The Disembodied by Anthony Hains

the-disembodiedKindle Press, 2016

What is going on with Griffin Rinaldi? He wishes he knew. Sometimes he feels like his body is dead and he’s observing someone else going through the motions of his life. At other times he sees the red-haired kid from his dad’s stories even though no one else can see him there.

Griffin’s got a tough life; it would be hard to deny that. His dad died less than a year ago, and his grandfather, whose heath has been better, is trying to help him through the worst of it, but Griffin’s mom doesn’t know quite what to do with him, and his aunt’s convinced he’s possessed. When an unusual snowstorm comes to Griffin’s home on North Carolina’s Outer Banks, the perfect storm that hits Griffin and his family is only partly due to the weather.

Though The Disembodied is marketed as an adult psychological thriller, I read it as a young adult story for a couple of reasons. First, the main character is 13 years old, and the story is told primarily through his eyes. Second, after the beginning, told from the grandfather’s perspective, the pace and focus of the book felt more like a young adult thriller than one written for adults.

I would have liked to feel more emotionally engaged with the characters in The Disembodied. Most of the most fraught and dangerous scenes are shown as memories, robbing them of the power they might have held if I had believed that the outcome was uncertain. Nonetheless, the story held my interest until the end. Though the story was somewhat suspenseful, I didn’t find it spooky. I’d be more inclined to save it for a snowy evening read than for Halloween as suggested by the publisher. The descriptions of the cold and snow left this New Englander shivering on my couch.

I received The Disembodied through Kate Tilton Book Bloggers Reach Out from Anthony Hains in exchange for an honest review.

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Code Name Verity by Elisabeth Wein

code-name-verity

Hyperion, 2012

Maddie’s a wiz with an engine. She’s proved it with the motorbike her granddad gave her for her birthday, but her focus on motorbikes quickly changes in 1938 when a young noblewoman crash lands her Puss Moth airplane in a pasture near Maddie’s home. The chance meeting leads to an opportunity for Maddie to learn to fly, which she continues until the war begins in earnest. But the war brings unusual opportunities for women both in work and friendship. Code Name Verity is the story of two such women, women thrown together by the war who build a strong and enduring friendship.

When I saw this title on the library shelf, I remembered that the book had caused a fair amount of buzz when it came out. I’d never followed the buzz into detail. Perhaps all I’d seen was on Twitter, and the cover, which looks like it’s about torture. Which, to be fair, is an important part of the story, but I’m hesitant to read books about torture, strange for someone who devours mysteries and thrillers and books about World War II, I know. But be still my heart, the other things this book has – England, Scotland, World War II, codes, women pilots, Special Operations Executive spies, the Moon Squadron and a fabulous friendship between two women. How could I have waited four years to read this book?

I spent a good part of last weekend engrossed in its pages. I found Code Name Verity to be extremely well researched, and I’ve read a lot about WWII and Special Operations Executive in the past years. I found it an utterly gripping story. The suspense drew me in; trying to piece together the story and the story beneath the words kept me riveted; and the personal relationships in the book kept me satisfied. This book will appeal to so many different types of readers.

I won’t chance spoiling the plot by revealing more, but I will recommend this book for personal reading, classrooms, and libraries. I’ll be adding Code Name Verity to my select private library. And next time I anticipate a quiet weekend, I’ll search out Rose Under Fire, another World War II book from Elizabeth Wein. I’ll let you know what I think.

Women Heroes of World War II – The Pacific Theater by Kathryn J. Atwood

15 Stories of Resistance, Rescue, Sabotage, and Survival

women-wwii-pacific-heroes-bigKathryn Atwood has written another fascinating book in her series covering women heroes of the world wars. From Claire Phillips who ran a Manila nightclub to get funds to feed American prisoners of war to Jane Kendleigh, who ministered to wounded soldiers in the air as one of the first Navy flight nurses, Atwood presents compelling stories of real women in the thick of the war.

Women Heroes of World War II – The Pacific Theater begins and ends with general information on the war in the Pacific Theater and then moves to focus in on the stories of specific women, presenting an excellent mix of information about the women’s lives before the war, their actions during the conflict, and a brief description of their post-war life.

Though I know a fair amount about the war in Europe, my knowledge of the war in the Pacific Theater is more limited. Because of this, I learned a good deal about what was happening in Asia before the war and the cultural practices that led to the efficiency and brutality of the Japanese forces.

This book will be a useful resource for biography projects, though depending on the class, this one might need to be used with caution. No stories of war are pleasant, but some of these stories are particularly dark, including the torture and starvation of prisoners and the use of imprisoned women as “comfort women” for the Japanese troops. Each eight to eleven page biography includes pictures of the woman covered, sidebar information about the war that directly relates to the story, and sources to use to find more information. The study guide in the book will be especially helpful for teachers wishing to use the book in their classrooms. It provides discussion questions and also suggestions for further, more in-depth projects using additional resources.

Atwood has published three previous books about women during the World Wars with Chicago Review Press:  Women Heroes of World War I, Women Heroes of World War II, and Code Name Pauline: Memoirs of a World War II Special Agent.

I received a complementary copy of Women Heroes of World War II – The Pacific Theater from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
   

 

 

 

Simon Thorn and the Wolf’s Den by Aimee Carter

Media of Simon Thorn and the Wolf's DenBloomsbury, 2016.

Simon Thorn is lonely. He lives in a small Manhattan apartment with his uncle. His mother is super busy with work and travels constantly. His only friend at school has ditched him and gone over to the bully’s side. On top of all that Simon’s afraid he’s a freak. He can talk to animals and understand their replies.

It’s all a lot to handle, but it’s about to get much worse. In one day Simon’s old, lonely life becomes a thing of the past. Simon’s world opens up when he learns about another hidden world, one in which people can morph into animals and the different animal kingdoms make alliances or battle one another. Before he knows it, Simon’s in a fight to save lives – his own and his mother’s.

I received an advance reader copy of the second book in this series, Simon Thorn and the Viper’s Pit at the International Literacy Association’s conference. As soon as I finished it I went scurrying to my library’s website to find myself a copy of the first book, Simon  Thorn and the Wolf’s Den. This is a series I look forward to reading through. It looks like there will be five books in all.

I found Simon a tremendously sympathetic character. He’s had a tough life and he’s impulsive, but he focuses on doing good. Carter imbued the story with realistic emotional struggles of middle school kids even as she places them in a fantasy world that thrusts them into epic battles. My chief disappointment in the characterization of Simon and his friends is that though they in no way comprise the “in” and accepted crowd among the Animalgams (people who can turn into animals), they are the heirs of the leaders of the animal kingdoms, a fact that sticks in my progressive craw a bit.

I think this is a fabulous new series that will appeal to readers of adventure that love Harry Potter and Percy Jackson. If you’re an elementary or middle school teacher or librarian, start your students reading Simon Thorn now. They’ll have some great new books to look forward to in the future. I’ll be reviewing Simon Thorn and the Viper’s Pit closer to its release date in February 2017, and I’m already waiting impatiently for the third book in the series.