Tag «WWII»

Series Review: Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin

Series Review: Is this series worth your time? Does it get better as the novels progress? Or does it get worse? Find out below:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Wolf by Wolf (from Goodreads):

Her story begins on a train.

The year is 1956, and the Axis powers of the Third Reich and Imperial Japan rule. To commemorate their Great Victory, Hitler and Emperor Hirohito host the Axis Tour: an annual motorcycle race across their conjoined continents. The victor is awarded an audience with the highly reclusive Adolf Hitler at the Victor’s Ball in Tokyo.

Yael, a former death camp prisoner, has witnessed too much suffering, and the five wolves tattooed on her arm are a constant reminder of the loved ones she lost. The resistance has given Yael one goal: Win the race and kill Hitler. A survivor of painful human experimentation, Yael has the power to skinshift and must complete her mission by impersonating last year’s only female racer, Adele Wolfe. This deception becomes more difficult when Felix, Adele twin’s brother, and Luka, her former love interest, enter the race and watch Yael’s every move.

But as Yael grows closer to the other competitors, can she bring herself to be as ruthless as she needs to be to avoid discovery and complete her mission?

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Fav 2017
Series: Wolf by Wolf Duology
Author: Ryan Graudin
# of Books: 2 (Wolf by Wolf, Blood for Blood)

There are two novellas: #1.5 Iron to Iron and #1.6 Storm After Storm

Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Alternate History, Adventure, Fantasy
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: Third Person, Multiple
Publication Dates: October 2015 – November 2016
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook & eBook (Iron to Iron)

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I first learned about this series on Twitter when promotions for the sequel were happening. I had never heard of it prior to that but my interest was piqued when I read the synopsis. Add to that the rave reviews everyone seemed to have for Wolf by Wolf and I was intrigued! I love stories about alternate history and this one featured a period of time I had actually studied in school so I was excited to see what would happen.

I’ve read one book by Graudin prior to this: All That Glows. It’s actually one of the first reviews I ever wrote for my blog. The book itself was entertaining but it was lacking for me in the grand scheme. So I was curious to see how an author would make the jump from faerie romance to an alternate history about WWII.

The Concept / The World:

Alternate history usually explores the possibility of “what if this didn’t happen?” and I like seeing the ideas that authors construct to tell their story. This series is a great example of what a well researched and thought-out alternate history novel is. The building of the world and the situations the characters find themselves in automatically deserves a 5/5 in my mind. It’s simply fabulous.

What I did struggle with was the fantasy element to this story. Truthfully, I didn’t know there was one when I picked the book up and I’m ashamed to say I didn’t realize it until well after the 50% mark on the audiobook. What I’m talking about is in the spoiler box below (and it really isn’t a spoiler but it’s not in the synopsis so I like to keep that hidden). But it is a fantasy twist that had me going, “why would you do that” until I read the Author’s Note in Wolf by Wolf and it made sense. I’m not sure if this book would be better or worse without that element, it’s hard to say. But I do appreciate how it adds to the overall themes of the novel and I completely understand why it is done this way.

Fantasy Element in Wolf by Wolf

It’s embarassing but I didn’t know Yael could literally transform into other people. I think I totally missed the sentence where this is described when I was listening to the audiobook or I just didn’t understand the subtext when I was listening (as opposed to reading the words).

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The Plot:

The whole idea of the race is an interesting plot device. I liked how it was used as a way to highlight Yael’s journey of self-discovery as she completes her mission. It emphasizes the high risk of what she is trying to do while simultaneously building this alternate world.

However, I also found that this dragged the plot a bit in Wolf by Wolf. I don’t enjoy adventure stories and this reads like one in Wolf by Wolf. And while lots of things happen along they way, I found myself wanting to be at the climax sooner because I wanted to see what the fallout would be and what would happen next.

In comparison, I was much more engaged in the plot for Blood For Blood. It just seemed like a more well-rounded novel. You get moments of character history & growth, a little dash of romance and the plot always seemed to be moving. I never found that it lulled and it had me eager (but dreading because I’d really grown to like these characters) the ending.

The Characters:

Yael is a great lead for this story. She’s a girl bent on revenge but she’s also a girl with a conscience and I loved how she often struggles with what she has been tasked to do. It makes her human and keeps her from becoming this detached heroine. Being a total kickass character doesn’t mean you can’t show emotions or empathy and I liked that Yael–while completely driven by her mission–has these moments of reflection and vulnerability.

Wolf by Wolf definitely focuses more on Yael which is why I enjoyed the moments we get in Blood for Blood more where we learn more about the other characters. Getting those backgrounds really helps you understand the motives of everyone involved. I truly grew attached to these characters by the time Blood for Blood wrapped up.

The Romance:

I’m glad that the romance never overshadows the bigger plot of this story. It compliments the story well and is used as a solid plot device when the time arises.

When to Read the Novellas:

Both novellas should be read after Wolf by Wolf but they aren’t necessary for the sequel either.

I only read Iron to Iron and I am SO glad that I did. Luka was one of those characters I didn’t entirely appreciate as a reader in Wolf by Wolf but I completely fell in love with him after reading the novella. It was great to get that context about what happened in the past and what motivates him to do what he does. I enjoyed Blood for Blood a lot more because I truly understood his character more after reading the novella.

My Audiobook Experience:

I listened to both novels as an audiobook and I’m really glad that I did. The narration was fabulous! The accents were great and everyone had a unique voice. I love audiobooks because they convey so much emotion and the wit often shines a little more and that was totally the case here.

Series Rating: 5/5

Wolf by Wolf  4.5/5| [Iron to Iron  5/5] | [Storm After Storm  N/A] | Blood for Blood  5/5

overall

I can see why this book series gets all the hype it does. Without a doubt, this is probably the best alternate history series I’ve encountered. It’s so layered and complex in its message and delivery that as a reader you can’t help but appreciate it. Highly recommend!

Read if You Like: alternate history, stories set around WWII
Avoid if You: want more romance, dislike alternate history

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Series Review: Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman

Series Review: Is this series worth your time? Does it get better as the novels progress? Or does it get worse? Find out below:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Prisoner of Night and Fog (from Goodreads):

In 1930s Munich, danger lurks behind dark corners, and secrets are buried deep within the city. But Gretchen Müller, who grew up in the National Socialist Party under the wing of her “uncle” Dolf, has been shielded from that side of society ever since her father traded his life for Dolf’s, and Gretchen is his favorite, his pet.

Uncle Dolf is none other than Adolf Hitler. And Gretchen follows his every command.

Until she meets a fearless and handsome young Jewish reporter named Daniel Cohen. Gretchen should despise Daniel, yet she can’t stop herself from listening to his story: that her father, the adored Nazi martyr, was actually murdered by an unknown comrade. She also can’t help the fierce attraction brewing between them, despite everything she’s been taught to believe about Jews.

As Gretchen investigates the very people she’s always considered friends, she must decide where her loyalties lie. Will she choose the safety of her former life as a Nazi darling, or will she dare to dig up the truth—even if it could get her and Daniel killed?

From debut author Anne Blankman comes this harrowing and evocative story about an ordinary girl faced with the extraordinary decision to give up everything she’s ever believed . . . and to trust her own heart instead.

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Series: Prisoner of Night and Fog
Author: Anne Blankman
# of Books: 2 (Prisoner of Night and Fog, Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Historical, Suspense, Romance
Heat Rating: cold
Point of View: Third Person, Single
Publication Dates: April 2014 – 2015
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

This series crossed my radar one day when I was blog-hopping. I’m not sure what blog specifically (this was before I started keeping notes) but I do think this series has been on quite a few over the years.

Anyways, the concept was really what drew me in and that’s why I added it to my 5 Year 5 Book Challenge this year.

The Concept:

I’ve only read a few books set in WWII but what I really liked about this book was that it was set before the war started. When it comes to Hitler, I feel like we often focus on what he did during the war (and rightfully so) but not too much on how we got to that point. It’s a fascinating view point and provides quite a bit of insight on why WWII began. I will admit, I looked up a lot of things on Wikipedia to learn more and see how it this story was woven with history.

But that doesn’t mean this series is an easy read. Prisoner of Night and Fog opens with Gretchen’s brother beating a Jewish man simply for being a Jew and the narrator explains the ideology for his actions. And it’s hard to stomach as a reader–not only because it seems so “normal” but also because you know it is only going to get worse.

The Plot:

A Prisoner of Night and Fog started a little slowly as it established the setting and the circumstances Gretchen finds herself in. But once Gretchen starts her investigation, it really picks up. I love a good conspiracy theory and this one delivered. It gave this story a dangerous edge that kept the tensions high and me eager to see what would happen next.

And those tensions continue to be high in the aftermath of a Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke. This one had a tone of suspense throughout that had me desparately wanting to know what would happen next. Trying to piece together how the current events of this novel lead to the start of WWII was such a refreshingly unique experience for me as a reader.

The Characters:

I thought Gretchen had tremendous growth as a character throughout this series. She transforms from a naive and gullible girl into a crafty and caring woman who can see the bigger picture of what is happening around her. I was definitely rooting for her and grew attached to her as a character.

And the rest of the characters do their jobs flawlessly.

The Romance:

I wasn’t going into this book expecting some epic romance and that definitely isn’t what we get. It does its job by keeping things simple and not distracting from the main plot of the story; rather, it enhances the various tensions in the book. It provides some context for the world Gretchen finds herself in but I never felt like this series was a romance set in dangerous times–it’s a story about dangerous times that features a romance.

My Audiobook Experience:

I loved the audiobook! Heather Wilds is the narrator and she is just fabulous. The accents were perfect, she didn’t sound ridiculous when she did the male voices (one of my biggest peeves) and she conveyed the right tone at all times. And while it was really hard to listen to some of the violence and ideology, I think that just made the book have a bigger impact on me as a reader.

I will say though that a certain character’s name was pronounced one way in the first book and then another in the second. It threw me for a bit but it doesn’t really matter. I just thought it was a little weird.

Series Rating: 4/5

Prisoner of Night and Fog 4/5 | Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke 4/5

overall

If you love historical novels that are lighter on the romance and seamlessly weaves history into its narrative, pick this one up!

Read if You Like: historical novels, WWII settings
Avoid if You: are uncomfortable with violence or discrimination

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Movie Mondays: The Book Thief

Movie Mondays: On the occasional Monday, I will review a book series or novel that has been made into a movie. I will then answer the question that everyone asks: which is better, the movie or the book? Here is this week’s offering + my Everything YA April Mini-Challenge Pick:

Book: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (2006) | Movie: The Book Thief (2013)

Which did I read/see first? The BOOK

Book Cover | Movie Poster

AuthorMarkus Zusak
Genre: Young Adult, Historic, War, WWII
Point of View: First & Third Person, Single (It is told by a narrator)

thoughts

What I was expecting/Why I picked it up:

The Book Thief has been on my TBR for a very long time thanks to numerous friends recommending it to me. But it moved up on my list after the movie was released and I saw it listed on Netflix. Then I needed a book-to-movie-adaptation for my April Everything YA Challenge plus a WWII book for my Bookish Bingo: Ready for Spring 2015 Card and this book fit the match perfectly!

I’ll be honest: I really didn’t know what to expect from this book other than it was going to make me sad. The only YA WWII book I’ve read is Violins of Autumn where the lead becomes a spy, so this was a completely different side of the war I hadn’t read about before so I was looking forward to it.

What I liked:

I really liked how this book was written. I love how it was set up almost like a play where you get little spinets for each part and then get each scene. It kept things interesting and despite its long length, it moved at is surprisingly faster pace–at least for the first half.

I also loved Death’s narration and takes on things! He was surprisingly humorous in some cases–albeit darker humour–but I laughed a few times reading this which surprised me.

What I didn’t like:

I won’t lie: sometimes I had a hard time understanding what was happening because of the narration style. Sometimes I found it to be very vague and because I was only reading parts at a time, I found it hard to keep track of characters and what was actually happening. It also jumps around a bit with foreshadowing and scenes from the past.

I also thought this book was too long. I like more actions to my novels–and I feel awful saying this because it takes place during a war which is not a happy setting–it was a little too monotonous for me. While I appreciate how it captures the daily life of families in Germany during WWII, I felt like to took the plot a long time to move forward. It became a little tedious to read. It could have been half the length it was and I still would have been satisfied with the book–probably even more so! It reminded me a lot of To Kill a Mockingbird in that sense–but instead of the second half being about Tom Robinson’s trial, The Book Thief is like the first half of the book where you read about Scout’s everyday life as a kid.

overall

I can appreciate that this book is extremely well done and does a fantastic job capturing what it was like for German youth during WWII–it just isn’t my particular cup of tea so I didn’t enjoy it as much as I had hoped. It’s slower in it’s pace and was far to long for me to fully enjoy.

Rating: 4/5
similarreads

  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • Violins of Autumn by Amy McAuley

Were My Expectations Met?

I was really looking forward to this movie when I was only a few pages into the book. I think I knew as soon as I started reading that I was going to enjoy the movie a lot more than I did the book.

I enjoyed the major plotlines of the book but I could have done without the repetitiveness of everyday life and some events. So I knew/expected the movie to focus on the big stuff and not so much on the small stuff which is what I wanted.

And it really did! I was much more emotional watching the movie than when I was reading book. I think it was because I could actually see the events unfolding before my eyes. Reading about the events of WWII is one thing but actually witnessing the horrors is another; even if it is just a reenactment. I also think some scenes were so bittersweet because I knew what was going to happen to some of these characters.

How Close is it to the Book?

I would say it is very close to the book. The major events of the story are almost identical in the movie. There are a few little changes and some minor scenes have been added, but they stay true to the idea/theme of the book so I really didn’t mind.

Did I Like the Cast?

Am I the only one who sees Geoffrey Rush as Captain Barbarossa in everything that he does now? Even without the eyeliner and the large hat, he is still the Captain to me. However, I thought he did a great job as Papa.

The rest of the cast was exceptional! While they subdued the role of Death, Roger Allam had the perfect tone when he was speaking. Sophie Nélisse did a great job as Liesel and Nico Liersch as Rudy was simply adorable.

thewinneris winmovie

While both are exceptional pieces of works in their own rights, I much preferred the condensed version of the movie. I thought it captured the essence of the book but was a lot easier to follow and more captivating.

Do you agree? Leave a comment below!

Synopsis for The Book Thief (from Goodreads):
HERE IS A SMALL FACT – YOU ARE GOING TO DIE

1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier.

Liesel, a nine-year-old girl, is living with a foster family on Himmel Street. Her parents have been taken away to a concentration camp. Liesel steals books. This is her story and the story of the inhabitants of her street when the bombs begin to fall.

SOME IMPORTANT INFORMATION – THIS NOVEL IS NARRATED BY DEATH

It’s a small story, about:

a girl

an accordionist

some fanatical Germans

a Jewish fist fighter

and quite a lot of thievery.

ANOTHER THING YOU SHOULD KNOW – DEATH WILL VISIT THE BOOK THIEF THREE TIMES

Trailer:

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