to Gia’s persistence in not letting their friendship drop, and from Lucy’s relationship with herself to her journey of discovery with Kett. The imagery and expression of the graphic format conveyed so much more than words ever could, and I found myself constantly pausing to study the expressions and the minutiae of the details packed into every panel. And while I loved Gia, I really appreciated Kett’s empathy, understanding, and listening without judgement and I am really, really hoping that it’s same comic-drawing Kett from the memoir who has illustrated this beautiful book!

Would I recommend this book? Absolutely. But I know that being both a graphic novel and a book that talks unabashedly about topics (eating disorders, relationships, drug overdoses, etc.) that many people prefer to avoid I know that it may not be title for everyone. There’s swearing, there’s nudity, and *gasp* there’s even some implied heavy petting – so maybe not for the younger readers, but amazing none the less.

A HUGE thank you to Lacy Davis for sharing her story, and for sharing her messages of hope and advice.


Many thanks to Lacy J. Davis and New Harbinger Publications for providing an advanced copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

#ARC #Review: Trell by Dick Lehr

Gripping and realistic YA? Check. Compelling and diverse characters? Check. A book that’s easy to sink your teeth into? Check, check, check! Based on the real events that led to the overturning on Shawn Drumgold’s 1988 conviction for the murder of a 12 year old girl. Trell is a gripping tale that highlights the power of a daughter’s love, and value of conviction in legal counsel, and the ability of good journalism to expose the wrongs of a justice system prone to prejudice and corruption.


Trell.jpgTitle: Trell

Author: Dick Lehr

Publisher: Candlewick Press

Expected Publication Date: September 12, 2017

Genre: Fiction, Literary Fiction, Teens & YA

Themes: Family, Murder, Law & Crime, False Imprisonment, Journalism

Features: Downloadable Discussion Guide


My Rating: 5/ 5


Synopsis

From Goodreads…

From the co-author of Black Mass comes a gripping YA novel inspired by the true story of a young man’s false imprisonment for murder and those who fought to free him.

On a hot summer night in the late 1980s, in the Boston neighborhood of Roxbury, a twelve-year-old African-American girl was sitting on a mailbox talking with her friends when she became the innocent victim of gang-related gunfire. Amid public outcry, an immediate manhunt was on to catch the murderer, and a young African-American man was quickly apprehended, charged, and — wrongly — convicted of the crime. Dick Lehr, a former reporter for the Boston Globe‘s famous Spotlight Team who investigated this case for the newspaper, now turns the story into Trell, a page-turning novel about the daughter of an imprisoned man who persuades a reporter and a lawyer to help her prove her father’s innocence. What pieces of evidence might have been overlooked? Can they manage to get to the truth before a dangerous character from the neighborhood gets to them?


My Review

I don’t always read a lot about books before I dive into them because I’m always scared that I’ll somehow spoil the experience, so I was absolutely floored at the end when I was reminded that this story was based on the real case of Shawn Drumgold. As I was reading I made a number of notes about how real and raw it all seemed, so the factual foundation really shone through. Lehr’s intimate knowledge of investigative journalism brought depth, perspective, and hidden teaching moments in a way that made me feel like I was joining Clemens and Trell on their journey of discovery.

Okay, so I may have thought Trell was a male for the first few chapters, but once I got my head in the right place everything seemed to fit perfectly together. I think having a fourteen year old girl, who has only ever known her father as a convict, was an incredibly powerful perspective to write from. I appreciated that the same narrator was maintained throughout, as it was an incredibly personal story and yet still had the ability to encourage the consideration of the impact of actions and empathy for others. Without a doubt some of the most touching moments were when Trell, so steadfast in her father’s innocence, was coming to terms with the fact that her father had a criminal past and there were a good many things that he was indeed guilty of. It reminds us that sometimes good people make bad choices, but that doesn’t make them an easy scapegoat for major crimes.

And while this story is very much about Trell and her quest to gain her father’s freedom, it about so much more! We see the redemption of Clemens as he comes to grips with the loss of his own son, the evolution of Nora as she transforms from a recent graduate to a criminal defence lawyer, and the reformation of Detective Boyle as he realizes that complacence can be the greatest crime of all. All in all, Lehr’s narrative highlights how politics and a flawed justice system can come together to create the perfect storm, breeds contempt and indignation, and contributes to redlining. I genuinely feel that Trell will quickly find a place in middle and high school curriculums as it touches on so many heavy hitting issues, and should seriously be considered for YA book clubs as there is much discuss.

Would I recommend this book? Oh hell yes! Trell is gripping, well written, and provocative. It’s the kind of book where you can’t help but rooting for Trell while simultaneously becoming enraged with the failings of a system that is supposed to uphold justice. Filled with courage, determination, and enough twists to inspire those OMG moments that keep pages turning.

 


Many thanks to Dick Lehr and Candlewick Press for providing an advanced copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Early #Review: The Last Nazi by Andrew Turpin

I don’t normally lean towards self published books, but following the recommendation from a friend I took up the offer for a free review copy of Andrew Turpin’s debut novel and boy was it ever worth it! If you love WWII historical fiction, crime thrillers, and a little international intrigue this baby will be right up your alley. And the best part? Review copies are still available through Andrew Turpin’s website – reviewers take note!


naziTitle: The Last Nazi

Author: Andrew Turpin

Publisher: Self Published

Publication Date: Coming in 2017

Genre: Fiction, Literary Fiction, Historical Fiction, Crime Thriller

Themes: WWII, Internment Camps, Survival, American Politics

Features: Bibliography and Recommended Reading


My Rating: 4.5/ 5


Synopsis

From the author’s website

The buried contents of a Nazi train. An aging SS murderer. And the wartime secrets of a US presidential candidate’s family, hidden for seven decades.

When war crimes investigator and ex-CIA officer Joe Johnson learns of a link between the contents of a Nazi train, stashed away by Hitler’s Third Reich in 1944, and the financing for a Republican hopeful’s  2012 campaign, he’s more than intrigued.

Can Johnson evade the high level intelligence and criminal networks combining against him across three continents, uncover the truth, and win justice?


My Review

This is one of those books that had just about everything that I always tend to look for – strong female characters, historical accuracy, action, intrigue, flawed protagonists, and believable characters. It was like a one-stop-shop for all of the features that I normally seek out individually. My only major complaint is that the constantly swapping viewpoints at times made the story difficult to follow and a little chaotic, but at the same time it was one of the features that really added to the overall experience.

It’s clear that the historical elements of this novel are well researched, and the blending of fact with fiction added a beautifully believable touch to the story. It was refreshing to see the sources for particular events, institutional background and practices, and the some Nazi refuges featured in the book to be included and discussed at the end of the book. While there were certain liberties taken with ‘faction’, I never once questioned the experiences depicted in the Gross-Rosen internment camp or the ways in which war criminals leveraged governments in exchange for protection. Additionally, it does a great job of highlighting how the knowledge of some individuals is valued above the atrocity of the crimes they have committed.

Also, I’d like to point out that if this novel were a movie, it would pass the Bechdel Test. Not only does it have two named female characters that speak to one another about something other than a man, both Jayne and Fiona are former lovers of Joe and they manage not to compare notes! Seriously, my inner feminist (okay, it’s pretty outward) is jumping for joy. Not once are the women helpless or dependent, but rather they are both driven, successful, career minded women that Joe consistently underestimates despite the fact that they literally keep saving his ass. I was constantly bemused by the fact that Joe kept arrogantly assuming that Jayne and Fiona might still hold a torch for him, only to be left feeling foolish in the end when he discovered their intentions were far more innocent and professional. For this alone, Mr. Turpin, you have earned yourself a repeat reader who is anxiously awaiting the arrival of The Old Bridge.

The intertwining plots are complicated, fast paced, and do a wonderful job of continuously sucking the reader in. I was on my toes right up until the very end, and while I was able to piece some elements together, there were other developments and details that caught me completely by surprise. Add in there the elements of the CIA, Nazi hunting, corrupt political campaigns, and some vigilante justice and you’ve got one of the most exciting crime thrillers I read all year.

Would I recommend this book? Highly! Andrew Turpin is one Indie Author to look out for, and the Joe Johnson series promises some interesting new takes on historical faction. I was blown away by this debut novel, and I have the feeling that it will only get better from here.


Many thanks to Andrew Turpin for providing an advanced copy  in exchange for an honest review.