Tag Archives: historical fiction

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

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This was such a gorgeous and harrowing book. It is the story of 15 year old Lina, a promising artist with a close family who is taken in 1941 from her home in Lithuania by the Russians and put into a labor camp. She manages to stay with her mother and younger brother, but their father is taken seperately, and jailed far away from the rest of the family. Lina and her mother and brother are forced on a terrible journey in a dirty train car to Siberia. They form unique bonds with their fellow travellers, and everyone copes with the events in their own desperate way. They end up at a forced labor camp, and are cruelly worked with very little food. The illness and humiliation are horrible.

But somehow, Lina and her fellow prisoners find ways to survive. They steal food and firewood from the soldiers, they hold secret Christmas parties, and Lina draws pictures. She draws the people she has met, maps the places they have been taken, and hopes to pass these drawings along, person to person, until they reach her father in prison.

Lina also has a romance, with fellow prisoner Andrius. The circumstances are obviously not ideal for falling in love, but the two learn to help and trust each other. I loved their romance, and how they managed to communicate even when Lina gets taken to a new camp far away – with a book that Andrius gives her.

This was so well written. Such a good cry, and good history. It made real for me a period in history that gets skipped over in school. A period in history none of us should forget.

Also loved all the comments about the artist Munch. He’s Lina’s favorite, and she talks about him and his work all the time, and draws strength from it.

Gorgeous book, and something I think people need to read. Good for a large range of ages, but it does get a bit graphic in parts, describing all they go through.

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Miss Peregrines Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

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Oh my goodness. I read this all in one sitting, which I don’t usually have time for. I am SO glad I did on this one! Miss Peregrine’s¬†is billed as a horror, or dark mystery book, but it’s not really. I found it strange, and sad, and lovely. Jacob is the main character, and at 15 he is the only one in his family who wants to spend time with his ailing grandfather. Grandpa Portman¬†has told Jacob stories about the children’s home he lived in during World War II. He tells Jacob of the small island off the coast of Wales, and the strange children who lived with him – the invisible boy, the girl who can create fire with her bare hands, the boy with bees living inside him – Jacob thinks these stories are fairy tales. But when his grandfather is mysteriously killed by monsters that only he and Jacob can see, Jacob goes on a quest to find the island and the children. He seeks closure with his grandfather’s death and the stories, but he also needs to prove to himself that he isn’t crazy.

When Jacob arrives on the tiny island, all he finds is a crumbling ruin of the children’s home. Locals tell him that the home was bombed during the war, and only Jacob’s grandfather survived. Undaunted, Jacob starts investigating the house, and crosses a portal back to 1940 – the very day the bomb falls. The day is set on a loop, so that the day resets right before the explosion. No one ages, but they have been there since the real 1940. They cannot leave, or all their borrowed years will hit them at once, and they will die. Once through this portal, Jacob discovers that all his grandfather’s stories were true – all the strange children really do exist – and so do the monsters. Jacob must decide whether he will return to his ordinary life in Florida, or stay in 1940 with his new friends. There is a lot at stake, and Jacob may be the key to saving the peculiars – and he may be one of them!

The photographs that illustrate this book are actually real photos – though some may have been doctored many years ago. Ransom Riggs tracked down all these photos from various collectors, and wrote his story around them. The photos are fascinating and strange, and bring life to the story. The writing was excellent, and I hope there will be sequels!