Friday, April 18, 2014

Review: Second Star by Alyssa B. Sheinmel

Title: Second Star
Author: Alyssa B. Sheinmel
Genre: contemporary
Series: n/a
Pages: 248
Published: Expected May 13, 2014
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Rating: n/a

A twisty story about love, loss, and lies, this contemporary oceanside adventure is tinged with a touch of dark magic as it follows seventeen-year-old Wendy Darling on a search for her missing surfer brothers. Wendy’s journey leads her to a mysterious hidden cove inhabited by a tribe of young renegade surfers, most of them runaways like her brothers. Wendy is instantly drawn to the cove’s charismatic leader, Pete, but her search also points her toward Pete's nemesis, the drug-dealing Jas. Enigmatic, dangerous, and handsome, Jas pulls Wendy in even as she's falling hard for Pete. A radical reinvention of a classic, Second Star is an irresistible summer romance about two young men who have yet to grow up--and the troubled beauty trapped between them.
Reviewed by Danielle

I have reviewed a hundred books, and read and rated thrice that many, but rarely have I been so at a loss for words as Second Star has left me. Even now, I can’t say if I loved it or hated it. I’ve gone back and forth multiple times just writing this review. So, I’m going to do something I’ve never done before. I’m not going to rate this book.

Second Star is a contemporary retelling of the Peter Pan mythos that reimagines Peter as Pete, a homeless surfer and his lost boys as three other runaway youths, including (Tinker)Belle, Pete’s ex. Captain Hook becomes Jas, a “pixie dust” dealer living across the beach. And Wendy Darling is now a straight-A student who has just graduated high school and is looking for her missing brothers before she leaves for Stanford.

In the beginning, I felt the story dragged. There’s a lot of detail about Wendy’s house and her parents’ depression from John and Michael’s presumed death. She has a best friend that she’s drifted apart from due to Fiona’s boyfriend’s meddling. Despite all this detail, I couldn’t connect to Wendy. I learned a lot about her, but I never felt close to her. This never really changed, but it worked for me once she reached Kensington.

The hidden cove where the lost boys live is like another world. There are no fantastical elements to the plot, but the middle third feels like fantasy. The writing, which had been disconnected, becomes ethereal. The descriptions of the beach and the water and the way surfing feels like flying are pretty incredible. It’s beautiful and amazing and the absolute best part of the book.

And then there’s the end. I don’t know how I feel about the end. It’s confusing and messy and...lovely? It’s definitely a trippy mind fuck that feels more in line with an Alice in Wonderland retelling, but I’m left wondering if Wendy learned anything on her journey.

Second Star has gorgeous prose. I really want to recommend it on that strength alone, but I can’t. It’s instalove-y and love triangle-y and what plot there is meanders.The twist ending left me thinking about the book, but not always in a positive way. I will say, its definitely one of the more unique experiences of my reading year. It's short, though, and not a difficult read, so it may be worth a try to people who like beautiful writing. If you're looking for a standard beach novel, however, I'd look elsewhere.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Review: Tease by Amanda Maciel

Title: Tease
Author: Amanda Maciel
Genre: contemporary, young adult
Series: N/A
Pages: 336 
Published: expected April 29 2014
Source: publishers via edelweiss
Rating: 3/5

From debut author Amanda Maciel comes a provocative and unforgettable novel, inspired by real-life incidents, about a teenage girl who faces criminal charges for bullying after a classmate commits suicide.

Emma Putnam is dead, and it's all Sara Wharton's fault. At least, that's what everyone seems to think. Sara, along with her best friend and three other classmates, has been criminally charged for the bullying and harassment that led to Emma's shocking suicide. Now Sara is the one who's ostracized, already guilty according to her peers, the community, and the media. In the summer before her senior year, in between meetings with lawyers and a court-recommended therapist, Sara is forced to reflect on the events that brought her to this moment—and ultimately consider her own role in an undeniable tragedy. And she'll have to find a way to move forward, even when it feels like her own life is over.

With its powerful narrative, unconventional point of view, and strong anti-bullying theme, this coming-of-age story offers smart, insightful, and nuanced views on high school society, toxic friendships, and family relationships.

This is the second well-written, thoughtful issue book about bullying I've read in the last two months. Like with Jennifer Mathieu's saddening The Truth About Alice, Amanda Maciel's debut tackles big issues with complicated (or unknowable) characters, but tries to examine the way denigrating words and clique-ish behavior can have unintended, and serious consequences. Told with dual timelines, the book closely examines the way people can judge and mistreat one another. It's not a comfortable read -- it will make some readers angry, others sad -- but Tease is a worthy addition to the bullying conversation.

I can appreciate what  Maciel was attempting to do with Tease, even if the end result left me emotionally cold. Part of that could be because as the author Maciel presents the story so dispassionately, or because the foregone conclusion of Emma's death colors every action of the antagonists with an unintended level of malice. I thought the plot a good, realistic adaptation of the bullying problems that face so many real teens, but couldn't emotionally invest or empathize with the cast of Sara, Brielle, Dylan, etc. But, then again, that was part of the point of Tease for me. 

The fact is these aren't necessarily evil people, but they're thoughtless, selfish, clueless teenagers. That doesn't come close to forgiving them what happens, but it helps to explain and foster and understanding. The narrator Sara shows a marked growth and maturity over the course of the book, but this is much more a plot book than a character-book. You don't really finish the story knowing anyone -- Emma Putnam least of all (mirror Alice from The Truth About Alice who also had no say in her own story). For me, Tease was a story much more about the society that created the situation than the individuals who operated within that frame.

I thought the story would have been stronger without the romance. The lack of an emotional reaction to any of the story and the unnecessary (if charming) Carmichael plotline distracted from the many strengths of Tease. A promising debut unafraid to paint unforgiving pictures, Maciel's debut is hopefully a harbinger of more good things to come.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Review: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Title: We Were Liars
Author: E. Lockhart
Genre: young adult, mystery, contemporary
Series: N/A
Pages: 240
Published: expected May 13 2014
Source: publishers via NetGalley
Rating: 4/5

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.

We Were Liars is a way better story than it should be -- with a different author, this would just be a staid novel of bratty kids and their first world problems. Under E. Lockhart's talented pen, these characters and their lives feel real from the get-go. Though I missed the humor and easy warmth of Lockhart's Ruby Oliver books, I cannot deny that We Were Liars is a gripping (mostly) contemporary with a hint of a mystery. 

There are times it's okay to spoil yourself for a book before actually finishing/reading. This is NOT one of those times. We Were Liars is such a complete, involving experience -- it deserves to gone into blind. But this is also a hard novel to review for just those reasons. Through two different timelines and summers, it's impossible not to get caught up in the drama of the affluent but fractious Sinclair family. 

But here's the 411 on what you should know about E. Lockhart's newest story.

  • It's clever, though the plot takes some time to get any traction
  • It's full of complicated, messed-up, not-always-or-even-usually-nice people
  • It boasts the distinctive Lockhart writing, but in a new style
  • It's surprising and gripping
  • It's emotional and heartfelt -- you will feel things, even against your will

Though the focus is on the story and characters, the prose is strong and often lovely. Lockhart is such a capable, clever author -- able to evoke a myriad of reactions from readers. We Were Liars is hard to put down; if you're not into the romance or the fly-on-the-wall perspective of the Sinclair troubles, the mystery of summer fifteen will get to you. It's a different sort of novel than what I have read from Lockhart before, but I was thoroughly impressed and pleasantly surprised by We Were Liars.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Chapter Excerpt for House of the Rising Sun by Kristen Painter

 Augustine lives the perfect life in the Haven city of New Orleans. He rarely works a real job, spends most of his nights with a different human woman, and resides in a spectacular Garden District mansion paid for by retired movie star Olivia Goodwin, who has come to think of him as an adopted son, providing him room and board and whatever else he needs.

But when Augustine returns home to find Olivia's been attacked by vampires, he knows his idyllic life has comes to an end. It's time for revenge—and to take up the mantle of the city's Guardian.

New Orleans, Louisiana, 2040

Why can’t we take the streetcar?” Walking home from church at night was always a little scary for Augustine, especially when they had to go past the cemetery.

“You know why,” Mama answered. “Because we don’t have money for things like that. Not that your shiftless father would help out. Why I expect anything from that lying, manipulative piece of…” She grunted softly and shook her head.

Augustine had never met his father, but from what Mama had told him, which wasn’t much, his father didn’t seem like a very nice man. Just once, though, Augustine would like to meet him to see what he looked like. Augustine figured he must look like his father, because he sure didn’t look like Mama. Maybe if they met, he’d also ask his father why he never came around. Why he didn’t want to be part of their family. Why Mama cried so much.

With a soft sigh, he held Mama’s hand a little tighter, moving closer to her side. Unlike him, Mama only had five fingers on each hand, not six. She didn’t have gray skin or horns like him, either. She didn’t like his horns much. She kept them filed down so his hair hid the stumps. He jammed his free hand into his jacket pocket, the move jogging him to the side a little.

“Be careful, Augustine. You’re going to make me trip.”

“Sorry, Mama.” The sidewalks were all torn up from the tree roots poking through them. The moon shone through those big trees with their twisty branches and clumps of moss, and cast shadows that looked like creatures reaching toward them. He shivered, almost tripping over one of the roots.

She jerked his arm. “Pay attention.”

“Yes, Mama.” But paying attention was what had scared him in the first place. He tried shutting his eyes, picking his feet up higher to avoid the roots.

Next thing he knew, his foot caught one of those roots and he was on his hands and knees, the skin on his palms burning from where he’d scraped them raw on the rough sidewalk. His knee throbbed with the same pain, but he wouldn’t cry, because he was almost nine and he was a big boy. Old enough to know that he must also control the powers inside him that wanted to come out whenever he felt angry or hurt or excited.

“Oh, Augustine! You ripped your good pants.” Mama grabbed his hand and tugged him to his feet.

“I’m sorry about my pants.” He stood very still, trying not to cause any more trouble. Mama got so angry, so fast. “My knee hurts.”

With a sigh, Mama crouched down, pulled a tissue from her purse, spit on it and began to dab at the blood. “It will be okay. It’s just a little scrape. And you heal… quickly.”

The dabbing hurt worse, but he kept quiet, biting at his cheek. He looked at his hands, opening his twelve fingers wide. Already the scrapes there were fading. It was because of his fae blood, which he wasn’t supposed to talk about. He dropped his hands and stared at the tall cemetery wall next to them. On the other side of that wall were a lot of dead people. In New Orleans, no one could be buried underground because of the water table. He’d learned that in school.

The wind shook the tree above their heads, making the shadows crawl toward them. He inched closer to her and pointed at the cemetery. “Do you think there’s ghosts in there, Mama?”

She stood, ignoring his pointing to brush dirt off his jacket. “Don’t be silly. You know ghosts aren’t real.”

The cemetery gates creaked. She turned, then suddenly put him behind her. Around the side of her dress, Augustine could see a big shape almost on them, smell something sour and sweaty, and hear heavy breathing. Mama reached for Augustine, jerking them both back as the man grabbed for her.

The man missed, but Mama’s heart was going thump, thump, thump. That was another fae thing Augustine wasn’t supposed to talk about, being able to hear extra-quiet sounds like people’s hearts beating.

“C’mere, now,” the man growled. Even in the darkness, Augustine’s sharp fae eyes could see the man’s teeth were icky.

Mama swung her purse at him. “Leave us alone!”

“Us?” The man grunted, his gaze dropping to Augustine. Eyes widening for a second, he snorted. “Your runt’s not going to ruin my fun.”

“I’m not a runt,” Augustine said. Fear made his voice wobble, but he darted out from behind his mother anyway, planting himself in front of her.

The man swatted Augustine away with a meaty hand.

Augustine hit the cemetery wall, cracking his head hard enough to see stars. But with the new pain came anger. And heat. The two mixed together like a storm in his belly, making him want to do… something. He tried to control it, but the man went after Mama next, grabbing her and pushing her to the ground. Then the man climbed on top of her.

She cried out and the swirling inside Augustine became a hurricane dragging him along in its winds. Without really knowing what he was doing, he leaped onto the man’s back. The hard muscle and bone he expected seemed soft and squishy. He grabbed fistfuls of the man’s jacket—but his hands met roots and dirt and shards of concrete instead.

Mama’s eyes blinked up at him, wide and fearful. She seemed a little blurry. Was he crying? And how was he seeing her when he was on the man’s back? And why had everything gone so quiet? Except for a real loud tha-thump, tha-thump, tha-thump, everything else sounded real far away. He pushed to his knees, expecting them to sting from his fall, but he felt nothing. And the man attacking his mother was somehow… gone.

“Don’t, Augustine.” She shook her head as she scrabbled backward. “Don’t do this.”

“Don’t do what, Mama?” He reached for her but the hand that appeared before him was too big. And only had five fingers. He stuck his other hand out and saw the same thing. “What’s happening to me, Mama?”

“Get out of him, Augustine.” She got to her feet, one trembling hand clutching the crucifix on her necklace. “Let the man go.”

He stood and suddenly he was looking down at his mother. Down. How was he doing that? He glanced at his body.

But it wasn’t his body, it was the man’s.

“I don’t understand.” But he had an idea. Was this one of the powers he had? One of the things he was supposed to control? He didn’t know how to get out. Was he trapped? He only wanted to protect his mother, he didn’t want to be this man!

The storm inside him welled up in waves. The heat in his belly was too much. He didn’t understand this new power. He wanted to be himself. He wanted to be out. Panic made bigger waves, hot swells that clogged his throat so he couldn’t take deep breaths. The thumping noise got louder.

The man’s hands reached up to claw at Augustine, at his own skin.

Mama backed away, her fingers in the sign of the cross. He cried out to her for help. He was too hot, too angry, too scared—

A loud, wet pop filled his ears and he fell to his hands and knees again, this time covered in sticky red ooze and smoking hunks of flesh. The thumping noise was gone. Around him was more sticky red, lumps of flesh and pieces of white bone. All he could think about was the time he and Nevil Tremain had stuffed a watermelon full of firecrackers. Except this was way worse. And blowing up the watermelon hadn’t made him feel like throwing up. Or smelled like burnt metal. He sat back, wiped at his face and eyes and tried to find his mother. She was a few feet away, but coming closer.

“You killed that man.” She stood over him looking more angry than afraid now. “You possessed that man like a demon.” She pointed at him. “You’re just like your father, just like that dirty fae-blooded liar.”

Augustine shook his head. “That man was hurting you—”

“Yes, you saved me, but you took his life, Augustine.” She looked around, eyes darting in all directions. “Sturka,” she muttered, a fae curse word Augustine had once gotten slapped for saying.

“I didn’t mean to, I was trying to help—”

“And who’s next? Are you going to help me that way too someday?”

He was crying now, unable to help himself. “No, Mama, no. I would never hurt you.”

She grabbed him by his shirt and yanked him to his feet. “Act human, not like a freak, do you understand? If people could see what you really looked like…” Fear clouded her eyes.

He nodded, sniffling, hating the smell of the blood he was covered in. He didn’t want to be a freak. He really didn’t.

“I can act human. I promise.”

She let go of his shirt, her lip slightly curled as she looked him over. “This was your father’s blood that caused this. Not mine.”

“Not yours,” Augustine repeated. Mama looked human but was part smokesinger, something he knew only because he’d overheard an argument she’d had with his father on the phone once. He’d learned other things that way, too.

Like that his father was something called shadeux fae. But not just part. All of him. And he’d lied to Mama about that. Used magic to make Mama think he was human. To seduce her.

“I never want to hear or see anything fae ever again or I will put you out of my house. I live as human and while you’re under my roof, so will you. Am I clear?”

The thought of being without her made his chest ache. She was all he had. His world. “Yes, Mama.”

But keeping his fae side hidden was impossible and five years later, put him out is exactly what she did.

House of the Rising Sun is expected to be published May 13, 2014.

Find Kristen:
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Monday, April 14, 2014

Two Minute Review: The Last Best Kiss by Claire LaZebnik

Title: The Last Best Kiss
Author: Claire LaZebnik
Genre: contemporary, young adult
Series: N/S
Pages: 320
Published: expected April 22 2014
Source: publishers via edelweiss
Rating: 3.5/5

Anna Eliot is tired of worrying about what other people think. After all, that was how she lost the only guy she ever really liked, Finn Westbrook.

Now, three years after she broke his heart, the one who got away is back in her life.

All Anna wants is a chance to relive their last kiss again (and again and again). But Finn obviously hasn’t forgotten how she treated him, and he’s made it clear he has no interest in having anything to do with her.

Anna keeps trying to persuade herself that she doesn’t care about Finn either, but even though they’ve both changed since they first met, deep down she knows he’s the guy for her. Now if only she can get him to believe that, too....

With her signature wit and expertly authentic teen voice, Claire LaZebnik (the author of fan favorites Epic Fail and The Trouble with Flirting) once again breathes new life into a perennially popular love story. Fans of Polly Shulman, Maureen Johnson, and, of course, Jane Austen will love this irresistibly funny and romantic tale of first loves and second chances.

This was a pretty cute, fluffy, contemporary/retelling read. Though the ending was a foregone conclusion, it's no less enjoyable getting there with the likeably flawed Anna and the broody but endearing Finn. Even better, The Last Best Kiss works equally well as an independent story and a loose retelling of Jane Austen's popular and well-loved novel Persuasion. Updating the premise for the modern day and scaling down the characters to teens was a smart move, and The Last Best Kiss makes for a great one-day summer read.

The secondary cast have more potential than actual dimension. There are a few close exceptions (Molly), but for the most part, the two main characters garner all the characterization. Anna's evolution is neatly handled and believable -- she ends the story a better person, but she's still far from perfect. There's not much to discuss with a book like this -- either you enjoy it for its cute and adorable factor, or you don't. For me, it was an enjoyable and easy read and would recommend it to those looking for the same.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Review: Divergent by Veronica Roth

Title: Divergent
Author: Veronica Roth
Genre: dystopia, young adult, post apocalyptic
Series: Divergent #1
Pages: 487
Published: April 2011
Source: purchased
Rating: 3.5/5

In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue--Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is--she can't have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles to determine who her friends really are--and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes infuriating boy fits into the life she's chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she's kept hidden from everyone because she's been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves . . . or it might destroy her.

I liked this. It's not a perfect book any means, but that's a strong, very solid 3.5 stars for all my qualms with Roth's dystopian future. There's a certain generic feel to a lot about Divergent -- try and deny it --- but it's so much fun to read. It's action-packed, fast-paced, creative, and engaging. It's a perfect book for a movie adaption. It's all surface and no substance, but Divergent is a violent, reckless, thrill-ride. It's better than it should be, really, but it's hard to deny the story's attributes.

Both the world and the worldbuilding are so unlikely and hard to believe but my god if this isn't a great example of turn-off-your-brain-and-be-entertained type stuff.  I can see the sheer implausibility of Roth's world backfiring on her in 3 books, but here, in book one? Just ignore it and enjoy in second hand adventures; live vicariously through the at-times morally compromised and anti-heroine-ish Tris. Suspension of disbelief is key in books like this (coughyourpremiseisshwoing) but if you can ignore all the inconsistencies and logic fails, Divergent will never bore you.

Let's talk Beatrice-now-Tris. I liked her once she stopped fretting about her Choice. In her ridiculous world, she is supposed to put "faction before [family]" so a little hang-wringing is expected when "abandoning" them because she dares control her own life. But once she starts to be more proactive (at least when Four's not saving her), Tris is a better protagonist than she has any right to be. She's morally grey at times. ambitious, and cutthroat. She's not a Katniss, who experienced grief and guilt and moral dilemmas. Tris acts -- often to save herself. Tris thinks horrible things, but she's true to herself. I can't not respect that, especially in the harsh, unyielding world she is supposed to live in.

Anyway. Harmless, brainless, book fluff. If books were food, Divergent is the bubblegum you eat while waiting for a real meal. I like bubblegum and I liked reading this -- but it's pure entertainment. This is a case where the movie might not be better than the source material, but it's at least as good.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Review: Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman

Title: Prisoner of Night and Fog
Author: Anne Blankman
Genre: historical fiction
Series: Prisoner of Night and Fog #1
Pages: 416
Published: expected April 22, 2014
Source: publishers via edelweiss
Rating: 5/5

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.

"The worst thing we can do, the absolute worst, is to do nothing." - Franz Gerlich

It's easy to judge Adolf Hitler with the benefit of history on our side. But for Gretchen Muller in the 1930s, the man universally reviled decades after his death was simply a family friend, a substitute father for the real one who had martyred himself for the National Socialist Party. Over its 416 pages, Prisoner of Night and Fog excels at a lot of things -- crafting dimensional and realistic characters, creating plausible but meaningful conflicts for those two two main characters to encounter -- but its honest portrayal of a young girls rapid disillusionment with her uncle, with her countrymen, with her country is the most memorable and compelling. Similar to Code Name Verity for its moments of loveliness and moments of historical horror, Anne Blankman's pre-WWII debut is a must read.

YA novels wrestle a lot with "wo/man vs wo/man" type of narrative conflict, but not so here with Prisoner of Night and Fog. The plot becomes much more than a personal conflict with her father's murderer -- by standing up for her own beliefs, against Hitler, it's more "woman vs. society" type of story. Through her admittedly right, but dangerous actions, main character Gretchen finds herself with a loss of safety, and security; an outcast in her highly divided culture. It's hard to imagine a world where a street beating for religious/racial reasons is not only common but almost expected, but that was the world millions grew up with in the late 1930s/1940s. In light of the harsh views encouraged on all sides, Gretchen's small kindness seem all the starker. You root for Gretchen; you hope for her to see past her biases, to think for herself. She's constantly evolving and is ever proactive. I grew to think of her as the third member of Maddie and Verity's intrepid squad of heroines.

Research was obviously a large part of making Prisoner of Night and Fog into the success it will be. For anyone that has a passing interest in the era or in the man at the epicenter of everything, it's easy to tell the amount of time an effort Blankman went to for her debut novel. The best part is the author is skillfull enough to relay all that information without infodumping or halting the plot's progression. For a debut effort, it is remarkably seamless from beginning to end. The pacing is fluid, the plot is original and terrifying, the writing solid and occasionally lovely, and the characters will worm their way into your heart. The first in a series, the book manages to imbue the ending with resolution and finality while still leaving room for more story with (hopefully) these same characters.

This book affected me in a big way. I felt things for Gretchen, Daniel, Geli, and even Reinhardt. I raced through it, desperate to see how generous or Martin-esque this new author could be with her writing. Prisoner of Night and Fog isn't a pretty book, or a swoony book (though I loved the romance). It's a book designed to make you feel, to make you remember, to make you think --- and it succeeds on all counts. Blankman finds her story in the gray spaces between the real history of the effect of WWI and the Beer Hall Putsch on Herr Hitler, and her first novel is plausible, vividly rendered, and unforgettable.
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