Thursday, April 17, 2014

Blog Tour: Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman {Review + Giveaway}

Release date: April 22, 2014
Author info: Website | Twitter | Goodreads
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Pages: 416
Format: Egalley
Source: Publisher provided through Netgalley
Buy the book: Barnes & Noble | Amazon | The Book Depository
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.
To me, Prisoner of Night and Fog is historical fiction done right, even though it makes small revisions to the history here and there to make the story work. By lightly manipulating history and wielding the aura of the world's most notorious dictator, Anne Blankman tells a very human story of a girl coming into to her own and finding herself, shirking the ideas and beliefs settled upon her by her family, peers, and society to establish opinions and beliefs that are wholly her own--all with the fascinating lead-up to World War II as the catalyst.

Gretchen Müller is the darling of the National Socialist Party, and of its leader, Adolf Hitler. Known throughout Munich as the daughter of the man who sacrificed himself to save the soon-to-be Führer, Gretchen has grown up swaddled by the Nazi party's ideology and referring to Hitler as Uncle Dolf, believing him to the kindly, fond man she sees. Reading Gretchen's view of Hitler is fascinating, because it's so hard, in our time, to imagine people truly believing what the man said, buying into his belief system. But, we're gifted with hindsight, the knowledge of what is to come. This is 1931, before Hitler truly began his campaign against the Jewish people, and it's not so hard to understand why Gretchen never suspected anything bad before Daniel shows up, telling her things might not be as she's been told.

But Gretchen is smart, so the moment doubt is culled she digs in and begins to notice more amiss than she could have imagined. She searches for more information regarding her father's death, even though her search brings her to dangerous places. What's so great about Gretchen is that she quickly realizes the faults in the logic she's been living behind and wholeheartedly shirks them. She only worries about defying the party in relation to it hurting those she cares about, but she's not afraid to let others know how she feels and can see the goodness in the Jewish people, the people she's been raised to belief are sub-human. A large part of this comes from Daniel, who is constantly challenging Gretchen, not only when it comes to what she thinks but also in her actions. His fearlessness is the catalyst for Gretchen. Their romance is sweet, honest, and built completely on trust and acceptance.

The only flaw here is that the beginning may run a bit long, spending a bit too much time setting up the story before getting to the meat of the plot. Many readers might get bored and stop reading, but I encourage you to continue on, for the story is completely worth it.

Anne Blankman masterfully winds her characters and situations into real historical events and among real people, giving the reader a well-established sense of place and history. It feels like something that could have been happening during Hitler's rise and calls to attention reasons why and how he came to power. Prisoner of Night and Fog paints Munich as a city on the edge, wracked by Nazis and Communists, with its citizens living in fear even before the worst happened. Even among this, Gretchen's story is one of heartbreak and pain, but her courage allows her to stand up to one of the most feared (and most charismatic, let's not forget) men in history. Prisoner of Night and Fog is a stand-out historical novel that you don't want to miss.

About the author:

Anne Blankman may have been meant to be a writer because her parents named her for Anne of Green Gables. She grew up in an old house with gables (gray, unfortunately) in upstate New York. When she wasn't writing or reading, she was rowing on the crew team, taking ballet lessons, fencing and swimming. She graduated from Union College with degrees in English and history, which comes in handy when she writes historical fiction.

After earning a master's degree in information science, Anne began working as a youth services librarian. Currently, she lives in southeastern Virginia with her family. When she's not writing young adult fiction, she's playing with her daughter, training for races with her husband, working at her amazing library branch, learning to knit (badly), and reading.

Anne Blankman is the author of PRISONER OF NIGHT AND FOG, the first in a three-book deal slated for publication in spring 2014 from Balzer + Bray | HarperCollins. She is represented by Tracey Adams of Adams Literary.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday: Top Ten Clues You're Clueless by Liz Czukas {40}

Title: Top Ten Clues You're Clueless
Author: Liz Czukas
Release date: December 9, 2014
Top Five Things That Are Ruining Chloe’s Day

5) Working the 6:30 a.m. shift at GoodFoods Market

4) Crashing a cart into a customer’s car right in front of her snarky coworker Sammi

3) Trying to rock the “drowned rat” look after being caught in a snowstorm

2) Making zero progress with her crush, Tyson (see #3)

1) Being accused—along with her fellow teenage employees—of stealing upwards of $10,000 

Chloe would rather be anywhere than locked in work jail (aka the break room) with five of her coworkers . . . even if one of them is Tyson. But if they can band together to clear their names, what looks like a total disaster might just make Chloe’s list of Top Ten Best Moments.
I absolutely loved Liz Czukas's Ask Again Later, so of course I'm excited for her next book! This sounds like it'll be just as adorable as Ask Again Later, and I bet the romance will be just as cute as well. :D

So what are you guys waiting on this week? :)

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Teaser Tuesday: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart {66}

Title: We Were Liars
Author: E. Lockhart
Release date: May 13, 2014
Pages: 240
A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.

We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from National Book Award finalist and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart. 
Read it.
And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.

My teaser, from p. 122 in the ARC:
Life feels beautiful that day.

The four of us Liars, we have always been.

We will always be.

No matter what happens as we go to college, grow old, build lives for ourselves; no matter if Gat and I are together or not. No matter where we go, we will always be able to line up on the roof of Cuddledown and gaze at the sea.

The island is ours. Here, in some way, we are young forever.
What captures me most about the synopsis is the mention about the ending. What could possibly happen? I don't even remotely know what's going on in this teaser; I just thought it sounded nice. :)

I'll be visiting around and visiting back, so leave me links to your teasers! :) Happy Tuesday!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Review: Sekret by Lindsay Smith

Release date: April 1, 2014
Author info: Website | Twitter
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Pages: 337
Format: Egalley
Source: Publisher provided through Netgalley
Buy the book: Barnes & Noble | Amazon | The Book Depository
An empty mind is a safe mind.

Yulia's father always taught her to hide her thoughts and control her emotions to survive the harsh realities of Soviet Russia. But when she's captured by the KGB and forced to work as a psychic spy with a mission to undermine the U.S. space program, she's thrust into a world of suspicion, deceit, and horrifying power. Yulia quickly realizes she can trust no one--not her KGB superiors or the other operatives vying for her attention--and must rely on her own wits and skills to survive in this world where no SEKRET can stay hidden for long.

I could summarize how I feel about Sekret in one word: Meh. I won't leave it there, because it deserves more of a review than that, but "Meh" gets to the core of my problem. I just couldn't connect to this story. I couldn't feel sympathy for Yulia, or anyone else. I never felt much urgency in the story. I kept reading because I was mildly interested in finding out who the scrubber was (though my idea from the beginning was right). Sekret isn't a bad book and there are elements that are really well done, but it never captured my imagination or sympathy.

The historical aspects of Sekret are really well done, and it's pretty obviously Lindsay Smith knows what she's talking about there. I liked seeing Russia in this time period and actually never had any idea before that there was a big difference in how Russia was governed following Lenin. I also really liked reading a perspective that regarded Americans as bad, since I'm obviously American and have been taught how we weren't the bad guys. It's fascinating to read about someone who thinks so negatively of something that I think positively of, to view a time in history from different eyes.

I also liked the psychic idea in general, since this was something very prevalent in that time. There were real experiments going on in Russia, and in the US, testing people for psychic abilities, using drugs like LSD, and even torturing people to trigger their "psychic abilities". So imagine if they had found people with the ability to read others' thoughts? How would the government use them? It's an interesting idea to consider, and one I enjoyed seeing in Sekret. I do think the powers could have been better developed and more exact in their descriptions, though.

Like I said, though, I couldn't find myself really enjoying what I read. Yulia is impetuous and a little dumb in her decision-making, and I never connected to her or her hardships. At times, it's kind of annoying that she's almost rewarded for disobeying, but apparently she's special. The romance is okay, and I generally liked the guy she ends up with. It's sort of a love triangle, but Yulia quickly knows who she likes and is only fending the other off. I think what originally drew me to the book is also what made me not like it as much, though. The synopsis promises espionage and excitement, yes? But there's very little of that. They go on "missions" but it's so Yulia can walk around and touch walls. It's not exciting, and my hopes and expectations were dashed. The ending is fairly interesting and makes up a bit for a lack of action previously, but it can't really make up for the rest of the story.

Sekret isn't a bad book. Every bit of history is done well and thoroughly, and the premise is very appealing. But it falls flat in emotion and characterization of the protagonist, and a premise that promises action throughout only delivers in the final moments.

About the author:

Lindsay Smith’s love of Russian culture has taken her to Moscow, Saint Petersburg, and a reindeer festival in the middle of Siberia. She lives in Washington, DC, where she writes on foreign affairs. SEKRET is her first novel.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Stacking the Shelves {63}

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews where we get to share the books we've bought, been gifted, or received for review!

How was everybody's week? Mine's been good! We're getting so close to the end of the semester. Just one week of regular classes, then dead week, and then finals! I have to take classes this summer, but I'll graduate in August! :D Also, too lazy to take pictures of the physical books this week.

For review:

Midnight Thief by Livia Blackburne

A big, big thanks to Disney-Hyperion and Netgalley for this! :)


Poison by Bridget Zinn
Red Rising by Pierce Brown


Alienated by Melissa Landers
Stung by Bethany Wiggins

A recap of the week here on Paper Cuts:
Monday - Review: Stolen Songbird by Danielle L. Jensen
Tuesday - Blog Tour: Blue Notes by Carrie Lofty {Top 10 List + Review + Giveaway}
Wednesday - Waiting on Wednesday: Trial by Fire by Josephine Angelini
Thursday - Let's Talk About... The Next "Blah Blah", For Fans of "Author McAuthorPants"

Books I read this week:
Blue Notes by Carrie Lofty
Resurrection by Leo Tolstoy
Sekret by Lindsay Smith
Alienated by Melissa Landers

I'm currently reading:

Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman

So that's been my week! I had every intention of posting on Friday, but I ended up hanging out with my former roommate till after 2 a.m. and was too tired even to think of writing a post after that. Oh well! AH! And a week till my 22nd birthday! WOO! :) Have a lovely Sunday and a fabulous week!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Let's Talk About... The Next "Blah Blah", For Fans of "Author McAuthorPants"

Do y'all ever get tired of those ever present labels telling us that books are the next Harry Potter, next Hunger Games, next Twilight, next whatever? Do you want to punch something that claims a book is for fans of John Green, J.K. Rowling, whoever? Because I am and do.

I love Harry Potter. I love The Hunger Games. I love John Green. I understand that marketing wants to pull in readers of massively popular franchises, books, and authors. I get that. But can't they sell books in other ways too? I don't pick up books because someone likens it to Harry Potter or The Hunger Games anymore. I don't look up an author because someone says their writing will appeal to fans of John Green (I apologize for the constant John Green mentions, but I can't think of another author people are really touting right now, so you get John Green.) I pick up books and seek out authors that appeal to me. I want to read the synopsis of a book and get excited because it's original, because it captures my imagination and emotions. 

I also understand using this method to sell books to people who don't read quite so often, who maybe watch a movie adaptation of a book and go seek out the book. But I see this kind of marketing in places where most of the people who'd see it are avid readers. I also get the idea behind displays compiled by an individual or librarian that's along the lines of, "If you like John Green, try..." There's a difference between when someone is encouraging people to read past their immediate comfort zone and a marketing team labeling anything and everything with what they think will make a book sell. I want to make that distinction.

And I feel a lot of the time these comparisons aren't remotely applicable. I'm sure y'all have seen some random dystopian book that's said to be for fans of The Hunger Games, but it ends up not incorporating
any of the same elements of THG aside from being a dystopian. At times there are books that aren't dystopians that are actually closer intellectually to contemporaries or fantasy, but that's not how they're sold and readers go into them with completely skewed expectations.

I feel like I'm coming off a bit curmudgeonly here, and I don't mean to. I'm not saying there's a reason to be rid of these comparisons, because they do have value, even as I'm desperately tired of seeing the tables at Barnes & Noble filled with books that don't really go together and sick of seeing things labelled the next Harry Potter. I guess I'd like to see it used more specifically and less often, making that label mean something again.

What do you think? Do you find those phrases useful and/or applicable to what they're applied to? 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday: Trial by Fire by Josephine Angelini {39}

Title: Trial by Fire
Author: Josephine Angelini
Release date: September 2, 2014
Love burns. Worlds collide. Magic reigns.

This world is trying to kill Lily Proctor. Her life-threatening allergies keep her from enjoying many of the experiences that other teenagers take for granted...which is why she is determined to enjoy her first (and perhaps only) high-school party. But Lily's life never goes according to plan, and after a humiliating incident in front of half her graduating class Lily wishes she could just disappear.

Suddenly Lily is in a different Salem - one overrun with horrifying creatures and ruled by powerful women called Crucibles. Strongest and cruellest of all the Crucibles is Lillian . . . Lily's identical other self in this alternate universe. This new version of her world is terrifyingly sensual, and Lily is soon overwhelmed by new experiences.

Lily realizes that what makes her weak at home is exactly what makes her extraordinary in New Salem. It also puts her life in danger. Thrown into a world she doesn't understand, Lily is torn between responsibilities she can't hope to shoulder alone, and a love she never expected.

But how can Lily be the saviour of this world when she is literally her own worst enemy?
Um, yes? I'm a little over witchy things, but at the first mention of Salem I knew I wanted this. PLUS, it deals with what I guess are alternate dimensions? SO. MUCH. YES.

So what are you guys waiting on this week? :)