Tag Archives: world war ii

Late to the Party ARC Review – At the Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen

23735614Title:  At the Water’s Edge

Author: Sarah Gruen

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: After embarrassing themselves at the social event of the year in high society Philadelphia on New Year’s Eve of 1942, Maddie and Ellis Hyde are cut off financially by Ellis’s father, a former army colonel who is already embarrassed by his son’s inability to serve in WWII due to color-blindness. Ellis decides that the only way to regain his father’s favor is to succeed in a venture his father attempted and very publicly failed at: he will hunt the famous Loch Ness monster and, when he finds it, he will restore his father’s name and return to his father’s good graces (and pocketbook). Joined by their friend Hank, a wealthy socialite, the three make their way to Scotland in the midst of war. Each day, the two men go off to hunt the monster, while another monster, Hitler, is devastating Europe. Meanwhile, Maddie undergoes a social awakening: to the harsh realities of life, to the beauties of nature, to a connection with forces larger than herself, to female friendship, and, finally, to love.

Huge thank you to Random House Canada for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

This was a book I put off for months reading, worried I wouldn’t like it. I adored Water for Elephants, a book I assumed by title alone I wouldn’t enjoy. I was worried afterwards that At the Water’s Edge wouldn’t live up to my expectations of what Sarah Gruen is capable of.

However, I flew through this book. I couldn’t stop turning the pages because I was so engrossed by Maddie’s narrative, along with the quest to see the Loch Ness monster. I found myself completely enchanted by the way in which the story was woven together, and I loved how Gruen opens this novel and then surprises readers by the end of it with a reference to the beginning. There’s so many subtle nuances in this story, and the writing is quite lovely.

Mostly though, I loved Maddie, Anna, and Meg. I found each of the heroines in the story so strong in their own right, and I found that how they approached others in the story to be quite interesting. I wanted to hurl things at Ellis and Hank, but I understood their rational in a lot of the situations within the story. I gotta say though, the ending quite surprised me, and I loved how the story wrapped up.

Is the story a tad melodramatic and ridiculous? Absolutely! And if you don’t like that, then I definitely don’t recommend this book. However, if you don’t mind a little drama, and some really, really, lovely writing, I definitely recommend At the Water’s Edge, because if anything, it’s quite a page-turner.

ARC Review – The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

20912424Title: The War that Saved My Life

Author: Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: Nine-year-old Ada has never left her one-room apartment. Her mother is too humiliated by Ada’s twisted foot to let her outside. So when her little brother Jamie is shipped out of London to escape the war, Ada doesn’t waste a minute—she sneaks out to join him.
So begins a new adventure of Ada, and for Susan Smith, the woman who is forced to take the two kids in. As Ada teaches herself to ride a pony, learns to read, and watches for German spies, she begins to trust Susan—and Susan begins to love Ada and Jamie. But in the end, will their bond be enough to hold them together through wartime? Or will Ada and her brother fall back into the cruel hands of their mother?

Huge thank you to Penguin Canada for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I may have ugly cried my way through the end of this book. This is a story about being displaced, learning to cope with disability and abuse, and trying to forge out and find strength when everything seems hopeless. Yes, this storyline has been done before, especially in terms of books related to war, and yet I found myself completely absorbed into the pages of Ada and Jamie’s story.

First off, the writing in this book is stunning. Ada’s voice suits her age, but never feels dumbed down or completely mature either. She’s young, disabled and uneducated, but she has a desire to understand the world around her. Her curiosity is easily her best asset, as Ada gets into a ton of trouble. However, she’s very sincere and strong, and I love her desire to protect and even educate Jamie, her brother. Can I also just say I loved that Ada had a disability? I think her foot issues were an interesting addition to her characterization, and as someone who suffers from having one foot shorter than the other by an inch, she had my sympathy throughout!

Brubaker Bradley really breathes life into her characters and the World War II backdrop. There’s something very vivid and chilling about Ada’s home life and her desire to feel connected even in times of war. Moreover, every character feels fleshed out just enough without being over-developed. I adored Susan, and a lot of her story made me so sad, especially her attachment to the children. I wanted to smack Ada and Jamie’s real parents I don’t know how many times because their logic for raising children was insanely baffling.

The thing about The War that Saved My Life is that it’s an emotional story, and one that keeps the reader engaged because you want to see the outcome of the story, even if it’s a touch obvious. You want to read about Ada and Jamie’s growth because they are so easy to empathize with. It’s a book that makes you feel like your sharing in the children’s triumphs as much as you are dealing in their disappointments. I cannot recommend this book enough, as its easily one of the most thoughtful and engaging middle grade novels I’ve read in recent memory.