The Book of Lost Names by Kristin Harmel

Inspiring!

Eva is Jewish and lives with her parents in Paris during World War II. Her father is captured and sent to a prison camp while Eva and her mother are away from home helping a neighbor. Eva’s father made her promise earlier that she would leave Paris and travel to Switzerland if he was ever captured. Eva convinces her mother to go. They stop in a town close to the border and meet people that are very interested in the documents Eva made for her and her mother so they could get out of Paris. She discovers they’re forgers and resistance helping Jewish children by creating false documents to help them get to Switzerland. The resistance members are impressed with her work and ask for her help. Eva meets another forger, Remy, who is French. He’s not Jewish but he wants to do everything he can to help stop the Germans and their genocide. Eva and Remy improve their techniques and create better documents faster. They help save many children until the group is betrayed by one of their own. Everything is looted or destroyed by German soldiers and most of the resistance members are captured and killed. This is an inspiring story that gives readers perspective to our times and struggles. I enjoyed reading the author’s notes and her acknowledgments and discovering the research she conducted and the nonfiction books she based her characters and their actions on. I’m interested in reading the author’s other books that also deal with World War II and the resistance groups. 5 heartfelt stars!

The Last to Vanish by Megan Miranda

Appalachian Trail Mystery!

Abby works at the Passage resort that sits next to the beginning of the Appalachian Trail. This resort is known for the disappearance of a group of four men twenty five years ago. Since those four friends went missing, three separate disappearances have happened, two women and a man. The latest disappearance, Landon West, occurred four months ago and his brother Trey just came to stay at The Passage. He wants to search for information about his brother and hopes to find answers. Abby and Trey both end up finding items that belonged to missing people. This makes her suspicious and a little creeped out. The story of the missing fraternity four is interesting and eerie but I would have liked more details of the last three crimes. I do feel that the ending was somewhat rushed. 4 stars!

Sachiko: A Nagasaki Bomb Survivor’s Story by Caren Stelson

Perseverance and Strength Shine Through Sachiko’s Story!

This nonfiction book takes us back in time to show us what life was like for Sachiko and other Japanese families during World War II. The historical facts include racism in America, Japan and Germany, information on Japanese Internment Camps, the treatment of prisoners of war by Japan’s soldiers, the reason for the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and the dropping of atomic bombs in Japan. I could only read this in bits because of the horrific results of the bombs on the citizens. Sachiko was at the site of the Nagasaki atomic bomb explosion and her family died one by one because of the short term and long term effects of the bombing. After Japan’s surrender, American soldiers became a large presence in the Japanese communities. I learned quite a lot from this book that’s just a little over one hundred pages; the stifling of information concerning the atomic bombs, propaganda after WWII, the research coalition set up to gather information about but not help the bomb survivors and the statistics of long lasting radiation sickness. Perseverance and strength shine through Sachiko’s story and I’m grateful to have read this inspiring book that teaches us to strive for peace. 5 stars!

The Hunger by Alma Katsu

Based on the tragically true story of the Donner Party.

Eerie prologue opens the story with a perfect creepy and ominous tone. This book is so much more than just a horror story! The author takes historical facts and mixes them with some historical fiction and then adds a touch of supernatural horror to create a scary tale out of a true horrific tragedy. The characters are many and we get to know each of them in turns as the author reveals their background stories and personal secrets. The characters range from timid, blustery, brave and to all out dangerous. The tragically true story of the Donner Party gives the perfect backdrop for a horror story and the author blends truth and fiction together seamlessly, 5 stars!

Bent Heavens by Daniel Kraus

Twisted Sci-Fi!
Bent Heavens by Daniel Kraus tells the tragic story of Liv, her father Lee, and her lifelong friend Doug. I immediately feel sorry for Liv and her father because I can predict the judgmental treatment that will probably happen after his episode of incoherent talking and nakedness in front of the community. Liv and Doug are friends and continue to maintain the traps and protection her father set after he said he was harmed by aliens a few years ago. Lee took Liv and Doug on a hunting trip and he ran away towards something that the other two couldn’t see. Liv is friends with a popular group and Doug is more of a loner that doesn’t fit in. Doug believes Lee, Liv’s father, about the aliens but Liv doesn’t. Her mother doesn’t either and they think he’s just mentally unhealthy. One day, as Liv is checking one of the traps her dad created, she finds an alien caught in one. This blows Liv’s mind. Doug and Liv keep the alien, or skinner as Lee called them, imprisoned in her backyard shed and interrogate it for any information about Lee. The skinner eventually speaks three words: car, bow, hole. Doug believes torture is the best way to get information about Lee from the skinner; Liv disagrees. This disagreement builds a rift between them and they go their separate ways. Liv realizes that car, bow, hole might mean the name Carbajal. She does some searching and meets a mysterious, dilapidated man with that name. He gives her frightening information. Several twists and tragedy build and end the science fiction story, 4 stars!

You Were Here by Cori McCarthy

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You Were Here by Cori McCarthy
On the fifth anniversary of her brother’s death, his graduation night, Jaycee is spending her own graduation night trying to lose herself in the memories that she’s been holding tightly to. She’s revisiting the places he enjoyed but she feels him slipping away. She reluctantly lets people tag along as friends on the adventures and each of them experiences something eye-opening that shoves them into adulthood. I love this book and even though I just finished it, I want to read it again. The circumstances that start the story, the character development and growth, the uniquely different characters and the setting work together to build a wonderful book, 5 stars!

Hope and Other Punchlines by Julie Buxbaum

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Insight into 9/11 and its effect on New York citizens and the aftermath, 5 stars!
The editor/publisher note at the beginning explains the intent of the book and I’m interested. Chapter one introduces Abbi and I’m hooked! She’s known as Baby Hope because she was photographed on the morning of 9/11 with a red balloon and a paper crown while a tower was crumbling in the background. She’s turning sixteen. Abbi gets a job at a kids’ day camp a county or two away from her home. No one should know she’s Baby Hope or recognize her. She has people approach her all the time. Noah also works at the camp and recognizes Abbi from school but he keeps her Baby Hope identity a secret for her. Some 9/11 survivors have been diagnosed with cancer in different forms because of the debris they were exposed to. Abbi has started coughing up blood but she doesn’t want anyone to know just yet. She wants to have a normal teenage summer. Noah has a mission to identify the three unknown people in the 9/11 Baby Hope photo that have been unidentified all these years. Noah sets up interviews with everyone in the photo that have been identified. The survivors and Hope help him figure out each of the photographed people and this opens up an entirely new story to swallow. I absolutely love this book and the characters, character dynamics and character development! The author does an amazing job weaving tragedy and hope together with the every day happenings of those left behind.

A Heart in a Body in the World by Deb Caletti

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Deeply moving!
Thanks to Edelweiss+, NetGalley and Simon Pulse for the opportunity to read and review A Heart in a Body in the World by Deb Caletti!
This story captivated me with it’s mysterious, traumatic event and the strength of the main character and supporting characters. Also, the charm and humor of family and all the quirks that go along with that wonderful six letter word. The story is somewhat difficult to follow; I’m sure that was on purpose by the author because the back and forth, scattered thoughts represent the stress of the main character very well. A heartbreaking and inspiring story that fully reveals the event by the end of the book. 5 stars for this deeply moving realistic fiction!

The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan

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Family members left behind after a suicide face deep pain. Resources offering real help are included in this book! Thanks to NetGalley and Little, Brown Books for Young Readers for the opportunity to read and review The Astonishing Color of After! The main character saw her mother’s suicide and believes that her mother has visited her as a bird. No one believes her even though she has physical evidence. Her and her father visit her maternal grandparents in Taiwan and even though they don’t speak much English, they believe that the bird is true. This book is difficult to categorize into a genre, but even though it has supernatural happenings throughout the story, I feel that this is still, above all, a realistic fiction tale. The deep pain that survivors of suicidal family members face is a real problem and an intense struggle that hasn’t been addressed as much as it’s needed. The Astonishing Color of After helps! Resources are included towards the end of the book for various needs of those dealing with depression, loss, suicide and/or suicidal thoughts. The resources are categorized under the following headings: Suicide Prevention, For Suicide Loss Survivors and Understanding Mental Illness. The cultural education and coping skills made the story more interesting and I love Axel and the great friend that he is to Leigh and I appreciate the author’s honesty about her own experiences of being a suicide survivor. 4 stars!

Hunger by Donna Jo Napoli

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Jo Napoli. This historical fiction tale of the year follows the aftermath of the potato blight in Ireland, 1846-1847. Once again the potato crops aren’t doing well and people are contemplating leaving Ireland for a more hopeful and prosperous land. The sentence describing the people’s worries about traveling to other countries, where guns are needed to fight off criminals, and how they were so shocked by this idea was an eye-opener. How times have changed. The story takes us through how tenants rebel against the landlords and how people die from starvation, injuries from fighting and also sickness. The postscript states the fictional and true parts of this story and recalls the horribly high death toll because of the potato blight and how the suffering continued for several years. The author’s note explains the reasons for the blight and the timeline of Ireland to the famine’s end starting at prehistoric times up to 1851. I appreciate the author taking the time for extensive research into Ireland and its history and for describing what the Irish people went through when their crops were devastated. 4 stars!